Your CV represents you. Get it right the first time.
Since a few months the International Pilot Network offers pilots to upload their CV. The response has been just amazing and new CV are coming in daily. Some of them are well written and will certainly attract employers. Many have room for improvement though. Thats why I decided to write this article. Create a CV which stands out and will be looked at. You deserve it!
Before we start, I would like to list some golden rules to a good Pilot CV
- Prepare a Cover Letter. This is your "advert" for your CV
- Make sure your CV is grammatically correct and the spelling error free.
- Let a professional proof-read the document
- Your resume should not be longer than one page
- Have your contact details on top of each page
- Do not use fancy fonts, use one font type only
- Make sure your CV has no gaps
- Avoid unwanted information (religious details, pictures) depending on local requirements
- Do not use negative words/terms: E.g. Unfortunately, low experience or that you are a 'hell of a motorcyclist' if your hobby is biking
If you can tick off all the points above, your CV has a good chance to be reviewed.
Have you discovered open points, want to refine your work or don't know where to start at all, then please read on...
Pilot CVs are different...
There is a lot of information about effective CVs in books or on the internet. There are even companies out there which are specialized on this subject. Note that not all information you find e.g. in your local library can be applied to pilot CVs. The nature of the pilot job requires that a pilot CV contains certain information you will not find in a 'normal' CV. Having said that, I still recommend to read a good book with expert advice for preparing a CV as it contains loads of useful information. Your local library is full of them.
Once you read through it compare it with a book about Pilot CVs and you know the differences.
So where to find a book specializing in Pilot CVs?
- Search for relevant books in pilot shops, 'Airline Pilot Interviews' from Irv Jasinski is a good start.
- Another option is to search for information on the internet. Many pilot websites list do's and don'ts when it comes to writing your pilot CV.
What does a Pilot CV consist of?
A pilot CV consists of a cover letter, resume and of supporting documents. You can find examples of Pilot CVs in our download section. Companies also often want you to fill in a so-called Employment Application. Occasionally it is also requested to add a Flight Data Form.
The cover letter is the introduction to your CV. Keep it short and maximum one page long. Its a challenge to make your cover letter unique. This is especially true if you are applying to many companies. Avoid using too many 'I's', make paragraphs short and get to the point. Use a conversational writing style. The cover letter normally starts with a reference to your résumé followed by a statement that you are interested to join Airline ABC. Other objectives could be requesting an application, sending a revision or application. Always make sure that you tell the recruiter your objective clearly.
And why not using the cover letter to briefly address the highlights of your resume? Tell the recruiter that you have x hours jet experience, been involved in flight instruction and have glass cockpit experience! If you know your preferred airline wants mainly pilots with turboprop experience, make sure you point this out in your summary of highlights. Try to write your CV in such a way that you come as close as possible to the airlines most desired pilot profile. Let's look at the structure ofa typical cover letter...
The header of the letter should consist of your contact details such as name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Do not list your Skype, ICQ or MSN name...
The recipient of the letter
If you know the recruiter by his/her name, make use of it. A personal letter has a better effect compared to a generic 'To the recruiter of ABC Airlines'. Ask around who is in charge of new hires. Sometimes you find such information in a pilot forum, or on pilot career websites. You may also want to consider calling the company switchboard and to ask the operator there of the name of the person in charge of the recruitment. Do not forget to ask for the correct spelling of the name too! If you do not know the name of the person, use e.g. Dear Pilot Recruiter, Dear Pilot Staffing, Dear Pilot Manager or just Dear Recruiter.
The letter opening
The first paragraph should contain the reason why you are writing to airline ABC. Two to three lines will be sufficient. Also state your objective and that you have attached a résumé.
The letter body
In this section you can make points by matching the desired pilot profile of the airline. If you state points relevant to the requirements of the airline, the recruiter does not have to hunt for this information. Consider also adding any closely anticipated but not yet achieved qualifications. E.g. "...expect to complete my ATPL written exam by...".
The letter closing
Ask yourselves why should this company hire you and not someone else and close your letter with a statement promoting you as a strong candidate for the position on offer. The letter closing should also contain a request for action on the company's part. But be discreet and not too demanding. E.g. "If necessary, please forward an application form..." or "...I look forward to meeting with you personally in the near future..."
Short paragraphs make it easier for the reader to absorb the information. The closing has ideally two paragraphs with two or three sentences each. The cover letter should be brief and not exceed one page. Sign your letter personally and with a contrasting ink color such as blue.
And my last advice on cover letters: If a company requests you to send a résumé only, then do not send any cover letter anyway. It would most likely have a negative effect.
Your résumé is a handy summary of your flying qualifications and is often referred to by interviewers during an interview. Most airlines ask you to submit a résumé along with other documents when you first apply. You might need to bring more documents along when you are invited for an interview. Make sure you know what the preferred way of sending the documents is. Many airlines allow you to e-mail or fax the documents.
You might ask yourselves why airlines want you to fill in also an application form after you have sent them your complete résumé. Your CV is self-made and tells a lot about you. Its the first impression the employer gets from you. Once the airline thinks you are a potential candidate, they need to collected all the relevant data of applicants in a structered way so that they can compare them with each other. Thats when the application form is requested.
A good résumé does
- reflect your tastes and standards
- tell the recruiter what he needs to know, not what is nice to know about you
- sell you as a pilot, not anything else
- look well organized, is computer-generated and stands out and is only one page long
Have a good friend or professional service proofread the documents and only produce your own CV if you are adept with a home computer and can print the documents in letter-quality with a laser or ink-jet printer.
Please do not
- include a photograph unless its requested. Many companies are not allowed to process CVs with attached photographs
- use colored paper
- use too many font types. Stick to only one font type such as Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman
Let's start to construct an effective pilot résumé. Using a word processor software on a computer is the best way and it also allows you to update your documents at later stages during your career.
A résumé consists usually of 8 components. These are:
Heading, Objective, Certificates and Ratings, Flight Times, Work History, Formal Education, Professional Training, and Availability. Optionally you may add Special Interests, Memberships and Awards for example. Add them only if space permits.
Start with your name on top of the page and center it. Words/titles like 'Résumé' can be omitted because recruiters know from the layout and content of the page that it is your résumé. Add your address and contact details. If you are applying for an airline in the U.S., you should also add your social security number below your name. Provide an alternative telephone number and use an answering machine. If a recruiter is unable to reach you, he/she will move on the next pilot on the list .
The objective starts with the first major heading which should be in all caps. E.g. "GOAL" or "POSITION OBJECTIVE". State the specific position you desire. Consider customizing your position objective by placing the airline logo in fron of the name of the airline. A one-line statement is sufficient.
Certificates and Rating
Most important are your type of licence (ATP) and your ratings. Put them first followed by your Medical, Instructor Ratings and other qualifications (e.g. A&P licence). If your vision is uncorrected 20/20 add this too after your medical information. If you are 30 years or older this can be a bonus!
Listing your flight time is essential on your résumé. A typical flight time summary should include:
- Total Time
- Instructor Pilot
- Multi Engine
- Single Engine
Multi engine /single engine time resp. PiC and SiC should add up to the total time.
There are hundreds of ways on how to present your flight time. Airlines also often interpret flight times differently and it is quite often simply confusing. As a military pilot you can use the civilian way of logging flight time: from block out to block in. Use necessary conversion factors if needed. Make sure you rather underestimate your flight time instead of overestimating it. Fligh times should not be rounded off to and should be as exact as possible.
In case your experience consists of flight experience only, use the header "FLIGHT EXPERIENCE" otherwise use for example "EXPERIENCE". Your most recent employment or present job shoud be on top of the list. Note that your chances to be hired are far higher if you are currently employed.
Special Training and Achievements
This information should appear towards the end of your resume and consists of a list of significant ground and flight schools related to your most important positions, ratings, licences, ...Non-aviation achievements can be listed too, but list them only if you believe they are of interest to the airline.
This part covers your formal education. High school is normally not listed and the focus is on university and college. If you are from the U.S., state yor GPA if it was 3.0 or above. If you attended college but do not have a degree, state for how long you were enrolled in credits earned or years attended. A completed degree program should only show your graduation date, not the start and end date of the program.
It is a good thing to indicate by when you would be available for the new assignment. If you are employed in the U.S., indicate that you would give your current employer two weeks ' notification. In Europe this is often too short and its quite normal to indicate 3 months. Once you get the job its often possible make arrangements with your current employer to shorten the notification period.
This section is optional, but there are good reasons to include it. IT or language skills are always an asset these days and should be added. Other technical skills can also be of interest and could help when discussing technical details with an aircraft mechanic.
Hobbies like music, writing, traveling show that you have also a life beside aviation. Involvment in sports should be listed too as well as activities that reflect a team effort, flexibility, leadership (e.g. charities, community causes). Avoid mentioning interests that the airline or recruiter consider dangerous. Car or motorcycle racing, water rafting, paragliding are such hobbies just to name a few.
It is quite common that the airline requests you to send with supporting documents with your resume. They can include:
- Copies of your licences, flight ratings and certificates
- Copy of your passport and medical cerificate
- Recommendations from previous employers
- Letters of recommendation and/or support from refrences
- Copy of your degree
- Language proficiency certificates
- Military discharge papers
Most airlines accept electronic resumes. If this option is available to you, it is highly recommended to make use of it. It makes things a lot easier when it comes to updating your credentials and it makes the storage and retrieval of your data easier for the operator. While sending your resume electronically is the preferred way, it also bears some risks. Make sure you submit your documents in the correct or requested format. If nothing is indicated about the format use the PDF format. Also a good way is to combine your cover letter, resume and supporting documents into one file.