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“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.
9. “Remember to check yourself in the mirror before you leave your hotel room for the day’s interviews.”
“I can’t believe I forgot my belt. At least my fly wasn’t down.”
The first fair that I ever went to, I didn’t even own a suit. I had to get one from a department store a couple of weeks before. I remember not even knowing what the “rules of wearing a suit” were at the time. I ended up getting advice from the “suit expert” at the store; when and when not to button the 3rd button, which tie colours were best “suited” for interviewing, etc. I felt a bit silly when I wore this suit at the time of the fair, but I ended up getting 4 offers, so maybe my new clothes were having the right effect. I only had two sets of shirts and ties (using the same suit), so I hope that none of the schools noticed being that many teachers have multiple interviews with the same school over the 2-3 days of the fair.
Do schools really notice then what the candidates are wearing? Seems a bit silly when you are trying to show your “real” self, when most of us teachers aren’t wearing suits at our schools (well at a British international school you might be) or in our personal lives. But as the rules go at international school recruitment fairs, most believe that wearing a suit is a must. Unfortunately then, you must actually have one already or have to buy one, and if you live in the United States…suits aren’t necessarily cheap. If you currently live in a country where getting clothes personally made for you is relatively inexpensive (e.g. China), then I suppose you might as well get 2-3 of them! Still though, you are only wearing the suits most likely for 2-3 days at the fair and then not wearing them again for another 2-3 years! Seems a bit of a waste to spend the money and not use the clothes more often.
So, you have your suit now and you arrive at the fair. As you unpack your “formal” clothes, make sure to note whether there are wrinkles or not. If you have flown to the fair on an airplane and have put your suit in your checked luggage, then you most likely will have to do a bit of ironing before you head out to do any interviews. If you are staying in a hotel room that is hosting the fair, then you are in luck because it is most likely a 4-5 star hotel and the rooms will have ironing equipment in them. Ironing under stress though can prove to be difficult, so iron with caution otherwise you might give yourself a burn which could ruin your hand-shaking hand. Also, make sure you try on your new clothes before you arrive at the fair. I remember having a roommate (one that the fair set me up to share a room with) and him just realizing in our hotel room that the shirt he brought was like 2-3 sizes too big for him (and extremely wrinkled as well). He asked for my opinion, and I was astonded how over-sized it was! He ended up getting a job in Switzerland at that fair, so apparently the school didn’t notice or care.
But, you never know which schools will care at the fair. So, it is good to remember the phrase that everyone knows: Always make a good first impression. And besides your clothes, there are other things to check in the mirror before you leave your hotel room which well help you in your goal to make a good first impression. Maybe there is something in your teeth, so brush your teeth really well. Maybe there is something on your face like an eyelash, so check your face really up close. Maybe there is something in your nose, check up there too! There is nothing worse then having something on your face (that usually isn’t there) showing up and having your interviewer noticing it and your seemingly ignoring it! Hopefully they will just tell you straight away and you both can redirect your focus on the interview again without any more distractions. As a kind gesture to your fellow candidates, why don’t we all help each other to avoid these things when we see each other in the elevator? Better to have another candidate let you know about something on your face or clothes than the director of a school you would like to work at.
I think there are a wide range of dress styles though when I look at the other candidates at international school recruitment fairs. I guess it is like a bell curve I suppose. There are a few teachers that are really dressed up, almost too much so. And then there are a few teachers that are dressed-down a bit and should’ve put a little more effort into their clothes and style choices. And finally there is the majority of candidates, who are just in the middle somewhere.
So, what is your plan at the fair with regarding to the goal of making a good first impression? Share what clothes you prefer to wear at the fair or routines you typically use to check yourself. Also, have you ever had an embarrassing moment when you forgot to check yourself in the mirror?
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