So You Want to be a Flight Attendant?

Flight Attendant 44

So you want to be a flight attendant? Or maybe you’ve just been thinking about the idea and want to know a little more about the job to see if it’s something that’s right for you. Either way, I’ve put together some tips/insight to help you learn a little bit more and hopefully help you nail the hiring process!

Here’s some main points you need to know before applying:

1. The hiring process is EXTREMELY difficult and competitive. What most people don’t know is that statistically,  you have a better chance of getting into Harvard than to be successfully hired as a flight attendant. When you are competing against 22,000 applicants for only 300 positions, things can get very competitive. Don’t let this discourage you though, instead consider it valuable information. It’s to your advantage that you know it’s not a cakewalk and that you WILL have to do things to make you stand out at the interview. For example, bring something to write with and take notes during the interview (they notice that stuff). All this being said, DON’T give up! It may take one, two, three, or twelve tries to finally get the hang of the interview and snag the job. I had to go through two interviews before I was hired. The process can be long and intimidating. It’s easy to give up or not want to go back after your first interview. I almost didn’t, but I’m glad I did because if I didn’t decide to try again the second time, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I met people at that interview who were trying for their 7th time! So whatever you do, don’t give up :)

2. You DON’T need “flight attendant school” prior to being hired! If you get hired by an airline, they provide their own specific training geared towards the policies of the company. You can’t become a flight attendant without graduating through their program. So don’t buy into the general online flight attendant schools/classes because these are just people looking to rip you off and steal your money. What airlines DO typically look for prior to hiring is a strong customer service, medical, or safety background.

3. Seniority is everything. Starting out you will definitely not be the “top dog”. Everything both scheduling and pay-wise in the airline industry are typically determined by seniority. Starting out, you will probably have to work holidays and weekends. You will also be on reserve. Being on reserve means you are basically a “fill-in” for people who have regular trips. You work by being “on-call” and fly trips when a crew member calls in sick, a crew times out, flights get canceled, weather delays, etc. So you are pretty much at the mercy of scheduling and have to go when called. Hopefully after a couple of years you will gain enough seniority to hold a line (trips scheduled in advance) and get some holidays off :)

4. The main purpose of our job is SAFETY. Most people think that our job is just being friendly, serving drinks, and providing good customer service. Which we DO do… or most of us anyway ;). What people don’t know is that we are actually first responders and are there to save lives. In our training, we are taught how to successfully evacuate a plane full of people in a matter of minutes, put out fires, perform CPR, command a life raft, and how to respond in a variety of other emergency and medical situations. Believe it or not that stuff does happen and we are there for more than flashing a smile and pouring you a coke. Bonus points if you talk about safety in your interview!

5. You will have to work out of a “base.” Each airline has “bases.” In other words, a city that they operate out of. Each airline usually has multiple bases. If you are a reserve, you will most likely want to live in that base or have a crash pad because it’s impossible to be on call from another city. If you hold a line, then you can commute in from other cities and work your scheduled trips. So living in a different city than where you work can definitely be done in this job. Just know that sometimes it will be hard or make your working days a lot longer.

6. Yes, we fly for free… but we fly “standby.” Flying standby means that you don’t have a guaranteed seat and that you basically are on a list for the seats leftover that the airline didn’t sell to paying customers. It’s never been a problem for me because if the flight is full, flight attendants can take the extra jumpseat. The only time where it can be a little bit sticky is if you have more than a couple flight attendants wanting the same jumpseat. Most of the time, planes will have two or three extra jumpseats so you’re in the clear but if you were to be competing with someone for it, the seat usually goes to the more senior flight attendant, depending on your airline’s policy.

7. It’s not so much about how you look anymore. Yes, you still need to be groomed and presentable but there is less emphasis on weight and looks than back in the day. When I started out applying for this job, someone I knew very well tried to convince me not to apply because she had heard horror stories about flight attendants having to weigh in and routine beauty checks. For anyone wondering, this is so NOT true. Flight attendants DID have to weigh in back in the day. Heck, you basically had to be a supermodel but now it is more about your qualifications and personality. You do however, need to be a certain height to reach the overhead bin and be able to strap yourself into a jumpseat.

8. It’s not always glamorous. Despite what you may see on my instagram (@fly_with_jenna),  being a flight attendant doesn’t always mean swimming with turtles in Hawaii or sitting at the top of waterfalls. On most of my adventures, I’m taking advantage of the free flights and exploring on my off days. The reality of this job can sometimes mean working 3 flights, dealing with rude customers, and then sleeping for only 6-7 hours in a hotel room in some random city just to wake up and do it again the next day. Overall, I would say that working as a flight attendant is one of the best jobs in the entire world, you just need to know that there will be some hard days and have the right personality. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like doing things on your off time, or get worn out very easily then this job probably isn’t for you. But, if you love being on the go, seeing new places, and the thought of being trapped a cubicle terrifies you, then you are probably reading the right post.

Even though you deal with rude people sometimes, I’ve found that there are WAY more passengers out there who will make your day rather than ruin it. And those passengers tend to be the only ones that you remember anyway :) And even though you may be working a 12-13 hour day, the work is EASY. When I lay down at night, I’m not checking my e-mail or worrying about a deadline or meeting. As soon as I step off of the plane, I get to leave work behind me. And even though there are times when I get off a work trip and am running on very little sleep, it’s worth it because the next day I can wake up and go to any city I want. Flight attending is like any job in the way that there are both pros and cons. Just know that it isn’t glamorous 24/7 but that in the end, the good outweighs the bad.

The Interview (and how to nail it)

Before you do anything, be sure to join the group “Flight Attendant Career Connection” on Facebook. It is a community of flight attendants and aspiring flight attendants that is full of questions, tips, insider hiring information, etc. The purpose of this group is to help people become flight attendants. Flight attendants will also post when their airline is hiring. My friend found out that Southwest was hiring through this page since it wasn’t advertised anywhere. With some help from flight attendants on the page, she ended up getting hired! This is an EXTREMELY helpful and valuable resource for those of you who are seriously looking to find a job as a flight attendant so take advantage of it!

My list of suggestions is pretty general to almost all airlines. If you want to find out more about the hiring process of a specific airline, there are many helpful forums online with people who have actually been to the interview so search one for your airline and be sure to go through ALL of the comments. It can be overwhelming but I found that was one of the biggest things that helped me prepare for my interview. Indeed and Glassdoor are both great websites that I used.

1. Start off by applying online. Almost all airlines start with an initial online applicaiton and will contact you from there.

The best way to see who is hiring is by going to this website here. They have a list of all the airlines who are hiring and the links to each company’s airline application.

2. Once you have applied, the next step is usually a phone or video interview (it depends on the airline.) For my airline, I had an automated video interview. The questions would pop up on the screen and you had a certain amount of time to answer each question. Each answer was timed and recorded, which was kind of awkward so just be ready for that.

Tips for the video interview:

1. This kind of goes without saying but wear something professional. You want to look fresh and presentable. There’s a reason it’s a VIDEO interview. Ladies, you will want to wear your hair pulled back and neat. Men, I would recommend being clean shaven!

These next couple tips are for the video interview but are also applicable if you have a phone interview instead of a video:

2. Review a list of possible questions. The questions are going to be pretty general for the interview. Look up interview question lists. For example “Tell me about a time when ____.” are pretty popular questions for airlines. Brainstorm a couple of scenarios that could act as answers for different types of questions. For example “One time I was interning at a wedding planning company and while I was working a wedding, the caterers forgot their serving tongs. So, I quickly ran to the closest store and got some rather than waiting for them to go back and get them.” This is a versatile answer that could be applicable to many questions like “Tell me about a time when you had to be quick on your feet.” “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a customer.” “Tell me about a time when you took initiative in a situation.” etc. Having a list of flexible stories on hand is one of the tricks that got me the job. Especially because the airlines like to ask you about situations and have you tell them stories rather than general questions where you just give them your opinion.

3. ALWAYS use the S.T.A.R. method. Never go right into answering a question. Take a couple seconds to gather your thoughts so you speak clearly and confidently. Most interviewers specifically look for the S.T.A.R. method so be sure to try and follow it when answering most of your questions.

S. – Situation What was happening? Give the interviewer a little background into the situation to which you are describing.

T. – Task  What was the problem that you had to fix?

A. – Action Explain what you did to solve the problem.

R. – Results What was the outcome? How did you help better a situation and what did you learn?

3. Remember your answers. If you pass the initial video or phone interview, the next step is the “cattle call” interview and if you make it to the one-on-one interview round they will most likely ask you similar if not some of the same questions from the phone or video interview and you will want to be consistent!

The Cattle Call Interview

Most airlines have what they call a “cattle call” interview. It consists of a large group (usually around 100 people) and from this large group they only pick a few people to be hired (8 people were picked from my group of 100). The interview is what you advance to if you pass the phone or video interview. Some companies will skip the phone or video part and start from a straight cattle call. The interview usually has several rounds and can last from 4-6 hours depending on how far you get in the process.

There’s usually an introduction where someone talks about the airline and gives you details about the job. Next comes a self-introduction round where they will make you say something in front of everyone (your name, where your from, what you makes a good flight attendant, etc.) In both of my interviews that I attended, the self introduction parts were timed at one minute so be sure that you be conscious of that. It was awkward when people went over time and those that did didn’t make it to the next round.

The next phase is usually a group evaluation where they split you into groups and give you a task. You will usually have someone watching your group. Make sure you remember that this is a GROUP evaluation. In other words, they are seeing how you interact with others and behave in a group setting. Some airlines will try to distract you with a task that seems related to the job or a competition (this can cause people to get bossy or competitive), but remember they are really watching to see how you get along with others. Don’t be controlling and be a good listener, but at the same time take some sort of initiative and offer up some good ideas to the group. You don’t want to be super bossy but at the same time you don’t want to just sit there quietly either.

The last round is usually a one-on-one interview. This should be the easy part since you have kind of already prepared with the video interview. Just remember S.T.A.R. and have some versatile scenarios on hand!

Tips for Acing the Cattle Call

1. Ask questions! Usually after they are done with the presentation describing the job they will open the floor up to questions. A good way to stand out from the other 100 people there is to ask a question. But it has to be a good question. Definitely don’t ask about something which you could have easily researched before hand or something they said in the presentation. And for heaven sakes, DON’T ask what the pay is! In both of my interviews  someone asked that question which they had JUST said in the slide presentation. I had never wanted to face palm so bad. An example of a good question would be “Do you guys offer any volunteer opportunities?” or “What special interest groups does the airline offer?”

When I was in the interview for the airline I am working with now, they gave us a 15 minute break and said that the panel of interviewers were there to take any questions we had. So even though I had to pee really bad, I went over and started talking to one of the interviewers instead. To this day I have NO idea what I said but I know that I made a fool out of myself. I just remember being so nervous and babbling. I left thinking that I had just blown it. To my surprise, they called me in for the final round after that! My point here is that I think that they really appreciate when you make an effort to talk to the interviewers and ask questions. It shows that you are interested, using your resources, and not intimidated (even though I TOTALLY was.)

2. Someone is ALWAYS watching you. Yes it’s true. This is actually just like a George Orwell novel. You are constantly being watched. So talk to people. Are they observing you just sitting in a seat by yourself? Or are you out there making friends. Go talk to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Everyone has a story and usually at these interviews, the stories are pretty interesting.

3. Take Notes. It’s the little things that set you apart from the other hundred people there. I promise you, if you bring your notepad and are writing during the presentation, they will notice. I remember it feeling kind of weird because only a couple people were doing it, but trust me that’s something they look for. It shows that you are organized and taking the interview seriously.

4. Wear a watch. This may seem like a silly detail but a working wristwatch is one of the required items by the FAA when reporting for duty as a flight attendant. No working wristwatch,  and you can be fined. The watch tells them that you are dependable and have good time management skills.

5. Keep the outfit simple. You don’t want to wear anything TBT (trendy, bright, or tight.). If your outfit is any one of those three things then you need to wear something else. I wore a simple black two piece suit with a skirt down to my knees, simple make-up, hair pulled back, and black two-inch heels. You want to stand out to the interviewers in your mannerisms and behaviors – not your clothing.

6. Don’t let your nerves take over! Smile! With so much to remember and so many eyes watching you, this process can be SUPER stressful. Don’t forget to take a deep breath and relax! Be yourself! Nobody wants a fake, stone-faced flight attendant. Let your personality come out and be friendly. It’s only 4-6 hours of your life at the most so try to just enjoy it.

7. DON’T GIVE UP! I know I said it earlier, but it may take a couple of tries to actually get the job so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time. It didn’t for me! If this is a job that you really want, all the tries will end up being worth it because this really is one of the best jobs out there :)