As a candidate, I attended several recruitment fairs, organised by several agencies in London and Bangkok. I know that it is not usual, but I love them. Going from interviews to interviews, talking to great school leaders, starting imagining a new life in a new country-this buzz is hard to describe but I really enjoy it.
Community and surreal feeling
So, this year, for the first time as a recruiter, I attended the Search Associates fair in Cambridge with my school Director. One of the first thing I was reminded was that most school leaders know each other and it was not unusual to see some fall in each other’s arms. To me, the fair had could be seen as a very large family reunion where you might not recognise some distant cousins or great aunts, but you end up having a great time re-connecting with closer people. In my case it was amazing to bump into a previous colleague from Istanbul who now works in China, and meet up with several of my PTC workshop facilitators, with school leaders that my Director kindly introduced me to, with the TIE CEO and Editor and more. It felt awesome to be surrounded by good people. At the same time, there is something surreal during recruitment fairs. First, it was very cold in Boston (the river was frozen) and we were super comfortable in the hotel, nearly too hot. Furthermore, the concentration of people, in a short amount of time (3 days) adds to this special feeling: the hotel seemed to be taken over by us, more than 500 people looking for the best jobs or looking for the best educators for their schools. In the workrooms, in the mailroom, in the presentation rooms, at breakfasts, dinners and cocktails, even in the elevator: running into people who did not have a Search name tag was an exception. So, you have to be on, as soon as you leave your bedroom, and this is an incomparable yet surreal experience.
I also noticed the importance of collaboration. As an educator looking for a job, the search is a lonely experience: you have to be good, be ready to think fast and connect with your family back home when offers are on the table, but this is pretty much it. As a recruiter, each conversation needs to be debriefed with your colleagues both at the fair and back at school.
Despite the short amount of time, I managed to keep my interview routine: 1) informal chat to see if there might be a fit before offering a formal interview: that happened at the sign-up sessions and it was faster than in a more traditional hiring process.
2) formal interview: the location of the interview adds to the unreal feeling during a job fair as the interviews take place in the recruiters’ bedrooms. It was not news to me, but still…
3) second conversation with a colleague: at the fair, this was with the Director since she was with me, but usually that would be with another member of the High School. At the fair, we virtually invited colleagues from Quito so that they could join the interviews.
4) last conversation with the Director: at this point, I hope to bring the candidates that represent a good fit.
I did not count how many interviews I had with candidates, but I had a lot. Days were packed. And I had fantastic conversations with awesome people. While some candidates were maybe not the right fit for our school, I was always happy about what we talked about. So happy that I actually consciously paused several times and said to myself: not only is this chat very interesting but I am learning a lot here!
I also noticed how important it is to be clear. Ambiguity in those conversations tend to waste everybody’s time. It is sometimes hard, but in this short amount of time, it is crucial. Crucial for recruitment fairs, crucial in a more traditional hiring process. Being transparent right from the early stages is beneficial for everyone since recruiter’s interview candidates, but candidates also interview schools.
Everyone must experience recruitment fairs differently. Some people do not enjoy those and some, like me, feel very comfortable in this atmosphere. Whether you like it or not, however, it is a very efficient way to have candidates and recruiters together in the same time and space for them to talk face to face. I also vividly remember a young couple attending the fair with their little one in a pushchair and that must have been quite a special and personal experience too!
It was sometimes clear on people’s faces whether they got a job or not or that they filled all their positions or not but a sense of reality seemed to hit recruiters towards the end of the fair. Are you planning for the next fair and are you ready to dive into this again? Or do you go back to school and to your reality? In any way, it was a great learning experience and I really look forward to next year.
For what it’s worth…