Just back from the Vegas Career Seminar. Overall, I think Lyn said there were about 120 attendees, down from about 200 last year. Almost all of them were at least CFIs (there were less than 10 ATPs), but I didn’t get to see a tally for how many were <1000 hours and unemployed. Since I was reviewing resumes during the sessions, I missed all but about 3 of the talks. Between the resumes that I looked at and the talks that I did get to go to, here’s what I took away from the seminar:
Supply, not insurance, is driving hiring minimums
With the downturn in the economy, the supply of pilots has ballooned. For those of us with less than 1000 hours, that has meant CFI jobs just aren’t out there. But the situation isn’t any better for 1000 hour pilots. Last year, 1000 hours was your golden ticket. Now, GOM, Ditch, and Alaska operators can ask for 1200-1500 hours as their minimum, since there are plenty of pilots at this level of experience that are looking for work. In addition, corporate, logging, and fire/utility operations have scaled back. These pilots, which were sitting on >2000 hours of experience, are now competing for jobs that were usually open to 1000-hour pilots. The result: getting a job at 1000 hours is no longer a given, and it’s actually very competitive.
There are jobs, just not many (and none are being advertised)
Lyn said there were a few pilots that backed out of the seminar last-minute on account of getting hired someplace, although he didn’t say where and what level of experience. The HEMS operators were hiring, and based on some of the applicants that I talked to while reviewing resumes, I’m guessing several of those guys have interviews or offers. AirLog was there, but they aren’t hiring anytime soon. Papillion might be looking for pilots next season, and the guys that were in Vegas should have a leg up.
Generic objectives statements were the most common problem I saw. This is my opinion: for the guy applying for just a pilot position, an objectives statement isn’t going to help you much, and a generic one might hurt you. When employers are looking at resumes, they look first at certificates, then at experience, and then at safety record. My feeling (supported by discussions with some employers) is that an objective statement gets in the way.
The main thing about an objective statement is that it needs to be specific for the job, and the really effective ones I’ve seen (not in aviation) have used the applicant’s skills (eg, as a manager) to specify an objective in the job. For 95% of the resumes I saw, the objective for the job (pilot) is to be safe. Lyn, however, likes to see an objective statement along the lines of, “To obtain a tour pilot position at Papillion,” since this lets the employer know that you wrote that resume specifically for them.
Leaving out significant work experience
For low-time pilots, you’re expected to have a short work history section, but that doesn’t mean everybody should have just a few lines there. Several applicants had started businesses or had other significant work achievements, but only listed the dates, job titles, and the names of the companies where they work. My advice is to think hard about your job history and find titles or achievements that are going to set you apart from other applicants, even if they are relatively small. Something like that will get you farther than just given a laundry list of your last 5 jobs.
Don’t need them for a job fair. Recruiters are going to look closely at your certs and flight time, then skim the rest of the page. Mostly though, you want to be ready to speak to them about the bottom half of your resume (and that is what a cover letter is for when you can’t be standing in front of the recruiter). Also, the cover letters I did see were too generic to make a good impression. First of all, you should find a name to go at the top of the page–do some research and figure out the name of somebody who might be looking at the resume–chief pilot, recruiter, director of operations, doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t start off “To whom it may concern…” The rest of the cover letter should very specifically say why your experience makes you perfect for this job.
Typos, spelling mistakes, inconsistencies in the date format. Sometimes they get noticed, and if they are off, it suggests a lack of attention to detail. The other thing I saw was flight times not being aligned in a column. Try setting up tabs so that the ones are all right aligned and “hours” is left aligned. Think about how you’d want it lined up if you were going to try to add them up.
Those were the things that I remember most, but intermittently I’ll try and post other hints. If you haven’t already, you can provide feedback for me or ask questions by clicking on the Career tab. I’m also adding my hypoxia lesson plan…inspired by several days hiking in the Spring Mountains at 7000-11,000 feet. Hell of a change coming from sea level.