Today’s aviation job market today looks very different than it did just one year ago. Where once there was a shortage of pilots and maintenance technicians, employers now are receiving literally hundreds of resumes for a single position, in part because thousands of laid-off airline workers are looking for jobs in business aviation. And even though business aircraft flight activity is slowly climbing toward pre-pandemic levels, a significant number of people who were working in business aviation before the onset of COVID-19 are also job hunting.
Therefore, job applicants need to craft their resumes and cover letters to underscore their willingness to be flexible and adaptable, as many recruiters are putting more emphasis on these traits as they hire for what is still an uncertain future.
Flexibility Is Important
“Demonstrating flexibility is extremely important in this current environment,” said Don Mitchum, senior human resources generalist with Garmin International. “These are crazy times, and applicants need to show they are comfortable stepping outside of their lane and are able to work in a collaborative way in a role that may change without notice as the company pivots as needed to stay ahead of the pandemic. The resumes that earn my attention are those that show the applicant can think outside the box, work well in either an office or remote situation, and contribute to pushing a project over the finish line.”
Mitchum added that now, more than ever, it is critically important that job applicants conduct plenty of research on a company prior to submitting an application.
“When you show up for that first interview with a full understanding of the financial and workforce issues the company is experiencing during this pandemic, it demonstrates to a recruiter that you already understand their situation, which also creates an opportunity,” Mitchum explained. “If the applicant has specific skills or abilities that could help a company that is struggling in certain areas, making that knowledge known to the recruiter is a big plus.”
Jennifer Guthrie, CEO of In-Flight Crew Connections, a business aviation staffing company, says recruiters are looking for candidates whose resume speaks not only to their experience, but to their character, attitude and values.
“Consider including a link to a short video introducing yourself to showcase your personality, and let them see who you are in your own words,” suggests Guthrie. “Providing a short video introduction in lieu of a traditional in-person introduction may make some applicants stand out. A resume should still highlight experience and marketable skill sets, but applicants who additionally illustrate how they are willing to evolve and adapt their skills for a future employer are more likely to be selected.”
Because of the pandemic, In-Flight Crew Connections is helping clients and crewmembers navigate the increased safety measures that have been put in place due to COVID-19.
“We expect our crewmembers to be up-to-speed on all recent FAA, CDC and OSHA recommendations related to COVID-19,” said Guthrie. “Applicants who have taken time to educate themselves in these areas may provide added value and should highlight this in their resume.”
“These are crazy times, and applicants need to show they are comfortable stepping outside of their lane and are able to work in a collaborative way in a role that may change without notice.”
Don Mitchum Senior Human Resources Generalist, Garmin International
Mastering Soft Skills
Many people in the career development field advise their applicant clients to master “soft skills,” such as professional written and verbal communications, critical thinking and problem-solving.
While these are valuable attributes, Raven Career Development Owner James Onieal looks at this crucial element of landing your dream job from a different perspective.
If you want to rise to the top of the applicant talent pool, Onieal says the most important soft skill to develop is empathy, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Displaying empathy toward others in a truly authentic manner will quickly differentiate you from other applicants vying for the same position.
“Everyone that a hiring manager hears from will have qualifications,” said Onieal. “What will set you apart are the differentiators, like being able to demonstrate an empathetic attitude. That will get you the farthest because it is actually in short supply right now. Regardless of the job you are applying for, if you can lead with empathy, your skill set becomes infinitely more valuable in an environment like we are experiencing because it [empathy] is genuinely so rare.”
Onieal also advises applicants to understand that everyone you will connect with throughout the hiring process is experiencing extraordinarily high stress right now.
“They could have family members with COVID, are protecting parents with underlying conditions, or are balancing the added scheduling pressures of having children learning from home,” explained Onieal. “These are the types of things we are all dealing with right now. If you take a second to show interest in the other person by simply being a kind human, it demonstrates you can join their operation and be supportive of others without being disruptive.”
The reality of the situation we are in, says Onieal, is that none of us are experienced in how to handle the pandemic, and a job search may yield results different than anticipated.
“The current environment has created a whole new set of problems for companies and their people, so if you can show targeted empathy, it turns out you get an extraordinary competitive advantage,” he concluded.
Looking Toward a Brighter Future
Although business and commercial aviation traffic remains depressed, the future may be brighter than you think, says Abbey Hutter, executive director of JSfirm.com, an aviation jobs marketplace.
“At JSfirm.com, membership is doubling, and we have hundreds of companies hiring on the site. As the recovery continues and travel picks up, staffing levels will adjust and we will see the demand for aviation professionals return to their pre-COVID levels,” predicts Hutter.
Meanwhile, she offers the following advice to job seekers: “Even if you’re one of 400 people applying for the same job opening, you have to state clearly in the application that you are interested in the location and schedule they are offering. Write short, smart emails, and always use your name with the title of the job in file names and subject lines. For example, jerry-smith-C500-captain.”
Hutter also reminds job seekers to personalize each application and call the prospective employer to ask if they received your resume.
“Follow up with a call and give your name so the hiring manager can look you up. That may put your resume on top of the pile.”