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Checklist for hiring flight instructorsChecklist for hiring flight instructors

Checklists are necessary and vital tools for your aircraft, but did you know that by developing a checklist to keep track of your recruiting efforts you can easily systematize the process?

While our unique and specialized industry usually means that following a cookie-cutter plan isn’t always feasible, by holding a recruit planning meeting with your school’s hiring manager, chief pilot, and top CFIs, you should be able to easily tailor this basic guideline to fit your own particular needs, personalities, and skill set.

Try this checklist for hiring flight instructors.

NEEDS—The first step is to develop a list of your school’s needs and requirements for the position.

  • Determine how many CFIs your current workload supports.
  • Primary criteria: Develop and prioritize the key requirements needed for the position, such as ratings, availability, and any other special qualifications, traits, and characteristics that you cannot settle for or do without.
  • Secondary criteria: These are the wish-list criteria specific to your operation that could make all the difference in student attrition and growth rates. Try considering the diversity of students who propose specific challenges to your current crew (i.e. cultural diversity or specific language skills, comfort level of students with male vs. female CFIs, specific physical characteristics that may require a smaller/larger statured CFI due to weight/balance or comfort issues in the cockpit).
    • TIP: If discrimination laws impair your ability to hire the specific types of CFIs you need, you may be able to avoid such issues and still get what you need by recruiting an independent contractor CFI instead. Review legal hiring practices at EEOC.

SALARY—Offer appropriate compensation to ensure you are attracting and retaining the best possible talent. The National Business Aviation Association has a helpful tool for salary evaluation criteria. If you are a member, you can review the 2011 NBAA Compensation & Benchmark Survey, or you may want to review Salary.com, which is available at no cost.

ADVERTISING—Get the word out in your local area, online, and by word of mouth.

  • Use a bulletin board in the school’s common areas and around your airport and other local airports to post the position.
  • Email all company staff that a position has been posted. Make sure to post the ad on your company website under a “Careers” link.
  • Email or call prior students who displayed the types of traits and work ethic in training you are looking for in an employee.
  • Spread the word in the businesses at your airport and surrounding-area airports; make sure you let the crew in your tower know as well. Many controllers are pilots and CFIs.
  • Post jobs to online social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Ask your employees to publicize the position through their online social media networks.
  • Posting ads on professional association websites can be effective but expensive, so try posting to sites like Will Fly for Food and Find A Pilot, which can reach thousands of pilots, create a diverse candidate pool, and best of all is free to you.

PRE-SCREEN APPLICANTS—A short phone call can save hours of your time and help you weed out non-prospects. In 15 minutes you can usually determine whether a candidate has the primary requirements you need, screen them to see which applicants expect a salary that is out of your budget, and generally gain a sense about the person's overall fit to your operation. 

  • Prioritize which candidates will be on your first-round pick list by devising a Job Candidate Evaluation Checklist that looks something like this:
    • Education/training
    • Work experience/review of logbook
    • Skills (technical)
    • Instruction history
    • Leadership skills
    • Interpersonal skills
    • Secondary criteria wish list
  • Using this form to evaluate applications and resumes will help you select the candidates who most closely fit your list of primary and secondary criteria.
  • Send postcards or emails to your second-round pick applicants to acknowledge receipt of their resume. If the candidate appears to be a good match for the position, you will contact him or her to schedule an interview. If not, you will keep the application and resume on file for a year in case other opportunities arise.

INTERVIEWS—Make sure that any interviewer of applicants understands and adheres to legal practices. If an interviewee feels he or she has been denied a job because of discrimination, he or she can file a lawsuit with the EEOC.

  • Prepare your applicants for the interview by describing the company, the details of the position, and the background and titles of the interviewers.
  • During an interview candidates tell you what they think you want to hear. While it’s often easy to get sidetracked and caught up in the prospect’s personality, charm, and eagerness, be friendly but professional about the primary criteria you must fill by sticking to your job candidate evaluation checklist.
  • Once out of the office hot seat and around aircraft, most candidates will relax and drop some of their guard. This can either help to elicit their passion and excitement for instruction or help expose their weaknesses. Walk the candidates through the hangar, show them the aircraft, engage them in conversation, and listen closely to their comments and stories about their aviation history, students they’ve taught, and aspirations in aviation.
  • A large study at the University of Michigan showed that a traditional interview only assisted in selecting top candidates by 2 percent, so once you’ve determined that a candidate truly fits the profile, you may want your chief pilot to conduct a practical interview of his or her instruction skills as well.

HIRING—Remember that you’re not only hiring for your present needs, but for your future vision. Longevity is not ordinarily our primary focus when selecting a CFI, as we all know that most are using us as a bridge to the airlines. By using a careful selection process, you will be able to pick out those with good intentions to promote general aviation, build strong aviation alliances, and who will serve your school well while they are a representative for you. In order to attract and retain professional CFIs who are not aspiring to Flight Level 350, you may consider employing them, which means offering benefits, such as health insurance and retirement, while offering contracted-only positions to the “time builders.”

  • Build a candidate pool with several candidates who meet your criteria. Remember, if you don't have to make a choice among several qualified candidates, your pool is too small.
  • Don’t count on your conversational skills to choose between candidates. At the very least, you should rely on your job candidate evaluation checklist, the review of their practical flight skills (if performed), and a background check.
  • Don't settle for someone if you don't have the right person with the skills and experience you need. It's better to reopen your search.
  • Once you’ve made your hiring decision, make a written job offer that includes the job description and salary.

The hiring road is long and fraught with potential problems, but proper use of tools such as the checklist will help you on your way.

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