Int. Education

The international recruiting season has begun!

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jobopenings.jpgActually it began quite a few months ago according to the administrators I talked to here at the Bangkok ISS and Search-Associate recruiting fairs. Technology is making this process easier and recruiters are showing up to the actual fairs with a focused set of people they are looking for.

I hope Julie Lindsay and Clay Burell both chime in on their experiences about recruiting as it is an interesting experience that unless you have gone through it is hard to explain.

I wasn’t recruiting this year but instead was on baby sitting duty as some friends of ours from Shanghai were here recruiting.

Let’s see if I can put the three day crazy experience into a general understanding. Of course everyone’s experience is different but for many it goes something like this.


8am: Get to your mail box (a folder set up for you) and check to see if any schools have left you a message to meet them for an interview. At 9am you go and schedule these interviews for the next two days or if you are not interested in the school you graciously decline the interview.

9am: Go around to the 100 or so schools and see who has a job opening for you. You know ahead of time based on what schools have posted on their websites, but things are constantly changing. You do a quick look around and then stand in line and schedule interviews with schools that you are interested in.

10am – ??pm: First round of interviews are scheduled and you run from interview to interview talking with Heads of Schools, Principals, and the rest of the interview team. When you are not interviewing you are researching schools and trying to keep up to date on what jobs have been filled and which are coming open.


First and second round of interviews continue all day. The lucky ones will get offered contracts after a second interview/meeting and will have 24 to 48 hours to decide where they want to go.


Final interviews with schools and teachers start to narrow down their choices if they have been offered jobs. At this point you start to get excited about what the future holds, or worried that you haven’t been offered a job yet and what do you do if you do not get a job for the next school year (most schools make you resign before the recruiting season starts). In the end you make a decisions on where you will spend the next two years of your life…and maybe longer.

It’s a weekend of excitement, disappointment, and utter chaos at times. You get 3 or 4 days to make a decisions that will affect you for the next two years of your life and potentially beyond.

Although this is a brief general outline of what happens at a international recruiting fair, they are slowly changing. Talking to both recruiting teachers and recruiting administrators the fairs are taking on a different feel. My best estimates are that 50% to 60% of jobs were filled before the recruiting fairs even started…some positions as early as November. This change in recruiting practices has to do with the ease of use that one can now contact schools and teachers. E-mail, Skype, Portfolio Websites, have all led to a new form of communication that is turning the recruiting fairs from a “hire everyone” to “hire those you still need”.

Most administrators still like to meet the people they are hiring face to face. Skype is helping with this and other schools are finding it cheaper to fly candidates in to interview rather than fly a team of recruiters to Boston and put them up in a 5 star hotel for four days.

Those schools/administrators who are not using these new tools to recruit are finding the pickings “slim” at the fairs. Teachers are contacting schools in advance and schools are contacting teachers who have qualifications they want in advance as well…seemingly making the recruiting season start earlier and earlier each year.

It’s been a fun process to watch unfold over the past seven years. To watch technology slowly change the way hiring is done in the international teaching world. Do I think recruiting fairs like this will die? Probably not, but I do think they will take on a different feel and have a different place within the larger hiring process. Those schools/administrators who can adapt to this new technology will have an edge up on those schools/administrators that don’t as they will have access to top teachers before the fairs have even begun.

If you are interested in teaching internationally a good place to start is here:

The International Educator

A great place to start with job posting from schools around the world, and good articles and other features that will help you better understand the life of living overseas.

International School Services

ISS is one of two big services that international schools use and run recruiting fairs around the world for international schools. They have a load of information and walk you through signing up for a fair. They create a database of school opening. Schools use their service to search their database for potential teachers.

ISS: San Francisco, CA

February 8 – 12, 2009

ISS/CIS: Philadelphia, PA

February 16 – 19, 2009


The other big service provider to international fairs is Search Associates. Like ISS they hold recruiting fairs throughout the world bringing together schools and teachers to find employees and jobs.They also create a database of teachers and schools that both use to find matches.


Dates: 16-18 Jan, 2009


Dates: 30-1 Feb, 2009


Dates: 5-8 Feb, 2009


Dates: 6-9 Feb, 2009


Dates: 14-16 Feb, 2009


Dates: 5-7 Mar, 2009


Dates: 13-15 Mar, 2009


Dates: 27-29 Mar, 2009


Dates: 1-3 May, 2009


Dates: 17-19 Jun, 2009

UNI Overseas Placement Service

A smaller fair ran by the University of Northern Iowa that is great for those just getting into overseas teaching. It costs less, and I think has a smaller more personal feel then the other larger fairs. This is the first fair my wife and I went to and it still holds a special place for us. We walked in not knowing what we were doing and walked out headed to Saudi Arabia.

Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2009

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. @ Jeff
    Thanks for sharing this post. I’ve always been curious into how all these international schools seem to land so many great teachers. Do you find international schools tend to be more progressive than their traditional public school counterparts? I’m imagining the answer is yes but what is the “why” behind the yes.

    All the best!

    • Charlie,

      I wish I could say yes that international schools tend to be more progressive than their American counterparts but really the answer as we would put it here in Thailand is “Same, Same”.

      I feel they should be ahead as basically every international school is a private school within itself, either non-profit or for-profit.

      Because of this they are able to change at a quicker pace. No NCLB, no government funds cuts. Each child pays for their seat…and it’s not cheap with most international schools charging between $17,000 and $25,000 a year.

      But the reality is that the educators and administrators are still western trained and are battling with the same inner demands as those in other western cultures. How do you change a system that we know all to well…and for all intensive purposes….works.

      So as a whole:

      Are they farther ahead? No.

      Do I feel they should be? Absolutely!

  2. I remember those days as an adventure. A bit stressful but over all a blast. The future was unknown, the world was truly all yours for a few days. My hubby and I spent hours interviewing, checking maps, talking to other educators. We always went to the conferences thinking we were just confirming an already settled job but always ended up some place unexpected. I sort of miss those days. We always went to ISS conferences in the Eastern US.

  3. I’ll be chronicling the madness leading up to my happy acceptance of a position at Singapore American School soon. I’m in Koh Samui right now, vacationing in a (cloudy!) villa for a week to de-stress after the fair. Back in Seoul on Saturday. (Wifi here in Koh Samui mucho sucky, by the way. I’m thinking it’s by satellite, as it seems slower when cloudy.)

  4. Thanks for the detailed post- my husband and I are heading out for our first-ever IRC in February, and it’s fantastic to hear about them from more experienced teachers.

    I have a question– how important do you think a teaching portfolio (online or on paper) is in the hiring process?

    • We just did a podcast last night with the high school principal from Vienna. It will be episode 19 when it’s posted in a short while over at Keep us posted as to where you end up…it’s and exciting time!

      It’s not overly important….I think. They are very busy and as Greg explains in the podcast, it’s nice but they really don’t have time to look at them. An online one is better then a paper one as it demonstrates tech skills. Greg also talks about what your CV should have and not have and how important good references are. I think you’ll find the podcast useful.

      Good Luck!

      • Hello Jeff,

        I am a Colombian with a year and a half experience in a PYP school (teaching in the preprimary section) and studying a master in France at the moment finishing in sept. 2009. I was wondering if you had any ideas of the possibilities for non-native speakers of English to be hired in these fairs or if for example, Spanish teachers are also searched (languages is my field) and if not so experienced teachers have a chance.

        I loved my PYP experience in this school and I’d like to keep on this great path. And being away makes me want to stay abroad for a while and explore the world!

        Anyway, I hope you have some time to give me an answer or advice.

        I enjoy your blog and I see many people do, please do not give up on this! We need you! jejejeje (English hehehe).

        • Yes, some schools would consider non-English speaking teachers especially for Foreign Language classes. So far at every school I have taught at there have been English second language teachers who have taught either Arabic, French, or Spanish. So it is a possibility.

    • I second that, Jen. I brought a portfolio, lugged it around with me for four days, and never cracked it. I did include hyper-linked websites featuring things like my Wikispaces in Education screencast on my resume, though, and a couple of schools actually looked at it. But most didn’t.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    It sounds very interesting and hectic.
    I taught in 2 international schools in the late 80’s and have always wanted to do so again. It was a great way to see a country and to develop friendships with people from a variety of countries.
    After the initial contract there was always an option to renew, is that less the case these days?
    Of course teachers choose countries and schools for a variety of reasons (and avoid some for other reasons), what seem to be the most popular countries/schools to work in?

    • Colin,

      It’s still the case that schools will renew contracts for many years beyond the two initial year commitment. There are people at my school here in Bangkok who have been working here for 20+ years. Every school is different. Some schools have will only allow you to stay for five years max, and yet others have age restrictions based on the country they reside in. Most schools are hoping that you will stay between 3 and 5 years. We know that change takes that long and schools do not like to continually restart initiatives, which happens a lot in international schools. Many times you feel like you are spinning your wheels because the turnover in staffing does not allow you to gain traction on change issues.

      Popular countries? China is exploring with International schools at the moment. It seems every year there are new schools starting up. The pay package for the most part is good and of course you get to live in China…the up and coming giant.

      Everyone has what they like/look for in schools. Every area of the world has its pluses and minus. Asia pays well, but it is fast paced and schools expect a lot from you. In South America, the pace is slower, but the pay is lower as well. The Middle East pays very well, and there are new schools opening there every year as well. Everyone wants to live in Europe, but it’s expensive and you can’t save as much there as in other areas of the world. Non-profit schools are still the most popular, as they have resources and focus on education, not making money.

      Those are my thoughts anyway.

      • Thanks for the reply Jeff.
        I seem to recall, now that you mention it, the problem of staff turnover. In PNG it was a 3 year contract and you’d often lose up to a third of your staff each year.
        Sounds like you enjor living in China.
        Asia certainly attracts me – Vietnam in particular – it’s just a matter of convincing those who will go with you.
        Thanks again, Colin

  6. The Alchemy of the Interview…

    I just finished listening to the January 2009 session of the SOS Podcast on recruiting and hiring which featured a chat with American International School of Vienna HS Principal Greg Moncada. It was another insightful piece of what are some great resources being put together by Jeff and co. for all of us in the international education community. Oceans of kudos to you for this!

    Since I’m currently in the throes of a a job hunt and just did a tour at the SA BKK job fair (my first fair in 8 years and 2nd in my life) I’d like to share an impression about the face to face interview experience. If and when we interview and don’t wind up getting an offer it’s easy to second guess ourselves and go soul searching over what we could have said, done, or offered differently to the recruiting party. The fact is that interviews, especially f2f, are alchemic.

    That is to say, that there’s really no science or set formula to these encounters that will guarantee their outcome with any certainty. We can collect our references, assemble portfolios, create a stand-out online presence and read and rehearse interview questions but at the end of the day there are countless variables including the ethereal and nebulous “making the personal connection” that determine the result. I point this out, not to discourage the aforementioned preparations but to encourage people not to lose heart if f2f interviews don’t prove fruitful… And to reinforce another important point; that technology is rapidly transforming the old school methods of hiring. The all important f2f interview and mindset of “I need to see em’ before I hire em'” is giving way to logistical and economic considerations and the realty of viable 21st century technologies changing the way people now communicate, connect, and network to do business. The alchemy has become digitalized…

    So for those on the job hunt considering attending a fair or commiserating because they’ve emerged from one without a contract, remember it may not have anything to do with what you did or didn’t say or do it may have just been the alchemy of it all… And know that thanks to digital technologies there are now more than ever, an ever expanding universe of ways to research, find and connect with your next opportunity at a school. So, keep the faith, embrace the technologies, stay online and open to the digital alchemy of it all…

  7. Alan Knobloch Reply


    I write this as I am traveling to Boston for yet another job fair. Based on my experience this year, I would take exception to your comment that the “pickings slim” at the job fairs. The first two fairs in Bangkok actually had an increased number of candidates over previous year and there were plenty of high quality teachers.

    You are correct many schools are taking advantage of Skype and other means to hire before the fairs. I wonder how that will work out for them in the long run.

    I still like to interview in person and make a connection with the teacher which is much harder to do on the phone or even with Skype.

    We are in the people business and the teacher’s personality matters. The stakes are too high, our student’s education, to make a bad hire.

    My other comment for teachers who are thinking about breaking into the international education market, take your time and do your research. There are numerous stories of great teachers who took the first job offer that came along and wound up in a less than desirable school/country. There is a teacher shortage overseas, particularly in the hard to fill fields of math and science. You will have options.


  8. Hey Jeff and others!

    Great to read the discussion here about recruiting! I’m at my third international school and have been through two international recruiting fair experiences. For my latest post, I was able to get the offer before the fairs started, but this did not come about through dumb luck, it took a lot of determined pursuit on my part. Knowing the right people is the trick to scoring a dream teaching position. I found out about my current position before it was even posted online because I knew a couple of teachers at this school. I was able to contact the principal and arrange a skype interview by convincing him that I was the right guy for the job. Of course, it certainly seems to be in the school’s and the teacher’s best interest if hiring can be done before the fairs, saves everyone the stress of the recruiting environment, not to mention lots of money!

    In the end, I still had to fly around the world for a f2f interview with our “old school” director… but it was all worth it! By the way, the myth that “Everyone wants to live in Europe, but it’s expensive and you can’t save as much there as in other areas of the world” is not ALWAYS the case. Here in Switzerland, a teaching couple could easily save more than they would in most of the top schools in Asia, given they do not try to live the same “luxurious” existence of private drivers, daily massages and manicures and five star beach bungalows that you would get to enjoy in Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines. Life in Europe is SO different than in Asia, for sure, but in a good way. I am more connected to the community around me, more connected to the environment (which is far cleaner than in big asian cities) and I don’t feel the need to board a plane every time I have a week off to jet off to a resort or guided trip somewhere.

    In fact, I will certainly lose my “gold card” status on the airlines this year, but I don’t even care because I will probably only fly once a year while living in europe since everything is so accessible by train or car! While living in Asia, my wife and I estimate we spent around $15,000 a year in airfare. Here, our air travel budget will be around $3,000 a year.

    Anyway, great discussion. When I start reading conversations like these, I get the “bug” myself and start thinking about lal the great places I still want to live and teach! Good luck to everyone out there recruiting right now!

  9. David Young Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    Three years ago I started with website based portfolio (put it on CD ROM for administrators at the fair) and headed to ISS Bangkok and got a job in Beijing. I was one of the first hires for the upcoming school year (that fair was an early one in the “season”).

    This year, I sent an electronic portfolio via email to school principals, got positive responses from all that cared to reply, three Skype interviews and was hired by ISB in the 2nd week of December. I got a couple of late emails from directors recently wondering what fair I was going to. Clearly the boat has sailed.

    I share your views on the changing face of recruitment. I think I am still an early hire this year but my experience will be more the norm in the not so distant future.

    I look forward to meeting you soon.


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