Friday, January 16, 2009

International Teacher Recruitment for Dummies

The view from our Sheraton riverside hotel room while at the Search Associates Bangkok job fair (life isn't all bad)

Inspired by Jeff Utecht's recent post about the
international teacher recruiting season, I thought it might be fun to offer some advice and share experiences from the past week when my spouse and I ventured to the Search Associates Bangkok job fair. Maybe this blog post will inspire others to contribute....maybe we could even write the book, given that a Google search did not throw up a current edition of anything with this title.

So, here we go, a list of DOs and DO NOTs aimed at getting you, the wary international educator, through what is one of the most painful and stressful episodes in life. You may have seen that stress level indicator, you know the one where moving house is at a certain level of stress, as is changing jobs, and I think death of a spouse is one of the highest. Well, I also plan to rewrite this chart as attending an international job fair surpasses all of these....it is THE MOST stressful.

When attending an international teacher recruitment job fair I suggest you -
  • DO be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster ride as you move from one interview to another (if you have interviews)
  • DO NOT get upset if you are not invited to interview with anyone, it may be a problem with the organisers database....or maybe the recruiters ability to use it
  • DO NOT turn up at 8:50 for the interview sign-up session at 9:00 thinking you have lots of time as you will end up at the end of a very long line
  • DO carry tissues at all times for those inevitable knock-backs, better still, sniff all the time as though you have a cold, this should fool them
  • DO keep an open mind about where you may end up and take advantage of all possible interviews....this is important as there are amazing opportunities out there if you are willing to be adventurous
  • DO NOT be fooled by pictures of scenery and enticing words of 'eco-tourism' as an appeal to move to a remote country....get real, this means there is basically nothing to do except look at the scenery and walk around....it may appeal, but we have been there and done that, it depends how old your kids are and what the family needs as a whole
  • DO NOT discount smaller schools or schools that do not have the same reputation as some of the 'heavies' out there....quite often these are gems with dynamic learning environments and less politics to wade through
  • DO some preparation for those inevitable interview questions eg 'What do you do if the administration do not use technology yet?' [what sort of school is this?] or 'How will you encourage the reluctant teacher to integrate technology?' [Is this going to be my responsibility only? What about a top down vision as well?] or 'How do you feel about moving out of MYP and into IGCSE?' [I feel terrible...what am I doing in this interview?]
  • DO NOT be alarmed if the vertical file with your name on it NEVER has any notes, requests or (wait for it) job offers during the entire fair, it's a silly system anyway and technology should be employed more effectively to facilitate communication between recruiters and teachers
  • DO NOT feel under pressure if you are given 2 hours to decide to accept a job as technically the recruiter cannot do that to you, so go on, report him/her to the organisers...then see how many job offers you get....remember that recruiters network as well
  • DO NOT feel completely demoralised when after your third interview with the same school they still have not made a job offer, there must be something left to talk about, besides the lack of organisation on their part is not your fault even though it may feel like it at the time
  • DO NOT expect recruiters to really know what you do, despite having a copious online presence supported by hard copy CV material, get real....reading details is not everyones forte [Grin....personal story - one interview finished amicably but with no real interest in us and on the way out of the room I commented on the book, The World is Flat, that the recruiter was reading....Yes, very interesting, was the response....Oh, by the way I added, I'm in that book, page 501-3...(!) ]
  • DO drink plenty of liquids and remember to eat, dehydration is detrimental to being able to think your way through a difficult interview, however try to leave stonger drinks until after securing the job
  • DO respond positively to recruiters who appreciate what you have done in your career and know, without asking the 20 most difficult questions from the recruiters handbook, that you will be able to do the job...these people are few and far between
  • DO be flexible when considering taking a job....no position is perfect, every position is an opportunity for growth and change, if you want 'sameness' go back to your home country and work there
I hope this helps, and in no way during the above list am I referring to any school in particular. The list comes from 11 years of international teaching and having attended 6 international job fairs in this time.


By the way, I am pleased to announce we have accepted contracts with a school in Beijing, Beijing BISS International School, to start in August 2009. It is a small, accommodating school, offering all 3 IBO programs, and implementing Apple Macs 1:1 in the senior school. I have accepted IT Coordinator and look forward to carrying on the good work of the current IT person. As a family we are very excited to be moving to Beijing, it will be a big change for us having lived in Muslim countries for the past 9 years.

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10 comments:

Ann Krembs said...

Great list Julie.

I'd like to leave another DO.

Years ago my husband and I were at a fair and sadly we went home without jobs. Needless to say, I felt devastated. (Luckily, a few weeks later we did indeed get jobs; we just had to wait.) When I reflected upon my attitude at that fair, I realized it was down. The next time I went out recruiting I did this:

DO smile the entire time. If you go to your box, and it's empty, smile. In the elevator, smile. Walking the halls or lobby of the hotel, smile. You never know who you will see or run into. I learned the next time around (because I realize my face usually says it all) that it's best to smile throughout the whole whirlwind! When else does one of the opportunity of choosing to live in Argentina, Morocco, or South Africa (to just name three locales) in just three short days!?

Madeleine Brookes said...

DO have your comparison spreadsheet up and running and ensure that you plug in all the benefits. For example, how important is the dental option with the health package? Do you get a laptop? Pay attention to the currency of the salary - and factor in fluctuations. What may seem like a great deal today, may not be in 12 months time! (I know it is not always about the cash but at least you know what you are signing up for).

DO consider your children's education, sporting and other extra-curricular interests alongside a potential promotion. Is this a school where you want your kids to attend? Put your parent hat on and ask away! As soon as we signed with our current school, the school's focus was on our kids' transition - gifts of year books and other promotion material, key rings, pens, t-shirts and inclusion at the celebration dinner ("We want to see we don't have two heads").

DO remember that even if the fair is held in really warm climates (e.g. Bangkok or Dubai) hotels are FREEZING. Re-consider those short sleeves ad bare legs! (I remember shivering my way through on interview in Brisbane many years ago to the point when I just wanted to get out of the room and get in a hot shower!!)

Jeff said...

Congrats on the new job Julie. Mac 1:1 program at a smaller school sounds like a dream!

Your blog post has some great Dos and Don't for people. I agree the system itself needs to be changed. Even the vertical hanging folders don't work. A friend of our got stopped by an admin asking why she hadn't come to schedule and interview. She said she never got the interview slip...come to find out he didn't put it in her folder, but between two folders and it had fallen down. Frustrating to say the least.

You might be interested in listening to the SOS podcast as well as we interview a HS Principal and ask him about the recruiting process from his end. http://www.sospodcast.org

Again, congrats and it's great we're both in the EARCOS region. Hopefully our paths will cross more frequently.

loonyhiker said...

I'm so excited for you! I've been to Beijing once and I'm currently taking Mandarin lessons. I look forward to hearing about your experiences there.

Julie Lindsay said...

Ann, I totally agree about the smiling bit! Been there, done that, Over 6 job fairs we have only secured jobs at 3, 50% is not a lot to smile about it seems, but you are right, you need to always be professional and positive and keep things in perspective.

Madeleine, yes there is so much to consider, and especially with a family. We have to get Violet through the last 3 years of high school so an accommodating school with an inclusive program was top of the list.

Jeff, thanks, and yes I will be moving closer to you in Bangkok and into a timezone I am not familiar with!

@loonyhiker....well I don't know how I am going to learn Mandarin! Language is not my strong point, but I believe it is very useful to have some Chinese in China!

murcha said...

What wonderful advice has been gathered in one place, both Julie's post and the ensuing comments. Congratulations Julie on your posting. Beijing will have gained a wonderful asset in you.

drbruce said...

Excellent advice, and congratulations on the new position. It's twenty years since I was at a recruitment fair, but I can still remember how stressful it was.

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