Why do most airline pilot or cadet interviews include so many behavioural questions?

0527 bschools GMAT 970 630x420Firstly, even what is a ‘behavioural question’? If you have ever been asked a question that started ‘can you tell me about a time when…’ alternatively, ‘give me an example of when…’ – These are behavioural questions. They look for the candidate to recall a particular event or occurrence.


If you think about it, modern airline operations require pilots to be more than simply skilled aviators. Certainly, your ability to fly is important, but airlines are increasingly recruiting based on what we call your ‘soft skills.' Alongside the raw flying, a Pilot must be able to plan, manage high workloads, work efficiently with a variety of people, identify problems, make effective decisions, share information and support others. Airlines and flight schools often are looking for 'future captains', hence your leadership potential is also sought after - your ability to make leadership decisions and take responsibility for them, your ability to communicate with and motivate your team.


So how can airlines assess these 'soft skills' or pilot competencies? Behavioural questions are the tool they use, with each question usually focusing on only one or two different skills. For instance, 'Tell me about a time when you lead a team' or 'Describe a situation when you worked effectively as a member of a team, but not the leader.'


So to prepare well for an upcoming interview, and these behavioural questions, we suggest you think about ‘pilot competencies,' you can do this by simply looking at a few pilot job descriptions and highlighting the skills mentioned. These skills are most likely what the airline or flight school is seeking in their candidates - so you should prepare a few examples that you can draw upon to answer these kinds of questions. 


General knowledge about an airline can also help you prepare. For example, British Airways is well known for its high standard of customer service, so it is more likely that a question about customer service could come up in an interview with them. On the other hand, Ryanair has short turnaround times and demanding schedules, and so you may expect a question about your time or workload management.


Interviews are nerve-wracking for most however by preparing yourself and your examples in advance; you can gain confidence. It is best to start early and keep refining your examples – remember that the more you practise, the easier it gets!


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