How to Become a Business Analyst at Southwest Airlines
By Sarah Grant | January 7, 2016

Cheat Sheet, a regular series, demystifies the hiring process at some of the most competitive jobs. This week, a perfect grade-point average from Harvard doesn't mean much to Southwest Airlines unless you have a sparkling personality to boot.
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Interview Cheat Sheet #18
The Job
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Position:
  • Business analyst
  • Hiring Manager
  • Shari Conaway
  • director in People Department
  • Salary:
  • $60,000–$90,000
  • Description:
  • Support a department that has anywhere from 30 to 100 employees, studying its productivity and output. Make recommendations to the department head for how to improve performance.
  • Qualifications:
  • Facility with Microsoft Office, positive attitude, master’s degree in business preferred.

The Method

First Round:

 40 Candidates

A recruiter reviews résumés, looking for relevant experience, particularly in the aviation industry. “If you’ve [had] 10 jobs in 10 years, and you’re not a consultant, that’s a red flag.”

Second Round:

 10 Candidates

45-minute phone interview in which the recruiter assesses the applicant’s motivation level. It’s encouraging if the applicant mentions, for instance, that Southwest is now an international carrier and flies only Boeing 737s. “When they know nothing, that’s disheartening.”

Third Round:

 5 Candidates

90-minute interview at Southwest headquarters in Dallas with the same recruiter and at least one hiring leader. They will ask a series of anecdotal questions, such as how you’ve managed a career change, or ask you to describe a time when you were a team player.

The Score:

The recruiter and hiring leader make the ultimate decision together. More often than not, they will choose hires based on outstanding attitude over relevant job experience.


How to Ace It

Do ask questions, the more specific the better. “When the candidate interviews us, it’s a sign they’re serious about the position.”

Do be positive and ambitious. “We can teach you about the aviation industry, but a good attitude is something we can’t train.”

Do communicate well. “The role is presentation-intense; we need someone who makes numbers come to life and inspires the department to strive.”

Don’t ignore gaps in your résumé. “Part of working in a team is staying with the team. Having a good, solid track record of employment is important.”

Don’t be intimidated. “Southwest’s corporate environment is built on inclusiveness.”

Don’t worry if you’re not a world traveler. “We happen to be in the aviation industry, but the only thing that really matters is that you can work with all types of people, at every level of management.”