9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

Lesson 3 at International School Hiring Fairs: “Interview questions make the interviewer.”

November 6, 2011

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

1. “Interview questions make the interviewer.”

“By the end of the first of my four days of interviewing, it struck me how different interviews are based on the questions asked (and not asked) by the interviewer. Some of them seemed as stilted and scripted as the worst end-of-chapter questions from the worst textbooks (redundant?). They felt less like interviews than exercises in checking off the questions boxes. It wasn’t quite “schooliness,” so can we call it “interviewiness”?

The best interviews, on the other hand, were more free-flowing and responsive, characterized by give-and-take expansiveness as one party or the other heard something no script could predict.”

There are reasons that international schools use a list of questions to ask their interviewees.  On the other hand there are reasons that interviewers don’t use a list of questions.  Is one way better than the other, I am not for sure.  I was just talking with another international school teacher today and she was saying that using a list of questions can help you compare the different candidates equally and that it helps you determine better if that candidate is meeting or not meeting the criteria you have set out to find.  I can see how that can be beneficial, especially if there is a group of people interviewing the person versus just one administrator doing the interview.  However, I must admit I myself much prefer to to have more of a “give-and-take” where the school is asking you questions to further what you were just talking about and to naturally move to the next topic of discussion organically and naturally.

International schools though only have a limited amount of time during the actual interview session with the different candidates at the recruitment fair.  Because the candidate before inevitably goes longer than he/she should of and because the interviewers themselves sometime need a break between their back to back interviews, the time you actually get to talk with the school is so limited.  It doesn’t work well if they are only asking those few specific questions and seeing you sometimes squander to figure out an answer; that just might waste everyone’s time.  And when you do state your answer, that the time you have to talk is so limited because they need to get through to the rest of the questions instead of thoroughly listening to you.

Sometimes schools hold 15-minute initial interviews at international school teacher recruitment fairs to help them find out who their final short list of candidates to interview are.  Most of the main interviews last around 30 minutes.  Some people think that with using the list of questions idea is that maybe that it is not exactly showing who that person is as a teacher, it is more about how fast that they can think on their feet.   Also, I suppose if you are asking the same questions over and over again you might forget if you had asked that question already as I’m sure the interviews themselves tend to blur a bit.  Finally, given the time constraint on you when you only have a limited amount of time to let the school know the things you want them to know.  Sometimes an interview using “the list” doesn’t allow for you to show you teaching portfolio or whatever real things that related to your real teaching and teaching experiences.

Always remember though, at international school teacher recruitment fairs, you are also interviewing the school.  You have your list of questions as well I suppose.  Sometimes you don’t get the chance to have them all answered; though some of them might have been answered during the beginning part of your interview anyway.  Don’t forget that you have a say during this stressful time at the fair.  It is easy sometimes to get caught up with the idea that you want to like all schools that you are interviewing with and to have the schools like you back.  However, deep down, that is most likely not the case.  If the interview process of one school is giving you an impression of being stilted and scripted, it is possible that means you indeed might not be a good match for that school as you would need to be directly working with these people eventually.

It is important to note though that most schools are not using a list of questions during the sign-up/round robin sessions which is usually only 2-3 minutes maximum of interaction…and that might be stretching it.  Another question I have is if the international schools really think about the different set of questions for the type of position they are looking to fill.  Additionally, are they using this same list when they are interview people over Skype, telephone, in person at their school, etc…

List or no list, definitely try your best to be well aware of how the administrators are using it or the style they are implementing to replace it.

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9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs

Lesson #1 at International School Hiring Fairs: Bad interviews are good things

September 6, 2011

Bad interviews are good things

interviews“No matter the reputation of the school, the people sitting across from you in the hotel room asking you questions in that school’s name are a stronger indicator of how it would feel to work at that school. I talked to English department heads whose questions – and my answers – made it clear to both of us that we would, or would not, make a happy marriage. There was an unsurprising correlation between this marital element and the offering or non-offering of a position at each school. Schools touting themselves as “21st century schools” and banging their laptop program drums – and during interviews with which I expected flower petals to descend from on high – on an occasion or two turned out to instead voice sentiments belonging to, um, people who’d obviously never experienced the literacy magic that happens after a few months writing and conversing behind the wheel of a blog. No rose-petals there – instead, many mental leaves of wet cabbage fell, probably, in both our imaginations. Marriage for the next two years? We think not. Thank goodness for the bad interview, and for the “We’re sorry we cannot offer you a job at this time.” No apology necessary, really – good luck.”

How wonderful.  This idea behind feeling good about bad interviews is perfect.  Sometimes we get caught up in all the hoopla at recruitment fairs.  We see teacher after teacher getting job offers and then there’s you, not getting ANY offers.  We have all been there I’m sure.  The worst is when you are in the elevators with the people talking so excitingly about their latest job offers and new contracts they are going to sign the next morning.  Like we have said before, it is all about luck and timing.  And now, there is a new addition to our quote about job hunting…if you are the right match for each other, it will be glaringly apparent.  If you are the right fit for each other, then you are the right fit.  It is truly like finding a partner or a spouse in life – you need to be at the right time and at the right place in each others’ lives for things to work out, and you must have some chemistry between each other.

We have all left interviews thinking “Oh, I really would like to have the opportunity to work at this school” knowing deep down that the person didn’t think you were the best fit and knowing even deeper down that you also didn’t think you were the best fit.  Sometimes you just want to get affirmation that you are a “good catch” at the international school recruitment fairs (UNI Overseas Placement Fair, Search Associates, International School Services, CIS, etc.) and you want to get job offers from everyone.  Some teachers are told to accept and go to all offers to interview.  If you do just that, you many times find yourself in hotel rooms with some administrator who is not speaking the same language as you.  They are talking and going through their speech about their school, but you are just thinking this is not the person I want to be working with, it is not the school I want to be working at and this is not the country that I want to be living in.  At the end of one of our bad interview experiences, the school asked “so what do you think?” and the person responded “I’m sorry, I just don’t think we are a good fit to work together.”  They sat there with shocked looks on their faces!  Sometimes you just need to be blunt, to get your point across because some schools may not even realize they have also just experienced a bad interview.

interviewsTraits and signs that a bad interview is taking place at an international school recruitment fair:

  • The administrator is saying to their counterpart “So, who was this person again?”
  • They are only talking about the good benefits package and how great it is to live and work there.
  • The director is sitting in a corner of the hotel room going through a mess of paperwork on the bed while the principal is interviewing you.
  • The people interviewing you are literally arguing how you are not a good fit. (e.g. “We usually only hire people from the UK.” “We are looking to hire someone locally for the position.”)
  • The administrators are not even asking you questions about teaching only about if they can find a way to hire you that would be in agreement with the laws of the host country (or ways to get around it).
  • The interviewers are coming across as far superior than you and can’t stop talking about their school as if it was a top-tier international school, when indeed they are truly not!
  • The person interviewing you doesn’t even physically work at the school you would be working at and they are only talking about how great the company is that owns the school.

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

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