The complete guide to passing your airline interview and simulator assessment, this FREE article will help enable you to get the best results possible for your airline interview or simulator preparation, covering everything from your application all the way through to your simulator check. This article has been written by the team at AviationInsider who consist of pilots, instructors and recruitment specialists working for major European national, business, leisure and low cost carriers
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Once your CV has been accepted and/or an application form has been submitted, the next most likely step is an invite to an assessment centre. Being invited to an assessment centre can be a scary prospect. There are many urban myths about the types of exercises you might face and how the assessors reach their decisions. In the following pages we will try to dispel these myths and explain what the assessors are actually looking for. This article aims to teach you the methods and core skills for tackling any exercise or question that comes your way. Practice makes perfect.

Assessments are often conducted in house at the company’s offices but may also take place online. Assessments often consist of a series of structured, timed exercises which are designed to simulate the kind of activities you would undertake in the job itself and test the core skills required to do it, these could include:

Presentations (Individual or Group)
Role Plays
Group discussions and tasks
Written case studies
Psychometric tests of aptitude and/or personality
Competency-based interviews
Social and networking events

The aim of the assessment center is to be as objective and as scientific as possible in evaluating candidates’ potential.
Several people will assess you over the course of the day, in order to reduce bias, this is perfectly normal and is nothing to worry about.
The assessors will be trained to document everything you say and do in order to evaluate you against a pre-set framework of competencies. A competency is essentially a behavioral trait or tendency enabling you do do something effectively or efficiently.
You are usually scored numerically against each of the competencies. Each competency is assessed across a number of exercises, your scores are then added up for each competency and are reviewed by the panel. Once all the data has been analyzed it is used to help assessors make a decision on your progress in the recruitment process.

Keep It Simple
When asked to deliver a presentation or participate in a group exercise, the assessors are evaluating your general approach, communication and organization skills. They are more interested in the process than the subject matter. So don’t get drawn into too much detail or agonize about the right answer to a problem. Stick to delivering a few key points well.

Listen and Co-operate
Being open to the views of others, demonstrating listening skills through your body language, seeking to build consensus and helping the group focus on the task in hand are more effective ways of showing leadership than coming up with lots of ideas or issuing instructions to others. Avoid the temptation to argue with, criticise or interrupt others at all costs Standing up for your views in a diplomatic way is your aim.

Participate enthusiastically
Employers often comment that successful candidates are those who are ready to have a go at any exercise, who show genuine interest in fellow candidates and who participate actively in discussions. Try to enjoy the assessment centre as an experience in itself, which will enhance your self-knowledge, regardless of the outcome. Your enthusiasm will shine through.

Be Yourself
Let your natural personality show. Don’t try to second-guess the sort of person you think the employer wants. It’s impossible to keep this up over an extended period and your behavior will appear unconvincing, simply being yourself is key.

Don’t presume the assessors are out to trap you
You wouldn’t have been invited to assessment if there was no intention of employing you. The assessors want you to get through so don’t let your mind cheat you out of your dream job. Assessment centres are expensive to run, just ask us and we will tell you how much time, effort and money goes into running one.

Find an opportunity to practice 
With assessment centres, like with most worthwhile activities, practice helps. If you can find the opportunity to run through exercises with a trusted friend you are likely to be more relaxed and well prepared when it comes to the day itself.

Think about the competencies you must display as a pilot, read up on those competencies and try to display them in every situation you can so that you are prepared psychologically for the assessment process. We will talk about the psychology behind mentally preparing yourself for your assessment in a later chapter.

Interview Preparation

Preparation is very important and will often define the outcome of your assessment day. You can practice any element of an assessment, the more exposure you have to any given section of the process, the more likely you are to pass. We first need to understand what we are going to face in an airline interview. By understanding the structure of the day, doing our research and preparing thoroughly we can get the results we desire.

Why do we need to prepare?

Airlines want to see motivated people on their assessment days. Aviation is an extremely costly and high-risk business; therefore Airlines want to lower their exposure to both of these factors. The more hoops they make you jump through the lower the risk they face during the training process.


What can we expect to get on an assessment day? The diagram below illustrates the structure of a typical airline assessment.

We will now go through each section in detail


Your CV is the first opportunity to make the right impression on your future employer. A strong Curriculum Vitae (CV) is the key to getting an interview with a certain aviation company. A Curriculum Vitae is the summary of your experience and qualifications and should only be one page long. It is imperative that the most relevant information a recruiter is looking for is retrievable within the blink of an eye.
Although many airlines don’t require CV’s on an application it is imperative you have one when you go for an assessment.

The structure is very important and to help you with this AirlinePrep are industry leaders


Why are they important?

Your whole assessment is based on the principles of Notechs. They are the industry accepted competencies you must display as a pilot. If you have a good understanding of what these competencies are then you will have a very good chance of passing your assessment.

Notech skills can be split into 4 competencies.

Situation Awareness, Decision Making, Workload Management and Co-operation.

These competencies can be further split into component skills which are listed below. Take time to look at all of these elements and make sure you cover them when preparing for your interview.

Situation Awareness

Decision Making

Workload Management



The principle is misunderstood by so many, but when explained it appears so simple. The principle is that if one competency is degraded then all the other competencies must compensate. If one of these competencies is poor then it weakens the whole system.

In the diagrams below you can see two graphs depicting a pilot’s competencies. In the second graph one of the competencies has been reduced. This means that all of the other competencies must increase to keep the overall system safe. If there is no capacity available, then it means that we have a sub-optimal situation and the crew will need to acquire resources from external sources.

In the real world cooperation between the two pilots may break down. This means that the crew have to work significantly harder making decisions and dealing with workload. Situation Awareness will also need to increase to help the pilots regain a safe level of operation.

Notechs work hand in hand with threat and error management which we shall cover on the next page.


Threat and error management (TEM) is an overarching safety management approach that assumes that pilots will naturally make mistakes and encounter risky situations during flight operations. Rather than try to avoid these threats and errors, its primary focus is on teaching pilots to manage these issues so they do not impair safety.

Its goal is to maintain safety margins by training pilots and flight crews to detect and respond to events that are likely to cause damage (threats) as well as mistakes that are most likely to be made (errors) during flight operations. TEM allows crews to measure the complexities of a specific organization’s context, meaning that the threats and errors encountered by pilots will vary depending upon the type of flight operation, and record human performance in that context. TEM also considers technical issues (such as mechanical problems) and environmental issues and incorporates strategies from Crew Resource Management to teach pilots to manage threats and errors.

ICAO definition.

Most airlines have introduced TEM into their training programs. Safety management systems have detected a significant reduction in safety events when this approach has been implemented.



  • Personality profiles, styles of communication, CRM is considered conceptual.
  • Joint Pilot & Cabin Crew Training


  • Action-oriented, presents specific skills which can be taught and measured, “Things you can do”
  • TEM is practical.
  • Pilot – Specific – Focused on the Flight Deck

The following is a diagram illustrating how TEM works. The principle is based on identifying threats and errors before they happen so that they can be actively avoided.

If you want more information on threat and error management there is a free online PDF that Jet Blue wrote on the subject. It is a great explanation of TEM and will help you understand all the fundamentals. Please click below and it will open the pdf in a new tab.

Jet Blue pdf


So how do we take everything that we have learnt and incorporate it into our assessment?

Prepare your answers in advance and allow the competencies to guide both your answers and your behavior. Remember in an interview, expressing issues with a competency can often help you significantly, as long as you identify what you did wrong and what you learnt from the process.


Depending on the Airline and their selection procedures, the format of the group exercise may vary considerably. The three most common group exercise formats are:

1. Practical tasks: The most common form of group exercise, the group will be given a task, usually a problem-solving task and will be required to find the solution. These tasks may or may not be workplace relevant, for example, candidates may be asked to build a tower out of straw. The function of these exercises will be to test the teams’ coordination and team working ability, more so than individual knowledge or individual contribution.

2. Discussion: You may be asked to perform a leaderless group discussion, in which candidates will be presented with a workplace relevant scenario or problem. The group then must address this issue and find a logical conclusion, for example identifying a problem with an organization/department and agreeing on steps to resolve this issue.

3. Role-play exercise: Candidates may be asked to undergo a group role-play exercise. In this exercise, candidates will be provided with a particular role, background information on the situation and full briefing. An example of a group role-play exercise is a mock meeting, in which each candidate assumes a specific role, and must fulfill their respective objectives and the group objective.

They can be further split up into:

Free format
There are no roles allocated. You can create a role within the group but be careful if you decide to.
Semi Structured
There are roles available and you have to decide as a group who fits into each role.
You have a defined role to play within the exercise that has been chosen for you by the assessors.

General group exercise advice

These recommendations can help you succeed during your group exercise, and ensure that you impress recruiters and stand out from the crowd.

1. Stay as calm as possible: Composure, ability to work under pressure and confidence are highly prized competencies, which recruiters look for. Performance anxiety can be a mixed blessing as too much of it can hinder performance, but a moderate amount may sharpen focus and keep you on track. Just remember that the other candidates will be just as nervous as you are, and recruiters are fully aware of how nerve-racking assessment centers can be. So remember that no one is expecting you to be totally laid back (recruiters would not think you are taking it seriously if you were) but do your best to keep your composure and focus during the exercise.

2. Be yourself, but on a good day: You should always try to be yourself during these exercises, but at the same time try and highlight your strengths and your key competencies, while actively holding back some more negative instincts which may arise. For example if you are a natural leader, then let your ability shine, however, if your leadership style is aggressive or overly pressured, try to ignore these instincts and be more diplomatic and democratic.

3. Research the role before the assessment center: It may seem like common sense, but arming yourself with the knowledge of the role, the industry, and the organization can give you a clear vision of what they will be expecting in the group exercise.
4. Not too much, not too little: Recruiters want to notice you in the group exercise, they want to see you express your competencies and abilities as best you can, however they do not want narcissists that love the sound of their own voice. An important part of teamwork is contributing, and helping others contribute, after all, it is a GROUP exercise!

How to behave in a group exercise

Knowing how to act can be difficult in group exercises, and being observed can make things even more challenging. Here are some behavioral and interpersonal tips on how to present yourself in a group exercise:

1. Introduce yourself: It is very important to introduce yourself to the rest of the team, this can help break the ice and show recruiters you are taking steps to build rapport with your team.

2. Get the team to introduce themselves: Another important step in ensuring that everyone feels comfortable around each other, and this will show recruiters that you are taking the initiative and organizing the group.

3. Call everyone by their name: once you know your fellow candidates’ names, use them in conversation. This will help put everyone (including yourself) at ease, and show recruiters that you can build rapport, treat everyone as individuals and can make strong first impressions. Most assessors will give their candidates name badges.

4. Never give negative feedback to other candidates: If a candidate generates an idea, which you do not agree with, do not criticize them, even after the exercise has finished. Not only will this put the team on edge and make them feel less comfortable around you, but you will seem less diplomatic and less patient, putting off recruiters.

5. Collaborators not competitors: Do not think of your peers as your competitors for the position you want. Similarly do not try and show off, or out-compete your peers, it’s a group exercise and facilitating teamwork will impress recruiters. Aggressive individualism, over competitiveness and not supporting team members is a serious put off for recruiters and will be noted as poor performance.

Group Exercise examples

Discuss with your group what items you should take with you. Once you have consensus, elect a spokesman and present your decision.

You are a consultant working for Orion Airlines. They have problems with employee engagement. Decide in your group who should represent each department. Read your brief, look at the information and present your findings to the group. Once you have consensus, elect a spokesman and present 5 key messages/themes/actions to the Senior Management Team.
Orion Airlines


Roles are very important in group exercises, without one we cannot assess you because you are not part of the team. The roles that people adopt when in group exercises are listed below:

Energises groups when motivation is low through humor or through being enthusiastic. They are positive individuals who support and praise other group members. They don’t like sitting around. They like to move things along by suggesting ideas, by clarifying the ideas of others and by confronting problems. They may use humor to break tensions in the group.

They may say:
“We CAN do this!”
“That’s a great idea!”

Tries to maintain harmony among the team members. They are sociable, interested in others and will introduce people, draw them out and make them feel comfortable. They may be willing to change their own views to get a group decision. They work well with different people and can be depended on to promote a positive atmosphere, helping the team to gel. They pull people and tasks together thereby developing rapport. They are tolerant individuals and good listeners who will listen carefully to the views of other group members. They are good judges of people, diplomatic and sensitive to the feelings of others and not seen as a threat. They are able to recognize and resolve differences of opinion and the development of conflict, they enable “difficult” team-members to contribute positively.
They may say:
“We haven’t heard from Mike yet: I’d like to hear what you think about this.”
“I’m not sure I agree. What are your reasons for saying that?”

Good leaders direct the sequence of steps the group takes and keep the group “on-track”. They are good at controlling people and events and coordinating resources. They have the energy, determination, and initiative to overcome obstacles and bring the competitive drive to the team. They give shape to the team effort. They recognize the skills of each individual and how they can be used. Leaders are outgoing individuals who have to be careful not to be domineering. They can sometimes steamroller the team but get results quickly. They may become impatient with complacency and lack of progress and may sometimes overreact. Also, see our leadership styles test.
They may say
“Let’s come back to this later if we have time.”
“We need to move on to the next step.”
“Sue, what do you think about this idea?”

Calm, reflective individuals who summarise the group’s discussion and conclusions. They clarify group objectives and elaborate on the ideas of others. They may go into detail about how the group’s plans would work and tie up loose ends. They are good mediators and seek consensus.

They may say:
“So here’s what we’ve decided so far”
“I think you’re right, but we could also add ….”

The ideas person suggests new ideas to solve group problems or suggests new ways for the group to organize the task. They dislike orthodoxy and are not too concerned with practicalities. They provide suggestions and proposals that are often original and radical. They are more concerned with the big picture than with details. They may get bored after the initial impetus wears off. See our lateral thinking skills page

They may say
“Why don’t we consider doing it this way?”

Evaluators help the group to avoid coming to an agreement too quickly. They tend to be slow in coming to a decision because of a need to think things over. They are the logical, analytical, objective people in the team and offer measured, dispassionate critical analysis. They contribute at times of crucial decision making because they are capable of evaluating competing proposals. They may suggest alternative ideas.

They may say:
“What other possibilities are there?”
or “Let’s try to look at this another way.”
or “I’m not sure we’re on the right track.”

The recorder keeps the group focused and organized. They make sure that everyone is helping with the project. They are usually the first person to offer to take notes to keep a record of ideas and decisions. They also like to act as time-keeper, to allocate times to specific tasks and remind the team to keep to them, or act as a spokesperson, to deliver the ideas and findings of the group. They may check that all members understand and agree on plans and actions and know their roles and responsibilities. They act as the memory of the group.

They may say:
“We only have five minutes left, so we need to come to an agreement now!”
“Do we all understand this chart?”
“Are we all in agreement on this?”

Destructive or selfish group roles to avoid!
Autocrat: tries to dominate or constantly interrupts other members of the team.
Show Off: talks all the time and thinks they know all the answers.
Butterfly: keeps changing the topic before others are ready.
Aggressor: doesn’t show respect to others, comments negatively about them.
Avoider: refuses to focus on the task or on group relationship problems.
Critic: always sees the negative side to any argument, but never suggests alternatives. Puts down the ideas of others.
Help seeker: looks for sympathy from others: victim
Self-confessor: uses the group as a forum for inappropriate talk about self.
Clown: shows no involvement in group and engages in distracting communication.


There are basically eight types of questions you may face during the course of your interview:

Credential verification questions
This type of question includes “What was your previous job?” and “How long were you at _____?” Also known as resume verification questions. Its purpose is to objectively verify the depth of knowledge of the credentials in your background.

Experience verification questions
This type of question includes “What did you learn in that operation?” and “What were your responsibilities in that position?” Its purpose is to subjectively evaluate features of your background.

Opinion questions
This type of question includes “What would you do in this situation?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Its purpose is to subjectively analyze how you would respond in a series of scenarios.

Behavioral questions
This type of question includes “Can you give me a specific example of how you did that?” and “What were the steps you followed to accomplish that task?” Its purpose is to objectively measure past behaviors as a predictor of future results.

Competency questions
This type of question includes “Can you give me a specific example of your leadership skills?” or “Explain a way in which you sought a creative solution to a problem.” Its purpose is to align your past behaviors with specific competencies which are required for the position.

Brainteaser questions
This type of question includes “What is 1000 divided by 73?” to “How many ping pong balls could fit in a Volkswagen?” to complex algorithms. Its purpose is to evaluate not only your mental math calculation skills but also your creative ability in formulating the mathematical formula for providing an answer (or estimate, as can often be the case). These are normally tested electronically.

Case questions
This type of question includes problem-solving questions ranging from: “How many gas stations are there in Europe?” to “What is your estimate of the global online retail market for books?” Its purpose is to evaluate your problem-solving abilities and how you would analyze and work through potential case situations. These are normally tested through your personality or psychometric test.

Dumb questions
Firstly, this is not a joke. This type of question includes “What kind of animal would you like to be?” and “What colour best describes you?” Their purpose is to get past your pre-programmed answers to find out if you are capable of original thought. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer since it is used primarily to test your ability to think on your feet. (Quite rare but a few companies still ask you these types of questions)


Verbal Reasoning Tests

Verbal reasoning tests assess your understanding and comprehension skills. You will be presented with a short passage of text and will need to answer a True, False or Cannot Say response to each statement.

Maths Tests
Numerical Reasoning tests demonstrate a candidates ability to deal with numbers quickly and accurately. These tests contain questions that assess your knowledge of ratios, percentages, cost and graph analysis, rates, trends and currency conversions.

Personality and Psychometric Tests

Personality and Psychometrics are essentially a big umbrella for all assessment tests. So why do we have a separate page on it here? We need to look at a more specific area called Psychological testing. Using the results of this test, an assessment can be made of the candidate’s motivation, personality traits, mental stability, leadership skills, effectiveness in a team, and their general integrity. Although the assessment of mental health conditions may be deemed illegal by an equal employment opportunity commission, aviation is an industry where this is becoming more acceptable due to perceived risk.

Psychological tests

What are we testing? “A psychological test is an instrument designed to measure unobserved constructs, also known as latent variables.” I will break this down into basics so that you understand what i’m talking about.

What is an unobserved construct? An idea or theory containing various conceptual elements, typically it is considered to be subjective and not based on evidence which is verifiable by observation. It is theoretical and therefore it can only be observed by the researcher or assessor using indicators.

For example; I want to test whether a candidate trusts his colleagues. I could ask the candidate directly but there is a good chance I would get the wrong answer. I need to ask a series of questions that will indicate what that underlying construct may be.

So can we lie to pass the test. The quick answer to this is no. If the test has been well thought out there will be many different options available to the assessor to observe the desired latent variable.

If you try to skew the test by predicting what the assessor wants you may well fail the test. Quite often they will create questions that will determine whether the individual candidate is trying to alter the outcome. This may be an indicator of control issues or dishonesty.

When constructing a test, there must be enough evidence to support the specified interpretation of the results. This evidence must be displayed consistently, over time across all raters.

Psychological assessment

This is similar to psychological testing but usually involves a more comprehensive assessment of the individual by a Psychologist. A Psychologist will collect collateral information about personal, occupational history such as from records or from interviews. Using the test results they will then make an assessment of the candidate’s suitability.


Don’t try to pass the test by guessing what the assessor wants. Answer the questions honestly and quickly, this will help you later on if the test is assessed by a Psychologist.

The Sim Check

Most candidates hate this part of their assessment because they feel like all their skills are being assessed all at once and in a very short time frame.

Let us put you at ease, the assessors are probably not looking for Chuck Jaeger. If they were looking for Chuck then they wouldn’t be asking you to apply for an airline job.

It is a total misconception that you are being assessed solely on your ability to fly an airplane. All airlines look at Notechs and TEM when it comes to assessing their candidates in the simulator. If you employ these techniques then you will significantly increase your chance of being selected.

Here are some key points to follow before your sim check:

-Make sure you have obtained a briefing sheet before the check. This should explain what is expected of you during the simulator session.

-If the aircraft is unfamiliar, make sure you have all the documentation. You need to have access to the following:
-Power/Thrust and Pitch settings for each phase of flight
-Take off
-Straight and level at 250 Kts
-Intermediate Approach Flap setting
-Final Approach Flap

-What is their preferred Check List?
-What are their preferred SOPs?
-What plates should I use for the exercise, LIDO, JEPP’s, AERAD’s or NAVTECH?
-What is their preferred briefing technique?
-What is their preferred failure management technique?

The key to the sim check is preparedness. If you know what the profiles are and you have all the settings memorized then you will have far more capacity to demonstrate the notechs, which is what the assessor really wants to see.
If the aircraft type is unfamiliar you may want to get a practice assessment simulator. A couple of key points here.
Make sure the simulator is approved. If you fly a simulator that does not replicate the aircraft properly then it may do more harm than good.
Choose a company that can cater to that particular check. Ask them if they do assessment sims for {xxxxx}
Assess how much sim time you would need before talking to the company.

Arriving for your check.

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the sim center. This will help reduce stress and make you a little more relaxed. Be careful who you chat to when you get to the sim center, it may be your assessor.

During the briefing, the assessor should explain what is expected of you. If you have any questions this is the time to ask.

During the sim detail, if things don’t go as planned, try to stick to the basics. FLY, NAVIGATE, COMMUNICATE. Ask your sim partner for help so that you can regain your situation awareness. This will be marked up as a positive since you are displaying self-awareness and you are aware of what you need to do to improve the situation.

During the debrief you will be asked to critique yourself. Quite often a sim assessment is won or lost in the debrief. If you did something wrong admit it, the assessor will have seen it. Explain why you think it went wrong but emphasize how you improved the situation. An example of this may be that you took up a wrong track on the SID. How did you recover the situation? “I asked my sim partner to verify what the correct track was and then corrected. If I was to change something I would have got him to confirm the correct track before I flew it. I may have even asked him to do this during the briefing.” This shows self-awareness and the ability to learn.

If AviationInsider can be of any assistance then please contact us, Good luck!