Flying High
June 22, 2007 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Tell me all you know about a career of an airline cabin-crew and how should I prepare for it's interview coming up next week? Apart from presentability, what other qualities do they look for? Also, I am way over-qualified for the job, and it's a industry-cum-profile shift for me which I don't mind, but how do I stop that being an impediment to my selection?

I am about to appear for an interview with a leading Middle-east airline next week. The ad states, if short-listed there will be further selection process during the week. My question is two-pronged:

a) With respect to the interview on hand, what should I focus on my resume to increase my chances? I have already highlighted my customer-support roles, Arabic lang skills, and penchant for travelling and interacting with people. What else will they grill me for over a course of one week? How do I convincingly explain this mad (definitely unconventional) leap I am taking, which is effectively a step-down for most people to my interviewers?

b) Coming from a computer engg. background with relevant experience, am I crazy-mad for applying to this job? I am looking at it as a stepping stone to shift my career path from IT to travel-hospitality industry. So I'd like to know what is the typical work-week like for them? What kind of career growth/shift is available for cabin-crew members? Are there any chances of shifting to ground-services after a year or two? Are there any redflags that I may be missing why I should NOT be considering this job? I have done some basic home-work but would still appreciate any thoughts or comments out there.

The reason I am applying for it is because this is pretty much the only position which doesn't require prior training/exp'ce of hospitality industry, I like the idea of being a crew-member insofar as what I know as a passenger, and I satisfy all other requirements as stated in their recruitment ad. The airline is a profitable with good future prospects and recruiting heavily. So I think I can be a shoo-in if I get things right with a little preparation.

posted by forwebsites to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
am I crazy-mad for applying to this job?


Seriously, I think being really, really people-centered in your interview will be the key to success. As a passenger, I have encountered so many mediocre flight attendants, gate agents, and ground staff, and so few truly extraordinary ones. Be the extraordinary one, whatever that means to you. Talk about how your career change means you're strong enough to face new challenges and keep learning new things throughout your life. Talk about how you want to not just help people get where they're going, but to make their trip seem like a journey you're accompanying them on.

Additionally (forgive me if I'm being presumptuous here), if you travel between the US and India frequently, throw in a word or two about how you know what it's like from the Indian passenger's end, traveling with Grandma and Uncle and six nephews, all with special meal requests, via a long, boring stopover in Europe or Asia, and what it's like to be screamed at instead of talked to, or harassed because of your ethnicity or passport, or having all your luggage weighed and fees assessed while the non-Indians somehow don't have to pay. Talk about how since you've lived that life, you'll be better able to cater to customers who, perhaps, are new to long-haul international travel, and who might become life-long fans of whatever airline you'd be working for on the basis of you helping Grandma with her bag or making sure her wheelchair is waiting for her at the right time.

I'd also check out - it's a HUGE community of people into commercial aviation - as well as the forums on, which should help you with your more specific questions.

And then there's this, which is a preview of what your worst day on the job might look like. :)

Good luck - and congrats on following your dream to do something cool!
posted by mdonley at 4:52 AM on June 22, 2007

Get ready for questions like 'Tell me about a time you went the extra mile/above and beyond/to extraordinary lengths for a customer', 'Describe a time when you dealt with an angry customer and what you did to solve the problem', 'What do you do if a customer is angry but the problem is outside your control' etc. Focus on specifics and communication, and on how you can see things from the customer's point of view.
posted by StephenF at 5:12 AM on June 22, 2007

Wow, that salon article was exactly how I felt initially about it. However by now I've largely overcome that mental block. And thanks for those forum links.
posted by forwebsites at 5:14 AM on June 22, 2007

from what I've read, Southwest usually does case-study type interview questions.

They'll put you in a hypothetical ridiculous situation (not necessarily plane-based) and will ask you what to do. I think the key to those questions is to remember safety first, comfort second.

I also remember reading that they'll try to fluster you and badger you until you lose your temper- they want to see if you can keep your cool.
posted by unexpected at 6:31 AM on June 22, 2007

Oh, also also: since the crews of these airlines are usually pretty multinational, I'd play up how you've thrived living in a really diverse place like the US as an expat yourself!
posted by mdonley at 6:38 AM on June 22, 2007

Watch your attitude a bit regarding "overqualification" and "stepping down."

While being a flight attendant is no longer a particularly desirable/prestigious job in the U.S. and Europe, the situation is quite different in many parts of the Middle East and Asia.

In those places, women (men not so much) who are well-educated and very polished compete very hard to get the jobs, and the jobs are generally regarded as prestigious. Also, it's pretty common for applicants to be pursue them as a relatively short-term thing (as you are), rather than as a long-term career move.

Bottom line: recognize that your interviewers look upon the job they are giving out as a real plum, and will have zero interest in any candidate who doesn't appear to appreciate it as such.
posted by MattD at 8:58 AM on June 22, 2007

Mattd: Watch your attitude a bit regarding "overqualification" and "stepping down."

Point taken Matt, and while I appreciate your concern it is a fact that the requirement they've asked is high-school. So I do have to be prepared to explain my overqualification. Also here in India, you'll have to search real hard to come up with a handful of people who would've chucked it all and started from the bottom-up in a totally diff. field. So if the interviewer is an Indian s/he may v.well be having that seed of doubt in the back of their mind. My step-down comment was in terms of salary and position not "looking down" on the job.

So as you cautioned, I am not taking it lightly, nor am I looking down on it. Quite the contrary actually. I am using all resources at my disposal to get selected, including AskMefi :-)
posted by forwebsites at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2007

There are many kinds of emergencies for which cabin crew are the ones that must take care of it. Crew are expected to be able to keep a cool head and to know and rapidly follow procedure under stressful, even terrifying conditions. If, for example, a fire breaks out, if the cabin crew cannot contain it, everybody on board will die. So airlines have got to know that their crew are the kind of people that can be relied on to not freeze or panic, and who will carry out their training.

So I'd suggest thinking of any experience you have that you can use to demonstrate to them that you possess these qualities.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2007

Nthing that they're mainly looking for people who can remain personable and helpful no matter how irate the passengers get, and who can keep their wits about them no matter what type of emergency may occur.

A friend of mine was a flight attendant for Delta, and during her training, she was paged to come to the lobby (all the trainees were staying at the same hotel) and then given a message that her mother had passed away suddenly. Fifteen minutes later she was informed that mom was alive and well, and that the message had been part of a training exercise. She'd been discretely observed during that time to see if she'd break down and cry, or if she'd remain calm and explain the situation to her supervisors and then calmly make arrangements to get back home.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:32 AM on June 22, 2007

re: Oriole Adams comment above ...

Jesus !!! If a company did that to me I would walk away from the interview right then and there and make sure to tell them why. That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard.

And, as someone who has lost her mother, I find it incredibly offensive and tasteless.
posted by mccxxiii at 10:20 PM on June 24, 2007

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