9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #9 – “Remember to check yourself in the mirror before you leave your hotel room for the day’s interviews.”

June 29, 2012


“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?

There are over 5327 submitted information and comments about over 1232 international schools around the world on International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of internationalschoolcommunity.com are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school! It is also a great resource at your disposal as you interview with different international schools when job hunting.

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9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #8 – “Courtesy is cool, good will is good stuff.”

May 27, 2012


“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

8. “Courtesy is cool, good will is good stuff.”

“When it came down to thinking I’d be choosing between two very attractive schools, I told one of them how I hoped that saying ‘no’ this time, if the decision went that way, wouldn’t close the door to a ‘yes’ next time in years to come. The gentlemanly answer of the man I said this to was so winsome, I don’t know what to say, other than that it made me want to work in this man’s school even more. The answer was no less impressive for its simplicity, which was, simply, ‘Your saying no to us will offend us no more than we’d want to offend you if we said no to you. It’s the nature of the beast, and we understand that, so no doors will close at all.’”

As an international school teacher you definitely don’t want to intentionally close any doors that might lead to other opportunities in the future.  I guess what happens at a fair, especially as of late, most international school teachers aren’t getting that many offers at a recruitment fair.  The power is still in the hands of the international schools.  Not like six years ago when the power was more in the hands of the international school teacher candidate (when we would get multiple offers at a fair).  So, when there are few international schools giving you an offer at a recruitment fair, it hurts to do it, but one of the offers (or both offers in some cases) you might have to say ‘no’ to.  It does feel a bit weird to do that.  I mean you most likely spent 1-3 interviews with a certain international school at the fair; taking up their (and your) precious time.  Certainly you were interested in that position, the benefits and the idea of possibly working at the school.  You are told to be open minded at the fair and go to interviews at schools in countries that you thought you would never consider; ‘they might be diamonds in the rough’ as they say.  But, ultimately it is all about timing.  Maybe an international school that peaked your interest at the fair is not the right international school for you to work at, at this time in your life.

I remember interviewing with one international school at a recruitment fair, a school in a country that I wasn’t really considering (though I had heard some good things about it).  I had the first interview and they peaked my interest.  I actually was trying my hardest to ‘prove’ that I was the right person for the position vacancy; after all it is nice to be wanted at a recruitment fair…even if it is for a position that might not be the best fit for you.  Actually, I didn’t have a second interview with this international school.  They waited one day and the next day they put an offer of contract in my folder.  I contacted them and set up a time to meet and discuss the contract details (and a little more discussion about the position).  I honestly didn’t know what my answer was going to be (though maybe deep down I did know).  I literally had the pen in my hand and the contract in front of me, but I had to tell them ‘no.’  I am pretty sure I used the words ‘I just don’t think it is the best fit for me at this point in my life.’  At this fair, I actually only had one offer too, so I was saying ‘no’ to all my opportunities to accept another job for the following school year at this fair.  My plan was to just stay for another year in my current position.  I don’t think I burned any bridges though with this school; no doors were closed.  I actually interviewed with another international school later in May and took that job instead, a school that was a better fit for me at that time in my life.  Later on after moving to my new city and country, I actually bought a ticket to go visit the city that I almost moved to.  I wanted to go visit that city and country for the first time, but I also secretly wanted to see what my life could’ve been like if I would have accepted that one job that was offered to me at the recruitment back in February.  I actually really liked the city and the people there, also the architecture.  It is possible that I would have very much enjoyed my life in that city, but I’m glad that I decided to decline that offer to live there.  I would have accepted that job, then I wouldn’t be where I am now…which is the city of my dreams to live in.

At recruitment fairs, you do need to think on the spot and make quick decisions.  International schools also have to make rather quick decisions as well.  I like when Clay Burrel wrote when he said that he also doesn’t want to offend teachers that he has to say ‘no’ to.  It is indeed a two-way street; we are both looking for the right fit at that specific moment in time.  If they treat a candidate poorly, that candidate will for sure not want to interview with that school in the future.  Additionally, that person will spread the word of that international school’s behavior at recruitment fairs.  When the word gets around, the other potential candidates might just might also pass on interviewing with that international school.

I guess the key idea is that both international schools and yourself should just act with respect and cordiality at all times at the recruitment fairs and everything should be just fine with no doors being closed on anybody.

There are over 4850 submitted information and comments about over 1209 international schools around the world on International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of internationalschoolcommunity.com are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school! It is also a great resource at your disposal as you interview with different international schools when job hunting.

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9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #7 (Part 2) – “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.”

April 14, 2012


“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

7. “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.” (Part 2)

“When it came down to thinking I’d be choosing between two very attractive schools, I told one of them how I hoped that saying ‘no’ this time, if the decision went that way, wouldn’t close the door to a ‘yes’ next time in years to come. The gentlemanly answer of the man I said this to was so winsome, I don’t know what to say, other than that it made me want to work in this man’s school even more. The answer was no less impressive for its simplicity, which was, simply, ‘Your saying no to us will offend us no more than we’d want to offend you if we said no to you. It’s the nature of the beast, and we understand that, so no doors will close at all.’”

It is all about luck and timing.

When luck and timing are both in alignment, then the offers start coming in for you.  However, those offers are still ones that you need to sit back and closely look at before saying ‘yes’ to an administrator at an international school recruitment fair.  The immediate and complete understanding is difficult with regards to these important considerations: benefits, prep times, class sizes, and the student mix.  You might not entirely understand the ramifications of these factors until you actually get there.  This dilemma is one that makes going to these recruitment fairs a bit stressful at times.

Benefits
There are too many to list really. Just to name a few: housing and housing allowance, average monthly salary after taxes, flight allowance, moving allowance, settling-in allowance, free local language classes, gratuities and bonuses, transportation, saving potential, etc.  If you ask any international school teacher, the one that they list as the most important will most likely always be different.  They all are important to an international school teacher working in a foreign country.  Which benefits though are you willing to be flexible on, that is the question.  You need to know that ahead of time if you plan on making your decision to sign a contract within 24 hours of receiving an offer.

Prep time
It is hard to know what that would be like at an international school that you haven’t worked at yet.  It would be great to be able to contact a teacher that either works there now or has worked there in the past (you can easily do just that on International School Community) to know exactly what the prep times are and whether they are enough or not enough.  Surely having sufficient prep time is important.  Make sure to ask about it and make sure that the school gives you an honest response.  I know one friend that works at an international school where there is very limited prep time which results in this person having to work a total of 70 hours a week!

Class sizes
Having 20 students on your own isn’t that bad.  Having 20 students in your class with a full time teaching assistant is even better.  Having 14 students or less in your class might be too small actually.  However, having 30+ students in your class on your own or even with a teaching assistant might prove to be a deal breaker when it comes to working at international schools.  I actually haven’t known this to be the case in the international schools I know about, but it probably does exist in some schools.  Make sure to get a clear idea about class sizes during your interview, and how they may or may not change in the near future for many international schools are either expanding or losing students these days; most schools seems to be in flux all the time.

Student mix
It is important for some international school teachers, for some it is not so important.  Is an international school really an international school when over 80% of the student population is from the host country?  The answer to that question might be found here.  Either way, it is up to your preference.  Working with a student population as diverse as Vienna International School (12 Comments submitted on this school on our website) that has a student population that represents over 100 different nationalities could be very rewarding and inspiring in which to work.  Working at Ibn Khuldoon National School (12 comments submitted on this school on our website) which has a student population of mostly local host country students might also be very rewarding and inspiring to work at.  Each school can have its own pros and cons about their student populations.  Sometimes it depends on the ethos of the school; how the students think and behave and interact with the teachers, the other students, their parents, and the community.

Potentially burning bridges and closing doors
If all these benefits and other factors don’t seem to match up for you at this point in your international school career, then the answer you will most likely give to the international school administrator is ‘no.’  The reason that it should be ‘no’ is because all indicators then are pointing to an international school that is not the best fit for you at this time in your life.  Hopefully, like Burell explains, this ‘no’ answer won’t be burning any bridges for a potential good/better fit in the future.  I would imagine that most international schools would respond in the same way as the one he interviewed with at the recruitment fair.  For it is true to say that international schools are looking for candidates that are the best fit for them and ‘their situation’ too.

There are over 4200 submitted information and comments about over 1175 international schools around the world on International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of internationalschoolcommunity.com are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school! It is also a great resource at your disposal as you interview with different international schools when job hunting.

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9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #7 – “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.”

March 10, 2012


“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

7. “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.”

“You don’t offer a flight home after the first year? You don’t cover dependents? 70% of your student population is Korean? You laugh off the notion that four preps is too much for new (or old) teachers?”

If you are thinking of these questions to yourself, the interview you are in just might not be going well for you.  Having to possibly alter your expectations of your next job experience is not fun!  As a good rule of thumb, remember to always to stay true to what you know is the best fit for you and be aware or warning signs and red flags indicating to pass on this international school. Even if it means to pass up that opportunity to live in France or Hong Kong (or wherever you most desire to live).

Student population:

If you know that you prefer to work at an international school that has a very international student population, then accepting a job at an international school that has 70% of the student population being Korean might not be a good fit for you to work at.  But always remember that each international school is different.  They all have their own unique situations and what seems unacceptable to you at your current school might not be so unbearable at your next international school.  You might find that you like just the opposite of what you were originally looking for or hoping to have be different.

Workload:
Are there certain things (or lack of certain things) really deal breakers?  Would your life be just too dreadful if you now had four duties instead of the two you have now?  I suppose you might be able to easily adapt to having four duties, incorporating a new routine to how you organize your day and when you plan your lessons.  However, if many teachers are staying at school until 18h or later to plan their lessons (possibly because of their large class size, their four duties throughout the week and the after-school activity that they are required to do), then getting the right information about the reality of that school is very important.  Fortunately, it is usually appropriate for you to address these concerns to your interviewer.  Unfortunately, you might not get the ‘full picture’ in their response.  Luckily, there is a website like International School Community now where you can contact people that have worked at (or currently work at) that school to get a second answer to your concerns and questions about the workload for teachers at international schools from all over the world.

Example comment about workload
Flight allowance:
My first international school experience was at a school that didn’t have a flight allowance.  In turn, I didn’t think anything of paying for my own flight home and always found some money to do just that because of my salary and living situation.  Though I had heard about flight allowances existing at other international schools, I didn’t think my lack of a flight allowance wasn’t so bad.  My second international school experience was at a school that had an annual flight allowance.  I thought that was great and a nice change (especially being that it was farther away from my home on record). Unfortunately, it was at a school that was going through some financial problems and getting that flight allowance was definitely a headache.  Sometimes we would would have to wait many months until we got reimbursed for our flights.  My third international school experience is at a school that gives a flight allowance every two years for the first six years that you are working there.  And getting your flight reimbursed is no issue at all; you basically get reimbursed the same day or the next business day.  I wish the flight allowance would be every year, but I am appreciative that I am getting one at least every two years. Remember to ask your interviewer how their international school deals with flight allowances (or why they don’t offer one).  Get the specifics as best you can!  There is a topic in the School Section on every school profile page on International School Community that specifically deals with flight allowances.


Example comments about flight allowance

So many things to think about and so many things to ask about when interviewing to work at an international school.  If you get a job offer, make sure you ask them for a grace period before you have to give them your final decision.  During this grace period, I always do a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list for all the schools that I am considering to work at. If a school has many ‘pros’ (good ratio between prep time to teaching periods) and only a few ‘cons’ (no flight allowance), then I just might consider it.  It also might be a good idea to make a list of your non-negotiables on hand as well so that they don’t slip your mind as your brain starts to only think about the high salary that they may be offering you!  When you meet with the school that final time (before signing the contract), hopefully you will have had the chance to do your research on the school and have gotten answers to all your questions and concerns so that you can comfortably and gracefully accept or decline their offer.
There are over 3400 of submitted information and comments about 1000s of international schools around the world on International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of internationalschoolcommunity.com are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school! It is also a great resource at your disposal as you interview with different international schools when job hunting.
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9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #6 – “Remember to research.”

February 15, 2012


“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

6. “Remember to research.

“I’m sure I blew one interview by expressing my desire to get experience in a program they didn’t offer, and expressing my distaste for the one they did. Oops. I’d mistakenly thought they did offer that program.”

When interviewing at an international school recruitment fair, it is indeed a difficult task to be 100% knowledgeable about each international school you interview with.  You do some final researching the night/morning before the interview, but even then some facts about the school might slip your mind when you are possibly in a nervous state trying to answer their questions.

On June 15 2006 the term, or more correctly the transitive verb, “to google” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It seems like that term has been around for ages, and although derived from the eponymous search engine, it has simply become a common use for when you need to look up something, or research something. It is kind of strange to think that only ten or fifteen years ago, if you needed to look up information, phone numbers or directions, you had to have an encyclopedia, a phonebook or a map, today everything can be found by a simple click on google. And with the second coming of the smart phones, there really is no reason to be ignorant when interviewing with an international school director.

With the daily flow of new information, we often need to research to get updated or learn about something new, either for work and for our own pleasure. If we need to give a lecture somewhere, we need to set the facts straight, and double-check that what we are actually saying is true. If we’re writing something like a blog or a book, we research.

One place where research is very vital is when we are looking for a new job; especially true if you are looking to secure a job at an international school halfway across the globe. We research the international school itself, the location that the international school is located in, and we research what it is like to work at that international school. It’s important that we know as much as possible before applying for a position at an international school, not just to see if we’re right for them, but if they’re right for us. Most work places today have a website that gives away so much information, but sometimes it just isn’t sufficient enough, and that’s when you have to contact the place and people that have worked at that place in the past (or if you know somebody who knows somebody who has worked there) and ask detailed questions. Researching the job at an international school is half of applying for a job.  Unfortunately, doing hours and hours of research on not just one international school but 5 of them can definitely put you into a tired state.

Being an international teacher only means that your research has to be very thorough, because then you’re not just researching the job, you’re also researching a country and a city. It’s important that you know what you want (career, money, love, travel, location, etc…) and what you’re capable of, because starting out some place new, with a different language and a different culture, can be hard. But doing your homework and researching might make the transition easier, well on the surface that is.

When you research most of the things you stumble on are interpretations, a subjective view of the whole. A kind of second-hand experience. So while researching is vital, you have to be somewhat skeptical and always remember to have an open mind. Google is, after all, just a small piece of the grand reality.

One excellent way to gather and share information and comments about 1000s of international schools around the world is by being a member at International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of internationalschoolcommunity.com are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school!

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