Surviving Recruiting Season

I’m a little obsessed right now with finding a job for next August. (Is there such a thing as being a little obsessed?) Perhaps it’s because this is the first year I’ve been a member of SEARCH Associates and have had so much access to information about schools around the world. There are so many interesting places to live and work!

But what started out as a breezy, optimistic perusal of jobs in October has narrowed into a surgical examination and cross examination of positions, packages, mission statements, and hiring policies of schools the world over.

During this process I’ve commiserated with several of my fellow job-seeking colleagues and the same questions keep coming up: Are you hearing anything from schools? Does it seem more competitive this year? If XYZ school is not hiring me, or her or him, who are they hiring?

As international teaching gains popularity and as more international schools open around the world, the recruiting process is getting increasingly intense for both administrators and teachers. Schools are flooded with hundreds of applications for a single posting and must find ways of vetting the most qualified candidates. And while teachers may not be applying for hundreds of positions, they too are busy navigating each school’s application process as well as preparing to attend job fairs, and this is incredibly time consuming as well.

To help us all understand the vast, developing system that is international recruiting, I asked Michael Williams, Vice President of SEARCH Associates, a few question that many of us are asking; specifically, why do schools seem to be communicating less with potential candidates this year?

According to Williams, it’s important for teachers to keep in mind that each Head of School has his or her own style and system for recruiting. Some respond with automated emails, some with a personal response from their HR department, and some only reply to shortlisted candidates. In short, there is no one system that each school follows, so not hearing back is not out of the ordinary. Many schools don’t even post their openings until right before job fairs in January.

And yes, international teaching is getting more competitive. As Williams suggests, “international teaching is getting more competitive, simply because so many have been put out of work on domestic fronts, and many are flooding toward international schools as another option.  This has brought more candidates into the pool for schools to consider.  Luckily, at the same time, international schools are growing in number.  But, because of a robust candidate pool, schools can afford to be picky, and have proven that they will be.”

So, as teachers, what can we do to improve our chances of getting hired?

Be flexible about where in the world you’re willing to teach, but be firm in what kinds of schools are aligned with your own values. How do you feel about working in large, for profit schools? Are you enthusiastic to help develop a school that has just opened its doors? How do you fare in challenging situations and climates? (Be honest about this one.) What schools, administrators, student communities, and cultures are most inspiring to you? I suggest figuring out the answers to these questions (with some flexibility, of course) and then narrowing down your search to schools that are aligned with your assessment of how you can best thrive as a teacher.

And if you’re still left wondering why you’re not getting hired at your preferred schools, be bold! Reach out and ask an administrator at a school you’d love to work at what their ideal candidate looks like. Some schools already have an ideal candidate profile on their website which makes it even easier to tailor your goals. It could be that there are ways you can develop yourself in the next few years with credentials, extra-curricular commitments, or subject training, to strengthen your candidacy so that next time you’re searching for a job, you’ll be a more desirable candidate.

Yes, international teaching has never been more competitive and recruiting season more stressful; but from my perspective, this makes it even more important to understand and articulate your values as a teacher and what you’re seeking in a school environment so you can pursue positions in which you know you can flourish.

Good luck!



2 thoughts on “Surviving Recruiting Season”

  1. Dear Kassi,

    I can tell you as a school director that we too are left perplexed as to why we don’t get a message back when we apply for top positions at schools. I think part of the problem lies with the applicants. The majority of applications I receive in my inbox are wholly unsuited for the school. They are not credentialed, may have not have the requisite experience and in many cases are just randomly fishing or even carpet bombing every school for jobs that might not exist at the school. This means that heads of schools have even less time to winnow through files. A lot of candidates also have check lists like “good weather, lots of money, easy to travel, interesting city, great school.” I’m not sure many schools fit that requirement. Although applicants often complain about getting no response back, I can tell you as a recruiter that the same is true for contacting candidates. Less than 5% of candidates contact me back and say “thanks I appreciate your interest but it’s not what we are looking for at the moment.” For my part, I have committed to contacting each applicant and responding to them personally (even if it is a “thank you for your interest but we will not continue with your candidacy).” I believe a little civility and humanity go a long way and too many people lose sight of that as we either go out to recruit or are recruiting for jobs.


    Colin Webster
    Asmara International community School
    Asmara, Eritrea

    1. Thank you, Colin, for your reply. I love hearing from school administrators on issues such as these. I think you’ve summed it up very well: many applicants are not suitable for the jobs for which they are applying,(I too, have been guilty of this as well) and administrators are overwhelmed with emails. You’re right, civility and human connection must not be lost in the recruiting process. For me, the initial email exchanges between either the principal or HR person reveal a lot about how the school runs, the efficiency of its communication and the general consideration for other peoples’ time and effort. Your comment is a good reminder for teachers to remember their manners as well. Thanks.

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