Major carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines recently announced hiring plans, adding to the growing list of smaller majors like Atlas Air, Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines that were already hiring. Regional airlines including Air Wisconsin, Endeavor Air, Go Jet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, PSA Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, Republic Airways, and SkyWest Airlines have started recruiting pilots again. It may all seem too good to be true so soon after federal relief was required to avoid thousands of job losses feared when the coronavirus pandemic all but destroyed demand for commercial air travel starting in March 2020.
Just a few months ago, roughly 5,000 major airline pilots took advantage of early retirement packages; that’s about two years of expected age-65 retirements at the majors. These losses, along with the continuing age-65 retirements, and the accelerating market recovery, have combined to create demand for pilots long before passenger traffic returns to 2019 levels.
During the pandemic, face-to-face interviews went online: Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual platforms may have been used sparingly in the past; however, they were the breakout stars for dealing with quarantines and lockdowns in 2020. Zoom was an unknown, and now it’s a noun and a verb. It’s too soon to tell how big a role in interviewing these platforms will play. Phone pre-screening has been the norm for years at many companies, especially smaller airlines with shallower pockets, and virtual interviews seem like a natural and permanent progression for this group. The move to virtual platforms is inexpensive and straightforward, so expect to see more of it during your quest for your dream airline job. Your new job preparation will include preparing for a virtual interview that a prospective employer may use to screen candidates ahead of a face-to-face interview, and possibly as the only pre-hire interview.
Much of the preparation remains the same. Do your homework: Study the interview process in online forums; have conversations with anyone you know who has been there and done that; make sure not to miss any advice your prospective employer might offer on websites or social media sites where you can also learn about company culture, personnel, and what they value; and be ready to show off that knowledge when it’s time to shine. You should prepare for your interview as thoroughly as you would for a checkride.
You may not know where your actual weaknesses lie, so prepare across the board—hit the reference books: Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators, the Aeronautical Information Manual, Aviation Weather, the federal aviation regulations, and maybe a copy of Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot by Richie Lengel. Ensure your résumé and online application are up to speed by having them reviewed professionally. They are scored to determine whether you even get an interview. These documents will be printed and reviewed by your interviewers before your interview, whether you meet online or face-to-face. Then they become the first impression for the pilots and human resources staff who will decide whether to hire you.
The most significant differences in virtual interviews come in how you present yourself. I offer detailed tips on how to set up your camera, microphone, and room where you will conduct the online interview in “Ace your online airline pilot interview.”
A practice virtual interview with a professional can confirm you are ready for the real deal or arm you with tools and tips to improve your confidence. Try to book a practice session at least two weeks out, leaving enough time to make any needed changes but not so long that you forget what you learn. Some applicants choose to take a practice interview well before they are considered for the position they are seeking to get a feel for what needs improving. Some schedule a shortened warm-up interview right before their scheduled interview.