the interview

The cat is out of the bag.

I had another airline interview this week, and unlike the previous, it went well. However I also prepared relentlessly for this interview, even more than any other interview in my life. Probably the single most stressed and over-thought event I’ve ever participated in as well. I learned a few things along the way and everyone I met throughout was very helpful and kind.

Almost two weeks ago I received a voice mail while I was flying with my students. It was a much anticipated phone call that I had been waiting on for a few weeks. I was rather excited to get the call. Even at that moment it felt slightly surreal. I returned the call and worked out the details for which day I would be available to have the interview. It gave me just about a week to prepare for the interview.

Of the many things that have changed since I left high school, my study habits are probably one of the most notable. I had already been doing some ‘casual’ reading to prepare for what I had hoped would be an inevitable call. However once the reality set in, studying became my near full time job. It’s almost a laughable act, but I was pouring every detail of anything. If I wasn’t going to get the job, it wasn’t going to be because I wasn’t prepared enough.

The first thing that came in the way of paperwork, was an email with specific directions on how I was to prepare my paperwork. I can not stress this enough to anyone who is applying or interviewing; Read everything they give you with extreme care and attention. If they ask for very specific procedures, following those directions to the letter will go a long way once you get to the interview. It seems mundane and inconsequential, however, it is just as important as good grammar and spelling. I will give you some examples of this later on.

The preparation started with my logbook. Adding up and totaling up my flight times, ensuring there are no mistakes or miscalculations. This is another important matter for the potential employer. This will provide them with a very clear idea of how well organized you are. Also, make sure that the logbook totals match the totals you provide them on the application.

A lot of interviews will require a driving record request as well. This gives them an idea about how well you can obey laws, and to ensure you’re not a repeat offender of reckless driving or driving under the influence. Many human resource professionals will tell you that even if you do have an incident on your driving record, it’s not an automatic disqualification. Honesty is key here, and just explain whatever event exists. The longer the time frame between the event and your interview the better. It’s much easier to explain away something that happened years ago, versus last month.

Getting the driving record can be as easy as going online and paying a small fee, or it can be as difficult as being required to mail a letter to the state capital. I recommend discovering this process for your state prior to even applying. If you can have this information on hand, you will be glad you did. I found out a little late that the record provided from the local court house was only a three year record, while the employer was requesting a five year record. To obtain the five year record I was required to mail a letter asking for it from the state. Luckily they were understanding, and didn’t see it as an issue.

Fast forward to the day of the interview. I spent the entire week prior to the interview running errands and preparing my paperwork and technical knowledge. I spent time in the simulator practicing what I had expected to be tested on during the interview. I felt prepared, however I lacked confidence in the presentation of myself, especially the human resource portion. The last interview I attended for an airline, the human resource lady decided I lacked the self confidence for the job. Pretty awesome pep-talk right after you find out you didn’t make the cut. I chalk it up to experience and I wouldn’t have changed the way things turned out one bit.

I showed up an hour early. I’m sure it wasn’t really necessary to be so early, but I wanted to ensure there was no mistaking that I was there on time. I was the first to arrive into the lobby waiting area. I sat. Breathed a heavy, stressed, sigh. I had been sitting for maybe thirty seconds before I checked my watch. Calculating the time difference in my head, ensuring I had properly set the central time zone. I had done this since the night before. At least 100 times. Within about fifteen minutes or so others began showing up. By 7:30 everyone was sitting and chatting about flights into the area, where they had come from, and flying experiences.

After a while, a employee arrived and greeted us. We were provided with a sign in sheet, to ensure that everyone that was scheduled for the interview was present. A few minutes after 8 O’clock we were moved to a small classroom where we would be gathered for the rest of the day. Introductions began and we met a few of the interviewers.

After a short question and answer session about the company and what the hiring forecasts were, our interviewer was replaced with the HR lady. She was the person responsible for us all being there, and who our applications were sent to. More introductions and information was offered about the company and the process that we were to be involved in for the day. Probably the most tense portion of this information was what could be expected if we were unsuccessful in the interview. It was a grim reminder that perhaps not everyone was going to make it. Every time that thought crossed my mind, my heart rate accelerated and my chest seem to surge with fear. I had to mentally calm my self and try to ignore the unpleasant thought.

We were all given a different information packet on what we would be doing in the simulator. A short briefing on what to expect and what the instructor would be looking for. Then as if playing a joke on us, they handed us a packet of paperwork to complete as well. So, study this, but first fill out all these papers. Then we’ll call you for the sim. Oh, super.

I tried to complete the paperwork with haste, keeping in mind that the sooner I was finished, the more time I had to review the sim profile. The information included in the packet was anywhere from what runway I would be departing from, what to do after take-off, and which approach I could expect. Altitudes to begin reconfigurations, speeds to fly, flap settings for the approach and the go around procedure. After what could have been an hour, or maybe not even thirty minutes, I was called out for the simulator check. I would be the first to go. Lucky me.

I couldn’t have asked for a more down to earth or calm person to walk me through the process. We spoke for a few moments on what he flew, and where. Turns out he didn’t have much experience. Flying for about twenty years, in nearly every aircraft the airline owns, in every capacity from first officer, captain, to check airmen. No pressure. Luckily he was incredibly nice and calming. Which I appreciated immensely.

The profile to be flown was very simple and straightforward. The simulator was a gorgeous tribute to flying technology. It flew like an airplane, which is rare for a simulator. Normally they fly like a box of rocks. This one actually had good control feel and wasn’t overly sensitive as most are. We took off and did a basic departure profile, and headed for a navigation fix for a hold. Interacting with the sim instructor as a crew member was an important part of the interview. They wanted to see that I had to ability to think outside of my own personal capabilities and use him to help fly the aircraft.

As quickly as I had been ushered into the sim, I was done. It was over rather quickly and I had nothing but good feelings about my performance. Always room for improvement on a few items, but overall I was quite pleased. It was a short walk back to the class room.

Awaiting in the class room was already one less applicant. Taking extra time to ensure your application matches your logbook is something that can not be overlooked. Although I am unsure of the exact cause of this persons dismissal, paperwork discrepancy would make sense. They had not completed any portion of the simulator, technical, or HR interview as of yet.

A large portion of the day was spent waiting in this classroom. Everyone shuffling in and out of the room for the different portions of their interview. For a while I spent time in the room alone. Wandering around reading the different propaganda plastered on the walls, reviewing in my head answers to questions I was expecting, just pacing in general.

I was called out for a fingerprinting, and some FBI paperwork. The list of crimes you are not allowed to commit and become an airline pilot is impressively long and detailed. The process isn’t like it used to be. No ink pads or paper, just a scanner connected to a laptop now.

Coming back from fingerprints, yet another person was missing. Paperwork likely a culprit again. The instructions on the application clearly stated not to include tenths of hours, and to round to the nearest hour. This person did neither, nor did he properly divide his flight times. A poor performance in the simulator appeared to seal the deal. And then there were four.

We were given a short lunch break, and took a trip to the cafeteria. Which was surprisingly expansive, gourmet and cheap too. With the coupon they provided I was able to eat for free. Which was a good thing, as I was too nervous to eat anything of substance for breakfast.

Returning to the class room I was called for the technical portion of the interview. This was my strength, my bread and butter, my pièce de résistance. If there was anything I was confident in today, it was going to be the tech interview. Another extremely cool and calm check airmen. We talked a bit about where I was flying currently, and his experience with the company. Another, been everywhere, seen everything kind of guy. Apparently they have a whole group of these guys at this airline. Imagine that!

Questions were on par with what I expected, a few curve balls that required thought. The CRM questions were the most difficult. Probably because they were the most outside my experience level, however he was very generous in helping me think out the answers. Overall I believe he was pleased with my answers, and mentioned that he had no problem recommending me. Then he asked me to help him spell candidate. I think I get bonus points for that, don’t I?

Ok, back to the class room. One. Only one other person remains. I’m shocked momentarily, then I realize that I have made it down to the last two, and that has to be a good sign!

All that remained was the dreaded HR interview. I wasn’t too excited to have it left to last to complete, however it seemed that you only made it to the HR interview here if you had the technical knowledge and flew the sim well. Another good sign.

When I was called in for the HR interview I was the most nervous I had been all day. I wasn’t about to ruin the hard work and good effort I had shown all day. I was glad I spent time preparing for this portion, and it paid off. I feel like I established a good rapport and made a positive impact. Before I could even think about it, the interview was again over. No words were really spoken of congratulations, just more paperwork to fill out.

I was given instructions on how to get to the hotel for the evening, which the company would pay for. This clearly meant that they wanted to give me a job offer, however the words never left the lips. It’s one of those strange things that you don’t want to jump to conclusions on, yet you dare not ask. That was it. I had made it.

The other interviewee and myself shook each-others hand and we shared a moment of celebration. Back at the hotel stress decompression was finally happening. I felt as if I had just shed hundreds of pounds of weight. I was instantly tired. Finally. I hadn’t slept a wink the previous night, and now I felt finally ready to rest.

The next day included a drug and hearing test. Once both were completed I began my trek to the airport. Lucky to have been re booked on an earlier flight, I was on my way back to Florida a few hours early.