Decision Makers: It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Boeing

job interview If you've flown on a plane recently, there's a good chance it was a Boeing airplane. Boeing has more than 12,000 planes in service, roughly 63 percent of the world's commercial fleet. But the Chicago-based aerospace company does more than build planes.

Bet you didn't know that Boeing operates the space shuttle and the international space station. There's also a lot the company does that we can't talk about: It's a major military and defense contractor. But you've likely read about its latest innovation, the 787-Dreamliner. The company says that the plane, currently taking test flights, offers increased fuel efficiency, more passenger comfort and longer flight ranges.

Here's a quick look at life on the job at this nearly century old company.

About 158,000 people in 70 countries punch Boeing time cards. The majority work in Washington state and California. More than half are college educated and almost 30 percent have advanced degrees. Education is a big deal to Boeing. The company supports more than 22,000 employees enrolled in education programs in more than 1,000 colleges, universities, vocational programs and other learning centers.

When it comes to identifying talent, Rich Hartnett, the global staffing director for Boeing Shared Services Group, says hiring managers look for skills in three areas: general, technical and leadership. In 2009, manager's requests for skills fell heavily on the general, meaning you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to be a contender.

Boeing looks beyond the local pool for qualified job candidates. So having to relocate for a job doesn't put you out the running. For international jobs, however, people in-country are often favored. The good news is that Boeing isn't making products that go from ideas to store shelves overnight. The products have long life cycles, so people are hired for the long term.

The Down Side

Hartnett says applicants can be intimidated by Boeing's size and complexity. He prefers to sell it as opportunity; the company provides chances for growth and development in many departments and disciplines. Size was a selling point for an accountant who found accounting firm work "boring." The size and complexity of Boeing's business require him to work with both international and domestic accounting rules and company-specific regulations, which keeps the job interesting for him.

This Actually Happened

You'd think that with so many resources available to job applicants these days, certain interview flubs would be unlikely; not so. "There was the fellow who, when asked why he was applying to Boeing, said he wanted to work in San Francisco. Well, Boeing doesn't have operations in San Francisco," says Hartnett. "End of interview."

All Are Welcome

Diversity at Boeing is more than a page in the employee manual. "Boeing Affinity Groups" are employee-led internal organizations that help to create smaller communities inside the huge company. These seven affinity groups collectively have more than 90 local chapters: The Boeing American Indian Society, Asian-American Professional Association, Black Employees Association, Employees Ability Awareness Association, Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender Employees & Friends, Hispanic Employees Network and Women in Leadership

We'd Tell You, But We'd Have to Kill You

Boeing is involved in many top-secret projects. So, if you have a less-than-stellar past, you might want to pass this employer by. Job offers from this aerospace company come with a pre-hire background check, medical review and drug test, according to Hartnett. Further security clearances for specific jobs are done by the Department of Defense.

It might sound like a lot of paperwork, but get through it and you might have a hand in designing engineering and producing the planes people will be flying in 2020 and beyond.

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