Part 2: Surviving the International School Job Fairs

In my last article, I focused on what aspiring international school teachers needed to prepare for the job fairs.  Now, I will be discussing what to expect when you arrive at the Fairs and how to navigate them. The information below is derived from my own personal experience at a Search Associates Job Fair, but I've been told this is similar to the ISS and CIS fairs as well.

First-timers: Great Expectations

When I attended my first job fair in Cambridge, I went in assuming that this will guarantee a job. I learned very quickly that attendance at Fairs doesn't automatically guarantee you will get a job offer. What it does guarantee is invaluable face time with administrators and increase the likelihood of job offers.  I landed my first overseas post after the job fair, but I felt that my experience at the Search Cambridge Fair prepared me well for future interviews and gave me a good idea of what recruiters (school admin) look for when filling their vacancies.

Key things to expect:

  • schools will turn you down for interviews, even if you're an experienced teacher. DO NOT get discouraged and keep plugging away
  • if you're attending the Boston fairs, there will be at least 300+ candidates there - DO NOT get discouraged by this number. Your job is to score interviews - not worry about your competition.
  • you will likely be interviewing in the recruiters' hotel rooms - most of the schools will have the big suites booked. I know it sounds weird, but they are professionally cleaned and you will not see anybody's boxers, etc. lying around. 
  • it might seem chaotic - do what works best for you to maintain a sense of calm and focus during your interviews
  • some people will act very strange towards you because they might target you as the competition - this is a mistake. Schools are looking for best fit - focus on helping schools see that you fit their needs, tune out the other people who may be interviewing for that spot. BE NICE. You just never know who will be your colleague, head of department, admin in the near/distant future.
  • your adrenaline and confidence will go up and down throughout the fair. Do whatever it takes to keep your eye on the prize. See the bulletpoint about finding calm and focus.

The First Day - Friday

The job fairs usually run over the course of four days from Friday to Monday. Expect to arrive at the fair hotel in the morning for registration.  Once you pick up your packet, go into the candidates' lounge and have a look at the school posters listing the most current vacancies.  

Do:

  • keep your mind open to location and positions
  • list down the countries/schools that have your position available
  • narrow down which ones you want to target
  • write a nice interview request note (remember those notecards and note paper from Part 1?) and attach it to your resume
  • place it in the recruiters file
  • check your candidate's folder OFTEN - this is how many schools will leave notes and requests to interview you
  • attend the Candidate's orientation - the organizers will give you all a pep talk and run through some important updates/reminders
  • highlight all the school presentations you would like to attend - they will start Friday afternoon and into all day Saturday
  • dress appropriately - outfit doesn't have to be your interview power suit (reserve that for Saturday) but you should look professional
  • if you're at the fair with friends - agree to check-in with each other periodically. The support goes a long way.
  • if your Associate is in attendance at the fair, seek them out and introduce yourself - I have had a very positive experience with my Associate and her Executive Assistant. This has made life really easy for me whenever it was time to re-up my Search account.
  • if you have interview requests already, make sure you respond right away and are on-time

Don't

  • be a wallflower
  • stay in your hotel room all day
  • be late to any of the events or interviews (DUH). The only exception to this is if you are splitting time with school presentations since a few of them will overlap.

Day Two and Three - Saturday & Sunday

This is THE HEART of the fair. It is the day you sign-up for interviews and will likely do all your initial interviews during this time. 

Do:

  • WEAR YOUR POWER SUIT - DRESS TO IMPRESS
  • organize your resumes, laptop, etc. I preferred to keep my laptop/iPad with me so I can work on stuff outside of my room - saved a lot of time vs. going back to my room between interviews.
  • agree to interviews with schools that you're not sure you're interested in. Good for practice and you never know - it might be a GREAT fit for you.
  • find a quiet corner besides your room to chill between interviews - you just never know who is walking around. Visibility is important.
  • breathmints - use them
  • prioritize which school tables you want to hit first during sign-ups. Some schools are REALLY popular so you might want to go to the ones that have shorter lines first and get interviews lined up.
  • if you get a "fast pass"  - direct invitation from the school to bypass the line to schedule an interview, HIT THOSE SCHOOLS FIRST
  • try to get to the interview 10 minutes before - don't schedule your interviews so close together that you'd be late. Also - keep in mind that hotel elevators will be really busy, especially if there are 200+ candidates rushing to interviews
  • if you want to continue the process with a school, keep them in the loop with how your interviews are going and maintain contact with them. It is not uncommon for candidates to receive a job offer from one school and then try to see if another school will make an offer. HOWEVER, if you get an offer that feels awesome - give it some thought and take it.
  • after each initial interview, write a thank you note to the schools and leave it in their box
  • if you felt the interviews were successful and you're really interested, keep in touch with the school via email/phone. They do make decisions to move to the next phase very quickly, so don't be shy to get in their ear a little bit, but don't stalk them.
  • take notes during your interview - this will help you tailor your follow-up questions during the 2nd round
  • if you're really interested in a school - ATTEND THEIR INFO SESSION - and try to get small talk going w/ the admin at the end
  • if an offer comes, you have 24 hours to consider it. Talk to an objective friend, your associate or another associate at the Fair to help you think it through.

Don't

  • break the protocol the school laid out - during the initial interview, they will normally tell you what the potential "next steps" would be. Write these down.
  • be late - EVER
  • drink too much at the schmooze fest aka Happy Hour hosted by the fair organizers - admin will be there too
  • speak too loudly about a negative interview. You never know who will hear you and this will look bad on you more than it does the school you interviewed with. 

Day Four - Monday

The last day is "wrap-up" time. It is not as intense as Saturday and Sunday. If you've received an offer you like - CONGRATULATIONS! If not, do not get discouraged. Fair organizers will tell you that majority of candidates receive offers after the fair since admin like to take their time to see where everyone fits. Try to follow-up with as many recruiters as you can. Thank the fair organizers and close out the fair on a positive note.

Conclusion

The international school job fairs are a rigorous process that can be overwhelming. Giving yourself adequate time to prepare and research greatly decreases your stress and anxiety levels. Like with any jobhunt process, remember to always stay positive, be true to yourself, and keep an open mind. You never know when the right job comes along and it will be in a place that is the perfect fit for you.