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Socks that Rock, and Knocks on Socks

Speaking from experience, when a pilot recruiter or HR specialist is sitting at the front of the interview room, preparing to collect forms and ask everyone questions, one of the most notable aspects of how some candidates have prepared themselves in that moment is their socks. Think about it: of all of the outfit, the socks are the part that is the most forward and exposed as they’re sitting at that table or desk. And believe me when I say that recruiters have seen about every variety of sock choices out there. From athletic socks, to ankle socks, to no socks, to fuzzy slipper socks… pilots’ feet come to interviews adorned in all varieties. To get the frontline opinion, we spoke with a handful of pilot recruiters, human resources personnel, and managers to learn their thoughts and recommended best practices when it comes to a pilot’s closest companion to their shoes. This is what they had to say.

Captain Emily Germany, a regional line pilot who assisted in the pilot interview process says “I wouldn’t want to see white gym socks showing. Personally, I would probably wear funny or cute patterned ones that I’d match to my outfit.”

“Your socks are a part of the outfit,” says Pilot Recruiter Enrique Camblor. “They say a lot about your professionalism. Dress based on what you want your day to look like. Example: short ankle socks for me one day for me while conducting interviews made me feel careless and I had a bad day.”

“I really don’t have an opinion,” answered Andrew Henley, Vice President of a nationwide flight training school. “As long as they aren’t wearing no socks.”

While opinions on the matter can certainly vary from person to person, from recruiter to recruiter, the common ground is that an interview is a “dress sock” event; everyone agrees that casual socks, athletic socks, and ankle socks are a no-no and, like Enrique, they could be a sign of a bad day for you and your interview. What’s the real issue with casual or everyday socks? Simply, they don’t show maturity or much forethought on the part of the candidate. Let me put it this way: you bought the jacket, the pants, a shirt/blouse, the proper shoes, (please wear dress shoes … that’s for a different article), so why leave out a necessary – not to mention the least expensive – part of the outfit? Believe me when I say that it matters!

Now, proving to everyone that I am not a buzz kill kind of guy, as long as they’re not white athletic socks, the sky could very well be the limit. Having run a pilot recruitment department, I don’t have a problem with brightly colored, patterned or themed socks. As long as they don’t detract from a candidate presenting themselves for interview and as long as they match the outfit, I can appreciate a break from the boring monotony of navy, black and tan. I’ve even been known to comment on them or ask an ice breaker question about “the craziest pair of socks that you own!”

Martin Rottler, former airline recruitment manager and Principal at the P-56 Aviation Group says, “I love and own several pairs of crazy socks! I wear them during most professional and personal times, even presentations and panels. I typically won’t wear them for funerals …. That being said, I won’t wear white socks with anything dressy.” When asked for a few simple rules to follow to keep your socks from being too far out there, Martin replied, “Don’t wear the branded socks of a competitor airline to an interview. Don’t wear socks with inappropriate messages on them. And, if you’re going to go with colors, make sure it’s a simple pattern!”

According to Tori Willing, HR Manager-Recruiting, “I actually love when people wear non-traditional socks to an interview. I feel like it still keeps within the professional requirements of the interview, but also gives them a chance to showcase their personality.” When asked about any specific stories that come to mind, Ms. Willing had this to say. “I do know that one of our Vice Presidents NEVER wears plain socks. He likes to be able to show some of his personality and that he can still have fun in his high-level role.”

“I think if it shows your personality in an appropriate way, wear crazy socks!” says Dorinda Hudepohl of Delta Private Jets. “Our Chief Operating Officer wears interesting socks (pictures of his dogs) and so does our Chief Pilot.

Socks are normally hidden from view, so many may feel that they are one area where one can express their individuality. But if you’re sitting in front of someone without a completely obstructing desk or table to block an interviewer’s view, they become fair game in their assessment of you. Depending on who is interviewing you, and maybe what the supply and demand state of the industry is, humorous socks can present a slight risk that goes one of two ways. The safest – albeit boring – option might be your best bet. If you do wish to ham up your sock game and flex your creative muscles, just make sure you do so tastefully, inoffensively, and you do so at your own risk.

P.S. At the time of writing this article, there are Chicago-style hotdogs on my socks.