Over the next three months, you will most likely be interviewed through Skype, or in person at a recruitment fair or private meeting. This is the period during which the leading international schools will recruit at least 80% of their new staff.
Exhaustive lists of criteria and strategies for creating successful applications and interviews abound, but here are some tips that can determine whether your first choice school makes you an offer. These are distilled from over 25 years of experience recruiting candidates for schools, working closely with international school recruiters, and interviewing over 5,000 candidates.
Most schools will want to interview you in person or via Skype, before they make you an offer, although this is not always the case. Your success then depends very much on how you prepare for the interview and how you conduct yourself. Here are a few vital tips for this process.
1) Recommendations from Supervisors
Very few recruiters will ever get to see you in the classroom before they make the hiring decision. They may need to rely on your recommendations from past and current supervisors, and the best schools will conduct extensive phone check-outs to get a better handle on the person they are considering. They also are aware of the chronic reluctance of US administrators to be forthcoming, so be sure to include any international school references in your experience.
Hence, you should inform your references about the different kind of schools you are applying to and let them know the factors you would like them to highlight. Their written and oral comments should include placing you in the top 3%, 10% or 20% of the faculty they have worked with, both in terms of teaching abilities and personal characteristics. It’s much better if they are prepared for these questions.
2) Your Personal Presentation
Many international schools exist in relatively conservative societies and serve a largely upper middle class constituency. This often means that, like it or not, your personal style in dress, accessories, hair style, etc. could be important factors in a hiring decision. It’s best to dress in a conservative fashion and refrain from showcasing things such as nose rings, inappropriate clothing, or even extravagant jewelry.
3) Listen Carefully to the Questions Asked
Many school heads are experienced interviewers and have distilled their approach to a number of vital questions. If you are not sure at any time what they are asking, be straightforward and ask for clarification. They will appreciate your desire to answer them with clarity.
Your own good questions are another major indicator of intelligence and understanding. See my last point on on key topics to consider when developing your own list of questions.
4) Learning Results
The best schools will focus sharply on learning results, rather than just teacher “inputs.” So your best strategy is to provide evidence of student work and accomplishments under your guidance. This may be written work, art projects, exam questions that challenge and promote thinking skills, videos of performances, and student presentations.
Don’t be afraid to bring these to the interview, or find a way to discuss and present them even if not requested. Most recruiters will be very interested and impressed and for highly desirable schools, this is the very best way to set yourself apart from the competition.
5) Use of Video
Since recruiters won’t be able to see you teach in person, they will appreciate any capacity you have to create a filmed lesson that can be shared. This can make a major difference in selecting one candidate over another; But of course, only if it demonstrates effective teaching strategies. If you develop these clips, have a knowledgeable educational supervisor review them before sending them out. Don’t worry whether filming your lessons is appropriate. It is completely ethical and allows you to put your best foot forward and to show them your classroom skills.
6) After School Coaching and Teaching Skills
Most international schools attempt to mount substantial after school programs in sports, theater, games, IT, cooking and almost every other skill appropriate to K-12 students. Thus your ability to add something significant to these will make you a more attractive candidate. Good coaches are a primary quest of every school, but if you don’t have athletic expertise, you should be prepared to offer at least two types of activities that you would be willing to teach after school.
7) The Personal Factor
Your personal characteristics are even more important to international school recruiters than to your local school districts at home. In these schools you are expected to fit into and enhance a community of expatriates, and to be able to reassure anxious parents from many nations that you are not only be an effective teacher, but a positive role model for their children. Invariably you will be drawn into the broader school community; and your potential impact on the well-being, optimism and morale of other staff members is a matter of serious concern.
This means that very positive, engaging people, with excellent social skills and personal resilience will get the nod every time.
8) Ask Your Own Questions
Know that the best candidates, at a crucial point in the interview, turn the process around and ask thoughtful questions about the school. Inquiring about the school’s goals, concerns, the most difficult challenges the school and staff face, and other important topics show you’re seriously interested in the school.
The idea here is to remind the recruiter that in the same way they are evaluating you, you are carefully considering whether this is a school where you want to work. Probing, thoughtful questions, focused mainly on learning issues, (not benefits and remuneration), are clearly the most effective way to impress your prospective employer.