November 11, 2013

“So, John, what brings you in today?”

“I saw there is an opening at your flight department, and I wanted to apply for the job.”

That exchange may seem mundane, but these days, it is less and less commonplace. Given the Internet, the face-to-face interview is a rarity in the initial hiring process. But the significance of the early-stage interview is noteworthy at a time when business aviation is intensively looking for new ways to attract new talent.

“I’m hiring four positions,” explained Cyndi Sheriff, human resources manager at charter and freight operator Flightworks, based in Kennesaw, GA. At a company with 120 employees spread across two domestic offices and flight operations around the globe, she is the entire HR department. So when a business representative from the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) offered to set up a unique, company-specific job fair for her, it did not take long for Sheriff to realize the possible benefits.

“We sent out press releases and distributed flyers,” said Gloria Kusmik, manager of GDOL’s Cobb-Cherokee Career Center in Kennesaw. “That’s not terribly unusual. But we also talked to Cyndi about the positions, the people she wanted, what they would be paid and the qualifications required. Then we used that information to create a report containing the contact information of about 300 people who matched those criteria and called every one of them to personally invite them to the job fair.”

Both Sheriff and Kusmik said that step – personally reaching out to job seekers – was crucial because it provided an initial screening step in the application process. Sheriff got qualified applicants. The applicants got a chance for a rare face-to-face initial interview.

“I can fill out resumes in my pajamas all day long, but the power of meeting someone face to face is incredible,” said Theresa Wicker, who was applying for a marketing position at Flightworks. “That way, you have a better chance of standing out from the rest of the crowd.”

Moreover, Kusmik pointed out, that initial criteria match containing 300 names of potential applicants provided a couple of side benefits for both applicants and the screener. While all applicants were qualified, many (if not most) had received little exposure to business aviation in the past. The industry was getting a look at fresh talent. The applicants were getting a look at a career field they may not have considered before.

“I could not have done an event of this caliber myself,” Sheriff said. In fact, she was so impressed that she plans to conduct job fairs like this once a quarter.

“I strongly encourage others in our industry to do this. I can’t overstate the value of face-to-face meetings like these,” she said.

Kusmik said these face-to-face meetings might be especially appropriate for highly skilled positions such as the ones offered by Flightworks.

“The online application process has its value, but it has become so mechanized and so impersonal that everybody quickly becomes discouraged,” said the employment center manager. “But by meeting face to face, you get a real sense of each other, and that’s critical in an industry where safety and customer service are so critical.”