Airline Pilot Interview & Assessment Preparation - Do you really need it?

The aim of this blog article is to offer some insight into the nature of Airline Pilot assessments and discuss the hurdles that you might need to overcome when applying for the position of Airline or Cadet Pilot.

Pilot interview and assessment preparation - do you need it? That’s a good question to which the answer is either yes or no, depending on your attitude to risk versus reward. 


However, two better questions to perhaps ask yourself are:
1. What are the rewards for being offered a place with your target airline or flight school?
2. Does the reward for getting the job or flight school that you want, outweigh the small investment for some preparation?

Before we go any further, at AirlinePrep we like to use the analogy that applying for a Pilot or Cadet Pilot position is like taking part in a 100m hurdles race, with the difference that it doesn’t matter who comes first, it matters that you don’t fall at any of the hurdles! 


The hurdles may include any combination of the following:


  • Submitting a CV and/or covering letter
  • Submitting an application form
  • Performing some pre-assessment aptitude and/or psychometric tests
  • Taking some numerical, verbal, scientific and ATPL tests
  • Taking an aviation English exam
  • Performing a pre-assessment video interview
  • Taking part in a group exercise
  • Performing an HR or competency interview
  • Performing a technical and/or strategy based interview
  • Giving a presentation
  • Taking part in a simulator assessment
  • Undertaking a company medical
You may have  to jump some or all of these hurdles!


The key to not falling at any of these is good preparation! Airline recruitment teams like well prepared candidates and there is nothing more frustrating than assessing a candidate who you believe has the ability, but is unable to demonstrate it during the assessment. 


Whether you are an aspiring cadet pilot, a frozen ATPL holder who has just graduated, or an experienced Military Pilot,  Airline First Officer or Captain looking for a new Pilot job, then you must be able to perform well during an assessment. You can’t take it for granted that because you have a university degree, frozen ATPL or 10000 hours flying that you will get the job. Those qualifications are nothing more than a entry ticket to the hurdles race.


Also remember that Pilots prepare for everything and the highest performing Pilots are those that give considered thought to each and every flight, simulator and line check. They don’t take it for granted that any one flight will be easy. What they actually do is use their skills and competencies to deal with any eventualities or hurdles that they may be presented with.


The same applies for airline pilot interviews and assessments - you need to be prepared for the eventualities and hurdles and that’s what some coaching or preparation will help you with. At AirlinePrep, we aren’t a ‘cheaters charter’ - we just develop your assessment skill set so that you can be the very best you can be during the assessment. 


Let’s look at each of those hurdles:


Your CV/cover letter & application form - do they actually describe you and your key strengths such that they will get you noticed? Are they actually targeting the position you are applying for? We can help with this.


Aptitude, numerical, verbal and ATPL reasoning tests - many experienced pilots won’t have had to do these since entering the profession, but when applying for a new job, maybe asked to complete them. Again, experience as a Pilot doesn’t matter in this case, the assessment team want you to complete them and so you will need to practice. Likewise for aspiring or new pilots. 


Pre-Assessment video interview -  These are a relatively new application tool. Do you know why you are being asked to do this? Will you treat it as you would if it were a face to face interview? Have you filmed yourself before?


Group exercises - are they just about being nice to each other? Should you sit on the fence and be the middle man? Should you take the lead? Is there a task to complete? Do decisions need to be made? Group exercises are good tools for an assessment team to take you out of your comfort zone and usual environment, to see if you can still perform as you might do in more familiar surroundings.


Interviews - these require a lot of preparation! Do your research into potential questions and prepare your answers. Do you actually know why you are being asked particular questions? Do you know how you present yourself to others? 


Simulator assessment - have you flown the aircraft type before? When did you last do some raw data hand flying? Will there be any non-normal situations to deal with?


As you can see from the above, there are many places that you could fall over and you need to ask yourself the first two questions again. Does the reward for getting the job that you want outweigh the cost of employing some expert coaching and guidance to give you the chance of being the stand out candidate? If the answer is yes, then you probably want some practice, guidance and coaching. If the answer is no, then what happens if you don’t get the job? 


At AirlinePrep we won’t tell you what to say or how to be, but we will coach you on how to conduct yourself, structure your answers, perform in a group exercise and give you advice on what competencies the recruitment teams are marking you against. Ultimately you have to be yourself because everyone else is already taken. 


One final observation - many of our clients come to us after failing an assessment or many assessments! We’ve even heard people saying they went to a particular airline interview for practice, but didn’t get the job! That interview may have been their one opportunity to launch the flying career that they wanted.


Failing an assessment is not only the difference between getting the job or not, it could be the difference years down the line between getting a Command or not, or being made redundant or not, or having to the opportunity to fly a particular aircraft or not. The sooner you reach your ultimate flying and career destination the better it will be for your career.


If you’ve just graduated from flight school with a frozen ATPL having invested £50000 to £120000 on your training, then it’s important that you realise that the licence will not get you a job. You will get yourself a job and that will be down to how you perform during the assessments. You’ve made a significant financial investment towards your career and spending less than a half to one percent of your training on some structured interview and assessment prep could be the difference between starting your career shortly after graduation or not.


We can help with all the above hurdles! Our team are Pilot recruiters. They have been where you are and have a wealth of knowledge and information about airline recruitment processes.


  • Services for aspiring and cadet pilots can be found here
  • Services for current pilots can be found here 
  • For distance learning, AirlinePrep The App can be downloaded here