The Pilot Interview: Tips, Dress Code, and How to Prepare

Equally important is eye contact. Meeting the interviewer’s glance projects an image of confidence, courtesy, respect, and other favorable qualities. Looking at your shoes will have you coming across as shy, insecure, disinterested, and the like. If necessary, practice with a friend until you automatically meet their eyes every time you shake.

A Breath of Fresh Air: While you’re at it, be sure you take precautions to guard against bad breath. Avoid coffee and food/beverages with similar effects. Make sure you brush and use mouthwash shortly before leaving for the interview. If necessary, carry breath mints to use before the interview begins. However, avoid using gum before or during the pilot interview. If you forget to get rid of it, it’ll only detract from the impression you leave.

Beyond the Wardrobe: The Importance of Personal Grooming

While this section should really be unnecessary, I’ve been amazed at the number of fellow interviewees who don’t seem to put much effort into their personal appearance. As you might imagine, their lack of personal hygiene likely played a part in the recruiters’ hiring decisions (none of them were hired).

Besides a lack of grooming among several interview applicants, I’ve noticed a reassuring trend among successful interviewees. For a regional pilot airline interview, I arrived shortly before my appointed afternoon time. The morning round of interviews was just breaking up, so I was able to see applicants from both sessions. In total, 16-17 applicants were interviewed that day, though only four of us ended up being selected for the upcoming new hire class. As you might have guessed, all four successful applicants were among the best dressed during the interviews.

So, what set us apart? Though the following list is not all-inclusive, it covers the major points of what separated the successful from the ineffective.

Hair: A recent haircut will be well worth the investment. Those with attractive, fairly conservative haircuts seemed to do well in securing a job offer. In contrast, some applicants appeared to bear a strong aversion to combs and brushes. I’m not kidding. A few even looked like they’d just rolled out of bed. You might not think that something as simple as brushing your hair could give you an edge during an interview, but I’ve seen what happens as an alternative. This is one of the easiest ways you can get a jump on the competition.

            While we’re at it, facial hair grooming is another easy way to score some points. One successful applicant sported a neatly trimmed mustache while the rest of us were clean-shaven. Among the unsuccessful, more than a couple sported a few days’ worth of stubble. That might be a trendy look in certain fashion circles, but it’s a definite no-no to take to a pilot interview. In general, a tidy mustache is acceptable, though anything more will be frowned upon. Remember, the airlines are highly conservative, so you’re better off modeling a 1950s look than some contemporary styles.

Wardrobe: As far as clothing goes, a suit is a must. This was an easily noticeable factor between those who were hired and those sent home. Among the unsuccessful, several mistakes were evident. Chief among them was the absence of a sport coat. Unless you’re absolutely positive the company in question doesn’t require business formal dress, plan on wearing a flattering suit to all pilot interviews.

A huge mistake I’ve noticed among applicants is the condition of their clothing. Believe it or not, you need to iron/press/dry clean anything you’ll be wearing to an interview. Some applicants I’ve seen could just as well have slept in their clothing the night before. Additionally, be sure to shine your shoes prior to a pilot interview. Recruiters really do pay attention to your feet, so you don’t want them seeing dirt or scuffmarks when they check out your footwear.

Additionally, be sure you wear socks between your feet and shoes. Though this might sound incredible, I’ve actually heard stories of interviewees showing up sockless. As if that’s not bad enough, some apparently don white athletic-style socks to go with dark-colored suits and dark shoes. Make either of these mistakes and you’re sure to have the recruiters talking, though not in a way that’s likely to advance your career.

Additional Considerations: For guys, wear a necktie that compliments your suit. Also, be sure to cinch it up appropriately. I’ve seen interviewees without ties, and just as bad, with their neckties dangling loosely around their necks. While such trends have become common in certain circles, they’re only going to cause problems at pilot interviews. In addition, your top shirt button should be buttoned beneath the tie. Again, that should go without saying, but pilot hopefuls have been known to hurt their job chances with this fashion faux pas.

Before you interview, be sure to clip your fingernails. Recruiters look at your hands as well, and overgrown nails won’t do you any favors. You’ll also want to be sure to scrape out any dirt that’s gathered beneath your fingers. Doing manual labor is fine; just don’t leave any evidence for your interviewers.

On another note, be sure to floss between your most recent meal and your interview (this one even made it onto Seinfeld). Anything between your teeth will only distract the interviewers and make you appear untidy.

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