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Is this lull in pilot recruitment an ideal time to re-think the hiring process?

Ben Hall
January 30, 2022
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The job search can be incredibly daunting for anyone, perhaps even more so more pilots. Where to look? Which job sites should you use? Scrolling through endless postings on multiple websites can prove tedious and demoralising. Not only is the current process long winded for the applicant, it is inefficient for the recruiter too. Taking a moment to consider the process, this soon becomes clear.

Consider job adverts for example; pilot job roles are often advertised with vague information on generic job search sites. Major job sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed are wide-ranging and have no way for pilots to filter vacancies based on requirements relevant to their role, such as hours and license type. Using a keyword search for ‘pilot’ can often produce results that have no relevance to aviation at all. This means an applicant is forced to waste valuable time reading through every listing, only to discover they are under or over qualified.

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Once a suitable position has been found, there will inevitably be an application form or process. These forms can be many pages long and require the inputting of the same data over and over for each new application. Even job sites which offer the uploading of CVs sometimes fail to transfer information to application forms accurately, forcing candidates to delete and re-enter the data. Many job adverts with an online application form still request a CV and appropriate covering letter, combine this with the aforementioned issues and it is easy to see why HR departments and recruiters find themselves swamped with applicants. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and the significant downturn in pilot recruitment, jobs which may typically have received 50 applications are now seeing 10 times that number. Although more applications may be beneficial to businesses and recruitment agencies (more candidates to choose from for example) the manual filtering of these applications is time consuming and inefficient.

Following application, candidates can expect to begin an intense yet somewhat repetitive selection process. A typical process will include a battery of interviews, technical and psychometric tests, simulator checks and group exercises. The outcome is a series of scores and reports from a process which lacks standardisation and can be very company specific. There appears to be no ‘industry standard’ for tests, with many smaller recruiting companies running them simply because the major airlines do so too. Again this is inefficient, as a recruiter are you running a battery of tests unnecessarily?

Not only is the traditional process resource heavy, it is also very time consuming for applicant and recruiter alike. This is often exacerbated by the way the process is structured. Recruiters often fail to check relevant documents and licences until the end of selection, if any problems are discovered here, significant time and money has already been invested by both parties.

For any hand written maths/english/psychometric testing, a physical location is required, the staffing and operation of which incur further cost. Whilst some of this cost is often begrudgingly shouldered by the applicant, could this contribute to turning away suitable candidates who simply cannot afford it? It is not uncommon to ask candidates to make repeat trips, perhaps only for one test or short interview. The technology now exists for most, if not all, of these tests to be conducted by the candidate at home via a secure portal. Even interviews, conducted via video using artificial intelligence to map and monitor a candidate's response are a reality. Technology has the potential to greatly reduce the cost and time outlay for recruiters by automating a great number of tasks currently conducted by humans. Repetitive tasks such as license and medical checks can also be completed by AI as well as having the bonus of true impartiality. It is worth considering too, that the more jobs a candidate applies for, the more journeys they have to make. Candidates may have to travel hundreds of miles to other counties to complete assessments, sometimes without reward. If standardised testing in line with IATA’s guidance on Pilot Core Competencies is implemented, one set of scores could in theory be used for multiple applications to numerous companies.

As Covid-19 continues to take a detrimental toll on the aviation industry, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate the way pilots are recruited. Can we use a centralised, secure, store of pilot information, medicals and licenses to make the application process smoother, more transparent and more valid? Standardised testing and results would significantly cut down the recruiter’s workload whilst having the added benefit of reducing face-to-face contact and the need to cater for social distancing. Can Artificial Intelligence be depended upon to make the right decisions when screening candidates? The process is crying out to be streamlined and have these inefficiencies removed. The time is now.

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