Pilot CV Design Guide

How to Design a Professional Pilot CV

How to design it and what to include…

How to Design a Pilot CV

This Pilot CV design guide is written by a professional pilot who has been part of an airline recruitment team, contributed to the design of pilot selection processes, screened pilot CVs and took part in the assessment and selection of candidates.

The advice on this page is relevant to all levels of applications, whether that be for a Pilot Cadet Program, Low Hour Pilot or an experienced Captain. Some areas might not be applicable for certain job applications, for example, details on flying experience probably won’t be relevant if you are applying for an airline cadet program.

Why is your CV so important?

You should not underestimate the importance of your CV in the airline application process. Recruiters may only spend a few seconds reviewing your CV before deciding whether it’s worth looking at in more detail or putting it in the ‘no thanks’ pile.

Having a well-constructed CV that includes all the essential information is vital. This may well be the only document they review to consider your pilot job application so you must quickly sell yourself and convince the recruiter that you are the right person for the job.

Your CV can say a lot about you as a person. If your CV is poorly constructed with spelling and grammatical errors it could suggest that you don’t have a good attention to detail or your command of English language is poor. If you leave gaps or give generic dates (rather than specific months & years), it might demonstrate you aren’t well organised or have gaps that are unaccounted for which could create security referencing problems.

Design Overview

Your CV is there to showcase your skills and experience whilst demonstrating that you are a well-suited candidate for the role. You need to do this in a well-structured, clear and concise way. There’s a fine line between overcrowding / cluttering a CV and including a good amount of quality information.

Keep it to a single page wherever possible. You can adjust the size of the text to help you achieve this.

Consider including the airline’s colours (for the airline you are applying to) in the document, for example in the heading bars. This shows attention to detail and that you’ve taken the time to personalise your application specifically to an individual airline. These little additional touches can make a big difference when it comes to first impressions.

Font & Colour

Keep the font and text colours conservative. Don’t use unusual/outlandish fonts or colours that are difficult to see. The contrast ratio between the text and its background should be high enough for the text to be very clear.

Organising your content can be achieved by ensuring each section is given a clear heading. This allows the recruiter to quickly see the context of the section they are reading. Some suggestions as to how to split the sections are included in the content section below.

Many people make the mistake of not using the documents vertical space in an efficient way. There are different ways in which you can ensure the documents horizontal space is utilised in an effective way through columns and reducing the margin sizes.

Keep in mind that if the recruiter can’t find some essential information that they require (for example a 5-year checkable history), most aren’t going to take the time to get in touch with you to find that information out (particularly with low experience levels).

Why would they when the next CV in the pile (and probably hundreds more) might have all the information they need to progress their application to the next stage? That’s why you need to make sure that all the essential details are included, without fail. What might be a minor piece of information to you (like your notice/availability period), could be a make or break item for the airline.

Making your CV Relevant

Consider who you are sending your CV to and try and assess your CV from their perspective. If you are from France and sending your CV to a British or Irish airline, don’t use abbreviations the recruiter won’t understand. Write it so it’s understandable for all nationalities. For example, some countries have compulsory military service. State it was compulsory, not every recruiter will know it was.

Explain your education in an understandable format and give it context. Highlight the equivalent level of education for the country in which the airline you are applying to are based. For example, if it’s the equivalent of high school or secondary education, point this out. Don’t just put down ambiguous grades or marks without context. If you scored 7.5 in English language, state what this 7.5 was out of i.e. 7.5/10.

Consider the Type of Airline…

Consider the type of airline you are applying to. A large low-cost carrier will probably want to see you are focussed on threat and error management and non-technical skills. A legacy carrier may be more focussed on customer service and operational considerations. This might affect what skills you focus on highlighting in the document.

A Single Page

For most applications, and particularly for low hour and inexperienced flight crew your CV should normally consist of a single page. This is the standard industry format. Keep in mind that most recruiters will only get a very short period of time to evaluate your CV and therefore it should be kept clear, concise and to the point. If you’ve gone onto a second page, you’ve probably either included too much information or haven’t been very space efficient with your design.

Only extend it past a single page if you have very good reason such as an extensive career history before flying. For example, an experienced Captain might have reason to do this if you have held a number of positions, but then in this case you could probably leave out all your academic history except for the highest level of qualification you achieved, as you’ve been operating as a pilot for some time.

The longer you’ve been operating, the less important you career prior to flying and your academic qualifications are. However these details are critical if you are a low hour pilot as the airlines need something to differentiate you from all the other low hour applications they receive.

It should never exceed 2 pages. If you’re struggling for space, have a look at our example CV’s to see how you can be space efficient.

How to keep the document to a single page

Some tips to keep the document to a single page if you’re struggling:

  • Reduce the margin sizes. This will allow you to fit more information in on all 4 sides of the document.
  • Pick a space efficient font. Some fonts have bigger spaces between the letters than others. Experiment with some different fonts to see what works for your documents.
  • Consider using a smaller font size, perhaps only for certain areas of the document, but ensure it is still clear enough to read
  • Reduce the space between each line. Both Microsoft Word and Apple Pages will allow you to reduce the standard spacing between lines

Your personal details should be at the top of the CV and easy to locate. If any of these details are invalid, the recruiter might not be able to get hold of you. Pay particular attention to your mobile phone number and email address being correct.

Personal Details Layout

  • Full Name – As stated on your passport.
  • Address – Make sure you include the country and province.
  • Mobile – and home phone number INCLUDING country code. If an international company wants to get hold of you, don’t expect them to work out what the country’s dialling code us. Double and triple check that you have put down the right number.
  • Email Address – As above, double and triple check it’s accurate. Make sure you email address is sensible and professional.

The Less Obvious…

  • Notice / Availability Period – Be specific, don’t say ‘approximately’.
  • Willingness to relocate – State whether this is globally, across the continent or nationally.
  • Able to fund a type rating? If an airline is specifying that you must be able to self-fund a type rating, specifically highlight that you are able to do this.
  • Nationality – This is different to hold a passport as you might hold nationality somewhere but not a passport. If you hold a nationality it would demonstrate eligibility to hold a passport for that country.
  • Passport(s) – List which countries passport(s) you hold.
  • Driving Licence – Full and clean if applicable. Many airlines state in their flight crews’ contracts, that they must hold a full driving licence. You need to make sure you tick all the minimum requirement boxes.
  • Date of Birth – Some people leave their DoB out, especially if they are above 30 and applying for their first flying position. Our recommendation is to always include it as it’s a vital piece of information for the recruiter. It helps contextualise the rest of the CV.
    • If you don’t include it, it could be interpreted as saying that you feel your age may negatively impact your application. Different airlines will have different views on age. There are age discrimination laws in place within Europe, so it shouldn’t really matter but unfortunately the reality seems to sometimes be different.

Flying Experience & Qualifications

The recruiter must verify that you meet the minimum flying qualifications for the role and therefore setting out your flying credentials clearly is essential. There are people out there who apply for flight crew positions who don’t even hold a licence and plenty more who apply for the position without meeting the minimum requirements. It’s therefore important that this section is prioritised towards the top of the document and we would suggest it immediately precedes your personal details.

Other details to include…

  • The licences you hold (for example frozen ATPL – CPL, ME/IR, MCC)
  • Which state your licence was issued by?
  • Your flight crew licence number
  • Total flight hours. Your total flight time should NOT include simulator time – list this separately. Simulator time is less important if you are an established F/O or Captain.
  • Flight hours broken up into time on type (if you’ve done more flying than the minimum required for licence issues and particularly if you’ve been rated on multiple aircraft types), multi-engine time and Pilot in Command (PIC) time.
  • What type ratings you hold and if you aren’t currently in employment, when they will expire.
  • Any other endorsements or courses like a JOC or tail-dragger course.
  • State you hold a Class One Medical certificate, including any restrictions, which state it was issued by and when it expires.
  • Your English Language Proficiency (ELP) level (e.g. ICAO ELP 4).

Education & Academic History

  • If you haven’t got a great deal of work experience or have recently graduated from flight training, we’d recommend including this before your employment history. If you are a currently pilot in employment then we’d suggest placing this section after your career history.
  • List events in reverse chronological order with the months included for all start and finish dates to demonstrate a five-year checkable history. Do not just put the years.

Flight Training History

  • Your flight training should be listed either under this section order under Flying Experience & Qualifications. We would recommend grouping it under Education and Academic history as it’s easier for a recruiter to follow your chronological history. They want to see a consistent 5-year checkable history for security clearance purposes.
  • Your flight training history should detail where you completed your ATPL Theoretical Exams and the fact they were first time passes (leave out if not) and what your average ATPL Theory grade was. You may need to have obtained an 85% average pass mark for some airlines.
  • Your flight training history should include where you completed your hour building, CPL, and Multi Engine Instrument Rating. Also include which aircraft you have operated. If you completed a full-time integrated course all your flight training can be listed under one-time bracket and one flight school.
  • Details of your MCC should include where you completed it, on what type of simulator (B737/A320?), and how many hours it consisted of.

Secondary Education

  • Low Hour Pilots should include all education from Secondary School (College) / Higher Education onwards. For each academic institution attended include when you attended, it’s name, where it’s located and the grades / certificates / qualifications achieved. Detail supplementary information such as notable achievements (such as captain of the rugby team or achievement awards).
  • If you’ve achieved a GCSE level of education and acquired reasonable grades (C and above), it’s probably worth highlighting how many subjects you passed and what the mark was in each subject, particularly Maths, English and Science. Again, with A-Levels, University Degrees, Diplomas etc, include the grades in each subject if they are reasonable. If they are poor grades, it might be best of leave them out.
  • You should check the minimum requirements for the job and ensure that the academic qualification section specifically demonstrates you meet the requirements. For example, if it states you require 5 GCSEs with grades A-C, make sure this is clearly visible.
  • Established pilots should include their highest level of academic achievement, including the details as set out in the two bullet points above.

Work Employment & History

  • Place this section above your education history if you’ve recently graduated from your commercial flight training.
  • Start and finish dates should include months as well as years.
  • State your role and which company you worked for.
  • Where was the role located (City and Country)?
  • What did your role entail? Try and link some of the key skills and attributes required to that of a First Officer (for low hour pilots). Examples include communication, decision making, planning, situational awareness, working under time pressure, prioritising, leadership, team work.
  • If it was a flying job, highlight a bit of information about the type of operation considering the type of operation of the airline you are applying for.
  • State if the role was part time and the fact you were working whilst in education if applicable.
  • If you were working to fund your flight training, state it. It shows a high degree of determination and perseverance.

References

References can take up unnecessary space in a CV and space is at a premium. At the point of scanning through your CV, a recruiter is not going to contact any references you list. References will usually only be contacted if you are successful and you are provisionally given an offer of employment. It’s at this point the company will check your references. Save the space for something more relevant.

Hobbies & Interest

Recruiters and particularly fellow flight crew want to see that you’re (hopefully) a well-rounded and interesting person and listing your interests and hobbies can be an effective way of achieving this. Examples might include detailing any sports you play or some sort of club membership or association.

The recruiters can sometimes find something here that they find interesting or perhaps having something in common and this can be a good way for them to kick off the interview. For example, they might say ‘David, I see you like to sail, what sort of boat do you sail?’. This can result in a relaxed opening to the interview, setting the tone and putting you at ease.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t make anything up here as you can quickly become unstuck if one of the recruiters shares a similar interest and questions you on it.

Achievements

You might also include achievements that aren’t appropriate to be listed under your education or employment history. For example, highlight your participation in the Air Cadets or completing the Duke of Edinburgh award.

If you are going to spend most of the day locked in a small compartment with one other person, you probably want to be with someone who has a bit of character and outside interests.

Multilingual skills can be a useful commodity for flight crew. It opens up potential job opportunities across the world which might not otherwise be available. It’s also potentially useful to better engage with passengers if you are flying internationally to some destinations. Include details about the level of language skills you have if applicable, for example, native, fluent, advanced, conversational. If it’s very basic, it’s probably not worth listing.

General Advice & Tips

  • Double check the minimum requirements set out by the airline. Make sure every single one of these minimum requirements is addressed in the CV. For example, if the job advert says you require ICAO ELP 5 or above, make sure this is specifically included this.
  • Think about the type of operation and the ethos of the airline you are applying to. Consider the skills you have developed in your previous career and tie this into the airline’s operation to which you are applying.
  • If you’ve got large gaps (more than a couple of months) in your CV within the last 5 years, you need to justify it. If a recruiter sees a significant gap which is unaccounted for, it leaves many question marks as to what you were doing, your work ethos and ability to attain a 5-year reference. If you travelled for 6 months, include this in your career or education history. If you were looking for employment, state this in the document. If your CV has any gaps, pre-empt how the recruiter will interpret these and what questions they might have. You can then include answers to these points in your document.
  • Ask a friend, colleague or family member to double check it for you to highlight any spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Double and triple check all contact information.

A Photo or Not?

It depends which airline you are applying to. Generally speaking, we wouldn’t suggest excluding it for applications to Western European airlines, but include it for everywhere else like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US.

Some Western European airlines aren’t always keen on you including them because your appearance isn’t important and there are possible discrimination law implications if the applicant isn’t selected for the role.

Sending the Document

  • Your CV should be saved with a sensible and concise name such as ‘John Tods Curriculum Vitae’ (not something like ‘JT CV 2’). This signifies attention to detail, professionalism and makes it easier for the recruiter to search for it if required.
  • Send or upload your CV in PDF format. Sending it in Microsoft Word or Apples Page’s may result in formatting issues depending on what software is used to open the document. For example, the fonts may look different or boxes could overlap, turning a well-structured document to a misaligned mess. The PDF file type standardises the format, ensuring it is viewed in the same consistent way regardless of operating system or software.
  • You can save the document as a PDF file using both the latest versions of Microsoft Word and Apple Pages. Always check the PDF has formatted correctly once it’s been converted. Ensure that the images have been converted to a reasonable level of quality.

Cover Letter

  • If you’re emailing your CV it should be accompanied with an airline specific Cover Letter, more details of which can be found in our Covering Letter section. We would suggest including the Cover Letter in the body of the email as well as attaching it in a PDF format.
  • Include a sensible subject line in the email such as ‘Blue Air First Officer Application’. This avoids it being filtered as spam and can be quickly directed to the right person or recruitment department.

Want to use our Professional CV design service? Our team have experience in designing selection processes, screening CVs and selecting candidates for airlines. Visit our Professional CV Tailoring page or email us to see how we can help support your airline application.