There’s no way we can ever overemphasize how important a properly written resume is to anyone’s job search. How your aviation resume reads—the story it tells about you and your experiences—will always be vital.
Last month, we reviewed resume formatting from the “nuts and bolts” point of view—from discussion about the various sections and subheads, to page length, template, fonts, etc.
Now in Part II, I’m sharing resume writing tips—what to say, what not to say, and how to best tell your story for the audience you’re seeking to impress: the business aviation recruiter and/or hiring manager.
Here are 9 resume writing tips from a business aviation recruiter:
1. Take the plunge and hire some help
If they’re good, professional resume writers are worth their weight in gold. They know their business inside and out, and can offer you invaluable assistance putting your story together in a comprehensive, credible manner.
So consider shelling out the few hundred dollars that it will take to hire a professional resume writer; it can make all the difference in the world.
The writer’s job is to elicit all the important information from you. Among a host of other questions, they’ll ask you: What were your accomplishments? What are you most proud of? They’ll get you to quantify your experience in ways that will make it stand out to potential employers.
2. Summarize your qualifications
This important summary section will be at the top of your resume, in lieu of the “Career Objective.” Make sure it’s written chronologically and straightforwardly.
In this section, when spelling out what your goal or objective is, don’t use vague statements like “My goal is to become a professional pilot.” Listing that very general, generic type of goal for a job in an aviation organization is simply wasting space. Do we want to provide an example of a meaningful goal or objective?
3. Perfect your “Professional Experience”
Beneath the header, “Summary of Qualifications” you’ll need to create a “Professional Experience” subsection that lists (in chronological order, starting from most recent to oldest) your relevant professional experience. Create a section under each employer that is a short (e.g., a four-to-five-sentence description of the company you worked for and your role within that company).
Focus on the positive impact you’ve made in your past corporate roles. Use bullet points to quantify your value to the company. Always look for the correctness of little details, such as acronyms that aren’t spelled out (e.g., SMS, FOQA and IS-BAO), and make sure to check for grammar, punctuation and spelling. Have a trusted colleague review and critique your resume before sending it.
4. Be concise and compelling
Your “Professional Experience” section should provide a short one-to-two-sentence description of your responsibilities for the roles you list, followed by several of the most important milestones or achievements you’ve garnered.
Don’t make it too long, because you will surely be asked about your history when and if you make it to the next step: the job interview. Reserve a longer explanation for that occasion. The same thing is true with a listing of your specialized training and education. Keep it very “big picture” so the recruiter sees enough to be intrigued, but not so much as to be put to sleep!
5. Watch your “aviation speak”
Many corporate HR organizations know very little, if anything, about a flight department or the aviation industry as a whole.
So rather than just saying that you have an “A&P,” spell out Airframe & Powerplant and list (A&P) in parentheses. The same goes for ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) and CAM (Certified Aviation Manager), as well as many other acronyms that we use in our industry. Some names, such as IS-BAO, are just too long, so consider your audience.
Another tip is to be specific when referencing your type ratings and mimic the spelling exactly the way it is on the back of your license. For example, write “Gulfstream GV” as an internal recruiter may not understand what “GV” means, if you happen to represent it that way.
6. Use keywords
Print out the original job description and make sure that, within your resume, you are touching on the relevant requirements for the position. Most importantly, customize your initial summary of qualifications so that it mirrors the ideal candidate for that job. If you’re a pilot, make sure you list your type ratings, flight hours and certifications.
HR recruiters are often given specific keywords to identify in a resume, e.g., “Chief Pilot,” “G550,” and “bachelor’s degree,” among many others. If these words do not turn up, your resume may very well end up in the circular file. In fact, since the overwhelming majority of resumes are submitted electronically, there is actually resume scanning software that will review your resume before it’s even viewed by a human, so be sure to include those keywords that are on the job description.
7. Separate “education” and “training”
As pointed out in the resume-formatting blog, it’s important to segment your education and training into separate sections. Education is about your post-secondary coursework (e.g., the degrees you earned) and any special awards and honors you’ve received, such as summa cum laude. Don’t worry about including the dates you graduated.
Then the training section is where you’ll list your initial pilot training and other aviation-related courses (e.g., Flight Operations Software (FOS) training, MedAire, NBAA Leadership, etc.) If you have a lot of technical training, attaching an addendum might be a good idea.
8. Make your references glow
The last part of any resume usually contains the standard template language of “References provided upon request.” Why would a company looking to hire you not want to see your references? Why make them have to ask you for them?
Something I’ve found to be compelling when I’ve participated in the hiring process are references that not only contain the name, title and contact information, but also a short quote from your reference—e.g., “Tom always gives 110-percent, regardless of the job at hand . . .”—that makes it a lot more human and impactful.
9. Get outside proofreading help
Again, your resume is your only opportunity to make a good first impression, and that one little typo could put a bad taste into the mouth of an aviation recruiter who happens to be a stickler for grammar. It’s important to get multiple perspectives, ranging from someone who might have majored in English or Journalism to someone who knows aviation lingo inside and out.
Ask your volunteers to not only edit your resume for grammar, but, as non-aviation experts, to give you feedback about its impact. Have them print it out to see if the formatting actually prints the way you expected it to. Then ask them to proofread it for spelling errors and “readability” issues.
Effective Story Telling
Yes, you’ve demonstrated you have the core competencies and the education to fill the position, but so might 50-75 percent of the other applicants.
Is there a particular defining moment you can include that will make you stand out? Maybe it was being selected to serve on a NBAA committee, or that you took your flight department from Stage I to Stage III IS-BAO certification, or that you received industry recognition.
Once you’ve reviewed your resume’s readability—its story—with regard to all the tips I just shared, make sure you’ve told it in a way that’s going to be truly compelling to the person reading it. Good luck!