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As a long-time recruiter, I’m always asked what trends I see, and what’s the latest happening in business aviation careers.

So just what is trending in our industry? Change, that’s what!

Hiring trends for any industry are always in flux, and that holds true as well for our ever-so-dynamic aviation industry.

At present, one of the key issues is that the U.S. is experiencing a shortfall of qualified pilots, the effects of which are pretty far-reaching in the corporate aviation arena. In fact, we’re seeing all kinds of things occurring that are directly or indirectly related to the pilot shortage situation.

For starters, the shortage of pilots hampered by low-paying airline jobs and the 1,500-hour training rule is putting pressure on Part 121 carriers to woo pilots from Part 91 and Part 135 operations. They’re offering the chance to “upgrade” faster and fly bigger jets with the hopes of more work/life balance.

We’re witnessing more Part 91 organizations that are retiring a number of senior pilots at the same time, creating an immediate need for them to find new, more seasoned talent.

Other trends we’re observing:

Hiring Flexibility

A very positive development is that multi-aircraft flight departments are beginning to reach out to younger and less experienced individuals that have a great attitude—read “passion”—and a willingness to learn.

At API, we’ve seen companies bring in lower-hour pilots and develop them within a first officer program. And an increasing number of larger companies are showing themselves willing to take a risk on someone who can be developed.

Their thinking could be described as: If I bring someone in early, and train them my way, I’m going to have a better employee and more loyal employee.

The caveat, however, is that it really only works is if the department is large enough, with a number of more tenured pilots who can develop and mentor the new pilots.

Another development I’ve observed is that a number of departments are really starting to treat their aviation professionals more like key employees. With the pilot shortage, these departments probably have a fear that their aviation professionals might leave (a situation we haven’t seen in the recent past). Some of our clients have made significant changes to their compensation and long term incentives to provide more security for their people.

The “Unicorn” Mentality

It seems as if flight departments are under even more pressure to move quickly on hiring and to avoid spending money on training. This is understandable, but often results in extremely high expectations.

Just recently we’ve experienced hiring managers changing their requirements in mid-search—and sometimes putting their search process on hold—in a quest to find the “perfect” candidate.

Does “perfect” exist?

Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor and author of “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” refers to hard-to-find candidates as “unicorns.”

According to Cappelli, the hunt for perfection is due to the fact that “the job market has been so bad for so long that employers have gotten used to being very picky and being able to get what they want, more or less.”

Of course, a company wants the best of the best.

But do they have the time, commitment and financial resources to “woo” the best?

Before we begin a talent search project, it’s up to us to have very frank, open discussion with each client and, if necessary, help them define (or redefine) their needs, requirements and job descriptions.  Our role, as experienced recruiters at API, is to help clients be realistic, and understand what the market will bear, based on their expectations.

And, if a client isn’t convinced with a verbal explanation, sometimes we have to show them three to four “nearly perfect” candidates who meet the overall requirements and have remarkable potential.

Succession Planning

Another trending area in business aviation careers regards succession planning.

Many organizations are rightfully concerned about the number of people who are slated to retire in the near term, and they see a startling number of collective years of wisdom about to go out the door.

Departments want to hire aviation professionals who are more experienced; they’re looking for “plug and play” (i.e., they won’t have to send a pilot for a new type rating).

What they desire is someone who can come in and immediately fly the complex, overseas trips. The situation is such that departments will pay for the type rating training if it appears necessary.

Greater Balance

Overall, departments are trying to balance things to give younger professionals more of the exposure (e.g., more complex trips) usually reserved for senior employees.

There has to be a mix. And, along the same lines, there’s greater parity, as well.

It used to be that departments would pay pilots a lower salary for flying smaller aircraft. Now, some corporations with a mixed fleet of long- or ultra-long aircraft and short-range domestic aircraft are moving to an all-for-one pay scale.

Long-term Careers

Aviation career job seekers are increasingly more adamant that they’re not in it for the short haul. Will a Gulfstream 650 pilot take a job to fly a G280? Maybe. Maybe not.

As a rule, professionals aren’t just looking at the near-term opportunities, but, rather, at how their choices will affect their careers. They’re asking themselves, will I still be as marketable as I am today in, say, five years?

Of course, we’re still seeing that people are still leaving for money and schedule preferences (e.g., fewer days per month for the same pay rate).

So there you have it. These are just some of the hot trends we’re seeing. But, there’s much more to share, so stay tuned for Part II of Aviation Hiring Trends in our next post. And, if you haven’t yet signed up for our monthly newsletter “Trending Topics,” it just takes a minute.

Your Turn

What hiring trends are you experience as a business aviation hiring manager or candidate? We hope you’ll share your comments below.

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