Pilot Job Applications – Keep Up the Momentum!

Our CEO Frank Collins has done a follow up from his last article.  See below:


Making a decision to apply for a new pilot job is not something you should undertake lightly.

The process is probably going to take a number of months end to end. Depending on where you apply to work it could even take up to a year (for example China). The simple part will be updating your CV and making that first application. Completing Application Forms can be more complicated especially if it involves details of all your flying hours. Attending interviews, preparing for simulator assessments and medicals can take its toll on anyone.

In a previous article I commented on the fact that, despite the best intentions of many pilots, the ultimate pass rate from all this effort can be as low as 10%.

So what can you do to improve your chances and take as much of the hassle out of the process?

Step 1 – Assess Your Priorities

Start at the very beginning and ask yourself what is it that you want? This may seem very simple but it is often ignored and can lead to poor choices.

Do you want a fast upgrade, a good work life balance, fly long haul, sleep in your own bed each night, or let’s not forget – more money? This list of questions is not exhaustive and priorities will change over time. At a recent Royal Aeronautical Society conference, it was mentioned that on average a pilot changes jobs seven times in their career. Outside of forced changes (redundancy etc), most of these changes will be due to a pilot reassessing their priorities.

So beforehand you apply for a job I would suggest to ask yourself what it is that you want. Look at job aspects and number them in order of most important to you, to least important to you:

Example of Job Aspects:

  • ·        Remuneration / Total Earnings
  • ·        Work-Life balance
  • ·        Job close to home
  • ·        Flying Long Haul
  • ·        Flying Short haul
  • ·        Flying Widebodies
  • ·        Working part time
  • ·        Seeing the world
  • ·        Great social life
  • ·        Low Cost of Living
  • ·        Stable roster
  • ·        Etc.


Step 2 – Update your CV

This is a simple enough task and we have already produced a short video about what is needed (available at https://player.vimeo.com/video/311726386) .

Essentially all you need is:

·        Your personal details: Name, date of birth, nationality

·        Contact details: Mobile number and email address

·        Professional details: Licence details, flight hours, type ratings, medical status, current aircraft and date of last flight information

·        Work experience: Who you have flown with, what position and when

The average CV gets looked at for 6 seconds! So you need to cut out the clutter and make an impression. Make it obvious that you are qualified for the role.


Step 3 – Talk to an Agency

I guess you will say of “of course you are going to say this”. Well it is not because I am from an agency, but because it makes good sense. There are a number of very good agencies out there and they don’t charge you to find a job. Talk to a number of them and deal with the one or ones that treat you with respect and that you get on with. A good agency should be able to point you to the right roles that would suit you based on your current experience and your current priorities. It is not in the long-term interest of an agency to put you into a role that is not right for you or the airline as you will leave the airline and the airline who pay the agency won’t thank the agency.


Step 4 – Work with the Agency or Airline

The recruitment agency (or airline if you are applying directly) will be looking for all applicants to complete certain documentation or procedures. It doesn’t matter how experienced or good you think you are – all documents and stages must be completed. A good agency will help you through this process, but you must also play your part. If you say you will have a form completed by the end of the week, try and do this. If you say you will complete the form but don’t come back to the agency or airline for a month, don’t expect to have your application brought to the top of the pile. This is where the title of this article comes from – it’s SO important to “Keep Up the Momentum”. Also consider that airlines have finite numbers of positions available – if you apply for a role in August and then don’t send back the required documents until October it might well be a case that the vacancies have already been filled, or the airline has received enough applications at this point that they’re now screening more strictly and only taking the top X% of candidates, as they perceive them, etc.  You will do yourself no favours if you engage in an application process and then go MIA for a while!

If the airline or agency says that they will get back to you at the end of the month, don’t pester them everyday beforehand looking for an answer. But by all means if you haven’t heard by the end of the month, do get on to the agency or airline to find out what’s happening. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to not get an update for weeks. The worst I have come across is 6 months, but I am sure there are worse examples out there. Realistically, if it takes an airline 6 months to decide if your application merits an interview or not, do you really want to work with that airline?

The recruitment process can take a long time in certain parts of the world, but a good agency should be able to tell you up front how long things will normally take so that you have realistic expectations. You can play your part by having the necessary documentation ready and complete the necessary forms and paperwork in a timely and accurate manner. If you’re applying for a job in Asia you will likely need Licence Verification Letter, No Accident Report, copy of your most recent Proficiency Check, etc. Apply for these / request these as early as you can so that when they’re requested as part of the screening process there is no delay from your side!


Step 5 – Prepare for the Assessment

You can normally find out what type of interviews are conducted by airlines. Talk to your agency and/or other pilots who have gone through the process before you.  A good agency will be able to brief you on the types of interview questions you can expect (HR, technical, competency based, mixed).  The SIM session for a type rated role will be more intense in terms of knowing the aircraft than with a non-type rated role. Try and find out what type of sim will be used and be prepared at least for a ‘standard’ test profile for with things such as:

·        engine cut after V1

·        go around

·        ILS approach

·        Missed approach

·        etc

and expect some assessment of manual handling too in case you’re asked to fly with raw data.

For a non-type-rated role, the examiner will be looking more at skills such as team work/CRM, communication, decision making, etc. rather than knowledge of the aircraft. If it’s a non-type-rated role try to find out what type of simulator equipment you’ll be tested in and familiarize yourself with the controls and FMS etc. if possible in advance.

In some countries, medicals can be very detailed and the norms that the airline will want to see reflect the norms in that country rather than your country. It is therefore advisable to find out what will be involved and what can be done to improve your chances of passing. For example, if things like cholesterol and blood pressure are being checked, and the “normal levels” for those are going to be stricter than in your own country, then not eating certain types of food for a few weeks before the check can be a good way to prepare. Again, a good agency should be able to help you here.


Step 6 – Make the Right Decision

Even for type rated pilots, an airline will be making a big investment in you once you join. It is in your long-term interest to make the right decision about joining at the earliest possible time. If at any stage during the process you feel a position is not for you, then back out. You will save everyone, including yourself, a lot of time and money pulling out at the earliest stage. If you wait until after a type-rating has been completed you may find yourself subject to a bond or early termination penalties. Even, if you don’t incur any of these sort of costs, future employers are going to query why you left a previous employer so early and they will wonder in the back of their minds if you will do the same to them.

Realistically if you’ve decided to move on to a new airline and made up your mind that you’re leaving your current job, then you’ll likely apply for several positions around the same time. You’ll receive job specifications for the roles if you’re qualified to proceed with an application. Once you choose which one is the best fit for your priorities (that you identified at Step 1!) then go with that role and engage in the process fully and wholeheartedly.  It is not ideal to have several applications at advanced stages at the same time because you can’t fully commit to any one of them and you’re not giving yourself the best chance of success!  If your top choice role ends up with no job offer, then you can always reassess and decide which to apply for next.  If you are interested in roles in locations where there is a long lead time (for example in Asia) then you might have more than one ongoing application simultaneously but when you get to the stage where you’re being invited to attend assessment in person you should be very careful about how you tread. For example, some airlines will charge a penalty if you book for assessment, they provide tickets and you don’t attend. In some cases you could find yourself ‘blacklisted’ from ever applying again.   Other possible ‘pitfalls’ exist too – for example in China if you apply for any airline then that airline ‘owns’ your profile in the CAAC system forevermore and you can’t apply for any other airline in the future unless they agree to release you.   That could be a nightmare if you really wanted to work for XYZ Airline in 2021 but applied on whim to ABC Airline in 2019 and never took it further. A good agency will be able to talk you through your options carefully. Being honest with the recruiter is so important because then they can give you the best possible advice about how to proceed.

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