Make your own free website on
page 7 & 8
Okay. Your friend just received that coveted invitation letter.  Now what?  The first thing your friend does is call you and start asking questions.  What can I do to increase my chances of being successful?  What are the most common reasons a candidate is unsuccessful?  How should I prepare?  What should I study?  Will I really get my choice of chicken or beef once I get hired?

The answers are much less mysterious than you might think, except for the chicken.  There are no secret codes, no tricks, and no games.  The process is very straightforward, and here's the advice we'd give our friends.

Flight Officer Employment strives to select the best Total Airline Pilot candidates.  We have approximately one hour to get to know you and make a very critical assessment.  If we don't get to know you, you are much less likely to be successful.  The interview team will do everything they can to make sure you are comfortable and relaxed.  They aren't there to intimidate you.  Remember that their job is to get to know you, and they can't do their job in a hostile or intimidating environment.

There are two basic types of interviews used by major airlines.  Theoretical interviews use mock scenarios and focus on: “What would you do if?”  type questions.  Most companies have discontinued using this type of interview.  It does not provide insight into a candidate's thought process.  It simply indicates that they have memorized a theoretical answer to a theoretical question.

Behavioral interviews are becoming the industry norm, and are the basis for the interview at United.  A behavioral interview is based on the theory that past behavior is an excellent indicator of future performance.  Behavioral questions begin with phrases such as:
“Tell us about a time when”  and require a candidate to think back over their flying career and come up with related situations.  This provides us with the opportunity to evaluate their decision-making, communication, leadership, and other skills in real-life examples.  The best preparation is self-reflection.  Think back over your flying career and review your Iogbooks for interesting or challenging flights.  Try to recall specific flights where something out of the ordinary occurred.  How did you handle it?  What was your role in the outcome?  Practice telling your story in a clear and logical format.

In addition to the behavioral questions, we conduct a technical evaluation based on FAR Part 121 and generic turbojet systems.  We conduct a thorough review of check ride history, FAA/military enforcement action, and training difficulties. The majority of the technical questions will be based on a simulated flight in a generic turbojet airplane. The best study guides are the ATP and FEX knowledge exams, AIM, and Jeppesen charts.

The best way to discuss what works is to look at what doesn't work. We frequently attend industry job fairs and hold regular meetings with our counterparts at other major airlines. It is interesting to note that the major airlines are UNANIMOUS in their top four disqualifiers:

  • 1. Attitude/professionalism
  • 2. Lack of recent flying experience
  • 3. Lack of honesty or integrity
  • 4. Lack of attention to detail/preparation

1. Attitude/Professionalism:
Attitude is the single biggest disqualifier.  Treat everyone you meet with respect.  Arrogance or defensiveness will work against you.  This is the best civilian flying job in the world, and there are 7,000 files out there of people who would do just about anything to trade seats with you.  Believe it or not, the interview team wants you to succeed.  If you believe you won't be successful, then you have become your own worst enemy.  We don't send an invitation unless we expect you to succeed, and we'll do everything we can to make you comfortable and relaxed.  Don't use the interview as an opportunity to talk yourself out of a job!  First impressions are everything in an interview.

+ Smile
+ Show some genuine enthusiasm
+ Keep the interview professional but relaxed
+ Don't get defensive
+ Dress for success
+ Direct your answers to both members of the interview team

Remember the interviewers only have about an hour to get to know YOU.  Just like a check ride, they have to base their decision on what happens during the interview process.  Many of us have recommended an applicant for a check ride, knowing they far exceeded the minimum requirements, yet they were unsuccessful on the check.  Why? We don't always know.  We weren't there during the check.  The same thing can happen in an interview.  You might be the best pilot in the world, with excellent letters of recommendation, but you still have to perform on "check ride day."  Being prepared, being honest, and being professional should help ensure your success.

2. Lack of recent flying experience:
This is a significant factor.  Most new hires are being assigned to the first officer seat.  Being proficient is YOUR responsibility.  The interview captain must feel confident that you have maintained your proficiency and that you will be successful in transition training.

3. Lack of honesty/integrity: 
It's critical that you be open and honest during the interview.  As an example, failing a check ride in and of itself is not a significant factor.  Telling us you never failed a check ride when your logbook had a very specific entry "Commercial Check Ride Unsatisfactory" is another story.  We don't expect perfect candidates. We expect open and honest candidates.  Make sure your Scantron accurately reflects your flight experience BEFORE you schedule your interview.  Be honest about FAA/military enforcement or disciplinary actions.  The board of review hates surprises in the background check!

4. Lack of attention to detail/preparation: 
Have you ever known someone who has taken a check ride without preparing?  Did they have messy, incomplete, or missing paperwork?  What kind of impression did they give the examiner?  Were they successful?  Preparation is the first key to success whether it's a check ride or an interview.  There is a direct correlation between a candidate's attention to detail when completing the paperwork (including following all instructions) and the attention to detail that can be expected on the line.  Review your logbooks for "interesting" flights.  Make sure all of your paperwork is in order.  FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS.  Do you have to type your application?  No, but this is a professional interview for the best civilian flying job in the world.  You are trying to close a multi-million dollar job.  Remember that the interviewers will get all of your paperwork prior to the interview, including your logbooks, driving records, college transcripts, etc.  They are painting a picture of you based on the professionalism of your paperwork before you ever set foot in the interview room.  Put your best foot forward.

As you can see, there are no magic tricks to being successful in the interview process. It doesn't matter whether you drink the water, or whether you're wearing a red tie!