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Understanding the Hiring Process

Posted 13 years 156 days ago ago by Admin

Understanding the Hiring Process! By Lyn Burks

So here you are, a Helicopter CFII who has been teaching in the "training bubble" for the last eighteen months and now you are bucking your first job in the real world of working helicopters. Or, perhaps you are transitioning out of Military flying and into the Civilian market. In either case, you may be looking for a little insight into what the general hiring process is like.

In a perfect world, your buddy would come to you and indicate the company he or she works for is hiring. It would just so happen that said job guarantees a six figure income, full bennies, never flies nights, weekends or holidays, and has ice cream parties on Fridays! Furthermore, your friend indicates that just your mere association with him or her practically guarantees the job is yours. Then the record scratches and you are snapped back into the real world.

When entering the helicopter job market, understanding the process and knowing what to expect will prepare you and help achieve your goal for employment. Given the market for helicopter pilots and mechanics is National in nature, it is very likely you may be applying for a job which is not in your home town. This "non-local" factor throws a little bit of a twist into the process, therefore making several parts of the process very critical.

Let us take a look at the process which can basically be broken down into five parts:

  1. Resume
  2. Phone Interview
  3. Personal Interview
  4. Testing
  5. Offer/Rejection

The Resume

First, let’s get back to the "non-local" nature of many jobs in the helicopter industry. What happens when you live in Oregon and the job for which you are interested is in beautiful Lafayette, Louisiana? It is not very realistic to hop a flight on down to the bayou and go banging on the Chief Pilot’s door so that you may introduce yourself. Most often the resume is the very first impression the hiring authority has of you.

The resume should be considered the most important part of the process. You can possess all the witty charm in the world and be the best stick this side of the Mississippi, but if your resume cannot capture the hiring authority’s attention within thirty seconds, your charm and stick wiggling skills are for naught. Therefore, the RESUME is the single most important component of the process.

If you do not have a great resume already prepared, make it your number one priority. There are several resources available on the web for assistance in building a resume. I have written a downloadable Resume EBook titled, "Your Resume vs. the Helicopter Industry, a Guide to Resume Writing for Helicopter Pilots and Mechanics", and is available at www.thehelicopterstore.com. The guide includes resume templates, interview questions, and personal advice from the hiring authorities of several large helicopter operators.

The most common complaint from hiring authorities is when resumes are generic and not written for the position applied. As an example, I received a resume from a mechanic who was interested in a Quality Assurance – Technical Administrator position for which I was recruiting. The objective statement at the top of the resume said, "To obtain a challenging position as an A&P Mechanic in a company who offers long term employment". The resume then went on to highlight the candidates experience as a line mechanic and contained nothing relating to the position requirements of a Technical Administrator.

Phone Interview

Depending on the position, you should expect to do at least one, and possibly two phone interviews prior to being asked to come in for a face to face interview. Expect phone interviews to be 30 – 60 minutes in length and the conversation to be casual with a few technical questions thrown into the mix. The phone interview is designed to be a "personality checker" as much as a brief test of technical competence. Two big issues regarding phone interviews are:

A. Setting up the time for which you are available to take a call. When the interviewer asks you for a time, be specific and be prepared to take the call. Many times I have called a candidate at a prescribed time and 5 minutes into the interview I am interrupted while dad (the candidate) screams at little Johnny to head for home plate because he is at his kids tee ball game.

B. When you agree on a time to take a call, actually be there. If there is a schedule conflict, do your best to notify the interviewer in advance.

Personal Interviews

All standard rules apply here. Number one rule is dress for success. For pilot positions, suit or jacket and tie are a must. The only exception to this rule is when the interview will be taking place in the field at a location such as a logging camp. Mechanics should always wear at least slacks, dress shirt and jacket to a personal interview. One really good rule of thumb: If you are meeting with the Chief Pilot or the Director of Maintenance, you might get away with a very slight dress down. On the other hand, any time a non-flying or non-wrenching HR person is involved in the process, dress up to the T.

Here are some other points to consider regarding the face to face interview:

  • Show up early.
  • Turn off cell phone.
  • Firm hand shake.
  • Constant eye contact.
  • Ask questions.
  • Bring resume and notepad.
  • Breathmints.
  • Expect technical questions.
  • Get interviewers business card.
  • Follow up with thank you email!


Every company will have some level of pre-employment testing. Some processes are very formal, and some as informal as a pool party. Pilots should always expect a flight check out in a company helicopter. If you have not flown that particular model aircraft, you will not be expected to answer technical questions regarding its systems, limitations or performance. You will only be judged on your flying technique and aeronautical decision making.

Some larger operators incorporate a written test into the pre-hire testing process which would normally include general items such as FAR’s, weather, and flight planning. Candidates should expect technical questions regarding the aircraft they currently fly. Let us assume that you are presently flying an R44 and applying for a Bell 206 position. You should expect some technical questions regarding the R44 even though the company you are applying to does not operate R44’s. The point is to be prepared and study hard on many subjects prior to an interview.

Hired!....or not!

When the time comes and you are accepted or rejected, remember this one point. Aircraft experience in type and mission is king. Often this is out of your immediate control and there is nothing you can do about that fact. If you are beaten out of a job by a candidate with specific experience where you had none, do not get discouraged. This is the nature of aviation.

However, if all things are equal and if you have done all of your homework and given the hiring authority every reason to keep looking at you, then you may be lucky enough to get the job offer. Every time this occurs in your career you will not forget it as it will be a new chapter in your aviation career. Landing a job amidst a competitive market is a combination of hard work, skill, and plain ole’ luck. You have not control over the "luck" part so you must focus on the other two.

In future career development articles we will dig more in depth into each component of the hiring process. Until then, keep it safe out there!

About the Author:

Lyn Burks is the owner/developer of Justhelicopters.com and Verticalreference.com. Additionally, he is the producer of the Heli-Success Seminar and author of several helicopter career development E-books, as well as a recruiter in the industry. He is an ATP/CFII with nearly 6000 hours helicopter experience.