What Directors Look For in International Teaching Candidates

ISR asked School Directors to tell us what makes a successful International Teaching Candidate. Whether you’re hitting the recruiting trail for the first time, or a seasoned recruiting-fair veteran, Here’s what you should know to make recruiting season a success!

We’ve posted the top three responses that sum it all up.

Director 1

I look for candidates who exhibit the following qualities – and I have put these in chronological order to include the various stages in the recruitment process, although they are not necessarily in order of importance:

• Candidate has personalized, well-designed, interesting CV with some detail about teaching responsibilities, extra-curricular commitments and recent relevant PD rather than just a list of appointments – a photo helps.

• Candidate is able to write a concise letter which demonstrates that candidate has read the job spec carefully and visited the web site. The letter should be structured appropriately and focused upon the profile given in the ad. It should be open, honest and communicative rather than an obvious clone, brim full of education-speak.

• It is good to see that candidates want to develop specific issues at interview and suggest ways in which this can be done, e.g. by phone, or video-conferencing, in addition to meeting for a formal face-to-face interview.

• Candidates should not be afraid during phone interviews to take time to respond carefully to questions and involve themselves in genuine dialogue. The difficulty is in not monopolizing the time or making responses too long – keep it succinct – and ask for clarification. Avoid rambling answers. Don’t be afraid to come back to questions later if there are important points that you need to make clear to the interviewer. In short, try to take some of the control of the interview process so that it is not simply a Q & A session.

• When invited to a face-to-face interview (especially), be punctual and presentable. Useful to have CV and notarized copies of qualifications ready. Examples of any appropriate teaching resources to illustrate points is a plus – but ask if the panel is interested in seeing what is available. Candidates should be well-prepared to give a short lesson or Power Point presentation, although a good panel will have notified candidates about this in detail well in advance. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared.

• Appear self-assured when meeting a panel, shaking hands and make sure that good eye-to-eye contact is made with staff who reciprocate. Don’t be overly familiar since this is a formal occasion – but smile and be open and friendly. The candidate’s body language should be alert and purposeful and communicate an ability to deal with issues competently. Candidates should endeavor to explain points to all the members of the panel rather than develop a dialogue with one. This is much easier if the panel manages the interview well since many problems at interview are not the problem of candidates but of ill-prepared panels! Managing difficult questions is a key skill – knowing how to clarify the issues, how to develop a considered and pragmatic approach – and to acknowledge that solutions to problems are a team effort and not necessarily within the scope of one individual.

• Subject knowledge is a given, but I also look for real experience of teaching difficult concepts and skills effectively. Again, this is not a matter of falling back into edu-speak but of convincing me that the teacher has experience of different learning and teaching styles – and can illustrate this with evidence of materials or anecdotes.

• Candidates should be prepared to talk about curriculum matters, syllabuses and examinations with hands-on knowledge and experience, if appropriate. Even NQTs need to be au fait with the issues, with the available textbooks and resources and methods of assessment.

• I like to see that candidates build homework and a range of assessments into their planning, can demonstrate differentiation by task and outcome and can be imaginative, yet pragmatic, about engaging the individual learning needs of students appropriately, including gifted and talented.

• Candidates should be able to demonstrate versatility in teaching different subjects or levels and be willing to ‘go the extra mile’ in terms of providing additional learning support and extra-curricular assistance (or management of an activity).

• A good sense of humor is a must – especially given the frustrations of working within some international contexts. I look for candidates who do not take themselves too seriously all of the time – just when it matters. It is important that I feel that the candidate will be a good ‘fit’ with the rest of the staff, i.e. that they are tolerant and see themselves as in a ‘learning’ situation – as a team-player, or at least be willing to be a team-player.

• Sensitivity to students, staff (and parents) from a wide range of cultures is a must – and this needs to be communicated, e.g. how to approach teaching some issues in the humanities.

• I expect candidates to take a reasonable time in reaching a decision about an offer and be willing to ask pertinent (rather than irrelevant ‘stock’ questions) about the package and living/working conditions. Expectations should be realistic about what the school is able to to offer and the time-frame in which things can be achieved – but this, too, is a matter for the employer as much as the candidate.

• Once a decision is reached, it should be communicated expediently and all the administration needs completed with all reasonable speed – any difficulties being notified so that both parties are kept in the picture. This means regular meaningful communication to iron out problems or misunderstandings. Don’t rely on the school to do everything. Keep in touch. Don’t renege on agreements. (This goes for both sides). Openness, honestly and a genuine will to meet the needs of the other party within the boundaries established is prudent.

• Join the school with enthusiasm having made every (reasonable) effort to contact those who are already working in your team. Make a note of any short-comings or issues that affect you fundamentally and present these positively and try to be part of the solution. Avoid producing a looming list of general whinges. Good candidates who stand the test of time need to be adaptable and resilient and look for ‘silver linings’ in clouds – work through the channels (if they exist) and be exhaustive about finding equitable solutions to problems before raising a red flag….or writing about grievances to ISR before thrashing it out with those who might just listen to you, if you really gave them the chance.

Director 2

Know the curriculum, whether it be IB, AP, IGCSE, or whatever. Have curricular objectives in mind. Be able to discuss a pedagogy that will take students through a given curriculum. Have a couple sample lesson plans ready to discuss. Be conversant about your classroom management style. Always ask questions about the school’s retention rates, student-to-teacher ratios, extra-curricular obligations, and anything else about which you can think. Administrators love when candidate teachers ask questions about their schools. It means you have been listening and thinking.

Do not, upon first arrival to an interview in a job fair, ask about salary and benefits. This leaves the impression that you are only there for the money. When I was a young man, my father told me, “Never trust somebody who asks about money first.”

Do not take the first job offered. Make sure that you meet with every interested party. There is nothing wrong or impolite about saying, “I have another interview to attend. Can we speak further about your school later today (or tomorrow)?”

Do not hesitate to ask about negative online postings about a particular school. This shows the administrator that you are well-informed and thorough. These are excellent qualities in an international educator.

Director 3

At the top of my list is a teacher that I feel can teach. I’m looking for a person that is dynamic, enthusiastic and passionate about teaching. Anyone can relay information. If I find myself having to generate interest in you and what you have to say, I can only imagine the poor students. Next thing you’ll be writing to ISR about lack of discipline when the real problem is, well, you know who.

Do come prepared to teach an impromptu lesson on a topic of my choice. It may, or may not, be related to your field. Asking you to do this will give me a good idea of your ability to break down information into small, logically sequential packets that are easily comprehensible by students. The most successful candidates may even look around the room for any impromptu, hands-on materials that will help me further understand. Be creative, engage me in as many learning styles as possible. If you don’t do it naturally, chances are you won’t do it in the classroom. Demonstrating you can make do with what’s available impresses me. At my school, supplies don’t always arrive as planned. The developing world has its problems, and schools in such countries obviously have problems as a result.

Be personable, but not overly familiar with me. This is a formal interview, not an invitation to watch the game and have a beer. If you’re overly friendly and casual with your future boss, I’m concerned you will not be a leader among the students, but rather a friend–there is a difference between being a friend and friendly. Come dressed appropriately. Yes, you may wear tennis shoes and casual dress in the classroom but demonstrate at the interview you know and respect the difference between the two situations. I can’t have you showing up to the PTA meeting or Parent-Teacher Conferences in shorts and flip-flops.

I do need to feel you will stick out the tough times. My school is not perfect. It has problems. If I feel you will obsess on minor points and exude negative energy, I will not hire you. The internet may be down for hours, even days. The copiers may all be broken on the same day. The taxi drivers can go on strike at any time and the power company may make a mistake and shut off our power on Monday morning. I often set up a situation at the interview that allows me to see how you act when things don’t go as you expected. What you do is as important as what you say when you interview.

Ask questions. Take an active part in the dialogue. A person who asks questions is a learner and inquisitive. These are two important qualities in an educator. If you’ve read negative things about my school on ISR or other web sites, ask me about the comments. I’ll answer honestly. This is a two-way dialogue and I want you to feel that you are making the right choice for you. If you don’t ask questions, I’m concerned.

Do you have good ideas for teaching candidates?
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