What questions should you ask at an interview with an overseas school? On one level, the many answers to this question may seem obvious; salary, housing, benefits etc… Our own personal experiences in the international teaching arena however have increased our awareness of questions that could be worth asking. Some may not apply to your situation, some may feel too aggressive to ask at a first interview, but perhaps some may help you in your quest for the perfect posting; give you pause to think before you sign; develop a healthy wariness but not paranoia; or even make you aware of possible benefits that you may not have even thought of.
Clearly there is a fine balance between making sure you are well informed and scaring off a potential employer. Some of these questions may not apply to you, and some may not be of importance to you. But, if you are at a recruitment fair, ask around, try to get a reliable inside scoop. It’s amazing what conversations can be held while waiting for the elevators or in the hallways outside the interview rooms. And, last but not least, research your school on the ISR web site. It’s amazing the things you may learn.
1. Will I be entering the country illegally or on a legitimate work visa? Many schools expect you to take the risk of misrepresenting your intentions and entering the country illegally as a tourist and then applying for a work visa while already working at the school. Should you get caught I hate to think of the consequences, especially if you don’t speak the local language.
2. Does the school pay for all documentation needed for a work visa? This can cost up to hundreds of dollars, especially if you have children accompanying you.
3. Does the school pay for any recommended or required inoculations? This can also be quite costly depending on the country you are going to.
4. Do you have the name of teachers I may contact with questions?
5. Are there teachers from your school here at the hiring fair? You can find this out on your own through the recruiting fair office but it can prove interesting to see a recruiter’s reaction to the question – are they eager or hesitant to have you speak with current employees?
6. What is the average length of time teachers stay at your school?
7. What are some colleges where graduates of your school have attended and how are your students’ SAT, AP, and achievement test scores? If you have middle or high school age children, you are going to want to know that they will be competitive in the college application process.
8. Does the travel allowance for dependent children include my child(ren) attending college in the U.S.? What is the school’s definition of “dependent;” will they pay for your child(ren) to travel to visit you?
9. Does the school provide local, international or U.S. based health insurance? If it is local, it may not cover you during vacations when you might be traveling and it may result in an expensive lapse in your insurance if/when you repatriate or move to a new school.
10. Do you have a copy of the school’s health insurance policy that I may review?
11. Does the school cover the tuition for my children and any other related costs? In one country, the cost of tuition is taxed so heavily that it is not a financially viable option for teachers with dependent children.
12. Does the school pay for relocation and repatriation expenses either to/from my country of residence or to/from a new international posting? Some schools will only pay for shipping back to place of origin but you may be moving on somewhere else at the end of your contract.
13. Will my salary be taxed? At what rate? Are my benefits also taxed? Does the tax rate change depending on how many years I work there? Some countries have graduated tax structures.
14. Does the school have an evacuation plan in place? How does the school support teachers in such an event; salaries, flights, etc? Clearly this type of question would depend on the geographical region where you may be applying.
15. Does the school provide language training for teachers?
16. What duties are teachers expected to perform in addition to their classroom responsibilities? Is this spelled out clearly in the contract or staff handbook?
17. Do you have a copy of the staff handbook that I can review?
18. Is your school financially sound?
19. Do you have photographs of this ‘almost fully constructed brand-new school’? Speaking from experience, blueprints don’t count – Certainly our adventures at a certain start-up school could be the subject of a future article.
20. Will we be signing the contract today? Make sure the contract accurately reflects what was verbally discussed – we have had salaries, benefits, and even job descriptions show up differently from what was agreed upon when contracts were mailed to us after the school completed their hiring. At one fair, I accepted an administrative/teaching position but at a subsequent fair the school juggled positions around to make all the pieces fit the puzzle and I lost the administrative component of my position. Often elementary positions are altered because one’s certification covers multiple grades.