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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.”

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

“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.  If I would have accepted that job there, 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.

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

“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)

“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?'”

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.

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

“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 of 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.

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

“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!

The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #5 – “Check your ego at the door.”

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

5. “Check your ego at the door.

I got about an even mix of offers and rejections from the schools I talked to. One school in particular seemed so right after two interviews that getting the rejection note broadsided me with the force of a turbo-powered school bus. I bumped into one of the interviewers later, and he told me that choosing my competitor over me was the hardest decision they made the night before, and that it took them over an hour of group deliberation to make it. A rejection can happen for all sorts of reasons – maybe they needed yearbook experience you didn’t offer, or needed that administrator whose spouse happened to be a less-qualified candidate for the position you want. So don’t take it personally.”

“Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.” Sigmund Freud.

The greatest sports legends, the inventors of things we rely on today, great actors and actresses, all of these people must seem to have a big ego. Maybe it comes with their achievements or our projections of them? Then there are the great dictators, the generals of war or just some average Joe that just won the biggest-ever on his lottery ticket. Ego comes in many shapes and forms, and albeit some are seemingly more attractive than others. It’s a hard task to know when to enhance or down play your own ego.

We’re constantly told to either just stand in line or be like others, that we don’t really deviate from the mass, that we’re just one in a million, that perhaps we’re not as special as we think. Then we’re told we need to stand out, make a difference, show our true colors, let the ego steer and victory will come our way.  So, what are you to do at the international school recruiting fairs?

Ego is an ambivalent thing, you could say that it’s both our chance and our fall. It’s the chance to express ourselves, to enhance our personality to make it clearer how we stand out from the masses, what makes us special, what we’re capable of; how we’re the best of all of them. But there is a line, and if that line is crossed, our personality becomes too big and a bit desperate, we express ourselves in a way so superior to others that we make them feel small, we become way too special, maybe even too good for our own good; we are the best of all of them, no question there, there’s “me” and no one else.

It’s often in job interviews we’re left with the difficult task of being the best and out shining the competition, but in such a manner that we don’t let our own ego get the better of us, and suddenly instead of standing out positively in the round robin session or administrator’s hotel room during the interview, we stand out negatively instead. It’s practically a game of ego vs. humble. It’s pointing out the things you are good at and how you are the best for the position, but it’s just as much being humble, being likable, charming, sitting straight, smiling, having eye contact, being interested, letting your ego shine from time to time, but not letting it consume the space.

“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” James Lee Burke.

And every so often your ego takes a blow. When you venture in life, there’s always the risk of rejection. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t any international school out there that wants to hire you. It’s basically the same whether you open your heart for someone you love, or you are at a job interview, getting that “no” is a sour sting to your ego. And that’s when the inventory begins: should I have? or could I have? Would it have? And so on and so on…

Every mountain we climb in this life should probably have two gates: “for exit hurry” or “in risk of rejection”. We can’t go through life (and international school recruitment fairs) without getting a little hurt sometimes, without bruising our ego. It’s all part of living as they say; the smart and clever ones. So maybe you didn’t have enough experience, maybe the connection just wasn’t there, or maybe, just maybe someone was just better than you. You know, you shouldn’t take it personal. It just means you get a few more rounds through the “in risk of rejection” gate. And who knows, just one week after the fair, when you weren’t offered any contracts to sign, you might receive in your email inbox the offer from the international school you have been dreaming of working at!  It is happened many times in our International School Community.

The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #4 – “Being yourself is better, come what may, than trying to be someone else.”

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

4. “Being yourself is better, come what may, than trying to be someone else.”

“Think about it. Not only does pretending to be what you’re not cheat your interviewer – it also cheats you. Show your true colors now, so you’ll know whether it’ll be okay to show them over the length of your contract. I love the fact that, at my second interview with the two interviewers for the school I chose, Singapore American School, I replied to a question by saying something to the effect of, “There’s no denying that people’s first impression of me is often, ‘Damn, Burell, you’re too intense!’ But after a while they see the rest of me, and realize I’m also mellow in my own way.” “Damn” is a soft enough word these days – and I certainly don’t toss out higher-level potty words like rhymes-with-fit or ends-many-limericks-about-Nantucket or leads-to-supposedly-eternal-damnation in professional company – and I wondered about the wisdom of the utterance after it escaped my mouth (and this was in like the middle of the second hour of the interview), but somehow the fact that the offer was still made left me feeling even happier than otherwise about accepting it when it came in hour three.”

Is it really that difficult to just be yourself, and just for a moment, maybe pretend that you are a better version of who you really? The thing about admitting your own true colors is that you might have to admit some of the things, that you yourself, might find questionable, or that society deems one thing or another.  Even worse is when you realize mid-interview that you are indeed not the “best fit” as you had hoped you would be for that international school you have been wanting to work at that in the city you really had been wanting to live in.

The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung operates with something called archetypes. Two of those archetypes are known as the Shadow and the Persona. The Persona is the way we want the world to see us at our very best, the peak of our personality, but always with a mask that protects the ego, and paints an uneven picture of the person we are. The Shadow is the exact opposite. This is, according to Jung, the essence of us. The Shadow contains all our traits, the good and the bad, the flattering and unflattering, but it is our true personality. With age comes sagacity, and we start to know more about who we are, and as years pass we learn to accept ourselves, flaws and all. We learn to deal with our shortcomings, and learn to see beyond what we aren’t and what we are. The human being is of a complex size, we contain so many different traits, and as we get older we learn, and become better to deal with what is giving and what we achieve, what we learn and the wisdom we obtain.

The thing about job interviews is that we only want people to see us at our very best, or to put in a more accurate sense: what we think they want! We somehow create an illusion, that’s inevitably going to burst, it might turn out for the better, but it could as easy turn out for the worse. Honesty is the best policy, especially in the international teaching world. We so desperately want to be everything a job applicant is looking for, when in the end, all that weighs the most, probably is our personality. Our own true personality and how that matches up with the administration and staff at a school.

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” is a quote by comedienne Fanny Brice. When you create illusions or pose in a manner that is untrue to yourself, can you really expect to be liked or hired for the person you are. What sets us apart, and makes us different, is in the end what makes us unique, and when it comes to a job interview, it is the way we should be judged.

So is it really so difficult to just be yourself? If you let go of some kind of perfect perception of yourself, and just act natural, it really isn’t. Of course it takes years to accept yourself and to fully come into your own, but you will find that it somehow feels better in your own skin, when you are simply just yourself.  And maybe, just maybe you will make one of the hardest and scariest decisions you will make in your life (accepting a job at an international school in a location of the world you have never been to; and not knowing anybody there) a bit easier on your mind knowing that you have done your best to show your true self at the interview.

The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #3 – “Interview questions make the interviewer.”

“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.

The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #2 – “Energy is eternal delight” – so its opposite is….?”

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

1. “Energy is eternal delight” – so its opposite is….?

“(h/t to William Blake who, though dead, deserves eternal credit for the eternally delightful maxim.) If, like mine, your own heart seems to pump more espresso than blood, then it may be important to consider the energy coming from those interviewing you. I’m not saying interviewers need to be manic or anything; I’m just saying a lack of excitement, of a sort of buoyancy – of even a decorously restrained intensity – when discussing educational vision while courting for a temporary professional marriage may be, well, a screaming red flag. Granted, the interviewers are stuck in their hotel rooms interviewing candidate after candidate for many more straight hours than the candidates themselves, but still – we’re all teachers, current or past, so we should be pretty good at keeping our energy level up whenever a professional client enters the room, be it classroom or hotel room. The short version? Beware the droopy interviewer, and put a gold star by the inspired/inspiring one. You are, after all, bound to be sitting in many more meetings with them if you sign the contract to work with them. If they’re sleepy, chances are you’ll be a sleepy worker with them. But if they’re exciting – in a way that rings true (and we all have what Hemingway calls a “shock-proof sh!t-detector,” don’t we, to distinguish real from fake excitement, yes?) – then consider fishing your pocket for that ring, and dropping to your knees on the spot.”

It is true, there is nothing like going into somebody’s hotel room to do an interview.  Seems quite strange now that we are thinking about more.  The recruiters seemingly are stuck in their hotel room for the whole day almost, for sure they will lose some of their energy.  However, there are things administrators could do to help the situation.  They can bring some things to make the hotel room appear cozier (e.g. more school logos, lcd projector displaying slide show of their school’s pictures, etc.).  They can change the format of the interview to be less formal and more of a discussion between friends (e.g. offering a nice herbal tea, etc.).  They can also just take a walk around the hotel (inside and outside), talking with the candidate as they go.  I know that last one seems a little outside the box, but really, if international schools that recruit at these recruitment fairs (which are normally held in hotels) think outside the box a little…things just might improve for everyone involved.

We have all had interviews in one of those hotel rooms where the interviewers seem disorganized, unaware really of who is sitting in front of them at the moment.  Some interviewers due indeed look rather confused and out-of-sorts, in a state of mind that doesn’t allow for excitement about their school to come beaming through.  But as Clay Burell is saying, none of these things should matter if that person is truly excited about their school.  It should indeed be quite clear to the candidate whether the administrators enjoy working at their school.  If they don’t appear to be, then it just might be a “red flag” to stay away from that school.

But let’s not forget that there are different cultural norms among all the different kinds of international schools out there.  Some British international schools are a little more “strict” than other international schools.  Some tend to conduct themselves in a more serious straight-faced manner.  That manner might just come across as that person is bored, with a lackluster vision of the school they are working at.  However, the opposite might just be the case, as they are just putting on a formal show of decorum and professionalism that is more commonly found at a British international school setting.  That school, once you get there, might be a very fun place to work at.  The people there, though a bit formal at meetings and in other functions, might just be exciting and fun to be around in more informal settings.

Overall though, we suggest that you do observe how engaged your interviewer is at international school recruitment fairs.  It could be telling of your future if you get offered a contract and end up working at that school.

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #1 – Bad interviews are good things

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

1. Bad interviews are good things

“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.

Traits 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.