Getting a job in the airline industry is not an easy feat. Not only are you required to pass several exams and fill out numerous applications, but you’ll also have to attend the dreaded interview if you’re successful.
Yet that’s not the worst part. Due to its perception as a glamorous and highly desirable career, it’s likely that you’ll also be competing against hundreds of other candidates for the same job.
Therefore, in order to improve your chances of success, you need to put your best foot forward. A good place to start is by carefully preparing for the interview process.
To help you out, we’ve put together this list of the 15 most common flight attendant interview questions, along with tips on how to answer them!
1. “What do you know about our airline?”
With this question, your potential employers are checking that you have done your homework about the airline, so make sure you do your company research before the interview.
The most important things to know are the airline’s operational features, such as the number of aircraft it owns, its flight routes, and what their plans are for the future. You can find all of this information through a simple Google search or by looking at the airline’s website.
It’s also a good idea to mention any positive aspects of the company you’ve noticed through external industry websites or articles. Ultimately, you want to show off that you’re aware of what your prospective employers do and what they’re planning to do in the future.
2. “Why do you want to work for our airline?”
Though the main motivation for applying anywhere is often the financial recompense, it’s not a good idea to use this as an answer. Instead, focus on the opportunities for professional growth that the airline might offer you.
For example, you can mention how the airline in question has a sterling reputation for professionalism and flawless customer service, and explain how the opportunity to work with such industry leaders is a massive driver for you.
Of course, there’s no harm in mentioning how it will allow you to travel the world, but remember that this is a perk that every airline offers. Remember to focus on why you want to work for this particular company.
3. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This is a common question in many job interviews, but in the context of the airline industry — where staff turnover can be high — you’re essentially being asked how long you’re planning to stick around. After all, it’s common for cabin crew to gain experience with a smaller airline and then jump ship to a bigger one with more “exotic” routes. Even if this is your long-term plan, you should never admit it in an interview.
Instead, talk about how you want to focus on growing, learning and improving yourself — then mention you believe that the airline will allow you to do that. You don’t have to convince your interviewer that you’re committed to their company for life, but you should give the impression that they will see some return on their investment.
4. “What are your strengths?”
To answer this question, first you need to understand the key skills and personality traits that airlines are looking for. You then need to apply this to your answer.
For example, air hosts and hostesses deal with hundreds of passengers a day, each with their own needs, demands and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, you’ll need to be an excellent communicator, capable of handling multiple requests at a time and diffusing situations where necessary. You’ll also need to display strong teamwork and attention to detail skills and a relentless work ethic.
The trick is to select the qualities that best describe you and then align them with what your interviewer is looking for.
5. “Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?”
In the context of a cabin crew interview, the answer to this particular interview question should be pretty obvious.
Airlines are looking exclusively for people who work well in a team, as the success of their entire customer operations depends on a smooth-running service. You’ll have to convince the interviewer that you’re a team player and able to work with all kinds of personalities and backgrounds in order to put the passengers first.
Don’t completely play down your ability to work independently, though. Airlines want their staff to be capable of thinking on their feet and not just relying on instructions from others. Point out that while you understand the importance of playing well with others, you can also think for yourself when you need to.
6. “Have you ever dealt with a colleague who wasn’t pulling their weight? How did you handle it?”
As tempting as it might be, this question isn’t an excuse to start ripping on Debra from your previous job. Disparaging your former (or current) coworkers isn’t professional, and even less so in an interview setting.
Rather, it’s a chance for you to explain how you might handle a similar situation in the future. Give a brief backstory of the situation you have in mind and then explain clearly how you stepped in and what you did. If you don’t have any real-life experience to draw on, then you can say this, but make sure you follow it up with a description of what you would do in such an instance.
7. “Recall a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. How did you resolve the issue?”
There is a conventional “wisdom” in customer service circles about how, in any difficult situation, the customer is always right. And while call service handlers, retail assistants and servers around the world might fervently disagree, it’s important that you remember it when answering this question.
As previously mentioned, good customer service skills are a must for this job, so your hiring manager will be carefully scrutinizing your response.
When recalling your story, be sure to mention how you were empathetic and non-judgmental towards the customer and how, at all times, despite your own feelings, you demonstrated a sincere desire to help. Whether your customer got what they wanted is irrelevant; showing that you exercised sensible decision making and went that extra mile to try and accommodate them is what matters.
8. “What are your hobbies?”
This question may sound irrelevant, but your hobbies can actually be a good indicator of your personality. Therefore, be sure to focus on things that involve other people; team sports are a perfect example, as they highlight your teamwork and leadership abilities.
Don’t just make up what you think your interviewer wants to hear, though. Airlines, like most companies, want to hire people who have a diverse range of interests, and every hobby reveals something positive about you.
For example, if you enjoy hosting dinner parties, this demonstrates that you’re sociable and hospitable, while a passion for gardening can show that you have a caring side and enjoy looking after things.
9. “How will you handle being away from family and friends?”
This question isn’t just alluding to the physical distances you’ll be traveling but to the long and demanding working hours, too. Flights operate at all hours of the day, 365 days a year, so it’s likely that, at some point, you’ll have to make sacrifices in your personal life.
If it’s going to be your first time away from home, there’s no shame in admitting that it will be a challenge. Make sure you emphasize, though, that it’s an exciting one, and that you’re perfectly willing to adjust to the demands of the job. You could also mention that, rather than focusing on being away from friends, you see it as an opportunity to make new ones, all while experiencing new cultures and learning new things.
10. “Are you applying for vacancies at other airlines?”
This is a tricky question and, to be honest, a little naughty. If indeed you are casting the net wide, though, the best approach is to be truthful about it. Not only does it show that you’re serious about getting a cabin crew position, but if you’re a strong candidate, they might also be a little keener to secure your services.
Don’t overplay it, though. If you give the impression that you’ll work for any old airline, it undermines the rest of your answers and suggests that you’ll take the first offer that comes along. That said, recruiters aren’t naïve, either, so strike a balance by confiding that yes, you’re interviewing with one or two other airlines but that you’re fully committed to their recruitment process.
11. “What languages do you speak?”
While being a multilingual might not guarantee that you’ll get the job, it can certainly increase your overall employability. As the number of scheduled passengers steadily grows around the world (expected to reach 10 billion by 2040), foreign language skills are becoming more desirable.
Though fluency in English is a must for most international airlines, candidates with a bilingual or professional working proficiency in the language of destination, like French or Spanish, are prioritized. Bilingual members of crew also have higher chances of working on international flights, meaning longer flight hours and higher pay. In other words, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!
12. “How well can you handle stress?”
Jetlag, on-calls, passenger conflicts and, on rare occasions, real emergency situations. Being a flight attendant isn’t all fun and games!
If this question comes up in your interview, give a past example of how you overcame a problem at work to achieve a goal or how you quickly re-evaluated your approach to adapt to an unexpected issue. Your recruiters will appreciate you demonstrating the ability to stay focused and prioritize fast under pressure.
13. “What qualities do you think a flight attendant should have?”
When passengers look at flight attendants, they see jolly sky servers who serve coffee and tea several miles above sea level. But serving drinks and meals is just the tip of the iceberg to a cabin crew member’s duties — and you need to acknowledge that.
While attentiveness and communication skills are obvious answers, you should mention decision-making skills, assertiveness and a good level of fitness as characteristics of a good flight attendant.
The latter isn’t just to maintain the poised appearance of a flight attendant. The job requires a lot of repetitive movements (such as bending, twisting and lifting things) and, if you’re not fit, that can quickly result in injury. Not to mention having to open heavy over-wing exit doors and possibly swim long distances in emergency landings!
14. “What is your availability to work?”
As flight attendants work flexible schedules, whether you work full-time or part-time is up to you. Regardless your needs, state upfront the number of hours you’re able to commit and reaffirm that you remain fully committed to this job, even if you’re pursuing it on a part-time basis.
To get an idea of what to ask for, full-time flight attendants average 65–85 flight hours each month, while part-time “flighties” average 40–60. If you can work long hours but prefer to do so less often, be honest and explain why. And don’t worry: it’s very common for members of crew to work second jobs!
As cabin crew member and author Elliott Hester writes for the LA Times: “During my 30-year career, I’ve come face to face with hundreds of two-job wonders. One flight attendant worked as a coroner. Another worked as a funeral home attendant. Flight attendants moonlight as lawyers, chefs, limo drivers, hairdressers, college professors, even firefighters.”
15. “What would you do if a passenger started panicking?”
As a flight attendant, you will witness passenger nervousness in many forms and intensities: from nail-biting and fidgeting to crying and full-blown panic attacks. Displaying patience and empathy, and providing reassurance are all great ways of soothing someone’s anxiety.
If you’re asked how you would comfort a passenger complaining of anxiety-induced palpitations, you’ll want to make some more tangible suggestions. These can include recommending that they take deep breaths through the nose and out the mouth, finding distractions for them (like magazines), and explaining what’s causing any “unusual” noises. Frequent check-ins like these can really help someone who’s struggling!
Ultimately, in a flight attendant interview, most of the questions are designed to find out two things: whether you can work effectively within a team and if your customer service and people skills are up to scratch. As long as your answers highlight your proficiency and enthusiasm for those two things, then you should do just fine.
Can you think of any other cabin crew interview questions and answers that could be helpful to airline applicants? Tell us in the comments section below.
Originally published on June 15, 2015. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.