Some moments in life are unforgettable- like finally getting an invitation to an airline assessment day after spending years studying at a flight school. I'll never forget how excited I was when I opened my invitation, but my excitement quickly turned to concern during my preparations when I realized that I didn't know how to dress for the occasion. Since there isn't much information available for women, I decided to give some advice based on my own experience. So, if you're a woman and wondering how to dress for an airline assessment day, this guide should point you in the right direction.
You can never dress too smartly
My invitation threw me a curve ball when they stated the dress code was 'smart casual.' What does that even mean since all my sources were telling me how to dress for a formal interview? In the end I decided to rather over dress with the option to make myself look more casual if necessary by taking off my suit jacket. When I arrived for my assessment day I was so relieved to have made that decision- 90% of the candidates were dressed to their best, with the more casually dressed applicants sticking out.
My advice is to dress up. You can always remove layers later if necessary.
Another thing I should mention is that you should not wear you student pilot uniform. Stick to a suit.
Black or blue?
Choosing a suit colour is a big decision. Stick to one matching colour for the top and bottom. Dark shades like navy blue and black are a conservative choice, but a dark grey will work too. Just remember that this is not the time to make a statement with colours so rather blend in and let your personality and flying skills differentiate you.
I selected a navy blue suit. I matched this with a white blouse to achieve a fresh and professional look.
Don't stretch your budget too far. After searching in several big brand name shops without any success I resorted to H&M. To my surprise I found my entire outfit (short of my shoes) in this shop and it was 'cheap as chips' and looked perfect.
Flats or high heels?
This was where I struggled the most to make a decision. Of course I know that one cannot do the simulator assessment in high heels, but I also had my personal interview and group assessment on the same day. I considered wearing my heels and taking a pair of flat shoes in my handbag specifically for the simulator, but in the end I settled on flat shoes for the entire day to simplify my life.
None of the other women wore heels but if you do choose to wear them, make sure to take a pair of appropriate looking flat shoes for the simulator. I heard of a woman who changed into a bright pair of sport shoes for her simulator assessment and I couldn't help but think that sounds unprofessional.
Also, make sure to wear suitable high heels. Consider the same type of heels that cabin crew wear to their assessment days (see the photograph). If you could wear your heels out for ladies night, it probably isn't appropriate.
Hair- up or down?
Why not do both? I am the most comfortable wearing my hair down, but I often tie my hair back while flying so I kept a hair tie with me to pull my hair back for the simulator assessment. The rest of the day I left my hair loose.
The other female candidates had a variety of hairstyles so it seems like any style will work as long as you look presentable. Some chose a pony tail, others had a bun, there were plaits too, but everyone's hair looked neat.
You will be sent a list of documents to bring with you to your assessment day. As ladies we have the advantage of having handbags to pack them into. Seeing as my shoes and belt were black, I paired it with a black handbag. Don't bring a sports bag because it ruins the professional image.
Is make-up too feminine?
I wondered whether wearing make-up might make me look like I'm not up for this job, but I decided to rather be myself since I think women should be able to wear as much, or as little, make-up to work as they want. It doesn't matter whether they work in an office or in the flight deck.
Some women wore no make-up. I think I was one of the candidates wearing the most since I realized I could calm my nerves by approaching the day as if I was simply going to work when I was a cabin crew. I definitely looked great and felt confident about my appearance during my assessment day.
My only word of caution would be not to select bright colours for lipsticks and eye shadows. It can look tacky. But I would say that to all women going for interviews, not only to female pilots. And that is purely my opinion on the matter.
Zoom in on details
Every detail matters when you're trying to show your best side, even your nails. Make sure your nails are presentable. It doesn't have to be a manicure from the salon, but consider at least filing your nails at home before. I added a layer of clear nail varnish, but it could have been due to the high grooming standards I was exposed to as a cabin crew.
Tie or no tie?
Don't bother wearing a tie. We can leave that up to the men. I just included it here because apparently it's a common question women ask.
By sticking to these suggestions you won't have anything to fear regarding your appearance for your assessment day. Choosing the right outfit beforehand will give you the time to focus on preparing other aspects for your interview, so you can savor the moment when you are invited for your first pilot assessment day. After all, reading the invitation email for your dream job it is one of the unforgettable moments in life.
The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.