Teaching Abroad: Recruiting Fairs
You've decided to teach abroad and are ready to find a job. Where should you start? The U.S. State Department provides a list of recognized organizations that recruit teachers and administrators for schools abroad. The list includes:
- International Schools Services (ISS),
- Council of International Schools,
- International Educators Cooperative,
- Queen's University Placement Office,
- University of Northern Iowa Overseas Placement Service for Educators,
- Association of American Schools in South America, and
- Educators Overseas.
Generally these organizations recruit for schools run by the State Department, private companies, and religious institutions. The Department of Defense handles their own recruiting for DoD schools. Working with an acknowledged and respected recruiting organization is important for your safety as well as the benefits of attending their recruiting fairs. Avoid operations that promise to "speed up the paperwork" or charge excessive fees to help you land a teaching job. Fees vary, but you can anticipate spending around US$180 - $200 to register with the service and approximately $300 to attend a recruitment fair. Hotel and transportation costs, including airfare, are not covered in the recruitment fair fees.
This may sound like a lot of money, but it's often money well spent because there are many schools represented and you have opportunities for multiple interviews within a few days time instead of making several separate trips. You can also register with the service without attending a fair; registration just keeps your resume in their database for the coming year and makes it easier for recruiters to find you, though most will want to meet at a fair for convenience sake as they often make special trips to the United States just to attend the fairs.
Each organization sponsors their own recruiting fairs and has deadlines for sending in paperwork and registering. It's rare for a fair to have any last-minute openings, so make sure you plan ahead and have all your paperwork in order for any fairs you plan to attend. Some schools accept direct resumes and applications, but make sure you ask before emailing or faxing. For convenience, many choose to work only through the recruiting organizations.
Many international schools have the same general requirements for hiring teaching staff:
- Bachelors degree in teaching area.
- Two years teaching experience.
- Current license or certification in teaching area.
- Some countries require a Masters in teaching area.
- Masters required for administrative positions and possibly prior
Depending on the school, they might be flexible on the first three requirements, sometimes accepting two out of the three, but there are no guarantees. Because the fairs are usually busy with many potential candidates and certain schools attract a high level of interest, those schools may have the luxury of being very selective. In many ways, it's similar to finding a teaching job in the United States: some school districts are more attractive than others, and desirability of schools within a district can vary as well.
Going to the Recruiting Fairs
Each organization handles their fairs in a different manner, so be sure to read your information packet carefully. If you have not connected with any schools prior to the fair, bring copies of your resume, degrees, and licenses to make available to any school representative that may wish to interview you. Some schools arrive at the fair with a list of candidates already in hand and do not accept new candidates for interviews. Be prepared for some serendipitous opportunities, too. A school you may not have heard of yet could show some interest and you might discover a great position.
Get your references in order before you go. Make sure you talk with your references to prepare them for possible phone calls, and make sure you have their names and phone numbers ready. Listing your references on a resume is generally discouraged for privacy reasons. Some schools may ask for that information on the application, which you might be required to complete at the fair if they plan to offer you a position.
Make sure you have a list of schools and regions that interest you before attending the fair, and if possible approach those representatives first. Before you meet with a recruiter for an interview, make sure you have read about the school and know the basics: location, history, student population composition, experience requirements. If the school has a website (some don't), read it and make note of those important points.
By the time you put together multiple copies of your paperwork plus any notes your gathered about various schools, you may want to take an organizer or briefcase to keep everything in order.
The Finer Points
It's a recruiting fair, and though the environment may seem casual or the school may have a business casual dress policy, it's better to overdress for an interview than to show up in jeans and sneakers. Put your best foot forward and dress professionally.
If a school contacts you prior to the fair and asks for a phone interview, it's generally a good idea to accept because it can save you time later. Some schools may even require screening phone calls before agreeing to a personal interview.
Some school representatives do presentations about the country and school separate from the interviews, and often those are helpful for answering some questions you might have before meeting the recruiter. Attend these sessions whenever possible and take notes on schools of particular interest. Some of these presentations may be invitation-only, but that usually happens when a school already has their list of candidates ahead of time.
People talk, and that includes administrators and recruiters. You may interview with one recruiter who eventually decides to hire someone else but thinks you might be a perfect fit for another school that he knows about. It's not uncommon for recruiters and administrators to share information on candidates or even work deals behind the scenes. Always present yourself professionally and cordially because word travels quickly about candidates.
And finally, have fun. One of the great opportunities at recruiting fairs is the chance to meet experienced international teachers. If the fair has any mixers, take the time to attend and meet other people. You never know, you might introduce yourself to someone who could later become a colleague.