Cabin Crew selection: We interview the interviewer

By: Dave Gunner

September 22, 2017

Sarah Smart from our recruitment team

Sarah Smart from our recruitment team

Can there be a more pivotal role at Virgin Atlantic than the person who selects our cabin crew? And could there be anything more nerve wracking than an interview for your dream job? We want to find exceptional cabin crew members to look after our customers, and for the applicants, the outcome could be life changing. After all, the prize is one of the most sought after jobs in the world.

Every year thousands of people apply. But how do we choose who will join the best team in the sky and help create lasting memories for our customers? And what of the terrifying rumours that abound about our recruitment process? Do we plant spies in the group? Or make people sing and dance? We interviewed the interviewer to find out…

Sarah Smart has been interviewing prospective cabin crew for ten years, and today she sheds some light on the process and dispels some of the clichés and fears. As we speak, the empathy Sarah shows for her applicants is immediately clear. It’s just the sort of kindness and understanding that has come to define our cabin crew, and is one of the qualities we look for in our recruits.

Something else that’s important to us is a strong background in caring for customers. Sarah herself is a case in point. After a spell as a personal trainer and a dancer on board cruise ships, she honed her customer service skills in retail and recruitment, before seeing an advert for Virgin Atlantic cabin crew and applying to become part of the team.

Do you remember how you felt when you came for your interview?
I always remember how I felt when I was sitting on the couch in this room. It was both exciting and nerve wracking. But the one thing I remember was how the recruitment team came across and how they made me feel. More than anything, they gave me the passion to want to work here.

Who are you looking for?
Our cabin crew, first and foremost, need to love customer service. We’re looking for people who not only have that passion but also go above and beyond. You’ve got to be able to think on your feet, work well as part of a first class team and, naturally, love to travel.

What are the best bits about being Virgin Atlantic cabin crew?
The best bits are the camaraderie, sharing the same values as your colleagues, the variety. It really is true that no two days are the same, and it’s that wonderful feeling when your customers walk off the flight with great memories. Then of course there’s the lifestyle. It takes a while to adapt to it but you’ll never look back.

And what are the most important parts of being cabin crew?
You need to be able to use all the training and tools we give you. You must be aware of your surroundings, think one step ahead all the time and be able to adapt to any given situation that can arise, while always putting the customer first.  For example dealing with a nervous flyer to dealing with a medical situation, to dealing with safety on board.

What are the stages of recruitment?
Cabin Crew recruitment starts with an online application where you upload your current CV. The form will include a couple of application and motivation based questions. If you pass through that screening you will be asked to submit a short recorded video interview around our brand behaviours and if we think you’ve got what it takes we’ll invite you in for one of our assessment days. At the assessment day you’ll first be asked to sit on a crew seat and reach an overhead bin. This is important because a lot of safety equipment is stored in the hat racks and you need to be able to reach it. Teamwork is imperative, we’ll also be looking for your problem solving skills and behaviours so we run some fun and interactive group activities. We also get to spend some time with you on an individual basis and most importantly share plenty of information about the day to day operation of the role. As much as we assess whether you are the right fit for the role, we know the role must also be the right fit for you

What advice would you give someone coming to an assessment day?
Just be yourself. Remember how well you’ve done to get to the final stage. Believe in yourself. Show us your personality, energy and enthusiasm, and smile.

What’s it like on the other side of the interview?
You never forget that what you are doing is so important to the candidates. This could be their dream, it could change their lives. We really don’t want anyone to fail. One of our behaviours is to put yourself in their shoes and I do that every time I interview. Then I love hearing people’s stories and learning about their background. We employ cabin crew from such a wide variety of backgrounds. Just recently I had a retired policeman who brought a wealth of experience with him. Most of all I want our candidates to relax and show us their true selves. I want to get to know the real person and I want them to leave here thinking that was a great assessment day, I had a great time and I really want to join Virgin Atlantic.

Do you still bump into people you’ve interviewed?
Yes! All the time. It’s the most heart-warming part of my job. I still fly and it is a real joy to fly alongside someone I’ve recruited. I also regularly bump into people at our training centre and I love it when I can see still the energy and enthusiasm that I first recognised at the interview. Whenever they thank me I always tell them that they have done all the hard work.

And finally, what about those rumours we hear? What do the candidates tell you they’ve heard before they get here?
Ha, my favourite topic. We hear all sorts of crazy things. That we have targets for specific days, only recruiting one on a Monday, two on a Tuesday and so on. Not true. We want everyone to succeed. Then people think we’re going to make them perform a song and dance. No. And of course that we only recruit tall blondes. I’m five foot three with short black hair so again, no. There are no trick questions, no spies in the group and no targets to meet – it’s all about finding the best people to join us!

Where can anyone interested in a job as cabin crew go to find out more?
Our recruitment site has a wealth of information about everything from presenting your CV to attending the day and we’re currently recruiting for Cabin Crew and you can apply here. Good luck!



Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.

Categories: Our People