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Job Hunting Pilots

From the Ashes of a Furlough

By Tim Genc
October, 2020

It’s a dirty word in aviation … one everyone hopes to never hear. However, it’s a common conception that every pilot will have to face the “F” word – furlough – at least once in their career. To thousands of pilots across the nation, it’s a reality that is gripping them as we speak.

For those not yet in the know, an airline furlough is when you are temporarily laid off for an undisclosed period of time, but under the caveat that when the need for pilots arise at that airline, you will be called back in seniority order, and will pick up at that airline exactly where you left off.

It’s that undisclosed period of time that makes the idea of a furlough so difficult to manage. It doesn’t carry with it the finality of a true lay off, where you know exactly where you stand with your previous employer. With a furlough, you’re kind of in limbo, almost sitting by the phone, just waiting for it to ring so you can go back to work. At some point, however, you have to make a plan B and move on. You might get called back, you might not. When you are called back, it might not be as good as your plan B, or it might. It’s the uncertainty that makes it such a challenge, but you’re faced with the reality of having to make a decision.

For many pilots, that decision is to re-enter the industry at either a previously held or brand-new position. In many cases, this means having to interview for an aviation job … all over again.

Whether it’s your first airline interview or your last, some things never change. And it’s important not to allow yourself to make assumptions over the fact that you might have “been there” and “done that” with this new position. Remember that, to the folks conducting your interview, you are initially on exactly the same footing as everyone else and will be judged accordingly. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you do find yourself in this position.

1. Remember your interview basics. Some of us refer to what’s about to follow as “Interview 101”, but the world is a-changing and what is so fundamental to some might be foreign to others. So, for the sake of being complete, follow these guidelines:
· Be on time. Early is on time, on time is already late. Prepare for delays. With early, you have options; with late, you have excuses.
· Dress the part. Business professional is still the standard attire for your interview. And, PLEASE, don’t wear your previous airline uniform.
· Be friendly and enthusiastic – yet professional – to everyone you meet. Whether it’s the person driving the shuttle or the person conducting the assessment, treat everyone with courtesy and respect … brush off your “yes ma’ams” and “no sirs”.
· Come prepared with documents as requested. A common request for interviews is to have two copies of your US Driver License. According to multiple recruiters from multiple companies, if you show up with one copy, your interview is over. Treat your interview invitation email like a checklist and follow every, single request.

2. Don’t be bitter. Let’s be honest; you wish you weren’t at this interview; you wish you didn’t HAVE to be at this interview. Afterall, you had a perfectly good job earlier this year. Yet, here you are. It’s only natural that you’re harboring some bitterness for the situation and even the industry as a whole. But get it out of your system before the interview, and allow your passion for aviation to sell you once you are with other candidates and in front of the HR/Pilot staff conducting the assessment.

. Avoid bragging. Your recent experience will speak for itself at the appropriate time. That appropriate time is not upon arrival, or while you are going through the initial steps of the process. I once heard a recruiting captain tell a class, “your previous airline experience should be seen, not heard.” Don’t toot your own horn or boast your recent flying experience; use it to answer the questions and demonstrate your proper fit for the job.

4. Beware assumptions. Similar to the previous tip about not bragging, don’t assume that you’re going to land the job, based on your experience. Remember that the person interviewing you is likely meeting you for the first time. First impressions are lasting impressions; ask yourself what kind of impression you want to leave? What actions do you need to take to leave that impression? Just like a trip, have a flight plan for success and follow it.

5. Follow all instructions! As previously mentioned, most companies will send out a litany of forms along with very specific instructions on what needs to be filled out. Do not fall into the trap of surmising that some of those forms are not required of you because you’ve already been working in a professional aviation capacity. For example, if you are asked to fill out a form listing your hours to ensure you meet ATP minimums, and you already have an ATP, do not conclude that this form does not apply to you. If a firm is asking about your primary training and any failed events/checkrides, don’t assume this is unnecessary for you because, “I’ve already been vetted and hired by an airline!” Don’t let your experience make you think a different set of instructions applies to you; follow ALL instructions to the letter.

6. Serve the industry. We’re in more of a cutthroat hiring time now – very different from a few months back – so this might seem counterproductive, but go in with the mindset that your previous experience is there to assist other applicants and to support the interviewing staff. Allow your years – maybe even decades – of experience to humble you. Remember that you are being hired to be on a team, not a one man show. Keep the team dynamic in mind and be the first to volunteer to complete a task, but the last to grab lunch, if it is provided. Basically, be the old Kung Fu master, moving slowly but expertly.

7. Be current! There was a definite slowdown in the current industry before the furlough notices started going out, and it’s possible you might not still be current or, more importantly, proficient! Don’t let the number of hours in your logbook deceive you into thinking recency of experience doesn’t matter. It does! Before your interview, make sure you have some “flying” (whether in an actual aircraft or simulator) in your logbook to show that you prepared for the day.

Hopefully, this current stagnation in the industry will be short lived and more flying is just a few months away. Hopefully, the furloughs will not last long, and everyone will be back at their old jobs in months, not years. Hopefully, the other job you find ends up being a better fit for you and your family, and this furlough will have been a blessing in disguise. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully. In the absence of a set timeline for the industry to recover, take control of your future, and look at the steps necessary for you to pursue your plan B. You might end up learning some valuable skills and, remember, a good pilot is always learning.

We appreciate your ideas and input. Please email your comments or questions about this article to: support@fapa.aero.

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