Delta Airlines interview vs tech and education interviews

Job interviews are increasingly weird. Striking up an in-person, phone or Hangout conversation with someone at the company could lead to a question about climbing out of a blender, or an enervating haze of “culture fit” queries. The interviewee is still likely to get the classics – ‘tell me about yourself’, ‘what’s a challenge you overcame?’ ‘any questions for me?’ – but she also can’t expect that this particular interview will be the final or even penultimate stop on her journey to getting the position.

Today’s interviews are logical extensions of job postings that are written in epic jargon. Doubtless many candidates are discouraged to apply after seeing a wall of bullet points about “multitasking” and “detail-oriented” or the occasional all-caps phrase. That’s probably the aim of whomever is offering the position. For the ones that do make it past the submission phase, a potentially weeks-long interviewing escapade awaits.

Zappos stands out in this context for bypassing this byzantine norm and requiring months of (unpaid) interaction with current Zappos employees via social media. It seems extreme, but this process is just a more codified version of what candidates already had to do: Message, chat, and visit with potential employers until the latter calls time.

Most of my interviews have been at tech firms and at schools (all of my jobs have, naturally, been at one such institution). On a few occasions I have been on the other side of the table. By and large these interviews have been “normal” in that they’ve been protracted.

But to get a real feel for what interviewing today is like, look at airlines. Being a flight attendant is obviously a desirable position, with regular travel around the world not a luxury but a part of the job. With thousands of applicants to deal with, airlines like Delta have come up with a process that makes becoming a flight attendant more difficult than being admitted to Stanford.

Here’s how interviewing at Delta Airlines compares to interviewing at Uber and a few other companies. The details about Delta are from someone else; everything else if from my own experience.

Delta Airlines
The job: Flight attendant
The process: online application; 2x phone interview, video interview, face-to-face interview, background check

Good luck. A standard online application is followed by at least one and in the case I studied two phone interviews. The first is essentially a screening to make sure the applicant has the baseline educational and professional background. The second, if it occurs, is full of situational questions. These are not your theoretical (and useless) “Google questions” that are often used as gotchas during phone screenings, but questions with right answers rather than gold stars meted out for “thinking outside the box.”

If you make it past the application and the phone calls, a video interview awaits. Last summer I interviewed and was admitted to Dev Bootcamp (I since withdrew; it wasn’t the right fit) and the video interview was by far the most stressful part of the process. This is worse. Whereas the DBC video was just one component of many in the initial application, this has a lot more riding on it – you’ve already made it this far, and getting to Atlanta just requires recording a video of you answering some questions.

It must be treated like a real face-to-face interview (with the camera as the other ‘face’) and you must dress formally and record your video in an aesthetically appealing setting. My source did the interview wearing a shirt and tie, in a living room with lots of books. The video is time-constrained; all questions should be answered within just a few minutes.

Anyone industrious enough to make it this far must clear two more hurdles: the on-site Atlanta interview (called a face-to-face or F2F) and a background check. The F2F is undoubtedly the epic process’s toughest stage, its equivalent of the “test of the champion.” Arriving on site can instantly make a candidate fell like all is lost: just look at all those smiling, professionally dressed other people! Overcoming that anxiety is probably the toughest step. The actual interview – a two-on-one setup with lots of situational questions – can be prepared for with adequate Internet research and rehearsal.

The job: Community manager
The process: Online submission; creative exercise; phone interview; on-site interview; written exercise; party attendance

This process wasn’t difficult so much as it was inscrutable. No part of it made me feel like I was getting closer to the prize. The initial submission is standard (resume, cover letter) but nothing else is. Note that my experience is from late 2012/early 2013, and they’ve probably tightened up the process since then.

The creative exercise requires developing various marketing and promotional initiatives for Uber and takes hours to complete. It’s basically unpaid consulting. If it passes muster, then it’s on to a somewhat straightforward phone screening – no gotchas or case questions.

The on-site interview is extremely informal. It’s the dreaded “culture fit” round, and there’s not much you can do to control your fate here. They either like you or think that, for whatever reason, you won’t fit in.

Somehow, that ends up not being the end of the road. I had to do a written analysis of a ride I took, as well as go to a holiday party. Nothing materialized and I ended up waiting weeks to get the TBNT letter.

Job: Teacher
Process: online application, profile creation, assessment, on-site networking, video interview

Teaching runs the gamut. I once got a part-time professorship basically via email, making it the easiest job interview process ever (there wasn’t one, basically). On the other hand, teaching positions, especially in English, can be very competitive.

Every school is different. But for high-performing ones, expect tests, video interviews and on-sight workshops, all before even getting to a demo lesson or reference check. Like the other jobs here, it can be tough to know if you’re doing well, since much of the process – for all of its semblance of objectivity and metrics – is about fit and finish.

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