Thursday, June 30, 2011

Okay, let's talk more about the hiring process.

For some background, scroll down a couple of posts to the 'everything changes, everything ends' one, then come on back because I need some advice.

The stakes are pretty high for me - whomever gets hired will be working closely with me, and I want to make sure we mesh well. They will also be flying with my boss, who is a great pilot, a smart guy and pretty reasonable to work for, but who also assumes that people will operate at 110% efficiency, so there isn't any room for stupidity or laziness. I like that, because I like the challenge and frankly because I'm up to the challenge - yeah, I certainly have the Captain's ego to go along with my Captain's qualifications and experience, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing in this situation.

Anyway, if I end up hiring someone who turns out to be a dud, it's gonna be an expensive mistake, and my job security is pretty much directly proportional to the number of expensive mistakes I don't make, if you catch my drift.

I don't care nearly as much about flying experience as I do about personality. "Hire for attitude, train for experience" is my mantra in corporate aviation-land, and it has served me well thus far. That being said, if we hire a 200-hour wonder then they will be sitting right-seat for ages and ages until they qualify for their Airline Transport Pilot's License (which they need to fly as Captain), so there are some experience considerations involved.

My plan is to hold the interviews at a nearby restaurant or pub - I think you can learn a lot more about a person during lunch / over beers than you can sitting across from them in a boardroom. Am I wrong?

I looked online and found a valuable post at a blog called 'Pilot Notes', and I think I'll shamelessly steal some of the questions listed, but I think there are some other areas that could be covered - after all, the actual flying part of this job is a relatively small portion of the job itself - we do lots of paperwork, and we will be spending days on the road together, so want to be able to assess that stuff as well.

Now here's the whole point of this post: If you were in my position, what other questions might you be asking the candidates during interviews? Let's assume that the candidates demonstrate good technical knowledge about aviation / airplanes, so that stuff is not in question.


Daniel said...

I run a relatively small company of 15 employees. Much like you, we hire on personality and more, rather than simple numbers or anything like that. We've certainly met people in bars/restaurants, particularly when we were much smaller and you're right, you're going to be spending a lot of time with the new hire so it's important that you get along with them.

Aside from the job specific stuff, which you know how to ask, I've found it good to get them to loosen up and just talk about themselves. What do they do on vacation, where do they want to visit? What music do they like? Just usual smalltalk things - it's always given a much better impression than straight interview questions. We still do this in every interview, and we've only ever hired people who've been happy to talk about themselves and chat. It's worked so far and one measure of that is that we have incredibly low staff turnover - only two people have ever left, and not for any reason other than those similar to Kitsch.

On another note, if I was in Canada, my resume would be on your desk. As a British CPL/IR, sadly it's not. Good luck to you and the successful candidate. Sounds like a perfect gig to me!

coreydotcom said...

I am a huge fan of asking a candidate: "here's a pen an paper. In 10 minutes, write down why you want to work for me."

Sure the answer is important but for me the spelling/vocabulary/grammar is also very important. Not that it has anything to do with flying but I believe it shows some professionalism when you show that you can spell and organize your thoughts correctly.

I find you get a really good feel for the person that way too.

P.S. If you're in the market for 0 TT accountant/auditor, let me know! I'm not willing to pay for my PPL, CPL, Multi rating, IFR rating nor type rating :P.

Bobby said...

Here a few questions I'd ask:

1) We've got a two days off in X, what would you do with that time?
2) What's the worst beer you've ever had?
3) What do you think the next big thing in music will be?
4) Where have you had the best sandwich?
5) Let's say you see Bono on the roadside with flat tire, looking to hitch a ride. What do you talk about during the ride?
6) What trades do you attempt that will make the Leafs good enough to win the Cup? (this will tell you whether the candidate is either a thinker or a nut)

Scote1992 said...

I got my PPL last tuesday and started my instrument training today. I think I'm just about perfect for the job...:P

Anonymous said...

I like both Daniel and coreydotcom's suggestions. The way I usually start off an interview is to ask 'Where's your favorite vacation spot?' This usually both puts the applicant at ease and leads to a good conversation which helps gauge compatibility. Personally, I would take the applicant flying, even just VFR around the pattern in a recip if you have access to one. I have found this the best way to assess compatibility and basic competence.

john said...

To continue with Bobby's question stream: "How about them Canucks?"

If the answer is something like "I don't remember, but they told me I cut my hand trying to overturn a police car downtown", that would probably go down as a negative.

david said...

Can you pick the two or three most-promising candidates and give each a part-time, four-week trial (with pay) in the right seat? I don't believe that any interview technique is reliable enough to give you the confidence you need.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a company a couple years back that made some spectacular mistakes in pilot hiring. And I mean spectacular. I think the people doing the hiring were just not able to recognize normal and decent human beings. You seem like a normal person so I think you should be OK.

Have the candidates- at least the short-listed ones- spend as much time with your boss as possible. And they should also meet the principals of the company they are going to be flying, if only for a few minutes. That way the owner can say "I like that guy" or "I don't like that guy." The boss *has* to feel good about the guy who's flying him.

Big Steve said...

Ask them to tell you about any tight spots they have been in whilst flying, what they did to get out of them and what they learnt from thos incidents.

Ask about what they like to do in their free time too.

See if Aviatrix has the right ratings - she'd be great!

Anonymous said...

Ask your applicant two questions:

- What do you think about dogs?

- What do you think about children?

Nothing tells one more about a person(ality) than his/her relationship to children and dogs.

THANKS for this blog, man!


Jason said...

Have you thought about doing background checks including a credit check. A poor credit score may identify some irresponsible behavior.
Social media sites can also reveal interesting details about a person's behavior.

I too would love the opportunity to interview for this position. In addition to the soft skills you're looking for I've logged hundred's of hours in Flight Sim X and iPhone XPlane.

All the best!

- Jason

Anonymous said...

When I have been hiring (non-aviation) I have always taken the prospective employee around to chat with as many different personalties as possible. After the interview, I get their opinions (but taking into account their own slant on life). (This won't work for you, maybe you could get Lisa to sit in on the interviews, other than hitching up with you she seems to have good people skills :-) I know that my wife can be a lot more perceptive than me!)

Ask them what their biggest mistake they ever made flying was, what did they do, and what will they do in the future to prevent it happening again.
Casually run down ATC or ground crews and see what their reaction is.
Finally you would be surprised at the number of people I have not offered a job to, even though they answered all the right questions, pushed everyone's "feel nice" buttons and seemed like they would fit right in by simply asking the receptionist / secretary they talked to on the way in what they thought. If they treat a receptionist as if they are beneath them, they aren't worth the grief.

My 10 cents :-)

GA with L Plates

Anonymous said...

If you can, have other people interview the candidates too. I manage a small team, and just hired two new people. Making the hiring a team effort really helped to focus and validate my opinions on the various candidates. If you have doubts, face them squarely. If you feel in your heart you've connected with a 'best buddy' take a moment to be coldly rational and verify they have the necessary hard skills. Tell you wife about your choices and get her opinion. Use all your instruments! Sit on your decision for 24 hours. I look forward to reading about it. Best of luck!

Chris said...

To Jason-

Sure you can find stuff about a candidate by doing credit checks and trying to get into their facebook. You can also find stuff about them by putting a GPS on their car, having them followed, hacking their computer, tapping their phones, or stealing their mail.

The fact is, it doesn't matter if the guy likes to get drunk at parties or has debt (a great many excellent professional pilots have student loans and other training debt). What the guy does when off the clock is none of your business. What matters is if he is a responsible employee who will show up on time, sober, and work hard.

As a business owner, I recognize how desirable it is to get as much info as possible before hiring. But I also recognize that the employee has a right to privacy, and to have a private life separate from work which I have no business in.

To be honest I think my next employment application will have a field for "facebook login and password". Any candidate who puts it without even questioning if I have a right to that information is immediately rejected, on the grounds that if they don't have the guts to tell me when I'm doing something wrong, or the sense of independence to know that it IS wrong, will probably not be a good candidate anyway.