Updated: May 11
Being paid to travel the world is what many people dream of. So what could be a better way to turn this dream into a reality than getting a job as a cabin crew? Unlike other jobs that involve travelling, flight attendants work in the aircraft so duty ends once the crew has disembarked. This means that the time spent in another country is entirely your own and a work commitment can never get in the way of sightseeing!
As if this isn’t good enough, factor in the ideas that no two days are ever the same. New passengers, different colleagues rostered for the flight and changing weather are a few variables that keep crew on their toes and ensure that every day is interesting.
So, with such an exciting job it’s no surprise that the competition for vacancies is steep! If you’ve ever been to an airline cabin crew CV drop off day you’ll know that hundreds of people apply at every event. And you might find yourself wondering whether you actually stand a chance?
With the right preparation you’ll be able to show the recruiters your best side and you could be hired for your dream job. In fact, most people fall out of the selection process simply due to lack of proper preparation for matters that could have easily been avoided.
So how can you properly prepare for a flight attendant assessment day? I’ll share some of the most important tips that helped me ace my cabin crew assessment day.
1) Don’t wait until the last minute to start:
I started preparing for my assessment day at least one month in advance. It was the first selection process I was involved in and a lot depended on getting hired (since I needed a way to fund my pilot training). Needless to say, I was clueless at the start but giving myself sufficient time to look into every aspect of the recruitment process, company and lifestyle is what gave me the confidence I needed to shine. Also, don’t underestimate the time it takes to find the right outfit and to practice doing your hair and makeup to the required standard on the big day- but we will go into more detail on that later.
2) Research, research and then research some more:
It’s amazing how much information is out there if you’re willing to look for it. I watched what felt like hundreds of YouTube videos covering every aspect (both good and bad) of the job and airline. I listened to people discussing their personal stories (click here to read an example) of their selection process and what it was like moving to the Middle East. What started off as a basic search led me to videos even explaining whether the shoes I had were appropriate for the interview. I cannot emphasize how valuable this time was in my preparation process, and recommend that you do the same.
Besides YouTube videos, it is also very important to know the latest information on the airline you want to work at. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Well for a lot of you becoming a flight attendant will be your first job in aviation, so let me tell you that in this industry things can change very quickly! So keep a look out for changes leading up to your assessment day. Recruiters are more likely to remember you if you can work some information about the company into your answers, even if the question isn’t directly about the airline.
3) Work on your CV:
Knowing that there are hundreds of other people applying for the same job makes you realize how important it is to spend time perfecting your CV. You might only have a recruiter's attention for a few minutes so having a CV that captures your best attributes is essential. Consider these points when making your CV:
° Maximum length of 2 pages. A recruiter does not have the time to look through more pages than this, especially at a CV drop off day when there are hundreds of people waiting in line.
° Organised into well defined sections. If the recruiter is curious about your education for example, he/she should easily be able to find that section on your CV.
° Order experiences from most recent to oldest. This is not essential but it is good practice and creates consistency throughout the CV.
° Stick to a professional color scheme. Try use color only to highlight important aspects. For example, only one color should be used to draw attention to all the headings.
°Use easy to read bullet points. If an explanation is required, keep it as brief as possible.
° Include information that shows you’re a well rounded individual. I’ll explain this through my own recruitment experience: before I was involved in aviation I had dreams of playing field hockey at the Olympics. Unfortunately I suffered a career ending injury which shattered those dreams, but I still had the privilege of being selected for the national team of my age group for several years. I mentioned these achievements on my CV but someone I asked to review my CV before my assessment day advised me to remove these details as it was not a ‘professional’ skill in her mind. Despite this feedback I decided to keep it, and guess what happened? The recruiter saw this on my CV and we had a great chat about field hockey and which positions we had both played! It was a great way to start a conversation in a relaxed way so I could show her who I am. So if you have any achievements outside of work or a classroom, don’t be shy to mention it.
4) Professional Photographs:
It’s tempting to ask a friend to take photographs for your application (especially since professional photos can be expensive) but having the top quality photos could be the difference between failure and success. Tell the photographer exactly what you want. Use a neutral background according to the specific airline's requirement (Qatar Airways requires a blue background as shown in the photograph where as Emirates and Etihad Airways require photographs against a white backdrop) and good quality lighting in a studio. This should be treated like a dress rehearsal for the final day- your style and image should be impeccable. Use hairspray to keep your bun in place and take your makeup with you to touch up your face in between shots. (Think of this as practice for the job as you will constantly be replenishing your lipstick on board). Most airlines don’t want edited photos so you have to rely on your own makeup skills to highlight your natural beauty.
5) Appropriate business attire:
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to dress professionally for an assessment day. Even if you have the body of a supermodel, this is not the time to wear tight or revealing clothing! The recruiters can see that you’re an attractive person through a conservative outfit. Sticking to the following will ensure that you are presentable:
° Black and white color scheme. Wear a black skirt suit and white blouse/white button up shirt. Do not wear other colors as it is best to blend in rather than stand out with your sense of fashion.
° The skirt length should reach your knees.
° Do not wear tight clothing. Have it fitted to your body but not tight.
° Choose a color for stockings that match your skin tone.
° If you can wear your high heels out to ladies night at the club, you know that they are not suitable for this event. Only black court heels are appropriate. Keep the heel relatively low so you can walk comfortably. (The reach test will anyways be done without your shoes on so wearing the highest heels possible will not help you). I have included a photograph of the shoes I wore because finding them was a major challenge for me.
° Select a decent sized black bag as an accessory. Make sure it’s large enough to hold some essential makeup items to keep your look fresh throughout the day and a file with any documents you might need to take with you on the day (CV, passport, photographs etc).
6) Hair and Makeup:
the goal for an assessment day is to match the airline’s style and image requirements. The recruiter should be able to take one look at you and know how you will look in their airline’s uniform. Find out what the airline’s lipstick and eye shadow colors are ahead of time and invest in some of them. If you can’t find out the exact color's name online then do what I did and take a photograph from the internet to the makeup brand of your choice. Ask them to help you find the perfect colors and to teach you how to create the airline’s look. You’ll walk out of that store looking like a model so you’ll probably want to plan a girls night out or a special date with your significant other for that evening.
With regards to hair, it’s time to accept that hair spray is going to be an important part of your life as a cabin crew so start getting used to it. Practice pulling all your hair back away from your face and use hairspray to hold any loose pieces in place. Imagine you’re a ballet dancer and roll your hair into a tight bun. Any hair pins or hair nets that you use must suit your hair color to blend in. Keep a small bag with extra hair pins and nets in your handbag during your recruitment process in case any pins fall out of your hair or your hair decides to surprise you. As a flight attendant you’ll always have to be prepared to touch up your look at any moment so consider this as practice for your new job.
My recruitment process was spread over 3 consecutive days. Each day started with my hands and nails being examined. If I didn’t have a manicure I would have fallen out. Why? A cabin crew’s job falls into the hospitality sector. We serve food and beverages on board so passengers constantly see our hands. Dirty hands can be unhygienic and unsightly so the recruiters want to see that you have a proper nail care system.
I advise a french manicure as several airline’s allow this style while working for them. It is very neat and avoids unnecessary colors that can be off putting. Remember that a color might look good to you but the recruiter might not regard it as professional. So why gamble your chance at living your dream life away? Just get a neutral french manicure. Gelish or acrylic nails are recommended so the paint can’t accidentally chip during the assessment day- I’m sure you’ll agree that chipped nails look tacky!
Keep your nails rather short since long nails are impractical on board and generally don’t meet the required standard.
As you can see, a lot of work goes into preparing for an assessment day. But just remember the saying as you get all your things together for your selection process- "failing to prepare is preparing to fail". When you keep in mind that all this work is to get you your dream job it suddenly all becomes worth it.
To read about what life is like as a flight attendant in the Middle East click here.
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.