I’ve covered the topic of filling out job applications in several posts, but a recent incident has me wanting to discuss the topic again.

Pilots trying to get a job with an airline—especially, but not limited to—a major carrier will use whatever advantages they can. Know the CEO? Check. Have letters of recommendation from several vice presidents? Check. Are you a female or a minority? Check….carefully.

Nobody wants to discuss the possibility that preferences may be given to women and minorities, but any large corporation needs to be in compliance with a number of federal laws when it comes to hiring. While “quota” is not a word often heard, you’d be naïve to think that certain groups aren’t actively pursued in order to avoid getting sued for discrimination.

And that brings me to how to handle this on your application. With computerized applications the rule nowadays, companies can track the changes on applications. I recently had a discussion with a pilot who was questioned in an interview about changing his ethnicity on the application after the invitation for the interview had been extended. He had selected a minority background initially, and changed it later to White/Other. To the airline, it looked like he had made the initial selection to try to expedite getting called for an interview, then tried to be honest after the fact. It didn’t look good, and he was denied the job because it looked like he was trying to game the system.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: When you’re filling out the application, be honest on everything, and when it comes to the very basics of who you are, make sure you get it right the first time. If you can legitimately claim to be a certain something, then by all means, say so. But if you think you’re going to get away with something, think twice. Just because you may get through the interview while hiding a checkride failure or a deceptive background, you’re not off the hook. Airlines have terminated pilots even after their probationary year is up if they lied to get the job, and there’s nothing to stop them from doing so in the future.

If you discover that you’ve made an honest mistake, take the initiative and address it first yourself. You can either deal with the HR folks on the phone (the smart move), or you can wait until the interview and bring it up first on your own before they get a chance to start questioning you. The last thing you want to do is to put yourself in a situation where you are forced to defend your integrity.—Chip Wright