Interviewing

The Airport Test: What It Is and Why Employers Use It (With Tips)

April 15, 2021

Interviews include questions about your personal and professional life to help future employers get to know you better. The impression you make and the answers you give can help them envision what it's like to work and spend time with you or be in unique situations, like stuck in traffic or stranded at an airport together. Some hiring managers use the airport test to review candidates and knowing about it can help you during interviews. In this article, we discuss what the airport test is, why interviewers use it and tips on how to pass it and secure a job offer.

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

What is the airport test?

What it commonly known as the airport test is a theoretical or hypothetical question an interviewer asks themselves after interviewing: "Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person?" Essentially, the airport test is a way to gauge whether you are a likable candidate and if the interviewer answers, "Yes," it is a good indication you are a good hire for their needs and they could work well with you.

Because coworkers spend a lot of time together, a hiring manager or interviewer may want to envision what it is like to work with you and what you will add to the company culture. The airport test is a way to assess how you as a candidate might handle challenging or stressful situations in your personal or professional life, like experiencing travel that doesn't go as planned and canceled flights.

Why do interviewers use the airport test?

Interviewers use the airport test to decide if they should hire a candidate. They ask questions to find out if you are a qualified match for a job position and are a great addition to a team, department or company. Besides asking about your education, experience and qualifications, interviewers want to learn about your soft skills, personality and if people will get along with you.

After your interview, a hiring manager might consider what being stuck at an airport with you could look like. For example, a candidate might give off the impression that they would:

  • Take charge and investigate other flight options or travel arrangements
  • Use the extended time between flights to handle work-related phone calls or emails
  • Chat with neighboring travelers to engage in conversation
  • Bring lighthearted humor into a potentially upsetting situation
  • Get bothered or show frustration
  • Do nothing and not use the time wisely

Behavioral questions may give an employer input, though the success of a candidate isn't always correlated with this type of questioning or offer a fully accurate way to tell if you'll do well on the job.

Related: 20 Things Employers Look For in an Interview

What are some tips for passing the airport test?

A successful candidate is often genuine, thoughtful and honest during a job interview. Here are six tips to help you navigate an interview and pass the airport test:

Take part in conversation

Take part in conversations with people you meet during your interview or application process, including those who may greet you at a business welcome desk, the interviewer themselves and anyone else you may interact with, like the cafeteria cashier, for example. Be active, responsive and genuine to show potential employers you are interested in the person or topic and are listening to the conversation.

You might get asked a variety of things, like favorite television shows, hobbies you enjoy, recent trips or travel you have taken or more about your family or pets. Topics and conversations like this often have little to do with the work you're applying for or the quality of your skills, though they can be an important part of getting hired. An employer is curious to learn if a candidate is interesting, personable, friendly or a good representation of the business.

Read more: How To Make Small Talk

Be professional

Even with personal conversation, be sure to keep things professional. Be mindful of answers to personal questions and keep things appropriate. While it is important to be authentic in an interview setting, you can be selective with your answers and material to ensure you choose responses that represent a good image of yourself. If someone asks you what you did over the weekend, responses that show your interests in a professional framing, like going to a museum, watching a documentary or reading an interesting magazine article, are better suited than mentioning a late night party, for example.

Consider preparing or practicing your answers, as you do for other interview questions about experience and education. Review what you do in your free time, like reading, gardening, playing sports, volunteering, writing or walking your dog. Topics that are neutral, rather than controversial, are great conversation starters and make for a great opportunity to initiate dialogue. For example, "Do you enjoy travel, Mr. Cummings? I spent two weeks in Peru last year, hiking Machu Picchu and practicing my Spanish—it was an amazing experience."

It is good to keep in mind topics like religion and politics are often best avoided, unless the job position itself involves those matters.

Actively listen and engage

Demonstrate your soft skills, like listening and good communication through discussions with the interviewer. While you're supposed to talk a lot during an interview naturally, be mindful to allow time for the other person or persons to converse, too. Consider asking insightful questions, like "What do you enjoy best about your position and the company," or "How long have you worked here and how have you grown in your time here" to engage others while learning more about a potential workplace. Interviewers often remember a candidate who asked thoughtful questions rather than just answered them.

Asking questions can also allow you the opportunity to hear more about the company and assess whether it passes the airport test for you, too.

Establish rapport

Establishing a connection to a company or hiring manager is another good way to stand out in a candidate pool. Do an internet search to learn more about a business, employee or leader and look for things you might have in common, like if you went to the same college or university or both are avid bird watchers.

Also observe what you see in person in or around the office that offers a connection and opportunity for conversation. For example, "Is that a picture of your dog there on your desk? I have a six-month-old rescue puppy myself," or "I noticed your lanyard with the team logo there. I'm a huge fan, too," for example. Having a connection that is personal to the interviewer is a powerful way to be a memorable job candidate.

Remember to network

Consider that the airport test may go beyond the person hiring you. Companies may ask other people you interacted with for their input or opinion, like the receptionist who greeted you, for example. Or perhaps a group of colleagues gave you a tour of the building, took you for coffee or showed you out—be sure to be polite, professional and engaged throughout the entire time spent at a business or interview to ensure all of those you interacted with have something nice to say.

Networking throughout the course of your interview process is also a great way to grow your professional network and begin with a great impression if you get the job.

Read more: The Importance of Networking In Business (Tips Included)

Watch your body language

Body language gives an interviewer a lot of important information without spoken words and it can have a significant effect on how a hiring manager perceives you as a candidate. For example, you can evoke a confident, focused persona or appear nervous, bored or insecure through your facial expression, gestures or posture.

Here are other examples of positive body language to focus on during an interview:

  • Make eye contact: Making eye contact with your interviewer shows you are paying attention and listening. If you are interviewing with more than one person, rotate your eye contact with the other person or people.
  • Sit up straight: Good posture conveys a sense of engagement and enthusiasm compared to slouching or appearing too relaxed, so remember to sit up straight with open body gestures towards those you are interacting with.
  • Smile: You can smile and nod when at appropriate times throughout your interview to demonstrate politeness, attention and confidence.
  • Mirror the interviewer's language: If the interviewer is exhibiting positive body language, consider mimicking their moves. For example, matching a firm handshake or nodding in agreement can establish common ground between two people.
  • Use your hands: Subtle movement of your hands can convey authority and interest, though it is helpful to use gestures in moderation. For example, open palms on your lap can suggest openness and honesty to an interviewer, while waving your hands around, touching your face or biting your nails can appear as a nervous reaction.

Read more: 18 Body Language Tips To Remember During Your Next Interview

Offer something memorable

If you're invited by a hiring manager to interview, they have likely already established you meet the minimum qualifications and requirements for the job and an interview is your chance to show who you are beyond a resume. Consider offering something unique about your background to make yourself a truly memorable candidate.

Pick something unrelated to work that may be even more impactful than naming a hobby, while remaining humble as you explain. For example, you might speak five languages and have traveled to the nation of origin for each one or maybe you are a licensed sport pilot and fly a Piper J-3 Cub aircraft every weekend. Sharing something that gives insight into your personality, your passions and your ability to maintain a work-life balance can show an employer examples of your creativity, work ethic and ability to achieve goals.

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