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International School Recruitment Fairs: An Administrator’s Perspective

The view from the other side of the recruiting table: what are some best practices and tips for administrators at international teacher recruiting fairs?

Wallace Ting | @TingWallace
November 15,  2019

The international school recruiting season is once again upon us, as schools look to fill their vacancies for the following school year. A diminishing but still important element of international school recruitment are the job fairs. In these events, school administrators and teaching candidates travel to a designated location over the course of three or four days. In this compacted timeframe, a professional version of speed dating takes place, with job offers extended and received by school administrators and teachers through numerous interactions and interviews.

Having worked as both an Elementary School Principal and school Director, I attended quite a number of job fairs to recruit teachers. Looking back on the experience, I can clearly identify a number of teaching candidates I was able to contract that ended up being superstars at the school. Yet, my time at the job fairs also included their fair share of “what if” moments that left me wondering about the “teacher that got away” and if I had allocated my preparation time leading up to the fair adequately. As we head into yet another recruiting season for the international school community, I leave my fellow administrators with some tips to consider and give teachers an inside look at the other side of the recruiting table.

Do the Prep Work

Most schools that register for job fairs will grant access to an online database where candidate profiles, resumes, and letters of recommendation can be seen. Taking the time to shortlist candidates and establish a connection prior to a job fair can pay huge dividends at the actual fair. Top candidates will be impressed and honored that you’ve reached out to them proactively. You might be able to even interview several teachers over Skype or online before the fair, making the in-person encounter a final versus an initial interview. Establishing contact early also allows for a thorough check of references and background prior to making an offer, an important consideration for schools this day and age. And finally, doing your research on candidates prior to the job fair can be a valuable team exercise. Looking over candidate profiles beforehand can help a team of administrators at the fair synchronize their efforts and help collectively identity profiles of teachers that may be a good fit for the school’s culture and vision.

Viewing candidate profiles, setting up meetings, and having discussions with your team prior to the job fair can increase your chances of success

Don’t Forget to Network

Twelve hours of travel, two full days of interviews, and an inbox of unread messages is likely to make even the most ardent of school administrators quite fatigued and tired. In addition to the primary function of interviewing and hiring, job search organizations also typically host dinners, happy hours, and exhibitor fairs. My advice to administrators is to take a few hours to participate in these tertiary events. Although they are by no means necessary, these activities are wonderful ways to network and get to know your colleagues around the world. Besides regional conferences, where else are you going to physically find a room of school administrators from the biggest international schools from around the world? Establishing connections in person can lay the groundwork for future collaboration at a distance, and form the basis of a network of trusted contacts to turn to for advice or support.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

At most job fairs I’ve attended, the inaugural start to the event is when the doors physically open. Administrators, seated at tables representing their schools, watch as hundreds of candidates hurriedly jockey for position. Lines form, and eager teachers have about a minute to pass their resume and make a brief pitch to a school administrator, who will then ask the candidate to meet up later for a 20-30 minute interview later in the afternoon if they are interested. I’ve experienced this mad rush as both an administrator and a teacher candidate, and to say that the experience is intimidating would be an understatement.

My advice for administrators? Don’t be afraid to say no. First of all, if you’ve done your prep work – see point #1 – you’ll likely have already lined up a few interviews beforehand or have specifically asked an individual to see you at the table. Of course, if you meet a candidate that ticks all of the marks in your checklist, I would absolutely recommend scheduling an interview. But just keep in mind that since you have a limited amount of interview slots, it’s important to make sure that your school also ticks the marks of the candidate’s checklist. Have they done any research about your school? Have they visited the country previously? Do they have friends or colleagues that currently work at the school? With time, you’ll learn the key “look-fors” in candidates that signal if they’re serious about working at your school, rather than simply fishing for offers.

With a plethora of candidates and limited time during the fair, interview slots are at a premium, so be sure you’ve done your prep work and that a candidate ticks your boxes in terms of qualifications and background prior to setting up an interview.

Have Your Team on Standby

Having a team on standby at your school during a job fair can streamline the hiring process and alleviate a ton of stress on your end. It can also ensure that you perform the necessary due diligence on a candidate and involve your team in the decision-making process.

If you find a candidate that makes a great impression during the interview, having members of your team on standby can allow for a second interview via Skype, reference checks, and an additional review of the candidate’s qualifications. Once you’ve decided that you want to hire a candidate, members of your team can assist with contractual paperwork and collection of required documents and certifications. If your team back at the school knows you’re at the job conference and is ready to assist if needed, this can make your experience at the fair much more efficient and effective.

ABC – Always Be Closing

If you’ve done your prep work on a candidate, engaged your team back at the school to give you a second opinion, and if you continue to feel strongly that they’ll be a good fit for your students, it’s time to close the deal. Just like any negotiation, there are several recommendations that can be used to close the deal, such as meeting in person with a contract in hand ready to sign or giving a hard deadline to respond to an offer. One of my previous positions was as a director of a school in Africa, and to seal the deal with a young teacher, I asked her to call her father and put him on speakerphone so I could help answer any questions about the school and country. Just as schools are interviewing multiple candidates, candidates are also meeting with multiple schools. Expressing your genuine interest and providing just a little bit of nudge might be enough to motivate a candidate you feel strongly about to sign with your school.

If you encounter a candidate you feel strongly about, don’t wait to make them an offer as they are likely interviewing with and attracting interest from other schools at the fair.

It’s probably worthwhile to take a moment to talk about some professional ethics and courtesy at job fairs. First, if you offer a contract, then be prepared to follow through and honor it. Unless there is a substantial and clear-cut reason to rescind an offer, teachers expect administrators to honor their verbal commitments and follow through with a contract offer. Second, there is a bit of an unspoken rule to not make any formal offers to candidates prior to the first open session when the scheduling of initial interviews occurs. Although more and more schools seem eager to offer contracts early in an increasingly competitive landscape, the essence of a job fair is somewhat defeated if a candidate is pressured to sign with a school before at least interviewing with several other schools. Finally, as a school administrator, I would be cautious about asking or prodding candidates about offers or interviews they’re having with other schools. Although there is always a sense of competition at the fair, my advice for administrators is to focus on establishing the fact that your school is the best personal and professional fit for a teacher, rather than proving that you are more competitive or lucrative than other schools.

Despite the fact that more and more international schools are hiring their teachers online, job fairs remain an important facet of international school recruiting. Nothing can fully yet replace the value of face-to-face interaction, and fairs are a great way to maintain and establish connections with other school administrators. As we head into another recruiting season, I hope these tips will help school leaders better prepare for job fairs and ultimately place great teachers who will positively impact student outcomes.






Dr. Wallace Ting is originally from Dallas, Texas and began his career in education as a public school mathematics teacher in Texas and New York City (as part of the NYC Teaching Fellows program). He has also worked in international education for a total of 10 years as a Principal, Deputy Director, and Director in Guatemala, Colombia, and Nigeria. Currently, Dr. Ting resides in Orlando, Florida with his young son, Phillip and enjoys playing tennis, camping, and hiking.


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