Getting Started: Applying, Interviewing, Evaluating Job Offers

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Applying for the Job

As a pilot candidate, your task is to market yourself and play by the current rules. The time to apply for a pilot's position is now. Today, there are more job opportunities for pilots than ever before. Nobody knows how long these opportunities will last. Seniority is based on date of hire and will govern your entire career. This fact makes it imperative that you land your preferred career job as soon as possible. All airlines base promotions and pay increases on a seniority system. Thus, your chance to upgrade to captain will be determined by your seniority number alone and not by your individual accomplishments. The most senior pilots choose the best trips, vacation dates and time off, make the most money, and become the last to be furloughed.

Timing is very important. A decision must be made at the earliest age possible concerning career pilot employment. As a pilot gets older, job opportunities decrease, especially at major airlines. The average age of new-hire pilots with major and national airlines is 33 to 38, and the maximum age is in the low 50s.

As mentioned, aviation hiring is very cyclical. To take advantage of the varying demand for pilots, you must obtain the necessary education, qualifications and experience. You should exert a maximum effort to get the job desired during times when hiring is at a peak and work on improving your qualifications during periods when hiring is slow.

Pilot supply and demand will cause minimum and average qualifications to vary. Therefore, you should continuously improve your qualifications and experience until hired by a career-goal company or airline.

You should launch your job search with a positive attitude and be well informed. Being fully prepared will require a lot of mental and physical work on your part. How much effort you decide to expend will determine how successful you are, or how long it takes you to reach your career goal.

The Basics

If you are a pilot seeking airline or other commercial employment, you should:
  • Develop and produce a quality resume and cover-letter package and send a resume every time you correspond with a company.

  • Update your logbook. Regardless of how much flying time you have, your logbook will be checked at the interview. This is standard in an interview; no exceptions are made. If you have many logbooks, or the entries in your logbooks are a little messy, you should use a summary page. However, the summary page should not be used in lieu of the logbook; it may be presented along with the logbook(s).

  • Keep a detailed work history. The airlines will want to know and be able to verify that history. It will take time to compile this information, especially if you have to list employment from 20 years ago. You will need dates, names of employers, addresses with zip codes and phone numbers. In the case of companies that have gone out of business, you can use tax records and pay stubs to verify employment. If you are required to list the names and phone numbers of former supervisors and the task proves impossible, you should use as a contact someone who at least can verify that you were employed at that particular company (a co-worker, for example). The airline representatives are aware that these situations exist. However, their job is to verify work history, and no matter how difficult the data may be to assemble, they will require that you provide them with this information. You should never assume that they will understand and sympathize with you about long-ago flying jobs; they won't.

  • Acquire your college transcripts. You should call the school from which you graduated and request that your transcript(s) be sent to you. Usually there is a fee per transcript. Since acquisition of transcripts may take four to six weeks, you should make your request as soon as possible. A wise precaution is to have a few to hand out, or make a copy of the original and show the original at the interview. (You should be sure to ask the interviewer if he will accept a copy of the original transcript).

  • Keep copies of all training records in order to verify flight qualifications and training. Copies of records should be acquired right after training has been completed since the records are hard to come by if the company folds or you leave the company.

  • Provide any medical records or tests to document that any previous medical problem (e.g., a broken arm) has been corrected. It is a good idea to get a complete physical before the interview or even sooner if you have never had one.

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