I’m starting a new kind of recurring post wherein I will do 10 tips of sorts, for travel and new hire flight attendants looking for a helpful resource for success. The longer I work in the airline industry, the more I learn, and the more I think to myself “I wish someone had told me that when I was just starting out!”
I was very fortunate, because when I added my name to the vast pool of applicants for flight attendant trainees in October 2012, I had a good friend already in the business to give me some insight into the process. That being said, there is so much I wish I had known then, that I have great fortune to share with you now. The airline industry is going through a hiring boom (at least my airline is!) and at least 1000 new flight attendants will be minted this year. If you’re on the verge of considering a new career, want to travel, or even just want your boring life to look drastically different why not give it a try?
There are some of us who are content to lead an ordinary life, where you wake up and do the same thing at the same place. Every. Single. Day. Then there are those of us who never quite fit in this environment. We may try various types of jobs and even change careers several times hoping for a job with staying potential/growth, which you can actually enjoy instead of just tolerate. Nevertheless, you end up feeling like you’re suffocating in tedium, while spinning in place. Sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve already applied and have gotten a call back from HR! If this is the case, congratulations! I know for a fact they ever-so-carefully screen potential candidates, and if you’ve gotten this far it means they’re seriously interested in you because your resume and qualifications have risen to the top of the pile.
After the phone interview (where they ask very standard questions about your resume and skills), you’ll be scheduled a time to come for an in person interview. When this happens, get excited and take the earliest possible date they have available. Why? Every benefit in the airline industry is based on seniority; from getting the schedule you want to taking vacation days off. The earlier you get in to the job, you will have a slight advantage over everyone else who is hired on a later interview date.
My airline paid for its chosen applicants to be flown to the physical interview, which was a huge advantage over some of the others I had applied to. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to drop $500 on a ticket, only to be told you didn’t make the cut?
Here are my first ten (plus) tips about what/what not to do when you arrive at the interview.
- Dress well. No short skirts or platform heels or earrings that are bigger than your actual ear. Think tasteful. Think understated. Make it easy for them to imagine you in the uniform. Below is my interview outfit— a stylish but tasteful dark peplum dress. Target and Anne Taylor are your best friends for interviews.
- Be honest about liking customer service and willingness to relocate. If you don’t like being around people, you definitely won’t like people when you’re trapped with them in a steel tube cruising along at 35,000 feet. That said, I’m naturally more of an introvert than an extrovert, but the difference is for bursts of time, I absolutely love being around people and taking care of them. Don’t think you can commute right away. Emphasize how flexible you are willing to be. They really do expect you to be at your base when you’re on call, so don’t think you can just go back to your hometown at night and take a flight back during the day. Not gonna happen. For the first 7 months you’re on the job, you’re on probation, which means your performance is under strict observation and evaluation. If you’re not on base when you’re supposed to be, they will know and you will be fired. Make your life easier and don’t expect to even try to commute until after you’re off probation.
- Talk to everybody. Your fellow interviewees, the interviewers, the janitors, the receptionist. Try to make the impression that you are Skippy McSkipperskip— the most social person on the face of the planet. I made it a point to remember everyone’s first name and one interesting fact about their life, so if I was called upon to do so (as I read on some forums was the case) I’d be able to show I’d been paying attention. As I’ve said, you are being watched, and people are taking notes on how you interact with others. This gives a window into how well you get along with other human beings in close quarters in the air.
- Make the interviewers remember you. I share a name with a famous politician, and I made sure to mention that in my introduction (where you have to stand up in front of the entire group and speak for a minute.) I also made an effort to make the interviewers laugh, and be as confident and cheerful as possible.
- Be prepared for a long day. My interview was, in total, about 8 hours. Food and refreshments are provided, but a lot of people seem to think you’re going to go in, be interviewed like any other company you’ve worked for, and then go home. What actually happens is a mixture of one-on-one interviews, group activities, mock-up flight tests, guest presentations on the company, question and answer sessions and ohsomuch paperwork at the end.
- Ask intelligent questions about the airline. This shows your interest and Do not ask questions that would indicate you care more about the benefits and less about the job, such as how long you’ll be on reserve or how many free flights you can give out to friends in a year. An example of a good question would be “What are [airline's name] plans for expansion in the future?” or “Which types of aircraft are in [airline's name]‘s fleet?”
- Don’t forget to be you. Sure, you’re being a slightly more polished version of you, but they don’t want to hire some automaton—they want a real person. Let your best colors shine through. In my one-on-one portion of the interview, my interviewer noted how it was unique that I had flown private planes as a hobby before becoming a flight attendant. She must have talked to thousands of interviewees in her career, but that little tidbit helped me stand out. Months later, she still remembered me.
- Do not touch your cell phone. You need to be able to devote your full attention to the interview and interacting with your fellow candidates, so you need to avoid coming across as that bored person who is disconnected from the rest of the group, typing away on her cell phone.
- Work well as a group. You’ll be in group exercises/games, and its important that you should stand out as a leader, but also as a someone who designates duties to others and asks for advice or input where its needed. Getting along with others is a skill we learn in kindergarten, so it always surprises me when people are standoffish or try to take over and be a dictator over the rest of the people in the group.
- Wear a watch. This is actually something they look for. A watch indicates you care about punctuality, and keep a wary eye on the time.
- *Bonus* Bring copies of your resume and make sure you have a passport. (I remembered this after I had typed up the 10 tips.) You must have your passport by the time training starts, so its an added bonus if you have it at the interview.
These tips are the basics. Follow them and you will be off to a good start but, it doesn’t mean everyone is right for this career. It is a big investment for the airline to train flight attendants. The purpose behind the interview process is to make sure it is the right fit for both you and the company. Feel like you’ve got what it takes? Good Luck! Hope to see you in the skies!