Sample Pilot Resume Samples, Examples, and More

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Before you can hope to secure a professional flying position, you’ll need to make yourself (and more importantly, your qualifications) known to potential employers. To accomplish this, it’s imperative you develop an outstanding pilot resume. While some job hunters downplay the importance of a well-developed curriculum vitae(CV), a professional pilot resume is critical if you wish to succeed in the fiercely competitive commercial aviation industry.

A word of warning: crafting a professional pilot resume is not something you’ll be able to accomplish in an afternoon. Nor will you nail the perfect CV without significant edits and revisions along the way. To stand out    amongst the flood of applications that airline recruiters receive, you’ll need to devote significant time and effort to creating a nearly perfect pilot resume.

Why spend so much time on a single document? Quite simply, because your efforts will be one of the first impressions you’ll make on an airline’s hiring staff. It’s also one of the easiest ways you can stand out from the competition. Regardless of how badly some fliers want to become pro pilots, a significant number seem to skimp on their pilot resumes. Their lack of effort will show; while your attention to detail will earn you bonus points as applications are evaluated.

Layout and Appearance

Do a quick internet search and you’ll find sources claiming each pilot resume gets 5-30 seconds of a recruiter’s attention. With such a limited glance, you’ll want to make each precious second work in your favor. To accomplish this, plan on spending significant time developing a clean and aesthetically pleasing format. The layout and appearance of your pilot resume will count as much (if not more) as the information presented in the document.

Sample Pilot Resume Paper Stock and Color: Unless otherwise specified by a particular company, use 24 lb, 100% cotton paper for your pilot resume, cover letter, and associated documentation. Color wise, white and ivory are generally accepted throughout the industry. In some cases, cream-colored or light grey stock is also accepted. Many applicants claim that using a slightly off-white hue is an easy way to stand out from the masses. However, before you venture too far from white, make sure the company in question accepts the color you’re considering.

Above all else, remember that aviators are a conservative bunch. Peacocking might work on the social scene, but standing out with your stationery is the surest way to get your paperwork thrown out. Remember: the key is to stand out without standing out.

Sample Pilot Resume Font and Type: When selecting font size and type, remember that the overall message you want to project is one of conservatism. Leave the swirling scripts for the liberal arts crowd and select a simple, legible font. Personally, I’ve done just fine by sticking to 12-point Arial throughout my career, though Times New Roman, Cambria, and similar scripts will probably do just as well. The only place I’ve ventured to try a different style is for my name in the heading section (24-point Monotype Corsiva). I’ve found this script adds a bit of personal style to my pilot resume (and name) without being gaudy.

The bottom line: there is no exact formula or perfect script for your pilot resume. Unless a company is known to prefer a specific font, try a few variations that maintain a conservative yet aesthetically pleasing appearance. You might even want to create multiple versions of your pilot resume, each of which utilizes a slightly different font style/size. Solicit input from family, friends, and colleagues on each design. If one version garners significant praise, you’ll probably leave a similar impression on pilot recruiters.

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Sections, Headings, and Bullet Points: One of the challenges you’ll encounter while constructing your pilot resume is how to avoid a boring, dry-as-dust appearance when you’re limited to a single page of black on white. The trick here is to make effective use of headings, sections, bullet points, bold type, italics, and even white space. Note the word “effective” in the previous sentence. Using any of these for no particular reason will likely detract from your pilot resume and leave reviewers unimpressed.

For a pilot resume, you’ll probably have 4-6 primary sections, each with a corresponding heading. Common sections will include flight time, certificates & ratings, education, work history, activities/awards/miscellaneous, and an objective section (each of which will be discussed later). You might also have additional sections, depending on the particular job you’re pursuing. Again, while there is no hard-and-fast rule here, you’ll want to draw attention to each section while maintaining a clean appearance.

After extensive trial and error, I opted simply to use bold type for each heading, which I listed on the left side of the page. Corresponding descriptions and information was listed to the right of each heading, continuing down the page to the subsequent section. This layout allowed me to maintain a clean, logical flow of information while avoiding a cluttered appearance. However, my format is far from the only suitable alternative. You might find that bold, italics, underlining, or a combination of formats works best for you. Experiment with a variety of options until you find a format (or three) that serves you well.

Sample Pilot Resume – Calling Attention to Your Info

In addition to the headings, you’ll want to find a way to break up the body of your pilot resume. Nothing will lose a reader’s interest faster than line after line of uniform black ink. To keep readers engaged and draw their attention, you’ll need to vary the format of the information you present. The most effective way I’ve found to do this is through the use of bullet points.

Except for the objective section, every other part of my pilot resume incorporates bullet points to some extent. In each case, the bullet points serve to break up, highlight, or otherwise organize the information presented. In some sections, I use secondary bullet points to delineate subsets of information. Without such points, the body of my pilot resume would be a confusing mass of jumbled black ink. For organization, all sections of my pilot resume utilizes the same type of primary bullet point (dark circles), with secondary bullet points (diamonds) aligned one tab to the right. Such a format helps maintain continuity of appearance throughout the document.

Bold, Italics, and Underlining: Other effective techniques for breaking up your pilot resume’s content are to alter the appearance of parts of the text. Throughout my pilot resume, I’ve sprinkled bold, italics, and underlining to work in concert with tabs, headings, bullet points, and white space. The key here is to use each option sparingly. Too much of any effect will detract from your pilot resume and leave an undesirable impression on the recipient. Remember, the point of each option is to make the highlighted text stand out! Only use these options to the extent they accentuate the information you don’t want the reader to miss.

For pilots, a common temptation is to highlight flight experience and certificates/ratings. Avoid the urge to do this. If you’re applying for a piloting position, the recruiters already know (or at least, expect) you meet the minimum aeronautical experience and certification requirements. The purpose of these sections is to allow the recruiters to quickly verify that you meet the company’s minimum qualifications for the position in question. Unless your flight time and/or ratings are uniquely impressive, this section really won’t make you stand out from most other applicants. Instead, save the special fonts for info that is unique to you and likely give you an edge on the competition.

As with most rules, there are exceptions to the no-highlight rule for flight time and ratings. The most common is if you possess a type rating in the aircraft for which you’re applying to fly (Southwest, anyone?). If you’ve served as a check airman, pilot in command (PIC), or have other type-specific knowledge most other applicants will lack, by all means let the recruiters know! Without such specialized training, stick to your standard format for these categories.

Blank Space can Speak Volumes: An often-overlooked technique for articulating your pilot resume is through the use of blank space. Trust me; nothing will make a recruiter cringe more than border-to-border text from top to bottom. Remember, you likely have just 5-30 seconds to make an impression. Your goal is to persuade the reviewer(s) that you deserve an interview, not to recount your life story. When properly utilized, blank space can be one of the most effective techniques for making your pilot resume stand out.

As I’ve said before, there is no one format that will trump all other designs. On my pilot resume, I’ve found that a one-inch margin on the left and right sides (smaller for top and bottom edges) has worked well. Additionally, I’ve made it a point to include at least one blank line between each section of the pilot resume (and in some instances, within sections) to minimize clutter. The left column of my pilot resume (the headings) goes even further, with significant white space between each section heading. With this format, the reader can instantly see where each section begins and ends.

Just One Page?

Unless otherwise specified, your pilot resume should be just one page long (single-sided). Don’t try to skirt this guideline by using legal paper. When applying to North American companies, use letter size (8.5″ x 11″) stock. For overseas employment, A4 paper (210 mm × 297 mm {8.3” × 11.7”}) is the international equivalent.

Not enough (or too much) room? That’s a very common concern among job applicants. If you’re just entering the workforce, you might find it challenging to fill an entire sheet. Experienced workers often lament that they can’t fit all the necessary info into such a tiny space. Wherever you are along the spectrum, we’ll examine the essentials for a pilot’s pilot resume, as well as material that can usually be omitted.

Items to Include on a Pilot resume

Objective: Read a few online employment articles and you’re bound to see authors, interviewers, and HR experts claiming that an objective section is obsolete and should be omitted from your pilot resume. Personally, I’ve always included an objective on my aviation pilot resumes. Based on the percentage of callbacks and interviews I’ve gotten, including an objective doesn’t appear to be detrimental. Besides, this section is usually just one line and when written effectively, can boost your chances of securing an interview.

Download an example of a pilot resume to the right of the page.

My rationale behind listing an objective is to let the recipient know exactly what I’m after. If you want a pilot job, bear in mind that the recruiters (depending on the company) might review applications for a number of different departments and positions. You don’t want your paperwork to end up in the flight attendant or aircraft mechanic stacks, do you? With a single line in the top section, you can help ensure your paperwork gets to the right place.

Won’t your flight time and ratings make it obvious you’re applying for a pilot position? Ideally, yes. However, bear in mind that the reader will likely spend just a few seconds glancing over your paperwork. With an objective, you reduce the chances of any confusion that can result from a quick scan of the document.

A Word of Warning: An objective section can be a double-edge sword. The key is to make effective use of this line. You won’t impress anyone (quite the opposite) by simply writing “Pilot Position” here. The key is to be specific. Are you looking to work as a flight instructor, charter pilot, demo pilot, banner pilot, first officer, or pilot in command? Let the reviewer know exactly what you’re after. Also, make sure you tailor each objective section to the specific company that’ll be receiving your pilot resume.

If the company operates several types of equipment and/or flies from several locations, you might want to include the model/hub for which you’re applying. Dallas-based Boeing 737-700 First Officer Position communicates a great deal of information to the reader. In one line, they know your desired base, aircraft, and seat. This also shows that your pilot resume has been developed specifically for them. However, you don’t want to be too specific if you’re just looking to get your foot in the door. XYZ Airlines Entry-level First Officer Position would be a better choice if you’re willing to accept whatever base/aircraft comes available.

Hours and Ratings: Though we’ll discuss these together, they should actually make up two separate sections of your pilot resume. I use “Flight Experience” and “Certificates” for these section headings, but feel free to develop your own effective titles. A common mistake here is the urge to include everything you’ve ever done in an aircraft. However, remember that you have only one 8.5″ x 11″ sheet and 5-30 seconds to communicate 4-6 sections of info. The trick here is to include only the ratings and flight time that relate to the position you’re seeking.

In most cases, you’ll want to list your total time, pilot in command (PIC) hours, turbine experience, multi-engine time, and IFR hours. Additionally, night hours and experience as an instructor might be good to include as well (depending on the position sought). However, you’re unlikely to impress anyone by listing instruction received, airplane single engine land (ASEL), day, VFR, or non-cross country hours. Second in command (SIC) time is generally only impressive if it’s used to demonstrate turbine, multi-engine, Part 121, or Part 135 experience. In all cases, ask yourself, “Is this time relevant/impressive for the position I’m seeking?”. If the answer is no, you probably don’t need to include it on your pilot resume.

While you’re at it, remove any certificates/ratings that don’t apply to the position. Though you might be experienced in gliders, helicopters, and seaplanes, these ratings won’t do much if you want to fly Boeings or Airbuses for a living. Instead, use your pilot resume to highlight turbine, PIC, multi-engine, Part 121, and Part 135 experience you have, as well as any type ratings you hold. If you hold a flight engineer (FE) rating or have passed the FE written test, only include these for companies that operate equipment requiring FEs. Likewise, if you’re only interested in a pilot slot, don’t advertise that you hold an A&P certificate.

Multiple Pilot resumes for Multiple Purposes: Throughout your career, you’ll need to adjust your pilot resume as you climb the career ladder. Early on, you might even include all your flight experience and ratings (landing your first CFI job) before cutting back to Part 121 turbine PIC (major airline applications) later in your career. If you pursue multiple aviation jobs, develop a separate pilot resume for CFI, FE, Part 135, Part 121, and A&P work. Additionally, be sure to update each document as you gain experience, either at set intervals (i.e. every six months) or whenever you achieve a major milestone (earned ATP certificate).  We have plenty of sample pilot resumes for CFI, Corporate, and Airline Pilots for all of our active members, which you will gain access to once you signup for a full account.

Ratings in Progress: In a few instances, it makes sense to list flight time and knowledge exams for ratings you’re currently pursuing. The most common case for this is while pursuing your first regional airline job. Many regionals require applicants to have passed the ATP written exam prior to employment. Even if the company you’re pursuing doesn’t require this, it’s still a good idea to demonstrate your commitment to attaining your ATP. Additionally, at this level you should consider listing your progress towards the aeronautical experience requirements (night, cross country, IMC, etc.) for the ATP rating {see 14 CFR 61.159(a)}. Doing so will allow the company to anticipate your upgrade eligibility.

Note: Currently, Congress is considering legislation for a proposed 1,500 Hour Rule; which would require all Part 121 first officers to possess an ATP certificate. If it passes, regional airline FOs would be required to accrue at least 1,500 total hours (with certain exceptions) to become eligible for the ATP certificate (and Part 121 employment). August 2, 2013 is being given as a possible implementation date, so be sure to stay aware of any developments and plan accordingly.

Employment History: Your work background is another area where you’ll want to forego the urge to list your entire employment history. Instead, just include positions where you’ve served as a pilot and your current/most recent job. If you have a lengthy employment history, narrow it down to the 3-4 most relevant for your pilot resume. If the company wants more info on your employment background (they will), you’ll be able to fill in additional details on the company’s application (discussed later).

Unless otherwise specified, list your jobs in reverse chronological order. On my pilot resume, I include the dates of employment (month & year), company name, company location (city, state, {and country if foreign}), and a one-line description of my position/title. Though somewhat scant, this information has proved sufficient for pilot resume purposes. Once invited for an interview (or asked to submit the company’s employment application), you’ll be asked to include phone numbers, physical/mailing addresses, supervisor names, etc. on the company’s form.

Minimal Employment History: If you’re young and just entering the workforce, don’t let an absence of work background deter you. At this stage, you’ll be applying for entry-level positions anyway (i.e. CFI), so most employers won’t think poorly of you if you’ve only worked at Burger King. Besides, they’ll be able to determine from your education dates (discussed below) that you have probably been a student until very recently (or still are).  When I applied for my first flight instructor job, I had a single minimum wage position to my credit. I still got hired, so this category doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight early on.

Gaps in Employment: Employment gaps are a common cause for concern among job applicants, but they don’t have to be the death knell of your pilot career. For at least four years now, the fragile economy has left significant numbers of workers unemployed for extended periods of time. If you’ve been out of work for a while, rest assured this doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. The secret in dealing with employment gaps lies in how you present the situation.

Thankfully, questions about employment gaps usually won’t come up until after the recipient has reviewed your pilot resume and application. If they’re bothering to call, it means they’re at least moderately interested in you (congratulations!). The key here is to explain how you’ve used the time off. You’ll want to be able to show that you’ve been productive during this period of unemployment. Perhaps you added instrument and multi-engine ratings to your CFI certificate. Maybe you completed the ATP and FE written exams, obtained your FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit, and lost 40 pounds to ensure you can pass a Class 1 medical exam. Whatever you do, have something positive and productive to say about how you spent this time. If you can offer a confident and unapologetic answer, you’re likely to convince the interviewer that this gap is not a big deal.

Education: You’ll definitely want to include your post-secondary education on your pilot resume. List your highest degree (PhD, masters) first and work down to any lesser degrees (bachelors, associate) you may hold. If you have more than one degree at a particular level (i.e. two bachelors), list them in reverse chronological order.

In this category, be sure to include at least the dates of attendance, name & location of the school, degree(s) earned {and semester(s) awarded}, and your GPA (plus the grading scale used). If you graduated with any honors (summa cum laude, Dean’s List, etc.), or awards (i.e. academic scholarship), be sure to list them too. Such items show potential employers: 1. you’re trainable 2. people think you’re worth spending money on.

Is a Four-Year Degree an Absolute Necessity? The short answer to this question is: yes. Though you’ll generally be able to find work at entry level positions, lack of a bachelor’s degree will hinder your advancement up the aviation career ladder. Without at least a bachelor’s, your odds of securing a pilot job at a major airline are extremely slim.

Why the emphasis on education? In many ways, the airlines view a degree as evidence of your trainability, devotion, and ability to commit your time and effort for an extended period of time. It’s one way for them to gauge how you’ll perform as an employee of their company. To an extent, a college degree also helps them thin out the competition. In such a highly competitive industry, it’s yet another measure to determine which applications make it into the short stack.

Will an advanced degree (PhD, masters) give you an advantage over the competition?  While there’s certainly no downside to earning advanced degrees, I’ve yet to hear of it giving any significant advantage to pilot applicants. Most airlines are happy with a bachelor’s, regardless of the field in which it’s earned. If you choose to pursue an advanced degree, do so for reasons other than merely strengthening your pilot resume.

Is an Aviation Degree Advantageous? From personal experience, I can say that majoring in aviation doesn’t give you any noticeable advantage over the competition. Both my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees are in aviation, neither of which has ever proven to be overly beneficial in my pursuit of flying jobs. In fact, majoring in aviation has been one of those decisions I wish I could do over.

Before I put anyone off college aviation programs, let me be perfectly clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with majoring in aviation. My college courses were informative and enjoyable, and I came away with loads of valuable knowledge. My reasons for wishing I’d chosen another field have to do with backup options. By studying nothing but aviation, I effectively placed all my eggs in the same basket. Since my college days, the aviation world has experienced 9/11 and the global economic crisis, both of which dealt major blows to the professional pilot industry.

Many professional pilots earn their degrees in business, accounting, engineering, or any number of unrelated fields while earning their pilot certificates on the side. All non-aviation-major pro pilots I’ve shared the cockpit with have been just as safe and knowledgeable as my fellow aviation majors. They also have a huge advantage in that, should a furlough occur (and at some point in your career, it’s all but guaranteed), they have a specialized set of skills to fall back on. Should it become necessary to work outside of aviation for a while, these individuals have more options than someone like me.

Activities, Awards, and Miscellaneous Info: Compared to other categories, this pilot resume section is usually the first to be cut when space becomes an issue. While this section is perhaps the most optional of those we’ve discussed, it also offers ample opportunity to set yourself apart from the masses.

What sort of info should you include in this section? Generally, you’ll have just a few precious lines in which to tout your accomplishments. Make sure anything listed here portrays you as an upstanding individual and a real standout amongst potential employees. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not worth space on the page.

Community/Charitable Involvement: I’ve yet to hear of an interviewer that doesn’t admire pilots who give back to society. If you do anything for the betterment of humanity, it’s probably worth including on your pilot resume. Examples for this section can include: building houses with Habitat for Humanity, providing air transportation through Angel Flight, initiating community recycling programs, missionary work in developing nations, organizing blood drives, or anything else that involves donating your time and efforts.

To be effective, your volunteer efforts should be something you do long term. If your pilot resume shows you’ve only been a member/participant for three weeks, interviewers will probably see this as a ploy to pad your pilot resume. Likewise, you need to be an active member for such activities to count in your favor. If you’re an officer or founder/organizer, so much the better. If you just sign up and disappear for months on end, you’re not going to win any points with airline recruiters.

Awards and Honors: Awards you receive through school, work, or community involvement can be valuable additions to your pilot resume. Are you an Eagle Scout, Valedictorian, or Rotary Club award recipient? If so, let potential employers know! Such achievements are definitely worth drawing attention to (bold, italics, etc.), as they’re a great deal less common than most other listings on your pilot resume.

Specialized Knowledge/Foreign Language Aptitude: If you speak a foreign language, potential employers will certainly view you favorably. With the ever-increasing globalization of society, multilingual abilities are in high demand in nearly all fields. Aviation is no different, and your pilot resume is one of the places you can promote your aptitude to potential employers. Regardless of other skills you might have, language aptitude will surely work to your benefit.

Before you proclaim yourself a polyglot, let me further define the requirements for pilot resume inclusion. In order to claim foreign language proficiency, you need to be fluent (or at the very least, conversational) in the language in question. If your skills are limited to a dozen phrases you learned for your last vacation, forego promoting this on your pilot resume. The last thing you want is to get a surprise phone call from the airline in which they test your ability. Worse yet, you don’t want to get called out in front of a room full of interviewers. Unless you’re completely confident in your conversational abilities, don’t list foreign language skills on your pilot resume.

Avoiding the Circular File

While the primary purpose of your pilot resume is to secure an interview, you also want to take every precaution to avoid having your paperwork thrown out. This is where small mistakes can wreck your chances of employment. Though many of these errors will seem perfectly obvious, they continue to plague job applicants throughout the industry.

Spelling/Grammar Errors: If you do nothing else, triple-check your pilot resume for simple errors. Regardless of how impressive your credentials might be, they won’t make up for a pilot resume that’s loaded with typos. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell checker to catch all mistakes either. Look up any words you’re not 100% sure about. Have at least three other people proofread your docs (ideally English majors/teachers). Pore over every letter on the page multiple times. Simple errors can lurk nearly anywhere, though none will improve your odds of a job offer.

Inaccurate Dates/Addresses/Numbers: You’d be surprised at how many job seekers don’t bother to verify the info they list on their paperwork. Many appear to guesstimate GPAs, employment dates, and all matter of numbers-related info. While it takes time, it’s absolutely imperative that you verify everything listed on your documents. Airline recruiters WILL conduct background checks, and any surprises will only hurt your chances.

Addresses, phone numbers, and emails do change from time to time. Make sure all such info on your pilot resume is current at the time of submission. Not sure of your exact employment dates? Call former employers and verify what they have listed. Can’t remember when you earned your degree? Any college’s records department can look this up for you. Though it might cost you a few hours, ensuring the accuracy of your information is critical to advancing in the hiring process.

Embellishments: Nothing will do you more harm than claiming credentials you don’t have. While we all want to look good for potential employers, asserting falsehoods can do irreparable damage to your career. A single instance will have an airline believing you’re untrustworthy, which could even get your name blacklisted. Additionally, bear in mind that professional aviation is a very small community. People talk, so a mistake you make at one company can easily follow you elsewhere. Whatever you do, NEVER claim a credential unless you can prove you truly possess it.

Read World Numbers

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you know that a professional pilot resume is critical to succeeding as a pro pilot. This single document is the foundation upon which so much of your career success will be based. Just as you wouldn’t skimp on your flight training, be sure to devote the necessary time and discipline to crafting an outstanding pilot resume.

For those of you who are still skeptical, let me provide a little firsthand experience as to how important a professional pilot resume can be. In the dark days following 9/11, I was a recent college grad competing for a CFI job in a market saturated with unemployed aviators. On one occasion, I received an invitation to interview for a job I had found online. During the interview, the hiring manager said I was one of seven individuals invited to interview out of over 250 (and climbing) applicants. Though I didn’t get the job, I beat out over 97% of applicants based entirely on my pilot resume.

A few months later, I received an invitation to interview for another CFI position. I later learned the company in question had received approximately 800 applications for the four open slots. Eighty received brief phone interviews, 12 were invited to personal interviews, and I was one of the four interviewees offered a job. Again, my pilot resume alone was responsible for placing me ahead of at least 90% of the competition. Follow the guidelines I’ve mentioned in this section and you too can give yourself a competitive edge over the masses.

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Also, check out our sample pilot cover letter which you will obviously need when applying to potential employers.

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