Business man climbing stairs in sky

So, you’re looking for a high-level corporate flight department job. Preferably a directorship or some other position of authority. And, you’re wondering how to best position yourself so that you end up on the shortlist.

With 43 years of hiring experience in this very complex field, API has accumulated quite a bit of knowledge that I’m happy to pass on to prospective aviation “hirees” at the leadership level.

The overarching thing to remember is that no two companies are alike; each one has different hiring philosophies.

This means there’s no “one-size-fits-all” checklist that you can rely on. Once you accept this premise, the good news is that there are several things you can do to prepare and position yourself for the job, regardless which company has the position open.

Following are strategies to land your corporate flight department role:

1. Know your audience

It’s critical to know who’s interviewing you and what their role and decision-making profile is, both in the company and in the hiring process.

If your first screening interview is with an HR representative, he or she might not have a lot of specific knowledge about the aviation department.

So, when they ask you questions such as, “Tell me about your leadership style,” it’s important to share vivid, anecdotal examples to help them better understand your functional style in aviation.

Instead of saying, “I have an open-door policy,” describe a scenario or two that demonstrates how effective you are and how you measure that effectiveness. An example might be, “I try to be as approachable as possible. But let me tell you what that translates to on the job.”

And then you might share a story about how much it pays to walk the hangar floor every morning and speak to each person individually.

Letting the rep know that you always remember something about every member of your team, or that you embrace a philosophy of real one-on-one connectedness, will go a long way toward communicating your leadership philosophy—much more so that responding with mere generalities.


2. Highlight your education

It’s typical for job seekers at higher levels to de-emphasize their educational achievements, especially as time moves on and their work experience multiplies.

But, because many maintenance professionals, pilots and aviation directors make well into the six figures, a four-year degree is much more of an expectation than ever before.

In many cases, hiring authorities are placing greater emphasis on advanced degrees and professional designations, such as a Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) or an MBA.

As you likely know, college degrees are becoming more of an expectation—regardless of industry—especially for senior-level leaders who command higher salaries.

It’s important to understand that a corporate HR department creates hiring requirements by comparing staff members that are at the same salary grade. For example, an aviation director might be compared with a director of finance who might have earned a CPA and MBA as well as a bachelor’s degree.

Sure, I know many successful directors today who are running flight departments without college degrees. But in the future, it’s going to be much harder to land a leadership role without one. Someone in their 30s today who doesn’t have a degree will likely have a far more difficult time advancing into a leadership position in the decade ahead.


3. Match your values with theirs

One of the most significant reasons corporate flight departments hire API is to help them match qualified candidates based on their personalities and values.

Getting hired into a leadership position isn’t as much about your flight hours and level of technical expertise as it is about the likelihood that you’re going to fit in with their culture and move them forward.

Will you create harmony on your team? Are you a forward-looking thinker? Do you agree with the CEO and aviation reporting executive’s leadership philosophies? Are you going to bring best practices? Are you a self-starter? Are you focused on “doing” and “managing” vs. “leading”? These are some of the things that we emphasize with our candidates and bring out of them to present to the hiring company.

Another values-related tip: look at the hiring company’s website and read its mission statement. Does its management value the same things as you? What have you read about the company in the news? What have you heard from your peers in other flight departments? Do you know someone who works for the hiring company in another department? What is his or her experience working there? How does the company communicate with its staff? How do its employees celebrate success? What are the “unwritten rules” that everyone must adhere to? What’s on social media?

4. Do your research

In addition to the legwork listed above, try to understand what the business does and how aviation enables the company to grow.

How does bizav tie into the mission of the host company? If the company is public, check the company’s stock price and history.

Read their 10Q and 10Ks, which are public information. Who is the chairman and who’s on their board? What are the big issues they grapple with? How do they make their money? Here are 8 ways to research a company.

One of our last leadership candidates shined above all others because he had made the effort to learn a significant amount of information about the hiring company through online research. He asked great questions during the interview. He was clearly engaged in their business rather than simply wanting to run aviation in a vacuum—and this fact earned him the offer.

If you take the time to think about these tips to help position yourself for a higher-level job in aviation, you’ll find that when interview day arrives, you’ll exude more confidence and put a better foot forward toward the job you’re seeking.

In future posts, we’ll share several more tips to help you land that big job you’ve been positioning yourself for throughout your career. Don’t forget, too, that while we’ve focused our points specifically on earning a leadership role, most of the tactics we’ve recommended will help at any job level.


Your Turn
Do you have some experience preparing or positioning yourself for a high-level aviation job? If so, we’d love you to share it with us. Please reply below to let us know how you or a colleague landed that big job.

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