By Scott Arnold, Chief Flight Attendant/DaVinci Inflight Training Institute
First, the reality check is— it’s very likely there are several other candidates all vying for the same coveted position. Following these successfully proven guidelines I am providing will not only assist you in presenting yourself in the most professional manner, but also help you stand apart from the pack.
I recently completed the online FAU Hospitality Management and Tourism Certification course offered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my takeaways regarding the interview process was this – “Relax and be yourself. Only you know YOU! They are not going to ask you questions you don’t know.’’ Experiencing anxiety and stress are to be expected when interviewing, but know that the hiring managers want you to successfully complete the interview just as much as you do.
Several hospitality mangers and leaders were interviewed for this course, and all of them were in sync discussing the top three key elements that make someone stand out in the hiring process.
2. Passion and Dedication
They also mentioned to go beyond the hiring managers expectations by creating goosebumps moments. What does this mean or entail? The list is subjective as it has to pertain to you. So tap into your inner-self and share impactful moments of why you started this career or why you love it— sharing that “aha moment,” etc. Remember that they are looking for the “it factor” as well as “the fit.” These are both personality traits and emotionally driven. You will have to find a delicate balance and avoid being too emotional or verbose in your story. Keep it “short and sweet,” and if it’s delivered correctly, it will leave a lasting impact.
It’s very important to have a plan and structure for your interview(s). I am referring to YOU, not the hiring manager.
Consider yourself as a small business presenting the brand, product and marketability to an investor. They need to believe in your product in order to “buy” what you are selling.
I recommend you taking a “SWOT Analysis” and “What Type of Communicator Are You” self-tests. There are many of these tests offered online. These will help you zone into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (any negatives in this industry), as well as honing into what type of communicator you are. Passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or assertive. Being self-aware of your traits will tremendously assist you in communicating and talking about yourself during an interview.
One of the most important steps in interviewing is— before each interview research as best you can about the client and the available position. Customizing each interview strategically is the key to a positive interview experience and outcome.
Resume Packet & Tools
Yes, you have already submitted your resume (most likely electronically). However, up the game and have an impressive visual presentation for your interview. Print all of your resume documents on high quality paper stock or have them professionally printed. Place your cover letter, resume, references, training records/certificate of completion for corporate specific training and a business card in a nice folder. Be careful not to crease or crinkle these by carrying them in a portfolio or briefcase. You should have a complete resume packet prepared for every individual attending the interview, including yourself, plus an extra packet in case someone unexpected joins the group. Have your business cards ready. Always be prepared!
Know your resume thoroughly and be sure that you can back up each claim and be able to navigate it to confirm any detailed information within seconds. You’d be surprised how many CFA’s I’ve interviewed who didn’t have a clue about the content of their own resume. Your resume is your promotional tool. Know what you stand for!
If you are unsure where the interview will be held, then it’s advisable for you to visit the location prior to your appointment. This will prevent being late and harried for the interview. Confirm you have the complete address and facility’s location. Get detailed directions like the hangar number, door number (if applicable) and where to park. Enter and save the address on your smart phone GPS app so that you have it on file.
How Clean is Your Car?
Be sure to wash and clean your car inside and out ahead of time. What’s that you say?
I did a presentation at a conference years ago on interviewing skills and it was titled, “How Clean Is Your Car?” This caused a lot of confusion, until I opened with this story:
There’s a flight department operator here in South Florida who would always interview corporate flight attendants and after the standard interview questions were well underway, the conversation would always take a detour:
Him: Did you drive here yourself?
Him: Is the vehicle yours?
CFA: Looking confused now, “yes?”
Him: “Ok, great … let’s go see it” and escorts the CFA to the parking area to see their car. If the car was clean and orderly in appearance, he would approve. His mindset is— if you take good care of your belongings, it is usually an indication of how well you would take care of a company’s or individual’s aircraft. If the car was a hot mess inside, the interview ended immediately.
Dress for Success
You should be dressed not only professionally but dressed exactly how you would be if walking up those jet stairs to fly for them. Suits are preferred for an interview. Ladies, regardless if a dress is part of their uniform acceptance, wear a suit (skirt or pants). Long hair secured. Dress beyond the scope of the career.
THE FACE-TO-FACE INTERVIEW
Initial impressions are made within the first minute of an interview. To make a positive first impression:
It’s important to remember that your body language gives 55% of the communication message to the interviewer.
The Dreaded Question
One of the most dreaded interview questions (and it’s not even really a question) is, “Tell me about yourself.”
Here is a helpful template for responding as a Corporate Flight Attendant;
“My name is _____. I have attended XYZ® Training where I received my emergency procedures training. I have had some experience in __________ (industry/function) doing _______. Most recently, I ____________________.
Before that I was ________________________________________________.
My areas of expertise (core transferable skills) are _____________________.
My particular strengths are (relate to the specific opportunity you are interviewing for) __________________. I feel I will be an excellent addition to your company.”
When I used to conduct online career coaching, in order to prep the student for their interview and mastering the “tell me about yourself” turmoil, I would have them write down the top three words that best describe themselves both professionally and personally. Once completed, I encouraged them to now tell me about yourself making sure to include these words anywhere they seemed appropriate. After a few practice runs, this once awkward self-testimonial now appeared to be confident, natural, and effortless because they were speaking honestly about how they felt about themselves.
That Awkward Moment…
There’s nothing worse than drawing a blank in response to an interview question, creating a very awkward silence.
These silences in job interviews seem like they last for hours as your mind is racing for an answer. Not only is it embarrassing, it usually kills the interview. The best prevention is to practice and rehearse before big interviews. The more you rehearse, the less likely you will draw a blank.
The best way is to ask a friend to serve as the interviewer and fire questions at you. Even if you’ve practiced, you should have a system down to give your mind more time to think, such as asking the interviewer to rephrase the question or rephrasing the question yourself and asking the interviewer if that was what he/she had in mind.
Don’t memorize your responses or they will sound over-rehearsed. Try not to bring notes to the interview. Instead, use a copy of your resume as a reference to help trigger your key points.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
What kind of questions should you ask prospective employers in an interview, when you are asked, “Do you have any questions?”
Employers are truly interested in answering your questions, but mainly they ask you because they want to see how prepared you are for the interview. If you don’t have any questions, the interviewer may assume that you are not really interested in the job or too lazy to prepare any questions. Therefore, have some questions ready!
There are numerous questions you could ask in reply to this inquiry. You can ask fact-based questions about the company such as, “How many aircraft do you have and what types are they?” (even though you have done your research and know this information already, if it didn’t come up, ask!)
You could ask specific job-related questions for the position you are interviewing for.
Example: “How many days per month should I expect to be flying?”
You could ask about future plans of the company, division, branch, or product.
You could ask questions about the hiring process.
Example: “When can I expect to hear back from you?”
You could ask about anything that you are really interested in getting an answer to that was not already discussed during the interview (but avoid asking “me-first” questions about salary and benefits right away).
Other Potential Interview Questions— How Would You Respond?
Practice answering these types of questions over and over. Rehearsing them will not only reduce your stress factor but your brains muscle memory will retain your responses if you repeat them enough.
The “Wild Card” Question
You may get asked a question in a job interview that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the job. Such as, “Whom do you admire most and why?” or “If you could be any super hero, who would it be?” These are called “wild card” or “off-the-wall” questions. The intention is to see how well you think on your feet and whether you will get flustered.
While you can prepare for most of the standard interview questions, these wild-card questions can catch even the experienced interviewee off guard. Thus, the key is to not allow yourself to get rattled by it. Keep in mind that there really are no wrong answers but some answers are better than others. I’m personally not a fan of these as it puts a lot of stress on the interviewee and frankly, I think they are unfair and superfluous.
The Top 10 Blunders to Avoid
The following have been compiled and provided by Hiring Managers/Recruiters and are featured in no specific order
Send a handwritten thank you note or email the day of or the day after the interview to once again thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity. A handwritten note is a nice gesture and shows a personal touch. However, emails are instantaneous and recommended since your recipients may be traveling or out of the office post interview for days.
Make sure the note is sincere.
If by the appointed time you have not heard from them, it’s appropriate to follow up with an e-mail or call. Often the person conducting the interview may also be a crew member. Therefore, if you have not heard back from them it could be because they are flying. Sometimes there are so many applicants that sorting through all of the candidates is difficult and may take longer than expected.
By keeping in touch, you not only show your eagerness to be part of their team but also it ensures that your name stays familiar.
Remember to remain in touch but do not be PEST! If you didn’t receive a response to your email or voicemail, wait several days and try again. After that, let it go if you haven’t heard back from them.
Be prepared for rejection and remember to maintain your positive attitude. All successful people have experienced rejection and continued to pursue their dreams. If rejected, send another positive note letting them know you are still interested in any potential opportunities in the future. There have been many occasions after someone was hired, a month later they quit or were not “the fit” as first thought and let go.
Doors will open and close throughout your career. Many flight operations staffing needs are fluid and often, unpredictable. If you were not selected this time and you slam that opportunity door shut or put a door stop in place because of ego— YOU permanently closed that door, not the client. As I always say, “It’s important to remain determined, not defeated.”
Scott is a Partner at DaVinci Inflight Training Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, former Director of Aircare Crews Staffing (Aircare International), past Chair NBAA Flight Attendants Committee, and corporate flight attendant with over 17 years of experience in business aviation.
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