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Becoming a pilot is the dream of kids all over the world, much less across the United States. But how do they all get hired, how are pilots recruited?

Pilots are either recruited from the airline itself through mediums such as LinkedIn or job boards, or candidates can apply straight to the job posting. The recruitment process then typically has interviews, aptitude tests, and maybe even a simulator test to prove the candidate can do the job.

There are all kinds of pilots out there. So how do they get hired? Do pilots just submit an application like most jobs, or do they have to be recruited? In this article, we’ll take a look at how commercial and airline pilots are recruited. And then we’ll finish off with a quick look at how many pilots get hired across the United States every year.

At SkyTough, we pride ourselves on the ability to provide our readers with the best, most helpful content that they’ll find anywhere on the web. So when you want to know how pilots are recruited, we scoured the web as well as our network of aviation experts (especially pilots!) to find out exactly how they were recruited. This way, you’ll know what to expect if you’re hoping to get recruited to become a pilot one day.

Table of contents


How Do Commercial And Other Airline Pilots Get Recruited?

So you want to become an airline pilot or some other sort of commercial pilot, huh? Great choice! It’s an incredible career that can offer you a great life and some perks and benefits that you won’t get with any other job. But we know what you’re wondering (why else would you be reading this?), how do pilots get recruited? And how can you increase your odds of getting hired as a pilot?

Let’s first start by taking a brief look into the way that most commercial pilots were hired back in the day. Not too terribly long ago, becoming a pilot was more or less just about who you knew. In those days, you just needed to know (or know someone who knew) the chief pilot of the airline. If you were on solid terms with the chief pilot, it was smooth sailing from there. Often it was just an informal interview for posterity’s sake and then you were in.

But these days, being recruited to be a pilot is a bit more involved, and it’s much more so like being interviewed and recruited for the vast majority of other jobs out there. These days, recruitment will often begin with an airline reaching out to a prospective pilot through a site such as LinkedIn or something similar. Many times, airlines will even post jobs on their sites or even some job boards and accept applications.

But once a candidate has been selected, either through the company’s own recruitment or an application process, a formal interview typically follows. And there will usually be more than one. These interviews will be similar to the types of interviews that you might have for any other job for a major company, where you talk a bit about yourself and pretty much try to sell yourself as to why you’re a great fit for this pilot position and why they should hire you.

What More Is Involved In Pilot Recruitment Besides Just An Interview?

But with a job like being a pilot, there will typically be a bit more involved in the recruitment process. This could include some things that are commonplace among other industries, such as aptitude tests and other skills tests, and some that are unique. For example, an airline might require you to run through a simulator for the type of airplane that you’re going to be flying for them if you’re hired.

Although this type of testing is expensive for the airline to conduct, it is well worth the investment to make sure that the pilot is capable of performing the job. A simulator check will allow the pilot candidate to clearly demonstrate that they’re capable of flying the plane without the airline representative(s) needing to infer any type of skills. It’s clear as day whether the candidate is capable of doing what they’re supposed to be doing in that aircraft.

Are Airline Pilot Recruitment Processes Reliable?

Like any other interview and recruitment process, pilot recruitments are not entirely infallible. There are always weak points to any recruitment process, especially if that recruitment process involves a human somewhere along the line. We humans make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But when those mistakes pop up during an interview or recruitment process, it can be a headache for everyone involved.

Some of the things to keep in mind that can be potential issues during a pilot’s recruitment process includes:

  • Bias — although this is (hopefully) always inadvertent, bias is one of the most common issues that pop up during any interview and recruitment process. It’s important for interviewers and airline representatives to do everything they can to avoid any sort of bias or discrimination during the entire process.
  • Missing Something — as alluded to above, when humans are involved there is always an increased risk of error. As much as we might all wish to believe that we are perfect, that is never the face. If someone in the recruitment process misses an element of the pilot candidate’s experience or skills, it could end up preventing the candidate from being selected for the position in the end.
  • The Time is Takes — if you ask a room full of pilots what the number one thing to keep in mind during the recruitment process, I’d wager that quite a few of them would say to be patient. The airline recruitment process can be long and drawn out, and it might take months before you even hear anything to begin with. So be patient and bide your time. The perfect job might be just around the corner!

So with all these potential issues that you might face during the recruitment process, is it even worth trying to get hired as a pilot?

Are Airlines Actively Looking For New Pilots?

Yes, they are! As you’ll see towards the end of this article, the industry is actually growing faster than average. Over the next decade, it’s projected that there will be roughly 13% growth annually, opening up more and more positions for new pilots every year. So if you’re interested in becoming an airline pilot, now's the time to do it!

How Many Pilots are Hired Annually In The United States?

So with all this recruitment (and the fact that not all pilots are recruited), how many pilots get hired across the country every year by the major airlines? Since we’re going to assume that most of you reading this are interested in becoming a commercial airline pilot, let’s take a look at the numbers to give you an idea of what the competition looks like out there.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for the average annual number of positions of commercial pilots in the US is 14,700. This is the projected number of openings (presumably filled) between 2020-2030. As of 2020, there are 113,900 pilots employed. This represents an annual increase of about 13% in the number of positions, which indicates the industry is growing faster than others.

That said, it’s expected that there are going to be more and more jobs available every year for the next decade or so. So if you’re interested in becoming a pilot and having a rewarding career in this field, now is one of the best times in history to do so!