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Pt 1: Overview SWA App/Interview Process

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Well-known member
Nov 27, 2001
For first time viewers or even old heads. Ran across this & thought it was pretty spot on. cheers.

Went to the new hire party last night. Spouses & new hires. An incredible level of enthusiasm. Lots of smiling faces. As a tip, all new hires KNOW the closing stock price of SWA on the day of your party...things will be go very smooth if you do!!

For those wishing to join, hang in there, keep plugging along. Your time will come & you'll join the smiling faces. Wish I could do more to help but keep plugging away!

Fun at a job interview?
That's the goal at Southwest Airlines
The corporate culture at Southwest Airlines is legendary: Casual, fun, a little wacky.

It’s even been the subject of a book: Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg. The book is given to all new Southwest employees on their first day of work.

But how do you get to that first day of work? For pilots, the interviewing process at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is, in one word, relaxed.

“We want people to enjoy themselves – well, as much as they can during a job interview,” says Heather Tolmachoff, flight operations recruiting team leader. “There is no testing, no simulator evaluation, no psychological tests.”

“Southwest is by far the best pilot interview out there,” says one successful candidate. “No tests, no sim, no stupid questions.”

The objective of the interview is to find the candidates with the right personality fit. And the best way to do that? Sit down and talk.

“We want applicants to be themselves, act naturally and just tell us your story," says Amy Webb, a Southwest pilot recruiter. "One of our pilots calls it bar talk without the beer."

But how do you get to that interview? First stop for most successful candidates is the Southwest website, www.southwest.com. Southwest recruiters also regularly attend the Aviation Employee Placement Service Career AirFairs, as well as search the AEPS database for qualified candidates.

Whether your first contact is at an AirFair or on the Internet, all pilots must submit a Supplemental Pilot Information form, which can be downloaded from the Internet. Applicants can also send a self-addressed envelope with a 34-cent stamp already affixed to it and a form will be mailed to you.

Once Southwest’s People department has the supplemental form in hand, officials will scan your work history, flight history, Federal Aviation Administration information, and letters of recommendation. Minimum times include 2500 total time OR 1500 turbine, 1000 PIC, an ATP, a First Class medical and three letters of recommendation. If you meet the minimums, you’ll get an interview.

And that’s why it takes so long to get an interview at Southwest Airlines – everyone who meets the minimums is guaranteed an interview. Between 175 and 200 pilots are interviewed each month. This year, Southwest plans to hire 545 pilots, according to Tolmachoff.

So expect it to take months to get an interview scheduled at the carrier. If you have a Boeing 737 type rating, you’re going to get a priority date for an interview in two to three months. Without a type rating, it could take four to six months. Some applicants have waited a year for an interview.

The carrier recently dropped its requirement for a type rating for the interview. Successful candidates must obtain the type rating within six months of a job offer. Once they get the type rating – at their own expense – they are then placed in a class.

While waiting to hear about an interview date it is not necessary to update flight times at Southwest. However, if you move or change your telephone number, it is imperative to let them know.

All pilot interviews are held in Dallas. Candidates are sent a confirmed-space ticket on Southwest to get to headquarters.“Please remember that your interview starts with the ticket agent at the Southwest counter at the airport and ends when you say goodbye to the flight attendant as you get off the airplane to go home,” says one successful Southwest candidate.

Interviews are held at 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. A tour of Southwest is conducted at 11:30 a.m. for candidates in both groups. It is strongly recommended that you go on the tour.

“It gives you a chance to ask questions and their training facility is quite impressive,” says one successful candidate. “I also figured it would look good and would allow me to meet some of the other applicants.”

A chief pilot conducts the tour, which gives applicants a behind-the-scenes look at operations, dispatch and the training facility. “Everybody really enjoys the tours and it’s nice to meet a chief pilot,” Tolmachoff says. “It gives them a chance to talk to people and share stories.”

If you are in the 8 a.m. group, you will be finished for the day after the tour. If you are interviewing at 1 p.m., the fun is just beginning. All pilot applicants have three separate interviews, each lasting about an hour. The first is usually with a recruiter or someone from the People department, while the other two are with Southwest line pilots, according to Tolmachoff.

However, many pilots noted that they were interviewed by three pilots, as a person from the People Department was unavailable on their interview day. And that leads them to offer this advice: Do not assume anything about anyone at Southwest. More than one pilot has seen his chances derailed by assuming that the woman behind the desk in the business suit was a recruiter.

“This reminds me of an urban legend that floated around for a while: A male pilot finishes up his interview with a woman at Southwest,” says one Southwest pilot. “When she asks him if he has any questions for her, he asks, ‘How long have you been working here in the People Department?, to which she replies, ‘I can’t really answer that question since I’m a captain in the 737-700 and a check airman.’”

The pilots conducting the interviews won’t be in uniform. They will be dressed in business suits or jackets and ties. So what should you wear?

Even though Southwest has a casual, fun image, the interview requires a professional image. They expect you to wear a suit and a tie.

“That’s what everybody wears,” Tolmachoff says. “If you don’t, you will feel out of place.”

If you want to stand out, or show your individuality, feel free to choose a different colored shirt or a colorful tie.

“All of us had on the standard dark interview suit, but about half were wearing fun ties with pictures of Frosty the snowman, Rudolph, etc.,” said one Southwest pilot, recalling his interview. “I chickened out and wore the standard tie, but I think that Southwest gets a kick out of things like this.”

“Applicants should not be misled into thinking that the company is so relaxed and fun that they should try and do something to single themselves out,” warns another successful candidate. “This is not the case at all. They expect you to show up and be professional. Small touches are OK and well received. I wore the standard dark blue suit, with a Southwest tie that I borrowed from a friend. It was just a minor touch, but I believe it helped without going overboard.”

Tolmachoff adds this other warning note: “If it is typical for you to wear a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, then wear that. Wear what makes you most comfortable.”

All the interviewers will strive to make you comfortable, applicants say. They’ll offer you coffee or water, and ask you if you want to take your jacket off. “If they ask you if you’d like to remove your jacket, do it,” says one pilot. “There’s no mind games involved. You’ll be much more comfortable anyway.”

“The interview is very straight forward,” another pilot remembers. “The interviewers don’t play any tricks or head games. Actually the ‘hardest’ part about it is that everyone is trying so hard to be nice to you, and help you out, that you walk away not really knowing how well you did. Whether you get hired or not, it's actually a fun process.”

But you also must always remember that this is a job interview. “Relax, but don’t relax to the point where you criticize another individual or organization,” advises one pilot. “These guys may come across as your new best buddy, but please remember that you are being interviewed.”

As you settle into your chair, the questions begin. There won’t be any technical questions. Most will start with “tell me about a time when…”

Pt 2 - Overview cont.

The rationale behind the questions is based on the belief that past behavior determines future performance.

“We ask situational questions about things they’ve done in the past,” Tolmachoff says. “We ask them to be specific, but we don’t want a dissertation.”

Successful applicants suggest answering the questions in three parts:
1. Situation: Describe the situation as succinctly as possible.
2. Actions: How you dealt with the situation
3. Results: What happened in the end

“Many people get bogged down in describing the situation, but the real emphasis needs to be on actions and results,” says one successful candidate. “The answer does not need to be a situation that is aviation related. It’s a matter of using the best story to answer the question. Roughly 50 percent of my answers were using stories that were aviation related. Everyone has experiences outside aviation and they know and appreciate that.”

He offers this additional advice: “If you see the interviewer not writing, that means you are not answering the question. This is important because many people get off track while answering questions and it's important for them to regain focus on the original question and make sure they are addressing it. The good news is that most of the Southwest interviewers will help you get back on track if you aren't giving them anything to write down.”

Remember to devote about 80 percent of your answer to the actions you took and the results. “They want to hear about how you solve problems and how you work with others to overcome them,” one pilot says. “Always include the lessons you learned, any steps you’ve taken to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes and how you shared the information from your experiences with others.”

Take some time before the interview to reflect on your career. Tolmachoff advises pilots to review their logbooks before the interview.

“I tell them to think of the scenarios that made them successful aviators,” she says. “What makes you successful as a captain? What type of decisions have you made? What kind of integrity do you hold with the crew?”

Following the interview, you can expect to wait a while to hear how you did. It may take four weeks to get your information before the selection board, which meets only one day a month. On that day, it will review information on up to 200 applicants. Included in that board are the vice president of flight operations, the vice president of the People Department, all the chief pilots, the director of training and the director of standardization.

“They will review all the pieces of the puzzle,” Tolmachoff says.

Those who are successful will be notified in about two weeks. A 10-year background check, as well as a drug test, must be passed. No physical is required. The applicant’s First Class Medical certificate must be current at the point of application and the first day of class.

Savvy applicants can get an earlier hint to tell whether they were successful or not. “If within the first two weeks of your interview, you find them doing background checks, then you probably passed the interview and are meeting the board,” says one successful applicant. “No background check is a bad sign.”

But that’s not always the case. One applicant, who got a rejection letter about four weeks after his interview, says they did check his background, as well as contact his references. “I thought I was going to be hired due to the extent of trouble they went through to check on me,” he says. “The rejection letter stated the ‘competition was fierce.’”

The pilot, who can apply again two years from the point of his original application, also noted that he thought applicants could come across as too prepared for the interview.

“I got the feeling they frown on those who over-prepare with interview prep courses and canned answers,” he says. “Many of the interviewers can see right through that tactic – that’s what an assistant chief pilot told us anyway.”

Tolmachoff agrees. “We want people to be themselves,” she says. “We want individuals here at Southwest.”

“Be friendly and let them get to know you,” a Southwest pilot advises. “That is the goal: They want to get to know you. They are trying to figure out if you are the kind of person they want to work with on a day-to-day basis.”

“Be yourself, be positive and be friendly,” adds another successful applicant. “Contrary to what you may hear, you do not have to walk in and be a comedian if that is not your personality. They want to know you will work well with others.”

By Janice Wood
Outstanding post! Especially for those of us awaiting the interview. Thanks for the insight and added info. I can't wait for my shot at the interview - my "sources" tell me I can expect to be in the next group!!:cool:
Great post Chase!

Hi Chase
Excellant post, for those of you getting ready for your interview I would strongly print out what Chase just wrote, because that is exactly how to prepare for the interview and how smoothly the interview process goes.

I like many others read and re-read "Nuts" gave some great insight on how the company came to be and how they continue to be so successful. It helped me get into a mindset of Yes that is the company for me, so how do I tell SWA that i'm the right pilot for them.

I do advise any future applicants to go through your logbooks and come up with your OWN stories. Don't use someone elses they will see right through you, BE YOURSELF. Oh, and they really do care about you when you walk in the front door, I felt at ease from the time the interview started until the final hand shake.

Good luck again to those starting the process and good luck for those waiting for the phone calls, be patient if you don't hear from them or see a letter in the mailbox within a week call them they won't bite your head off. Good Luck!!!!

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