Hard work and dedication to detail are the hallmarks of engineers and quality specialists who work in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). The right people are always in demand (the International Civil Aviation Organisation, for example, estimates a shortfall of thousands of places in maintenance training), but the highly regulated nature of the job means that many applicants find themselves competing against others with similar qualifications and licences, therefore it can be difficult to be the “stand out” candidate.
At Aero Professional, director Sam Sprules acknowledges that there is a certain uniformity in such safety-sensitive roles.
“For the most part MRO roles are based on very specific skill sets”, he says. “MRO is the safety backbone of the entire aviation industry and as such very heavily regulated. For example, engineers seeking work will more often than not need to hold a particular type of licence relevant to the country in which they will be conducting their work (in Europe this would be an EASA Part 66 licence), as well as an additional qualification within the licence to cover the aircraft type they will be working on.
“The individual engineer’s expertise is then likely to be further specific to cover either the aircraft airframe and engines, or the avionics and instrument systems, allowing them to sign off on work completed.
“So from a recruiters’ point of view it is what we call ‘square peg, square hole’—you have to have that skill set to get the job.”
As Sprules explains, because candidates will only be considered for MRO roles if they have the appropriate skill set, the attributes which will set them apart are based around interpersonal skills and a desired mindset.
“We are looking for people who are hugely focussed on their work to the point where they take great pride in what they do. Good candidates are quality-orientated, mechanically-minded and process-driven individuals”, says Sprules.
“Engineers fall under the guidance and control of the approved maintenance provider, who in their own right are then subject to regulatory policy, such as EASA Part 145. This in turn requires a team of specifically skilled and experienced individuals to ensure compliance in a competitive industry”. As a guide he points to the personality types who will stand out.
“These roles are best suited to people who are quality-driven, as they are often perfectionists, seeking to do things to the very best of their ability, but also always looking to improve the processes used.”
Safety implications and fast-paced technology mean that quality and process improvement is prominent in the world of MRO. “We expect CVs to reflect this, with examples such as Six Sigma or Lean and having worked in an environment subject to extensive auditing at a recognised standard, such as ISO”, he says.
So there is a stringent approach, but this does not detract for the passion which many applicants display towards the industry. Many candidates see MRO opportunities as their dream roles which they have been working towards since apprenticeships or university says Kevin Small, senior recruitment consultant at Zenon.
“We see people who feel that aviation is in their blood”, he says, pointing out that a solid background in the subject will stand applicants in good stead. “However for those who are coming in fresh from other industries, or who have tried to get apprenticeships, it can be hard.”
Safety-consciousness and competence are givens. Candidates who impress, says Small, are those who can explain their career challenges by referring to real-life examples and accomplishments.
This the real nitty-gritty, which elevates the application process above the essential, but nevertheless tick-box, exercise of having the required licences. A time-served approach does not impress: the number of years of experience is not as important as the depth, or quality, of that experience.
“It’s about exposure and experience”, he says. “What situations have the candidates been in? I expect them to give specific examples that demonstrate their technical, safety and quality consciousness from previous tenures and their breadth of experience; how they operate, as an example. We want to hear how they have overcome problems and how they have made sure that they don’t happen again.”
The candidates who make their mark are those who are their best selves, showing professionalism and an interest in the company they wish to work for. Recruiters define a good interview as one which has been a dialogue, not a conversation. “Qualifications will secure you an interview, but technical experience, personality and rapport secure the job opportunity”, says Small.