chief pilot overqualified candidates job interview man and woman at table

Have you ever been part of a team where the next logical move for a strong contributor was a leadership position? Whether they wanted the role or not?

That’s what happened to my friend “Bob,” who was once a chief pilot.

About 15 years ago, Bob was a lead captain for a two-aircraft corporate operation. He was well-liked by his peers and management team—a “go-to” guy. So when a shakeup in leadership occurred, everyone nominated him to become the new chief pilot.

Despite not having leadership aspirations, Bob took the role. After all, he was loyal and wanted to help his team.

And help them he did.

That is, until a few years later when the operation was running smoothly. He then went to his director and resigned from his role. Bob made his case humbly and honestly, stating that he simply preferred to be a team contributor.

Like many pilots, he wanted to contribute beyond the cockpit—just not in a formal leadership role.

Now, many years later, Bob’s resume screams “LEADERSHIP,” in big capital letters. And he is repeatedly turned away from captain roles. Why? Because there are many hiring managers who assume he would come in and potentially usurp their leadership role.

Unfortunately for Bob, he now has a stigma attached to him. He said, “I have no interest in management. I have 10 great years left and just want to find a solid captain role within a great operation.”


Don’t Be Too Quick to Judge Titles Like Chief Pilot

These days, despite there being fewer applicants for pilot roles, there’s nervousness during the resume screening process. Especially as it relates to titles and those who appear “overqualified.”

But here’s the thing … we cannot compare a chief pilot of a single aircraft operation to a chief pilot who oversees a five-aircraft operation and 15 pilots. On the one hand, there’s a chief of no one. And on the other, there’s a leader of people who heads up a major operation.

I understand the scenarios, because I, too, have worked for organizations that promote great people (pilots or otherwise) into significant management positions who do not enjoy leadership. Such is the case with my friend Bob.

As we all know, leadership isn’t for everyone.

Have you ever found yourself in a leadership role that’s not a good fit for you? It takes a considerable amount of self-awareness to admit that you want to be a member of a team—not lead one.

This is why it can be a bit narrow-minded to disregard every applicant who’s seemingly overqualified. A benefit to working with a recruiter like API is that we can help you understand the story behind every resume, to sort out what might seem apparent from what is actually the case.


How to Assess an Overqualified Candidate

Following are a few ways to determine if a candidate is overqualified during the interview process.


Be sure to understand what the job applicant is seeking in an employer. Is it safety and security? Do they want to work for a department where they can just show up and fly? Are they looking for a company from which they can retire? What specifically will bring them joy or challenge them?

Your company may offer a work/life balance that the candidate cannot derive from a larger company or a more demanding position. They may value what your culture has to offer because it isn’t available elsewhere. That could very well mean that the so-called “overqualified candidate” might become a valuable, long-term member of your team.

Efficiency and Experience

Many overqualified candidates have “been there and done that.” Meaning that they can put their head down and do the work without creating drama or conflict. They may possess some deep industry or technical know-how that will benefit your company. At the very least, it could mean that they will have a reduced learning curve.

Do they already have a type rating or certification that you’re seeking? That might save you on costly training. Sometimes hiring a very experienced person is worth it no matter how long you keep them. So be sure to do the math. You might be able to get your money’s worth even IF they only stay for a brief time.

Passion for Your Company

It’s not going out on a limb to say that most everyone in aviation has a passion for aviation. But do they have a passion for your company’s industry? Will they thrive in your environment and bring a new sense of energy and enthusiasm to the team?

Another point to consider: if someone is of a different age demographic than you’re ideally seeking, don’t categorically count them out. They’re likely to be working because it’s in their DNA, not because they have to. So why not bring in candidates who are excited by the challenges your position offers, and eager to take them on—despite what you might perceive as their elevated qualifications?


So, before you review that next stack of resumes, make sure you conduct some necessary due diligence prior to rejecting seemingly “overqualified” talent out of hand. With a little effort, you might discover that they’re a diamond in the rough. And, in the short or longer term, a credit to your flight operation.


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