Answering Tough HR Questions

USAirways1149

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I figured there would be some dialogue on this site about those "tough" interview questions that nobody has a real good idea how to answer. I could not find it. I apologize in advance if there is overlap.

I was hoping to hear some ideas regarding the tough HR questions with no right or wrong answer. The ones where there is only one clear solution -- the operation can not safely continue -- but where the tricky part is how you GET to that solution. Human factors.

Here are some examples of the questions, and i'm curious how other people have approached these subjects in the past.

The captain wants to continue below MDA, what do you do?

The captain wants to continue when weather is below minimums and you are outside the outer marker?

The two questions above are quite similar, but not exactly the same. Obviously the outcome of both questions needs to be a missed approach (unless in the first example the Captain does, in fact, have either the approach lights and/or the runway environment in sight). Obviously there is no reason in either case to take the airplane and, in fact, it would be dangerous to do so at low altitudes (unless, of course, the captain is incapacitated). There is no right answer in how you get to the solution...you just have to get there.

If crew scheduling asked you to fly a trip that violated a contract item, what would you do?

Tough one! The management types may be thinking, "fly now, grieve later" where as the pilot interview might want you to remind the scheduler that he/she is violating the contract.

What would you do if the Captain smelled of alchohol?
The captain is seen by the van driver drinking late in the evening prior to the flight. What do you do?


Ah the ol' drinking captain question. Again the solution is clear -- the airplane will not move until there is no question at all that the operation is safe. But how do you get there? Talk to the Captain? See if others notice that he is behaving differently? Did he use any cough medicine? Would he like to call in sick? Should you call in sick to delay/stop the operation?

Describe the worst individual you have ever flown with and why? How did you handle it?
Describe a conflict you had in the cockpit and how you went about handling it?


Two more questions in which they are testing your ability to communcate with other people. What attributes of your flying partner made him/her the "worst", and how did you address them? Was he/she inconsistant? If so, what does that mean? How did you get to the resolution? Did you approach professional standards or company management?

Captain wants you to fly an airplane that is slightly over weight limits. What do you do?

Very similar to the captain who descended below minimums. We have an illegal operation, both of your certificates are on the line. Its the last leg home and the peer-pressure is high. How do you stop the operation? (see? these are tough!)

Ok, just one more. I think we've enough to think about.

A senior captain doesn’t want your help with the checklists. What do you do?

I believe the common theme in all of these questions are the same. The answer itself is simple -- the airplane doesnt move. How you GET there (and show your work!) is tough. Why is it tough? Because 9 times out of 10 you're interviewing with both a management representative and a pilot representative -- and the "correct" answer is different for both of them.

Obviously the management rep wants to know that, not only will you not continue, but that you will make an effort to stop the behavior that got you there in the first place -- i/e will you rat out your buddy?

The pilot rep, of course, doesnt want you to continue either, but he wants to know that you're not going to run to management when there are other avenues to pursue...i/e Have the captain's friends talk with him, talk to professional standards if you have a union, etc.

I hope this starts an interesting and helpful discussion for the many pilots who are currently interviewing or who will be interviewing in the near future.

Good luck and Godspeed!
 

Caveman

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Most people get themselves into an awkward or uncomfortable situation when they allow their 'feelings' to affect professional decisions. In all but one of the examples given there is only one correct answer. There is only a problem because folks bring an emotional response to an issue of professional misconduct.

For example, the standard question about the Captain drinking is always twisted around to the point of absurdity. Everybody agrees that the flight doesn't go but then the whole thing becomes insane. We always try to prevent the flight and yet not cause anybody any stress or uncomfortableness. What is that?!? Let's be clear, the Captain is acting unprofessionally, criminally and without a moral conscience by deciding to fly an airplane with alcohol in his system. That type of behavior isn't worthy of anything except open scorn and ridicule. Call him on it immediately and he gets a choice to pull himself off of the flight or I'll do it for him. In either case I'm going to call pro standards since this guy didn't have the good sense to remove himself from the flight without my prompting. Why should I protect this guy when he is willing to risk my life and a plane load of passengers lives? Remember that in all of these scenarios it is someone else putting your live and your livelyhood at risk. You don't have to tapdance around anything. They are the problem, not you.

I've yet to have a potential employer ask me more than one of these types of questions. I answered them all just as forcefully as the one above. The HR rep wants to hear that the company and passengers are not being put at risk. The pilots at the interview want to know that you are decisive. Nobody in that interview room will tolerate unprofessional conduct so don't even suggest that you might allow it to occur because you didn't want to rock the boat or avoid getting into a potentially confrontational situation.
 

USAirways1149

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Caveman

Caveman,

While I applaud your decisiveness I think there is really more to it than that.

In the first example the van-driver saw the captain drinking supposedly. Was it really the captain? How do we know if it was or was not. So before we go crazy trying to yank the captain off the trip, it might warrant some investigation into whether or not he was actually the guy the van-driver was looking at! I do not believe that the interviewer wants someone who is so adversarial that he is itching to yank the guy off the trip either.

This is about more than trying to put a stop to the operation without "discomfort"...this is about running an airline and getting the customers from point A to point B safely unless you are absolutely, 100%, certain that the guy in the left seat really DID violate the law or otherwise gives you any reason to believe that he/she can not conduct the operation safely.

I'm surprised with 69 views you were the only one who wanted to take part in the discussion. This is a big part of interviews nowadays, I would have thoguht people would want to talk about it.
 

jed

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To All:

What about the question about continueing below mins. Do you key the mike aand announce am missed? Do you advance the power levers, what? Or do you help him/her put the plane down and then deal with his decision to continue below mins?
jed
 

USAirways1149

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Minimums

Ok the minimums question.

You dont have much time to play with, and you certainly dont want to be wrestling for the airplane when you are so close to the ground.

So there are a few things to consider.

Does he, in fact have the airport in sight? It is entirely possible that the Captain either has the field in sight, or is following FAR 91.175 or 121.651 to continue below minimums to 100 feet above TDZ elevation with the approach lights in sight in the hopes of seeing the red terminating bars (ALSF1, ALSF2) or the runway environment and continuing to a landing.

As long as its authorized in the company ops specs, it is legal.

So it is up to you, the intrepid first officer to determine whether or not the Captain is doing just that, if he is incapacitated, or if he legitamately is breaking the regulation and endangering the aircraft.

"Captain, We're going below minimums. Do you have it?"

I'd probably make a call similar to the above. I might even use his first name to ensure he realizes that, hey...I need an answer.

If there is still no response I would be reaching for the power levers as I said again, "Captain, do you have it?" and with no response, the power would be coming up as I took the airplane from the captain and executed the miss. Usually its 3 tries for an incapacitated pilot, but that low to the ground there isn't time.

If he DOES in fact respond that he has the runway or approach lights in sight, you really can not say much about it. There have been a few occasions over the years where simply due to the position of my seat the Captain may have had the runway when I did not, or I have had it when he did not. As long as he is not making large excursions from the glideslope or localizer I would have no choice but to believe him, and discuss it on the ground.

200 feet AGL is no place to be fighting over an airplane. I would make the decision based on my opinion that it is safer for him to continue a stablized approach and land than to try to surprise him with a transfer of controls unless there was a definate safety-of-flight reason to do so.

What do you think?
 

leardvr

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Tough Questions

Below Mins.
Your rught that this is a tough one. This is what I would do.
A) Tell the capt. we are below Mins.
B) Ask if he has approach lights (we can continue to 100' above TZE)
C) If no responce to the last two....Push the TOGA button, if he is fixated on the gauges hoppfully they'll follow the command bars, if he doesn't I hope there are no auto-throttles that come up with the TOGA...At least that's something to consider.
D) Annonce to the tower that ABC-123 is on the missed.
*********all the above will be on the CVR*********

I would not try to fight someone for the controls at 150AGL at a rate of sink around 600fpm (15sec from terra ferma)

If your capt is incapasitated that's something different. But if he's there and just doing his own thing, just help get the airplane on the ground and let him explane to the FAA/Comapany/Union/mom&dad/ and thier dog why they landed after a missed was called. And as the FO you better file a NASA report and then report thier butt, this is not the time for the old-boys-club your lucky to be alive and someone my not be so luckly next time.

My Favorite interview question:
(Q) After your last leg the Capt says to meet in the restuarent for dinner. Then shows up in a dress. What do you do?

(A) Is my Capt. a woman? (this is a good chance to see of your preiduce (sp?) againest women) "No" Tell him he would look better in red and let it go, if the Capt is a women and wants to know if they look nice say yes and drop it before it turns into some sort of dicrimination law suit.

There are also all the 91/121/135 O2 requirements.
 

Caveman

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I reread my post and I don't like the way I presented my point. Now you know how I picked up the moniker Caveman.

The toughest thing to learn how to do is look someone in the eye and tell them that their behavior or conduct is inappropriate or unprofessional. It's even tougher to do it absent of any rancor. It's darn near impossible for most of us to be on the receiving end of that type of criticism without becoming defensive and resentful, especially from a subordinate. The mark of true maturity and professionalism is to be able to listen to the critical comments and weigh them as just or unjust and then act accordingly. If a fellow pilot is unwilling or unable to be on the giving or receiving end of this conversation then they should be identified for further training and or dismissal. It doesn't matter whether the topic is drinking alcohol, flying below minimums, or illegal approaches. In this industry the stakes are just too high to behave otherwise.

Bring your alligator skin to work and check your emotions at the jetway. If I'm doing something wrong or inappropriate call me on it immediately but give me the benefit of the doubt that I was simply mistaken or incorrectly assessed the situation. If I continue to act unprofessionally or unsafely yank my chain hard, because I need to be retrained and re-evaluated as to my fitness to work in this profession. I will do the same for you.

There, I like the wording of this one better.
 

USAirways1149

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Interview Vs. Real Life

Ok Caveman,

But, as you know, there are subtle differences to how you might act in real life, and what you would say to get you through the interview. Regardless the solution is the same - the plane doesnt move. But would you express to the interviewer how you got to that point.

For example, in the case of the Captain who refuses to run a checklist. Do you stop the operation and if so how? Or do you continue to run the checklist yourself to ensure he does not miss anything and then, when you have time, discuss it with him. If he continues to insist that he doesnt need "your or your steenkin checklist", you could talk to pro standards.

You are obviously an extremely agressive, hands-on, individual. My question is: Is that what they're looking for in an interview? I am not sure that is the case. In my experience they are looking for charismatic, friendly individuals who are able to make their flying-partners think that it (whatever "it" may be) is the other guy's idea. Can the problem be solved on the line, or does it really have to be taken to the highest level, and the captain's career potentially destroyed?

These are the kind of things I was hoping to explore in this thread. The interview side of the equation.
 

Caveman

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Be yourself during an interview. I would be pissed off if the company misrepresented themselves to me and I expect they would feel slighted if I did it to them. If they prefer not to hire someone like me with a slightly aggressive personality then it's in both of our best interests for them not to do so. I won't be happy working somewhere that I have to overly rein myself in to fit the corporate culture. They will also be less than thrilled to have me around if I misrepresented myself as being touchy-feely when I'm really not. Tell the truth and everybody wins. I may not get that particular job but there is a perfect job out there for me somewhere. So far I've been offered jobs at both of the 121 carriers I interviewed with.
 

Treme

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Was just looking back through some of these old HR type questions (which I believe to be the most challenging questions in an interview) and wondering about some more. Hope you dont mind me bringing this thread back.

What about the question regarding "Tell us about a time that you didn't get along in the cockpit?"

"Tell us about a time when you violated an FAR?"

"Tell us about a time when you felt that you could have done better in the cockpit?"

Some of these are TOUGH -- not so much finding examples of the bahavior, but trying to "spin" those examples so as not to make yourself sound unsafe, antisocial, weak, etc.

Ideas?
 

Fly BI

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tough questions, harder answers

What about the question regarding "Tell us about a time that you didn't get along in the cockpit?"

"Tell us about a time when you violated an FAR?"

"Tell us about a time when you felt that you could have done better in the cockpit?"

I'm with you on the above questions, they're tough. The worst one to have to answer is the violation of a FAR. That's obviously happened to everyone, so to lie about it is pointless. The two I'm thinking about are 1) Once I exceeded my 8 hrs of flight time as a CFI, or 2) Taking off IFR (freshly certificated PPL/INST) and realizing halfway through the flight that I forgot to file an alternate, then called FSS to make the change.

What do you all think? How would you answer this stuff?

~99
 

Yudso

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Can't you begin an approach if the weather is below mins if you are shooting the ILS and approach is par eqquipped?
 

paulsalem

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Yudso said:
Can't you begin an approach if the weather is below mins if you are shooting the ILS and approach is par eqquipped?
YOu can always shoot an approach (as long as you have the required flight visibility) The only limiter is if the approach has RVR distance...you cannnot land if RVR vaule at the airport (or RVR converted to ground vis, if no RVR reported) is less than that on the approach plate.
 

DesertFalcon

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Here's a interesting interview question I haven't heard before:

"Tell me about yourself, what you are not?"
Or translated, what is your "Anti-self"?

Very tricky question. It would tend to reveal what you might not normally say about yourself.
 

TIS

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paulsalem said:
YOu can always shoot an approach (as long as you have the required flight visibility) The only limiter is if the approach has RVR distance...you cannnot land if RVR vaule at the airport (or RVR converted to ground vis, if no RVR reported) is less than that on the approach plate.
Not quite true. No matter which rule on descending below DA or MDA you read, the only requirement for landing is presence of the required in-flight visibility. There's nothing about RVR or anything else there.

Now, that's not to sya you wouldn't have some splainin' to do if you landed with the RVR reporting 1400'. But if you can explain what you saw and when you saw it such that the required in-flight visibility (in feet or SM) could be justified, you may be able to defend your case. Ground visibility doesn't enter into it.

TIS
 

TIS

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leardvr said:
*********all the above will be on the CVR*********
Yup, and the NTSB will be the ones listening to it. That's not an attractive prospect.

leardvr said:
I would not try to fight someone for the controls at 150AGL at a rate of sink around 600fpm (15sec from terra ferma)
So you'd let the plane hit the ground? I'll tell ya, if it's that or taking control, I'm gonna take control. I'm also going to make sure I've presented two unanswered challenges before I do so.

TIS
 
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TIS

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USAirways1149 said:
What would you do if the Captain smelled of alchohol?
The captain is seen by the van driver drinking late in the evening prior to the flight. What do you do?


Ah the ol' drinking captain question. Again the solution is clear -- the airplane will not move until there is no question at all that the operation is safe.
Absolutley correct! But a few additional things to keep in mind begin with the fact that ethanol is odorless and tasteless. You can't smell it so you don't want to be saying you smelled alcohol because that's physically impossible. This, as I will point out, is a legal issue once it happens and what you say to others may become very relevant in such a detailed way.

IF the Captain is drunk or has been drinking the plane can’t leave. That’s a given. How you make that happen is what’s open for discussion.

That IF is a big question though and since it involves the law and is possibly criminal in nature it is something that must be established to a legal certainty. That IS NOT something that you, as a pilot, can do in the field. So, no matter what your suspicions are, remember that if you approach the guy about being drunk you’re making a CRIMINAL accusation that you have no way of proving, not to mention the fact that it isn’t your job to do so. Your job is to ensure the safety of flight, which, in this case, means NOT flying at all.

Thus, one effective approach to solving this problem involves seeing this from the company’s standpoint. The last thing they need is the notoriety in the papers if ANYONE gets wind of the situation besides you. What this leads to is the absolute bottom line and to the first thing you MUST ensure; NO ONE, especially not a member of the general public, can be allowed to come into contact with the affected crewmember. This problem HAS to be resolved quietly AND effectively.

Once you have the guy aside you should make your position clear that HE will not be flying that day. Even if he agrees you cannot let it end there. But exactly what you do as a follow-up depends on WHETHER he agrees or not.

If he agrees to step aside you need to make certain something gets done about his problem. What the guy needs is help and you need to suggest that the time to get it is now. The penalty for not getting it might be full disclosure by you to the company of what happened. Give him an opportunity to seek the help he needs and prove that he’s done so to you, say, a certain amount of time, beyond which you will go straight to the company.

If he does not agree let him know you’ll call scheduling and refuse to fly. Also make it clear that you will explain WHY you’re refusing to fly. That will bring things right to a conclusion.

This question is like all situational questions. It does not, in and of itself, contain enough information for you to proceed to a resolution. You’ll need to ask a few questions before you answer. Such questions as, “have any passengers been boarded yet?” or “Has he been in contact with any ramp personnel or the flight attendant?” are good places to start. Remember though, your answer needs to begin with the fact that the plane is going NOWHERE until the issue of sobriety has been dealt with in some way. It doesn’t matter whether the Captain proves his innocence or you persuade him to allow a replacement to fill in for him, the central issue of safety MUST NOT ever be compromised.

TIS
 
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TIS

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USAirways1149 said:
Ok the minimums question.


So there are a few things to consider.

Does he, in fact have the airport in sight?
My question is, why would he? I know that in reality he might but we're dealing with a hypothetical situation so I can use theory here as if it were fact.

Sooooo, in a coordinated cockpit in such a tight spot I would ask what the flying pilot is doing looking out the window so that he has something to see in the first place.

As crew oriented pilots all know, there has to be a flyer and a monitor on an approach. The flyer flies the plane until the monitor says he sees something. That's an essential piece of crew-coordination discipline. If the PF is looking out the window, you have another problem here as well.

I suppose it's really neither here nor there but I thought I'd bring it up.

TIS
 
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TIS

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USAirways1149 said:
Captain wants you to fly an airplane that is slightly over weight limits. What do you do?

Very similar to the captain who descended below minimums. We have an illegal operation, both of your certificates are on the line.
This question is tough but not because both pilots’ certificates are on the line. In fact, although the FAA may interview the SIC in their investigation of a deviation, the fact is that the PIC will be the focus of their inquiries until he gives them reason to look elsewhere. The PIC is, after all, the final authority as to the operation of the aircraft.

If you read case law (and it’s easy to find on the internet) what you ‘ll see is that in cases where flight crews are involved, the SIC is almost never drawn into it – at least not at the violation level. He might get a warning letter but a violation carrying sanctions is pretty rare.

The standard that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will be looking at is whether the PIC reasonably relied upon the SIC. If it is found that the PIC acted accordingly, for example, in asking the SIC to check out his window before making a right turn onto an intersecting taxiway, and that what the SIC erroneously told him caused say, a collision between two aircraft, then it might be found that the SIC was the cause of the accident and not the PIC.

On the other hand, if the PIC does not hear a radio call and asks the SIC’s opinion of what was said, that is not reasonable reliance. The radio is right there and clarification could be obtained without reliance upon a possibly faulty memory in the right seat.

So, in this case, even though the SIC might well be delegated the task of preparing the weight and balance, he is not responsible for it or its correctness. The PIC is and that’s where the investigation will start.

Now, having said all that, I will also say that this question is like all other judgment/situational questions in that there is not enough information in the form of the question to answer it. In this case it might be good to begin by double checking the manifest for math errors that have created the problem. When none can be found it would also be worth asking if there is an applicable “asked weight” program that might solve the problem by getting around standard assumed weights. You’ll be shut down when you ask but at least they’ll know you’re thinking along the right problem solving lines.

The bottom line with questions where intentional violation of a regulation is the net result is that you must respectfully object to the conduct of the operation and decline to participate in it no matter how hard you’re pushed. It would be unwise to volunteer in any interview setting that you have a willingness to go along with the poor and in this case, illegal, judgment of the other pilot just because he’s the captain.

TIS
 

91100 100 set

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contract violation...

Simple answer. "I'm sorry, but I cannot accept that assignment because it is a violation of the labor agreement...". That has worked the only two times I've ever been in that situation and both times it was with a fairly new scheduler.

I've been fortunate enough to have never heard "do it now, grieve it later", but I think if I ever did, I would become very defensive and ask to speak to every supervisor in the whole company. I know there are some very unethical managment types out there, I've just been fortunate enough to not encounter many of them yet.
 
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