SpaceTEC® Resource Blog for Aerospace Technicians

Interview Tips and Techniques For The Aerospace Technician

With the major changes in Human Space Flight due to the end of the Space Shuttle program, many aerospace technicians are dusting off and updating their resumes.  But, how many of you have gone over interview techniques lately?  A good resume can land you an interview, but it is the interview that lands you the job.  Your interview technique has to be as good as or better than your resume.  After all, this is the first time a representative from the company you’re applying too will see you face to face and it is of the utmost importance to give a great first impression.  Below are some tips and techniques I have found successful in the past and may be of some benefit to you.

  • Dress for success.  When I first moved to Florida over 13 years ago, and started interviewing for jobs, I would show up in a nice suit as I was taught to do when I was a younger man.  I was surprised to find myself competing with other people who showed up for their interview wearing shorts, tee-shirts, and flip-flops.  Trust me, I’m not exaggerating.  These people ended up having very short interviews, usually lasting less than five minutes, and were not hired.  A good rule of thumb to use when interviewing for a job is to dress one step above the position you’re applying for.  If it is a technician’s position and their normal wear for the job is jeans and a shirt, then you should be wearing at least dress slacks and a dress shirt.  Of course, wearing a suit and tie is even better.  Don’t forget to shine your shoes either.  I’ve learned working in the aerospace industry that many managers are former military and they do pay attention to your shoes.  So learn to shine your shoes like the guys in boot camp.
  • Hygiene: Dressing for success also means showering and shaving before the interview, so don’t forget to wash behind your ears and to shave away that five o’clock shadow.  Make sure you clean your fingernails too.
  • Research the company.  If you want to work for a certain company, you should know something about them.  Go to their website and learn about the company, its type of business, its goals, mission statement, etc.  You want to be a team member, so you need to know about the team.
  • Research the job you’re applying for.  Talk with people who already do the job, research the position on the web, learn the average salary for the position as it relates to your experience level, etc.  Coming into the interview with a good, solid, basic knowledge of the job and its expectations will give you a leg up on the competition and grant you the ability to ask better and more knowledgeable questions.   This shows the interviewer that you have initiative to learn on your own.
  • Speaking of questions, make a list of questions to take in with you.  Have questions about the job, work environment, dress code, benefits, etc.  If you are interviewing with the person who would be your boss, ask him/her what they expect of you and what their management philosophy is.
  • Remember, an interview is actually a two way street.  The company is there because they want to learn more about you and you are there to learn more about them.  By asking educated questions and keeping those questions positive you will learn quickly if this company is a good match for you or not.  I’ve actually had interviewers get hostile over my questions and I have ended those interviews on my own initiative because I knew they would not be a good match for me.  Other interviewers have been pleasantly surprised at my questions and took a large amount of time to answer them fully.  Also look at the interviewer’s appearance and conduct.  Are they professional?  Do they represent their company well?  Do they treat you with respect?  If not, these should be taken as warning flags that you might want to reconsider working for them.  No one says you have to accept every job that is offered to you.
  • Be prepared to answer any question fully and in as much detail as possible.  That does not mean tell your life story, but stay on topic concerning the question.  Such questions as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” are classic ones that are asked.  Start out with a specific weakness and what you are doing to correct it and always end on your strengths.  For example, you could say that time management is a weakness of yours, but you are currently reading a book on time management to learn new tips and techniques to strengthen that skill.  You might even ask if the company has any educational programs in house that teach better time management skills.  Never give general answers without having specific examples to back them up.  Saying, “I never call off work” and backing it up with, “At my last job I went 3 years without a sick day” is a good example.
  • Stress that you wish to continue your education.  This shows that you won’t be idle and content with “just a job” but are looking to improve yourself and in turn improve the company.  Ask about tuition reimbursement programs and if the company has an in house education department.
  • Don’t forget about hobbies.  Some employers during an interview want to know what you like to do in your spare time.  And, make sure you can point out that the skills you use in your hobby can be useful in the job you’re applying for.  For example, I think the two main reasons I got hired into the Space Shuttle program was my Aerospace Technology degree and my hobby, which is model building.  I told my interviewers that my hobby taught me how to do small precise work, and to read and follow instructions/processes to the letter.  These turned out to be skills that were very much applicable for working on the thermal protection system of the Space Shuttle as a technician.
  • Always be pleasant and rested for the interview.  Not getting enough sleep or having a bad day affect your mood will end up being reflected during your interview.  Make sure you are well rested, have eaten, and in a good mood prior to the interview.
  • Never, never speak ill of your past employer.  Even if you did not have a good relationship with your past employer, keep the hard feelings away during the interview.  If you speak ill of your past employer, then the prospective employer will assume you will speak ill of them someday.
  • Be frank about your past work history if there is something negative there.  If you were fired, and it comes up during the interview, be frank about why you were fired, and what you have done to correct that behavior to ensure it doesn’t happen again.   If you have been laid off for an extended period of time, then make sure you have something going on in your life to show you were active during that time period and not just sitting around idle collecting unemployment.  Talk about volunteer work you did, a side business you did, etc. during that time unemployed.  Never allow your resume or your interview to show you as being idle and having no initiative.
  • Always have a notebook and pen to take notes with during the interview.  Also, bring at least two copies of your resume with you, one for you to refer too and one for the interviewer to look over in case he lost his copy (It has happened many times in my experience.).
  • Always use the “King’s English” when speaking.  Other words, watch your grammar and spelling.  Fair or not, people will judge you by your grammar and spelling.  Poor grammar such as slang, cursing, etc. along with poor spelling (Learn how to use spell check!) tells an interviewer that you might not be so bright or care about your linguistic appearance.  Proper grammar and spelling are just as important as the clothes you wear to an interview.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate.  It never hurts to ask for a better salary, but be prepared to back it up with good solid reasons as to why you deserve a better salary than being offered.  Some aerospace companies will negotiate with you, especially if you have experience.
  • Always write your interviewer a thank-you note the next day after the interview even if you don’t get the job.  Remember, he/she took time out of their busy day to talk with you and it is only courteous to tell them “thanks.”  You may not get hired this time, but if you apply again later on for another position at that company, that interviewer will remember your courtesy.
  • Learn from the interview no matter if you’re hired or not.  What did you do right?  What can you do better?  List all the questions you can remember being asked and keep them in a notebook.  It is a good chance that many of those questions will be brought up again someday at another interview.  This way you can improve your chances by being better prepared the next time.

This is not a full list of interview techniques, but it should give you a start.  Talk with managers you know and ask them what they look for in interviews and research it on the web or in books.  And, if you have any other techniques you wish to share, please feel free to share them in the comments section.  Good luck!


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Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 Career Advice, Introduction to Aerospace