Category Archives: Forrest Broman

Thoughts on getting and securing a job in an international school. Forrest Broman has been in international education for 30 years. He has interviewed thousands of candidates, written a guide for international recruiters, and is the founder and President of The International Educator (TIE).

International Recruitment Fairs: the Pros and Cons

As you know, over the next few months a number of leading recruitment agencies will host fairs throughout the world, which are designed to produce direct contact and hiring decisions for hundreds of international schools and thousands of candidates. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it may be difficult to gauge the benefits of participating, and to weigh the drawbacks.

I will assume here that the typical candidate has had some positive contact with at least one school that has shown interest in interviewing her/him. It is certainly wise for all candidates to seek the specific interest of a few schools well before December. And it is increasingly the case that schools are offering jobs and filling positions well before the recruitment fairs even begin.

Nevertheless, taking part in a recruitment fair conducted by ISS, Search Associates, Council of International Schools (CIS), the University of Northern Iowa, Queens College and others has these distinct advantages:

1) You get to meet the school head, and often a principal, in person, and the chance to make your case as a desirable candidate.

2) There are anywhere from 70 to 220 international schools at these fairs, so your chances of landing at least one solid offer are very good. (Check out carefully which schools will attend.)

3) You can also meet many experienced international school teachers, and learn about the challenges and benefits of an international teaching career.

4) You can and should engage any prospective employer about the school’s mission and focus, the major qualities they are seeking in candidates, and the benefits and drawbacks in working in their schools and living in their environments.

5) You will, through this process, attract interest and even offers from schools in countries you had never considered. Many of those hired end up in places they had never anticipated.

You must bear in mind, however, that your chances of success at a fair are greatly enhanced if you have had positive contact with at least a few of the schools that will be there; this can best be accomplished by seeking positions through agencies, such as TIE and tieonline.com, well before the fairs begin.

Now for some of the discouraging issues in attending one of these fairs:

1) The travel, lodging and fees can add up to a considerable expense, coupled with days off from your current school.

2) There is usually some fervor, intensity and often-long lines in getting signed up for an interview with the schools of your choice.

3) More than ever, schools are asking for decisions and commitments almost immediately after the initial interview. This can be disconcerting if you have not been reviewing the information about that school before attending the fair.

4) You may be a very effective teacher, but not strong in the interview, or there may be physical or stylistic handicaps that detract from your presentation.

5) If you are a strong candidate and get more than one offer, the pressure to make a decision without adequate time to consider all the ramifications can be very disconcerting.

6) It may be that a desired vacancy was filled at an earlier fair, which often happens towards the end of the cycle. And at best, roughly half of the candidates attending can expect to be offered a position as a result of the fair.

So the choice of whether to attend an international school recruitment fair is complicated, and highly individual. You should at least ask schools you are in touch with if they require your attendance there: will Skype or some other alternative enable them to make an equally informed decision?

There is some excitement to these events though, and they are well organized. You may meet many interesting people, and learn first-hand what it means to be part of an international school staff.

What Kind of International School Do You Want To Be Part Of?

As in every network of schools, there is a considerable range of excellence in international schools. But how does one begin to appreciate the differences and perceive the real educational leaders? Your first decision is whether you want to be in an environment that promotes and reinforces learning as its first priority. There are very comfortable assignments, with good salaries and comfortable environments, that do not push hard for educational excellence. The point is you need to know what kind of environment you want, and how to find out where that exists.

If you are very insistent that your potential school be a leading innovator with a strong commitment to continual improvement of student learning, you will be in line to work at one of the very best international schools. And here is how you find out what drives that institution:

1) What are their provisions for professional development, and what percentage of their budget is devoted to this? (Should be at least 2%).

2) How do they express their central mission verbally, as many of the written mission statements may be very much alike? You need to ask what is their main criteria for selecting staff, which will give you insight into this question.

3) Be sure to speak to a few of the teachers at any prospective employer, and ask them about the quality of their colleagues and the school’s commitment to learning. And remember, strong educational leadership is not always welcomed by every staff member.

4) Be prepared to share your examples of student work under your direction; tests and assessments you have used; and samples of your best lesson plans. If they are not very interested in these, you will have learned a lot about the school’s priorities.

5) Check whether the writing and public speaking standards are expressed in “essential agreements” within departments. This will indicate a strong sense of purpose, or the lack thereof!

6) Ask the principal or head what are the most important characteristics of the staff they are seeking to hire. Do you fit into this scenario?

These approaches will enhance your understanding of the kind of school and staff you may be joining. And please remember, this is by far the most serious and significant factor in your decision—far more important than the school’s location or physical plant.

What Should Candidates Be Doing Right Now?

If you are hoping to land a good international teaching or admin position for next summer, here are a few things you must attend to right now!

1) Update you resume with major emphasis on your most recent teaching experience, including subjects and levels.

2) Line up 2 or 3 current or past supervisors to be ready to complete confidential recommendations for you, both in writing and in response to checkout calls. Make sure they are comfortable giving you a strong letter of endorsement.

3) Try to be in early contact with schools that interest you, even if they haven’t yet announced an appropriate vacancy. In many schools teachers are not required to announce their intentions for the next year until a month or two from now.

4) Once a school indicates interest in your candidacy, keep in contact with them and seek to speak with teachers and your prospective principal about their standards, requirements and special conditions for living and working there. Be ready to consider locations you might not have considered in advance. (Nor everyone can get their first international position in Western Europe!)

5) Be prepared to discuss candidly your special strengths as a teacher; the ways you assess your impact on your students; and the areas in which you are still trying to improve. Good to practice this with a school administrator if you can.

6) Keep in mind that location, while important, is not nearly as important as being in a school where you are comfortable and compatible with their goals. Your experience in an international school will be affected much more by the school, your colleagues and the students, then by the city or country you are in.

7) Be as positive and constructive as possible about your past experiences. Morale issues are very important in international schools, and no one wants to hire a “moaner.”

8) Above all: Get your resume and confidential recommendations into the Tieonline.com Resume Bank; and subscribe to the IJN service to keep abreast of all relevant, new vacancy announcements!