The specific competencies and behaviours that airline captains, first officers and cadets need to successfully undertake their jobs are revealed in a new research study from international assessment specialist cut-e.
The study involved literature reviews, job analysis findings, empirical evidence gathering, involving 27,000 flight team members across 12 different airlines, and global validation research. From this, cut-e has created a ‘profile’ of the job-related competencies and behaviours required in every flight crew role, which recruiters can select against when hiring cadets, first officers and captains.
“Airlines have an ongoing need to recruit skilled pilots who can not only navigate and fly their aircraft but who are also committed to the safety of their passengers and crew, and passionate about delivering world-class customer service,” said Nora Nienhaus, Research Consultant at cut-e and co-author of the study. “Our study identifies the core competencies and behaviours that will predict which candidates will safely and successfully fulfil these requirements. By assessing applicants against this profile, in the early stages of the recruitment process, airlines can sift out those who are unsuitable and focus their attention solely on the individuals who have the potential to succeed.”
The study shows that distinct operational, personal interaction and motivational competencies are relevant for each role, including safety orientation; decision-making; customer and commercial orientation; teamwork; interpersonal skills; resilience; self discipline; dedication; drive and an interest in self-development. However, subtle differences exist at each level. For example, the ability for individuals to plan and organise themselves is an important competency for cadets but it becomes less relevant as individuals gain more experience and seniority.
Because individuals take on more responsibilities as they progress - such as leading the crew, delegating tasks and taking charge in emergency situations - different ‘behaviours’ will be required of captains, first officers and cadets.
“A captain’s role will involve leading the team and resolving any conflict, whereas a cadet’s role is more about respecting the rules and contributing to the team’s success,” said Nora Nienhaus. “When recruiting cadets, first officers or captains, airlines will naturally need to check whether candidates have the technical capabilities required to perform well in the role. But if they can also gain a greater insight into the suitability of each applicant, recruiters can make more informed selection decisions.”
According to cut-e, the competencies and behavioural preferences of candidates can be assessed using a personality questionnaire and a separate questionnaire which measures the probability of counterproductive behaviour in a work context. The results of these can be combined to create a ‘behavioural fit report’ for each candidate, showing how they compare against the required competencies.
“The behavioural fit report can flag up personal or psychological aspects that should be explored further in an interview,” said Nora Nienhaus. “However, this is not designed to replace a clinical interview. Airlines should undertake regular psychological evaluations of their current and potential flight staff, to check on their mental health and wellbeing.”
A white paper based on cut-e’s new study, called The predictive power of assessment for pilot selection, can be freely downloaded here.
For further information about cut-e, please call +44 (0)20 8133 3361 or visit www.cut-e.com
Background notes: Founded in 2002, cut-e (pronounced ‘cute’) provides online tests, questionnaires and gamified assessments for attraction, selection, talent management and development. In May 2017, cut-e was acquired by Aon plc (NYSE:AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. cut-e now operates as part of Aon’s global offering in talent solutions, helping clients achieve sustainable growth by driving business performance through people performance. cut-e and Aon undertake 30 million assessments each year in 90 countries and 40 languages.
For further information about cut-e, please call Amanda Dawson (PR contact) on +44(0)20-8953 8863 or e-mail her at
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