Having flown for a major airline for 20 years, I repeatedly get asked one routine question: “How do you become an airline pilot?” The prevailing view is that you qualify for a pilot licence, obtain some flying hours, go for an interview and then the job is yours. What is often missed as part of pilot training is preparing for your airline interview.

Chasing that dream job is a long and complicated process, posing a lot of challenges along the way. Once you gain your qualifications, the next step is to seek employment, which is going to be the hardest part of your career. I was once in that position and experienced many rejections or setbacks along the way. This has shown me one thing – airline interview preparation is critical.

Start preparing ASAP

With a limited time frame, having the correct preparation will be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful interview.

But you might be wondering, should you prepare now or wait until the invitation to the interview to start down that preparation road? Most candidates, either successful or otherwise, will also tell you: NOW is the time to start those studies.

Just like planning for a lesson, or solo flight, the airline interview demands thorough preparation. The more time you spend preparing, the more confident, you’ll feel when it comes time for the interviews. The various airlines I applied to in the early stages of my career followed a similar process, so your preparation will be valuable even if you are interviewing at several different airlines.

Expect the unexpected

The lead times for some airline interviews can vary between a few weeks or months. In more recent cases, this figure can be as little as a week, or in some rare situations, the primary elements of the selection processes were completed in only a few days.

These varied and short notice time frames mean that prior preparation is undoubtedly vital. Upon receiving the phone call or email to come in for an interview, the real race for research begins, and the importance of your preparation takes over.

From my own experience with my current airline, the lead-in time before the initial interview was just over two weeks. This resulted in some long hours reviewing all the usual topics that a pilot will cover before any interview. I found that the time I spent before being informed of the interview was invaluable. It gave me a firm grasp of the practice interview techniques and comparable questions when I got my invitation.

By taking this approach, and considering the interview earlier, I was able to eliminate that time pressure. This resulted in a more relaxed conversation as I was more prepared, which resulted in a successful outcome for my dream job as an airline pilot.

Showcase your motivation and determination

You can approach the interview questions and techniques in many different ways to lift your presentation as a potential pilot recruit.

Beyond your technical and experience base, a key factor is motivation and determination. These behavioural qualities drive us to self-improvement, with a desire to achieve not just the minimum standard, but develop further as time progresses. This key element will make you stand out from the crowd during the actual interview itself.

Last words of advice

When considering the factors behind interview styles, question trends and even specific techniques utilised by the various major airlines, the importance of interview preparation techniques and methods cannot be underestimated. For potential candidates, a lack of adequate time management has been a detriment to the outcome on many occasions.

This ultimately results in two distinct types of candidates. The first are those who have arrived at the airline interview on interview day with little or no preparation. The second are those who have considered the vital skills required to navigate the Airline Pilot Interview successfully. This latter group are most often the ones who leave the greatest impression and have the best chance of success; not only in the interview but throughout their airline pilot careers.

For more information on how we can help you prepare for your airline interview, check out our Future Cadet Pilot Program and Interview Workshop.

By Darren McPherson, Aviation Consulting Services (ACS)