PSA: How To Properly Button Your Suit

I saw a large group of pilots interviewing for First Officer positions at United today. I was amazed by how many of them had their suit jackets buttoned improperly. Nothing says: “I have never worn a suit before” louder than buttoning both buttons on the jacket. The same applies to uniform jackets.

While I am at it, when you do interview at an airline, also remember to: shine your shoes, wear a mechanical watch, have a suit that fits, wear a tie tack and get your hair cut.

Here is a graphic explaining proper suit buttoning and a link to the page I stole the graphic from:

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Amazing! That should be the easiest part.

Adam

Chris,

This is a great article, thanks for sharing. During my first interview, I felt unsure of proper etiquette, since then have learned some of the ways and seen how the “pros” do it.

Like you mentioned about the mechanical watch, I have to find myself one that fits my personality and looks clean, professional.

Brady

Brady,

If you have an Apple Watch, I suppose that would be okay-ish. Just don’t show up with a Timex Ironman or a G-Shock on.

Chris

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Chris,

Surprisingly, I don’t own an Apple Watch, I was contemplating on buying one, but I don’t need to get notifications while I’m flying :grinning:.

Brady

Hi Chris,

How about shirt color? Are we allowed some pastel colors or traditional white or light blue shirt only?

Been living in California for too long and the standards of “business dress” here are a bit more…relaxed.

Alex

Alex,

I’d say know your airline. Some are more traditional than others (Delta, American), while others are not (United, Hawaiian, JetBlue). That said I’d always err on the side of conservatism. You’re not going to walk into an interview and have someone be so impressed with how that pink shirt makes your eyes pop that they’ll think we have to hire that guy, but you could turn someone off if they interpret that as being too casual. I’ve always stuck with white, blue or gray and I haven’t failed yet.

Adam

Alex,

I would stick with traditional colors. You can never go wrong taking that approach.

Chris

Thank you for this Chris. I can only imagine the stuff that you and the other member on here who are at major airlines see on a day to day basis that make you shake your head.

Regarding shining your shoes, in the military we have shoes that are pre-shined all over or as we call them corfams. If I ever receive an interview one day do you think these would over overkill?

Anthony,

Corfams (or as we civilians call them patent leather) shoes are a bit formal or overkill for an interview. Just plain clean and shined regular leather shoes would look better. Unless you’re wearing a tuxedo.

Adam

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Be mindful of suit colors as well… I have seen some raised eyebrows at suits that were bright and more fashionable than “traditional business”. In a situation where everyone is more or less equally qualified, even your ability to dress for the job may matter.

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For women, there is often little to no guidance on the appropriate look for an airline interview. You want to look professional in a male dominated industry, but looking too feminine can often lead to the wrong impression…meaning, you don’t want to look like a flight attendant. Here’s my tips:

Suit
The safest choice is a pants suit while a blazer and skirt has been historically appropriate as well (maybe just a bit old fashioned). Make sure the top and bottom are the same color. Black and navy are always a good choice. Absolutely no bold or light colors. Even though a beige or white suit may look professional in other settings, you don’t want to stick out (more than you already do) in a sea of dark suits. Make sure you’re aware of button etiquette for your blazer. If not, scroll up.

Blouse
A button up blouse is the safest choice with a tie or cross tie. The tie is optional for women but if you’re going with a button up, I highly recommend going with a tie of some sort. Men have to wear a tie with a button up, so we should too. It looks the most professional and similar to the uniform. Another option, a formal blouse which negates the need of a tie but just be careful of the neck line. Too low and the attention you get won’t be in your best interest. A good rule of thumb, the blouse should trace your collarbone.

Shoes
This one is tricky. You want to look professional and sharp, however, heels in the sim is not a good idea. I recommend bringing two pairs of shoes. Heels must be a conservative height (no more than 2 inches) and shined leather. Suede or wedges are too casual. For the sim, feel free to bring the shoes you would wear on the line. Flat bottom and black leather with a fresh shine.

Makeup and Jewelry
Makeup must be of the neutral hues, nothing flashy. You will be expected to wear your makeup that way once employed with the company (pretty standard for female uniform standards). Keep the jewelry limited. No more than two rings on each hand and only one earring in each ear.

Hair
There really is no consensus on this one. I fly with my hair pulled back in a pony tail so I did that in the sim. However for the interview, I did a blend of half up/half down. I don’t think it’s a good look to be constantly touching your hair. With long hair, it seemed more inevitable so I often go with half up/half down.

Generally speaking, the best way to make a good impression: look the part. If the panel can imagine you in their uniform on a flight deck, you’re off to a good start. Alright that wraps it up. I hope this helps!

-Hannah

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I must have forgotten, but why a mechanical watch? I remember being told a watch should fit under your shirt sleeve and that the band should match your belt. I hadn’t thought about it in quite a while. I quit wearing a watch a few years ago for work.

Brian,

I suppose that no watch would be okay. I meant it more as an instruction not to wear some cheap looking digital watch.

You might find that as a pilot you want to wear a watch again as time becomes very important in this job.

Chris

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Thanks for clarifying. I forgot about cheap digital watches. I haven’t had one since I was a kid.

Great info, Chris. Thank you! A few quick questions.

First is in regards to the tie tack. What style tack would be preferred? (eg. chain around the outside of the tie vs chain behind tie / simple design vs novelty, like airplane wings) Does it have to be a tie tack or will a tie clip work just as well?

Second, does the lining of the suit jacket matter? For example, mine is traditional solid black, but has accented navy blue inner lining (which cannot be seen while buttoned).

Lastly, you mention a mechanical watch. Is it a good idea to stay away from smart watches? I have a Samsung Gear smart watch, which has a round face & has the appearance of a mechanical watch (as opposed to the obvious square faced Apples).

Mark,

Everything that pertains to dress for an interview should err on the conservative side. So to your questions:

  1. Tie tacks are completely optional. Personally I prefer a simple bar. If this is a Regional interview I do not want to see a jet or really any airplane on your tietack. It screams aviation nerd and not the person I want to be locked in a cockpit with for 5hrs.

  2. Lining doesn’t matter unless it’s ridiculously loud or bright which most decent suits don’t have.

  3. I’m going to disagree with Chris on this one. Again I’d avoid anything to loud I see nothing wrong with an iWatch or Gear. It’s 2022.

Adam

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Delta told us that if we have a smart watch it will have to be off and in a bag with our phones throughout the interview process. So I wouldn’t recommend wearing one. I found a decent one that matched my shoes and belt for the day.

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Mark,

I think simple is better and would go with the chain behind the tie, although I suppose a tie clip would be okay as well.

I would keep the lining on the conservative side, I see nothing wrong with a navy blue liner.

I meant a mechanical watch more in the sense of do not wear a $35 Timex to an interview. I would also make the case that a smart watch has the potential to distract you and is not worth the risk. You are only going to get one chance to sit in front of a major airline and make your pitch as to why they should hire you. I would hate to see that interrupted by you looking down to read a text on your watch. I looked up your Samsung watch and you are right, it really does look like a regular watch. I see no issue with it.

Chris

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Kamrin,

Interesting insight about Delta and smart watches, I had no idea.

Chris