Thursday, December 24, 2020

How to Get Your Pilot Resume in the Wrong Pile

My company is hiring. Not a lot of aviation companies are right now. I'm seeing a lot of resumes. Far too many to honestly evaluate every individual one.  I understand better than I used to the value of having  a friend walk your resume in.  But I recommend you apply through the regular channel as well. Somewhere in my office there is a pile of walked-in resumes that I'm not looking at, because I'm working from home, and back when I accepted them, the choice of pilots was not so great.

Now, faced with an inbox full of resumes, I am almost looking for a reason to throw yours aside. Here, let me help you find a job, and some other chief pilot not have to look at your terrible application. Here are some reasons I have hit the delete key:

  • not even close to the published job requirements

You're just annoying when you do this. I sometimes want to hit reply and ask the candidate why he is wasting my time. Don't apply blindly to every job.  If there's a job you really want when you have enough time, write that chief pilot a letter when they aren't hiring and tell them that's your ambition, that you don't yet have their requirements, but you're working on it.  If they give you advice, thank them, take it, and write back again later to thank them for how the advice worked out.  I've got a job that way, lacking the required time.

  • misspell the name of the company you're applying to

This one is most amusing when coupled with resume claims about your attention to detail. If you really have attention to detail you'll find out how that company likes its name capitalized, and whether they routinely use the Co. or the Inc. If the name is difficult and you copy paste it into to your cover letter, ensure the font and typeface match, so it doesn't look like a Reader's Digest Sweepstakes mailout from the 1980s.

  • don't include your types flown with your jobs on the resume
Listing all the types you've flown at the top of the resume doesn't do it for me. It's not a minus, but I assume it's a full on listing of everything you have in your logbook, not the aircraft you have worked as a pilot on for six months or more. I don't really care about that one time you ferried a Twin Comanche from Swift Current to Moose Jaw or when your friend gave you some stick time in his Yak-52. Okay, the Yak-52 is pretty cool and I might ask you about it at the interview, but you're unlikely to get the interview if I'm not seeing a progression of aircraft types flown commercially at various companies. Yes, I probably know what aircraft many of those companies operate, but don't make me guess which ones you were flying when.
  • list yourself as 'pilot' on two crew aircraft
I'm left wondering, are you saying 'pilot' the way a first officer does in the bar to try to sound more impressive to a pick-up target, or are you saying it the way a news reporter does, referring to the captain, because they think the first officer is not actually a pilot?  Either way it doesn't speak to CRM or a desire to communicate clearly. If you upgraded during your tenure, list yourself as captain, and if you were simultaneously captain on one type and FO on another, list both positions. If you flew a type normally operated two-crew, note that you were single-pilot.
  • make me hunt for your hours flown

If you're hiding them, they're probably insufficient. If you don't put them on at all why are we here?

  •  include the decimals in your hours

That was adorable when you soloed at 10.3 hours but stops once you're looking for a job.

  • fail to follow the instructions given in the job ad

If I hire you. I will be giving you instructions.  Consider the application to be a short test of whether you are willing and able to follow instructions. 

  • phone me, phone my colleagues, or physically visit the office

Someone did the last, repeatedly, during a pandemic. 

  • omit contact information
It's unfair, perhaps, but while I don't want you to contact me by any means than that specified in the job ad, I want to be able to contact you.  Put your current phone number, a respectable-looking e-mail address you monitor, and at least a city, on your resume and cover letter. Tip: if there is an address in the same area as the employer where you can receive mail, list it on your resume and cover letter. We started our search with candidates with local ties. I probably bypassed local folks because their telephone area codes reflected the province or territory where they last worked and not where they are today.
  • use the same cover letter for all employers

I understand there are employers who don't care about cover letters, but I expect the candidate to do some of the work for me there. Rather than me combing through the resume looking for the bits relevant to me, the competent applicant highlights the aspects of their resume that are most relevant to the job, showing how they match each job requirement. The really savvy applicant matches the tone of the letter to that of the ad, brings in more information that shows they know the company, and persuades me they want this job especially.  A cover letter applying for a job that doesn't match mine tells me the applicant doesn't want the job I'm hiring for.

  • waste any time applying
The first resume into my inbox got an interview. The person did also meet all the criteria, with a fantastic cover letter, so it's possible they would have got the interview anyway. But after three days I had so many applications that I took down the ad and a day or so later started filtering subsequent applications into a Late folder that I'm not sure I've ever opened. This is totally unfair, as I did not put an application deadline on the ad, but I can only look at so many resumes. While many of the points above are somewhat mocking, this one is just a reality of today's pilot job market. 

Not all employers are going to agree with all of these, so if you hire pilots and like what I hate, feel free to say so in the comments. I started off this post blowing off steam, but there are so many really good candidates out there, I don't want them to blow a chance with a poor first impression.

Good luck out there. I might follow up with some strategies I saw on winning resumes and cover letter, or what made us think yes and no during interviews.


J.M.K. said...

Best advice I’ve received in this industry. Thank you!

D.Arthur said...

Not gonna lie, the first reason crushed my spirit. There’s no room for low time pilots anymore.

TgardnerH said...

Please do follow up and talk about interviews! One of my favorite things about the internet is when people share a thought process I might never see otherwise, and that's always been my favorite thing about your blog.

Majroj said...

Watched documentary about the RAF Spitfires, mentioned ATA pilots, and suddenly remembered I'd failed to check the blog for YEARS. New look!
Take care, I'll try to stop Facebook once in a while and read the blog! ;)
Stay optimistic!

Lynn said...

Not sure it applies here, since your conpanies tend to do NDA kind of stuff, but knowing something about the company is a plus.

A mechanical engineer friend was applying for a job at a company that did production friction welding. She accidentally arrived a day early, so before she left she grabbed some brochures from the waiting room.

When she came the next day, she knew all about their processes, and asked them about problems other companies in the industry had, and how they dealt with them. They were so impressed they hired her on the spot.

John Lennerton said...

Before retirement, I was a hiring manager for a large-ish company's IT department. Oh, the pain.

Spelling. Use a spell checker. Please.
Relevant experience. Yeah, don't bury it.
And lots of stuff you said, only change the details.

I often asked the question 'what was the worst mistake you ever made on the job?' during interviews. In return got some interesting stories. But the one the topped them all was the time this fella replied, 'I was my 24 hour on call shift, and started drinking heavily. They called me in and I accidentally deleted a bunch of data'. Well, thanks for the honesty. And no, you're not hired.

At least he was honest.

Majroj said...

Here's hoping you and yours are healthy and managing the collateral issues (shortages, lost income, etc).

Unknown said...


I was just visiting 'My Back Pages' and see that you are still finding some time for blogging and sharing your unique wisdom and style.

Good to see!

new online location:
The Wings Stayed on
(I hope I formatted this line correctly to create a link...)

Greybeard said...

Funny that Aluwings commented recently too.
While walking I was thinking of you yesterday, wondering if you were still aviating.
Hope you are well... and NOT suffering from DVT's or other scary crap.