Pilot hiring is a lot like competitive diving:

After raising four kids involved in a multitude of sports, we settled in to two fundamental specialties in our house, swimming and diving.  Having watched all four kids swim, and three of them dive competitively, I got to thinking about how much pilot hiring was like going to a dive meet.

I was a swimmer in high school and had the talent but not the ambition to continue the sport in college.  For the past 21 years I have volunteered with our local community swim team in a variety of functions supporting our kids along the way.  I like swimming for one simple reason; it is black and white.  You are the fastest kid in the water or you aren’t, and the only one making that judgement is the stop watch.  While the strokes need to be technically correct, the time is the time, and the order of finish is the order of finish.  Non-negotiable, and easy to comprehend and explain.

I hated going to dive meets.  Regardless of the skill set and level of technical proficiency, the judges would score the dives based on what they thought was important, not what I thought was important.  Sitting in the stands as a parent was one of the most frustrating things I have ever done, over and over and over again.  ‘What do you mean that dive was a 6.5, it was clearly an 8.7, anyone can see that’ seemed to be a mantra of many of those who followed our children meet to meet.  It didn’t matter what we thought, or what our divers thought, it only mattered what the judges thought.

The analogy occurred to me as I engaged with a client last week who emailed after comparing himself to other friends that had applied to the airlines and had seen interviews come when he had not.  In his mind his credentials were every bit as good as his friends, but he wasn’t getting the call.  It must be the application he said.  It isn’t his app, we had spent hours on it and it is as good as we can make it.  What it boils down to is what the judges are looking for at that moment.  We can be technically proficient, execute flawlessly, and still not make the cut when someone else is looking at us.  It is very much like diving, subjective.

In pilot hiring there are literally hundreds of variables that get taken into consideration when making a decision to invite a candidate for an interview.  We try to control the ones we know about, but when you try to do a side by side with a friend I can promise you that there are other elements that you just can’t see, or even know about.

The advice I gave to my divers was the same that I offer to clients.  Control what you can, strive to make every attempt your best one, and smile when the score isn’t what you wanted it to be.  While it doesn’t seem like it at the time, there will be more dives, and more opportunities, we need to prepare for each.  It is easy to try to compare against your peers, but it isn’t helpful.  Make your focus your own, and strive for your best with each and every update.

While I wish we could predict the future, good scores will come with hard work and continued diligence.  Keep up the hard work!