The Assessment Day


Cape Town, Tuesday, 6 May 2014

05:30  I am freaking out sightly.   I fly out of bed, we are leaving in one hour and I have overslept! Stupid alarm clock… luckily, I made sure to wash my hair and shave my legs last night.  My cousin, Liesl, brings me a cup of coffee and wishes me luck.  I immediately start getting dressed, putting my hair up in a sock bun is easy now, cause I have practiced like mad.  As soon as my hair looks like it’ll survive the day, I get my make-up done, foundation, cover stick for the stress breakout on my chin, powder, blusher, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara.  I finish my coffee and have a really-difficult-to-swallow-bowl-of-cereal.  Then I brush my teeth.  I will apply my lipstick there, the fresher the better.

06:40  Stuck in traffic.  I am losing my mind.  I cannot be late.  The invite said 8am sharp and I want to be there at 7am, just so that I can chat a bit and meet everyone and try and relax.  Come ON!!

07:05  I have arrived.  Thank goodness the roads just opened up so we can get me there on time.  I get out of the car and my Liesl rolls the fluff off my suit.  She wishes me luck again and tells me to let her know when I have finished my Final Interview.  I laugh and tell her thanks for being so positive.  I meet my friend Vicky, outside.  I met her when she flew up to Johannesburg for an Open Day with Emirates.

07:15  I am the 4th person here.  We introduce ourselves and have a bit of a chat while the recruiters set up the conference room at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

07:30  Vicky and I decide to go to the restroom and freshen up, I apply the signature red lipstick and my look is completed.  When we get back, its like a bus arrived with loads of business people. Everyone looks immaculate.  We go through our paperwork and double check with the other applicants whether we have everything they do.  While we all mingle, the recruiters walk in and out of the conference room, they are most definitely checking us out.  And WOW they are beautiful.

08:00  Sharp.  The recruiter walks out and invites us into the room. We all walk in and we greet the other three recruiters before we settle in and take a seat.   The recruiters ask us to prepare ourselves for Registration.  We need to get our Registration Form and CV. They explain to us which pages to attach to what and we all form a line.  They sit at three spots.  As we wait in line to hand in our forms, already two girls are sent away, they had visible piercings and tattoos.  The pressure is on.  By the time I get to the front I am shaking.  I go sit at the middle recruiter.  She is French and very friendly.  She asks me my age, tells me to sign on the page where I have indicated I have a tattoo.  She spots that I am  Chef and asks whether I would like to interview for the In-Flight Chef position as well as Cabin Crew.  I immediately say yes.  She writes my name and my new “lucky number” on a sticker and  sticks it onto my jacket.  She then asks me to go to the reach test, remove my shoes and reach up to the 210 cm line.  I pass.  I put my shoes back on and she excuses me.  While everyone else finishes their registration, I stand talking to some of the girls.  I make sure to keep my posture, smile and relax.

Once everyone finished we all have a seat, the recruiters close the doors and start introducing themselves and welcoming us.

They congratulate us on being invited to the assessment day, tell us we are the best of the best, handpicked from hundreds of applicants. We are about 90 applicants.  The mood is lightened a bit, they are so friendly.  I’ve just decided, that if I want to transfer within the company one day, I want to become a recruiter.

We are told that our first assessment exercise is already done.  First impressions.  I knew it!  They were watching our every move before we even walked through the door.

10:00  What?! I cannot believe time flew by so quickly already!  We are shown a quick presentation, explaining the day ahead.  One recruiter is with us, while the others sort out all the registration forms they just received.  The day ahead:

  • Registration
  • English Test
  • Get to know
  • 1st Separation
  • Group Exercise
  • Break
  • 2nd Separation
  • Documentation
  • Final Interview

We are told that we will now start the English test.  We are all given a sheet of paper printed on both sides.  We are not allowed to look at it, we need to hide it.  Then, once everyone has a sheet, she explains how to do the test.  It is a simple test, mostly multiple choice.  It just tests you ability to speak, read and write English FLUENTLY.  Once we all finished and time is up, they collect the tests and start marking them.

She then explains the next exercise:  Getting To Know each other. We are asked to form groups of three and take 10 minutes to get to know one another.  After our 10 minutes are over, we are asked to stand up in our groups and introduce each other.  Starting with stating our names and our “lucky number” they gave us at registration.  They ask that the groups that have F&B managers and In-Flight Chef applicants go first, as we need to do additional tests. My heart feels like it is going to jump out of my chest, I haven’t written a chefs test in years!  Everyone starts with the exercise.  Once it is our turn (It was just Vicky and myself in our group), I start:  “Good Morning everyone, my name is Imke and my lucky number is 110.  This is my friend, Vicnola, but the prefers to be called Vicky.  She is from Cape Town.  She used to work at Build A Bear but she now works as a medical receptionist and occasionally assists with acupuncture.  She also goes to regular fitness classes and she has a love for karaoke.”  Then Vicky’s turn:  “Good Morning, my name is Vicnola and my lucky number is 33.  I would like to introduce Imke, she is from Pretoria.  She loves children and is an Au Pair and a chef.  She like chasing seagulls on the beach.”  Que laughter!  I do enjoy chasing seagulls. *blush*

After we finished the chefs and f&b managers were asked to go to the other room for our tests.  We walk into a room with a view of the ocean. Beautiful.  We start our tests.  Also some multiple choice, but more difficult than the English tests.  Some common knowledge etc.

When we finish the tests, we go back into the main room and await our first Separation.

11:30  The recruiters walk in, they thank us for being here and congratulate us on making it this far, they encourage us to try again. Everyone is so quiet, nobody is breathing.  They tell us that they will call out our names and lucky numbers, and we should put our hands up when we hear it.  They start calling names, my name is called first. My heart sinks.  After they called all our names, they ask that everyone who’s names were called go to the next room (the one with the view).  When we were all seated, they called the names again and double checked we were all there.  We were about 40 in the room. We all sat in silence.  Clearly stressing like crazy.  Then finally, she said: congrats guys!  And we all gave a big sigh of relief!  She said not to sound too excited, respect the guys next door who has to go home…  They had cut 50 of us 😦

After all the recruiters came back into the room, we are told that we will start with the next round.  The Group Exercise.  We are asked to form one table with Chefs and F&B.  The rest can sit randomly.  Once we are in groups, the recruiters send some tables out and tell them to return in half an hour.  The rest of us are given group exercises. Our group was given the following:  We are in charge of menu and wine planning for a 5* Italian restaurant.  In our group we need to come up with a 3 course fine dining menu with wine pairing.  We are asked to present the menu to our assessor as a group.  We decided on explaining a course/ wine pairing each.  Our group consisted of 2 chefs and 4 F&B managers.  We worked well together.  We all constantly made sure everyone knew what was asked, we kept the time, and we gave everyone a chance to speak.

After we finished, we were given half an hour break while the other guys went for their group exercise.  We all talked about our exercises.  The other tables were asked to come up with a 7-day holiday for a family that all like different activities.

12:00  We quickly go the the restaurant to have a cup of tea or whatever.  I just asked for a glass of water and went straight to the restrooms to freshen up as soon as my water was finished.  Then we went and sat at the conference room entrance and waited for our break to be over.

12:40  We are allowed back into the conference room.  We waited there for quite some time before the recruiters came back in.  Again, absolute silence fell over all of us and they start calling out names. Mine was first again.  They then asked us to go to the other room again.  We walk in and we have no idea whether we should sit or stand.  We are terrified.  I cant breathe, my heart is pounding inside my chest and everyone is just silent.  Then, in walks a different recruiter.  He starts calling all our names again, double checking that we are all there.  Then when the other recruiter walks in she asks him whether he has told us all yet.  He says no.  She sighs, takes a deep breath, looks around the room and says:  “Sorry guys…….”  We all drop our heads into our hands and there are a few gasps.  Then she finishes her sentence: “for keeping you waiting so long! Congratulations!  You all made it to the Final Interviews!”  We looked at her in utter disbelief and then we all burst out laughing and I felt instantly relieved.  Oh My GOSH!  And there we are.  20 of us.  The other guys have already left when we are told to go back into the conference room.

13:30  Wow, we’re sitting there, still not sure whether we are dreaming or not.  We’ve made it to the final interviews.  They come in and again congratulate us all on making it.  They show us some videos of new cabin crew and of the accommodation, Abu Dhabi and life in the UAE.  Then they start with a presentation of Etihad Airways, how the airline has grown, who is in charge and how everything works.  They explain the contract, salaries and they explain the benefits.

Then we start with the Documentation part of the day.  We are asked to take out all our documents and two of the recruiters explain to us how to fill them all in, they go through them line by line. They show us how our pictures need to match the white of the page it is on.  Then the other recruiter comes in and says that they will do all the Chefs and F&B manager Final Interviews as well as 5 cabin crew today, and the rest will be done the following day.  She asks which cabin crew would like to be the lucky 5 that stays today, everyone that has flights back the following day chose to stay.  In the mean time, the recruiter calls the chefs and the f&b managers and tells us that we have to do role play.  She hands us a sheet with instructions and gives us half an hour to start.  Then they start Final Interviews.

A lot of people are sticking around to find out what is asked in the interviews, some are rushing to get new pictures taken before their interviews.  I am sitting with the other chef, drawing up our menu and preparing for our role plays.

17:30  Only the F&B managers and us 2 chefs are left.  I have filled in all my forms, I have all my paperwork sorted out and I am waiting to be called.  One by one we get less and less.

17:50  Finally, I am called in.  I have never had to do a role-play for an interview.  This is very strange.  She asks me to start with the menu first and then we will conduct the interview.  I start explaining my menu and I ask whether she has any allergies or food preferences, she says no.  She asks me questions which thankfully I can answer without hesitation.  She asks for different wines.  I offer her two other wines.  She seems happy enough, and I finish my menu with explaining the dessert and cheese option, she decides on the cheeses, and asks what we have to offer.  I answer with a couple of different cheeses and she says thank you.  Then I thank her for flying with Etihad Airways and ask her to let me know if she needs anything and that I’d be happy to help.  She thanks me.  And then I sit down.

My Interview starts.  She explains that she will be asking questions and the other recruiter will be taking notes, but that she could chime in at any time to ask questions herself.  I agree.  I was asked a series of questions.  Some examples are:

  1. Why do you want to fly for Etihad?
  2. Give me an example of a difficult customer you had, what the problem was and how you fixed it, and what the outcome was.
  3. Have you ever had a problem with staff that you had to sort out? What was the problem and how did you fix it?
  4. Have you ever worked with different cultures?  Did you ever learn anything from their culture?  Did you ever teach them anything about our own culture?
  5. Do you understand that living in the UAE will be challenging?  What will be challenging about it?
  6. You will be based and living in Abu Dhabi, will it be difficult for you to leave your family behind, not celebration Christmas, New Years, birthdays, etc?

I finished my interview, she took all my forms from me and double checked them.  My service letters were incorrect, they needed a stamp.  I was asked to send them through once I have received my acceptance email on Sunday.  I asked them whether we need to do any of our vaccinations here, they said no, that everything except the dental panoramic x-ray will be done in Abu Dhabi.  I thanked them and they excused me.

18:30  I walked out of a 40 minute interview just now.  I need something to drink!  I waited for the other chef to finish and when he came out I said goodbye to him, we wished each other luck and he left.  I switched my phone on and headed for the hotel restaurant.  Its was dark outside, I ordered a long-awaited cup of coffee and I called my cousin to let her know she can come fetch me.  Then I phoned my mom and I still couldn’t believe that I had just finished my Final Interview.

19:00  I went outside and waited for my cousin, while I waited I had a lovely chat with the concierge.  He was very friendly.  Then I got into the car and drove away from what was one of the craziest roller coaster rides I have ever been on.

And so the waiting game begins.


10 thoughts on “The Assessment Day”

  1. Dear Imke! Love your blog 🙂
    Could you please tell me some examples of the questions in the common knowledge test you had? I would really appreciate it.
    Good luck at the job 🙂

    1. Hello 🙂 i was asked things like which foods come from which countries and had to identify different foods, fruits, spices etc.. Also needed to pair wines with food 🙂 good luck and have fun!

      1. Thanks! Did they ask any dietary questions? How is working as an inflight chef treating you? Still enjoying it? What kind of hours do you work? Sorry for all these questions but I’m really thinking about applying and want to go in with realistic expectations!

      2. My pleasure. They didn’t ask any dietary questions as far as I can remember, but we definitely have to have a good understanding on the matter. We have a lot of guests who are gluten free, diabetic, vegetarian etc. I love my job, it is incredible. Working with people from all over the world, and seeing the entire world at the same time is very much worth it. Every job has its ups and downs, the hours are tough sometimes, but very much manageable. You get used to it. 🙂

      3. Thanks again, your replies are really helpful. Do you have any insight to share on the duties and workload you have on a flight? Do you work alone? Do you have a menu to work from? Oh and is the staff accom a shared room? You can tell me to stop pestering you at any time 🙂

      4. We all work as a team, but the First Class cabin has 8-12 guests and I work with one other cabin crew member. We work off a menu, but can also create our own dishes with what we have available as “extra” items on board. In fact, we have to. It’s called our Chef’s Special, and we create our own dish and most of my guests always ask me to surprise them with whatever I feel is right. We share apartments, either 2 or 3 bedroom apartments. Everyone has their own bedroom and bathroom and all the housing is great.

  2. Hello imke, I like so much your article thanks so much for all your information you give it and thanks for every lovely post I read it from you, I was wondering if you were able to say about the different between the exam in the interview for the chef and food and beverage manger ?

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