Surviving a Recruiting Fair: A Game of Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

Now that February is safely behind us I can look back at the recruiting fair I attended last month, and let out a sigh of relief.  For anyone who’s ever attended one, they can understand that describing it as stressful is an understatement.  For the uninitiated, the best way to describe the stress level is to think of the nervousness one feels when going on a job interview . . . and then multiply it by ten.

Any Job Interview is Stressful
Preparing for an interview is a whole process in and of itself and as any job seeker knows, it’s critical not to overlook anything.  First it starts with lining up the interview, researching the organization, learning about their products, services, history, values and mission, and then preparing yourself to be able to answer any and all questions that may come your way.  You must be prepared to explain how you can contribute to the organization and why you’re skills and experience are just what they need.  As part of any interview you must demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the company, can make valuable contributions and can back it up with references.

Make a Good First Impression
In addition, you have to take care of your outward packaging by making sure that you’re dressed and groomed professionally, your shoes are shined, your nails are trimmed and you’re well rested.  (Dark circles under the eyes can belie your claim to possessing tireless

International teaching job fair
First impressions count

energy levels and concealing them is not such an easy task when landing from a 24 hour flight from the other side of the world!)  Even the most painstaking preparations can be rendered meaningless if the little things are not taken into account.  Arriving to the interview on time, making direct eye contact, and having a firm handshake are also important details not to be overlooked because as the old adage states: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

The good news is that’s not entirely true at a job fair!  Here you have several chances to make a good first impression depending on how many interviews you have lined-up.  During a job fair you could be going on as many as five to ten interviews back-to-back for two days straight, all conducted in the same building.

Supply and Demand – A Competitive Environment
To magnify your stress level, you are constantly reminded of how competitive it is because at the same time you are surrounded by hundreds of other people who are also going on interviews, many of whom who will be interviewing with the same employer you met with, some even, for the exact same position.   The principle of supply and demand stares you in

International school recruiting
Competitive environment at job fairs

the face at the interview sign-up tables, in the elevator and in the lobby as you make small talk with other candidates.  How awkward when you find out that you’re new best friend at the job fair has to run out for an interview and you wish her good luck only to find out that she’s interviewing for the same position that you just interviewed for!  Do you still hope you get the job or do you start the sour grapes dialogue in your head, so that you can root for her by telling yourself that job wasn’t really meant for you anyway?

Check your GDQ (Geographic Desirability Quotient)
Then there’s the geography trick . . . “Yes, I would love to work in Korea!” “Yes, I’m dying to go to Argentina,” and “Yes, Dubai sounds thrilling!”  If someone heard the geographic

International school jobs around the world
I’ll go anywhere!

shifts I made in one day they may think I’m a liar, but the truth is I do have great interest and enthusiasm for all of these varied locations, and can get equally excited about relocating to any one of these places.  That’s what makes the job fair so exciting; you walk in the door with no idea of where you’ll be relocating to in just a few short months, but wherever it is it’s a place you’ll call home for the next two years.   Being open to anything and everything lends an air of mystery to the whole process leaving you with the fatalistic notion that where ever you’re meant to be is where you’ll end-up.

When the Music Ends
Speaking of endings, that’s where the musical chairs comparison comes in.  At the start of the game, all the players begin with optimistic enthusiasm that they will remain in the game.  It’s still fun with a high level of energy and hope.  But as the job fair winds down, just as in the game, the chairs are removed one by one and you’re wondering if you’ll secure one of the few coveted seats, or if you’ll be left standing when the music stops.  This stress hangs like a cloud over the candidates who have not yet secured an offer, and it’s a palpable feeling that feels like a strange combination of desperation and hope.

small school chairI am happy and relieved to report that I ended up with a seat, and I know where I will be living and working for the next two years.  Despite the stress and anxiety associated with the job fair I can say that it was all worth it in the end.  I am thrilled to be heading to the Gems International School of Dubai and know that this is exactly where I am meant to be.