Excluding our first few jobs, most of us will only see one type of interview in our life. All of mine have been for office-type positions where I can expect to spend the day in a conference room, talking to everybody from mid-level, non-managers to senior-level VP’s and directors. Depending on the company, I’ve seen everything–sometimes on the same day–from business casual, jeans and T-shirts, suit and tie, and Hawaiian shirt, but the expectation for what I should be wearing is the same: suit, tie, and jacket.
Aviation is a bit different. Not only will your potential employers and colleagues dress vary depending on the company and season, but you may also be asked to demonstrate your flight proficiency. Last week on JustHelicopters, somebody asked what they should wear to an EMS interview. They got 2 types of answers–well, 3 if you count the typical smart-ass answer you get to any question posed on the Original Forum. Several pilots felt that pilots are basically treated like blue-collar employees, and therefore should arrive at an interview dressed as such. According to this opinion, ties would definitely be out. Maybe this viewpoint has a shred of merit, but not for the reason that pilots aren’t viewed as professionals. Part of the purpose of an interview is to determine your “fit” with the company, and a suit and tie doesn’t fit when your potential colleagues are in shorts and T-shirts. I’ve been to at least a couple of interviews where I was way overdressed, and it is uncomfortable. In those cases, especially when the interview included going off-site for lunch, I’ve at least left my jacket behind, and, depending on the circumstances, maybe I’ll roll up my sleeves.
The flip side of this, however, is what happens if you show up under-dressed. I’m of the mentality that suits are for weddings and interviews, and dockers/golf shirts are just ridiculous. But there have been a few events that I’ve gone to where jeans were too casual, and a suit was too much (these are also the parties where you can’t get liquored up enough to not care what anybody else thinks). So in the case of an interview, remember that you might be interviewing with people at all levels of the company, and many of them will at least be business casual.
Most importantly, you do want to portray yourself as a professional (and I think this applies to any job you apply for), and this was the opinion put forth by several hiring managers that responded to the question. Suit or slacks with a sport coat are expected, as is a tie.
Showing up in a suit/jacket and tie shows you think of yourself as a professional and expect others to do the same, not that you’re the “dork in the room”. It shows you’ve thought more than ten seconds about the interview…
Pilots are also professionals. Think of the typical first-turbine type job: half your job is customer service if you’re flying tours or in the GOM. Ditto for flight instructors. In every case, your customers want a safe, professional pilot at the controls. Your image is the first cue a customer is going to use to form this (and primacy goes a long way).
Likewise, by the time you’ve said “Hi, I’m here for an interview with…” you’ve already made an impression. What you’re wearing and your hygiene either is or is not consistent with the interviewer’s impression of a pilot. If you’re worried about getting grease on your $500 suit during the flight portion, realize that your interviewer will understand if you ask if you can change first–I have a friend who did this for an instructor job. This also shows you are thinking ahead and planning–good qualities for a pilot. I know the gulf does things a bit differently, so maybe your interview and flight aren’t on the same days (but I’m not sure about this). If you’re ever in doubt about what to wear, you can always ask your HR contact–that’s what they’re there for.
The last thing that I thought was important was the question of tattoos and piercings. Generally, you want tattoos covered up. For piercings, one HEMS pilot suggested removing them, since they can be an infection risk. Otherwise, earrings are probably fine. Eyebrow, nose, and lip, although they’re becoming more acceptable generally, might not be appropriate.