What makes a successful airline pilot candidate

Preparation tips for an airline pilot interview

Airline pilot interviews, applications and preparation can be a lengthy and time-consuming task. A candidate may only have one hour to present themselves during the interview process with any number of major airlines. It is vital to show your potential employers that you are keen, motivated and well-prepared for the position.


The questions that candidates regularly ask are ‘How do you think I would go right now?’ and ‘Have I prepared enough?’. These questions can be answered quickly with a simple yes or no. This doesn’t cover the depth one should prepare for the actual interview process.

Ask your instructor instead
HOW MUCH should I learn?
WHAT DO I NEED to learn?


The position of an airline pilot can be very technical. What makes a successful airline pilot candidate requires a level of knowledge commensurate with your flying experience. Accordingly, if you are applying for a position as a zero time cadet, the airline may only expect a basic level of technical knowledge. When compared to a candidate who has been flying for several years with potentially 1000 plus flying hours, one should have a significantly broader range of knowledge and expertise.

From recent experiences with successful cadets in Hong Kong and Singapore, the level of technical knowledge that these cadets presented at the interview stage were comparable to direct entry pilots with significant hours in their flying logbooks.


A prepared candidate considers all conceivable aspects of information relating to their upcoming position. This can range from individual airline research, through to technical aspects about aircraft types and numerous issues of operating these aircraft.


Communication and teamwork skills are also essential elements. As the cockpit environment is a small confined space, excellent communication and the ability to present well professionally are fundamental qualities for any prospective pilot.

Airline flights can vary between 30 minutes to as long as 15 hours, in some cases even longer. Imagine having to sit in the confined area of a cockpit with someone you have just met for the first time. The qualities required not only to complete the task and fly the aircraft can now become secondary to one’s ability to communicate and work effectively with other crew members. This balance is a factor that all airline recruiters meticulously look for.


In many cases, airline candidates walk out of interviews thinking all has gone well, only to receive the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter a week later. The question that tends to follow is ‘where did I go wrong?’ There is no obligation for airlines to provide specific feedback to candidates for future attempts.

Some common traits among unsuccessful candidates emerge – mainly lack of preparation. Along with insufficient company research, technical training, to general yet necessary HR-related questions.

Numerous airlines allow a second interview. However, this can vary between 6–12 months. So use this prep time once again to critically review one’s performance and work on the areas to be improved.

If you succeed in the first interview attempt, fantastic. If not, review, work harder and go at it all again!

For more information on our training and how to succeed in an airline interview, head to our courses page.

Contributed by Darren McPherson, our Airline Interview and Workshop coach and senior captain at a major international airline with over 30 years’ experience.

what makes a successful airline pilot candidate