20 aviation interview questions to nail

With so many critical changes occurring in the aviation industry—most notably the pilot shortage—we’re hearing more and more from our API Registered Professionals.

Many are telling us they are relatively happy in their current positions, but that they’re also curious about other available opportunities.

You can bet that the minute they begin entertaining ideas that the “grass might be greener” somewhere else, they’ve got at least a toe out the door.

If this happens to be a situation you find yourself in, it’s important to think about what you really want before you begin to interview.

Equally important, you need to consider the numerous questions that an interviewer might ask you during your interview. Below, you’ll find a list of my Top 20.

But first things first. Let’s figure out if a new job is really the right thing for you (right now).


Determine What You Really Want

First, I recommend doing some soul searching. Ask yourself a few questions before you consider talking to an aviation hiring manager or recruiter.

These questions will get you thinking about the right opportunity for you—not the next one.

  • Is my family on board with a new job?
  • If yes, are they willing to move? Is it the right time in my child’s (or children’s) education?
  • What does my “dream department” look like? Is it big or small? Am I a manager or key member of a small team?
  • Am I experiencing job burnout or unfulfillment in my current role?
  • Am I okay working for a managed aircraft operation, or would I prefer to work for an in-house flight department?
  • Am I okay with flying to the same city pairs every week, or do I want to fly around the world?
  • Am I content working as the sole maintenance provider, or, rather, as part of a team with resources at my fingertips?
  • Would I prefer to have direct contact with the main boss, or report to a mid-level supervisor?
  • What are my main motivators, what do I truly desire? Is it money, career growth potential, team camaraderie and/or to work for a great company brand, cause or individual?
  • Am I willing to wait and only apply for positions that fit my strict criteria?
  • Where in my negotiations am I willing to compromise?


Mental and Physical Interview Prep

Once you’ve answered all of the above to your satisfaction—and you’re still considering a new gig—you should thoroughly familiarize yourself with the interview process and how best to prepare.

First, be sure to dress the part. (In an interview, you should never be the least dressed-up person in the room). It will never hurt if you overdress a bit—and if you’re wondering what that means, I’m talking about wearing a business suit.

Along the same lines, even if you’re a bit nervous—which is understandable—try to maintain a calm demeanor.

Pay attention to your speech mannerisms and try and control any tendency to say “um” too often, or ramble in your speech, talk too loudly or fidget in your seat.

Print and bring along extra copies of your resume, in case you want to address something in it, or if the hiring manager doesn’t happen to have a copy handy. It just shows an extra level of preparation on your part.

Make sure your documents (licenses, etc.) are organized, neat and accurate. Be sure your spelling and grammar are correct.

As you refer to your past experience, have stories and descriptions of your accomplishments ready for each position—what did you do, what was your role, what did you do beyond your role, why did you leave, and so on. If you’re an API Registered Professional, reread the autobiography you wrote for us to remind yourself of past accomplishments.

Be ready to speak to (or defend) any gaps in your work history, or other potential “red flags.” For instance, your interviewers are going to want to know why you’ve had five jobs in five years, and you should be ready to address that question.

Be sure that your LinkedIn headshot is up-to-date and professional, and accurately reflects your current age and hairstyle. Recruiters and hiring managers will definitely take note if your photo is 20 years old, or if you appear to be in a tux at a wedding. (Spend $100 to get a professional image taken; it’s worth the money!)

Generally, be prepared to ask the hiring manager questions to indicate (first) that you know how to probe, and, (second) to make sure you fully understand the role.


20 Aviation Job Interview Questions

Ok. Now that you’re mentally and physically ready for the IDEA of an interview, it’s time to be sure you’re ready to nail the interview with the hiring manager and land your new job.

Following are 20 questions that we suggest our candidates should practice before every interview. (Of course, there are more, but this is just to get you started).

Think about your interview in terms of: Why am I here today?

  1. Explain to the interviewer(s) why you’re looking for a job right now, and why you think you’d be good at it compared to others. (If you happen to be working with us an API Registered Professional, we’ll arm you with information about the company and hiring manager, so you can tailor and tweak your side of the interview to address relevant issues with the company and the hiring manager.)


  1. What is your role in your current position? Summarize for your interviewer what your job is today, as well as other duties, aside from directly flying or working on an aircraft. Or, if you’re not currently employed, talk about your most recent job.


  1. Are you willing to relocate? In aviation, be ready to discuss where you’re willing to move to, if that’s necessary for the new position. (This directly affects your family, so you should not apply for jobs that aren’t in the ideal location for everyone concerned.)


  1. Be ready to talk about how and why you believe that your current skills will contribute to the accomplishment of the company’s goals.


  1. How do you handle working with different and/or difficult people? Have a story ready to share about how you work with people who have different ideas and mindsets than you do.


  1. How do you go about continuing to develop your professional skills and knowledge? Talk about any outside training, seminars or educational opportunities you’ve pursued.


  1. Do you know what your salary requirements are, and how you would engage in a discussion about them? Doing so might make you feel uncomfortable, but remember: it’s best not to give salary specifics in the first interview. If you’re pressed for a number, however, provide a range. Be ready in advance, so you’re not caught off guard.


  1. You might be asked to offer your opinion of the qualities of a good leader and a bad leader. If you, yourself, are a leader, be prepared to address your leadership style and, as well, what others would say about you in that regard. If you want to be a leader, explain the type you’d like to be (and how you’re currently developing yourself to eventually take on such a role).


  1. What is your greatest achievement outside of work? If you bring it up, it opens the door for an interviewer to ask you something personal, without it being illegal. It’s up to you how personal you want it to get.


  1. Have an idea of what type of culture or environment you would thrive in. Are you comfortable with 50 percent flying and 50 percent collateral duties? Do you wear a suit and tie or a golf shirt? Are you expected to come into the office if you’re not flying or maintaining the aircraft? Are you comfortable working with a high-net-worth owner or Fortune 100 executive? Are you familiar with a more formal setting and formal passenger experience?


  1. What do you know about the company you’re interviewing with? Be sure to research who you’re meeting with and what the goals and visions are for the corporation. If it’s a high-net-worth individual, there might not be much of anything online. But you’ve got to find out as much as you can before attending the interview.


  1. Share your biggest motivators driving this job change—and rank them. Explain what you’re looking for as it relates to professional growth, compensation, work/life balance, team environment, cultural fit, etc.


  1. If your interviewer asked your colleagues to describe you, what descriptive terms would they choose and why? How would they describe your interaction with them and your general effectiveness in your work performance?


  1. What was your best and least favorite job to date and why? You will likely be asked to describe something negative—be it shortcomings, limitations, faults, or things you find challenging. Be sure you can identify something and explain how you navigated the issue.


  1. What are your professional goals? What do you want to accomplish or achieve in the next five years?


  1. What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?


  1. What kind of oversight and interaction would your ideal boss provide?


  1. How have you had to overcome a major obstacle that stood in the way of your accomplishing a goal or commitment? How did you approach and resolve the situation?


  1. What are the three most important attributes or skills that you believe you would bring to our company if we hired you?


  1. If you’re already employed, be prepared to talk about why you’re leaving your current employer. Your response will explain your values, outlook, goals and needs for the prospective employer. It will help illustrate if you’re headed toward a more successful future or running away from an unsuccessful employment experience.


Whew! That’s a lot to take in and process before you send off those resumes and start scheduling interviews! As you can see, this is a big commitment and it’s worth the effort to “get it right.”

If you’re looking for even more insight, I encourage you to check out my colleague Jennifer’s blog, “Preparing yourself for the all-important job interview.” For inspiration, you can also watch several TED Talk videos that Jennifer recommends.


Your Turn

So, in addition to these, what are your favorite interview questions? What are questions that have stumped you in the past? Please share your ideas below so others can learn from your experience.



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