Pattern Recognition in Five Inch Heels

Pattern Recognition in Five Inch Heels
By   Karen May 09, 2014

I was recently at a conference that hosted an aviation job fair. Legions of young pilot hopefuls milled around in a cloud of tangible anxiety, waiting an opportunity to connect with a connector, impress the right interviewer, say the right thing over the right piece of paper. All the major passenger carriers were interviewing, along with the major freight operators. If you wanted to get a job flying big tin, this was the place to be. Four stripers Captains of every flavor were in uniform, working the room and conducting one-on-one conversations with the wannabes.

I could not help but be fascinated by the dynamics. However, nothing amazed me more than the few applicants who spectacularly missed the first litmus test of pattern recognition. Amid the conservative blue and grey suits, white shirts or blouses and sensible shoes were several young women who thought that stiletto heels, skin tight skirts and plunging necklines provided the appropriate look to interview as an airline pilot.

I sure wanted to ask if you could get full rudder throw in 5-inch heels. At the risk of sounding old school and being accused, once again, of being a “proto-woman”, I can only explain the choice to dress that way for an aviation interview in one of two ways. The first explanation is that the young women involved have poor pattern recognition and/or did no homework. If you are trying to impress an airline that you have what it takes to assume the enormous responsibilities that go along with the job, you should start by looking like an aviation professional and dress as if you have worked inside of a cockpit. This is not a secret. To miss this fundamental is a worrisome indicator of the ability to assimilate information and speaks to poor general preparation.

The second explanation is that the differently dressed applicants have perfectly adequate pattern recognition and simply choose to dress to express themselves differently as a way of standing out. This is more troublesome for an industry that can only exist on standardization, procedure and team work. The HR offices are filled with people who get a job and then methodically commence to march to the beat of their own drummer and wonder why it tends to work out poorly.

So, I wonder if these applicants ever got a second call. The competition was intense and the openings limited. As far as I could tell, Air Kardashian was not hiring. Too bad, as there might have been a pretty good stick there, dressed like a night clubber. I could not help but recall one of the first lessons of flight school – keep your head up, look around and cross check if something looks out of place, especially if that something is you.