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Hiring—and keeping—good flight instructorsHiring—and keeping—good flight instructors

You’ve been there. Just when you thought you had a good team of instructors going and things start smoothing out—bang—two leave for greener pastures at another school, and another one tells you she’s leaving for first officer training in three weeks. Back to the drawing board.

Keeping CFIs has always been a challenge. Most see the job as a necessary evil, a time-building stepping stone to a “real” flying job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t minimize that turnover and keep good people for as long as possible. You can. The things you do as a manager will have a tremendous impact—good or bad—on CFI job satisfaction and retention.

Six tips for hiring right
1. Focus first on applicant attitude and demeanor. They’ve been through the training, and they can probably get your aircraft up and back down again without bending any metal. Your job as a manager will be to train them to teach and to follow company protocols. Will they do it, or do they seem to be the know-it-all type? True professionals are always willing—no, eager—to learn more and are ready to accept additional instruction.
2. Insist on good interpersonal skills. Your CFIs are not just flight instructors; they’re your customer-retention team, too. Does the applicant have a firm handshake, a friendly smile, and a relaxed but professional attitude? Introduce him or her to other instructors and students. Observe how they relate. Is the candidate good with people? If not, keep looking.
3. Try to assess their “teamsmanship.” Your CFIs don’t work in a vacuum; they’re always around other instructors and students, and they need to take a team approach to their jobs. Does your applicant seem to be a loner, or the enthusiastic “Put me in, coach!” type? The Ace of the Base often makes a poor team member and fosters a less-than-ideal work environment for others.
4. Adopt SBI—scenario-based interviewing. Don’t ask too many direct questions. Instead, create real-world situations and ask applicants what they would do. Performed correctly, SBI can give you a great insight into the traits and priorities of the people sitting in front of you. For instance, ask them what they would do if a student called at the last minute and canceled a lesson. If they said they’d tell the student to bring more money next time to cover the cancellation charge, that’s one thing. If they say they’d take that time to call students they hadn’t heard from in a while and invite them to come flying again, that’s quite another.
5. If you’re hiring a manager or team leader, take that person to lunch. Observe them. See how they relate to the restaurant staff. If they’re gracious and cordial, you may have a winner. If they’re dismissive or rude, run. They’ll be the same way to your team, and you cannot afford that.
6. Be realistic about the pay. Don’t paint a rosy picture. Make sure the applicant understands how and when he or she will be paid. Don’t oversell the job. Create a realistic expectation of the time commitment and compensation that will flow from that commitment. It does you no good to have one or more of your CFIs moping around and grumbling about things.

In the Oct. 6, 2015, edition of Flight School Business we’ll discuss tips for hanging on to those great flight instructors.

William Woodbury is a flight instructor and freelance writer in Southern California.

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