Predicting the Upcoming Recruiting Fair Scene

fortune-teller-final2123679From ISS to Search Associates, many of us attended the most recent recruiting fairs in search of our current overseas positions. Surprisingly, with the academic year just beginning, schools will soon ask teachers completing their second year of residence to decide if they’ll be returning for a third year or moving-on.

For those moving-on, a status report from teachers who attended the most recent fairs would be of real value.  For example: Which fairs favored couples over singles? Were positions already filled prior to the fair? Was availability updated? Did an ample number of schools attend? What was the competition like? Job availability? Cost to recruit? Overall vibe?

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36 Responses to Predicting the Upcoming Recruiting Fair Scene

  1. Mr. C says:

    Fairs are definitely a crap shot, but like anything, one must consider the pros and cons. Yes, it’s TREMENDOUSLY expensive and time consuming to attend a fair (why do they always host at Sheratons? They should be at the Budget Inn). Yes, you can get a job online far more easily.


    There is something to be said about meeting your potential future boss face to face. Admins feel the same way about their potential hires, which is why most all of the top tier schools attend the fair. Body language and demeanor speak volumes, and this cannot be communicated via email or even video conference.

    There is also something to be said about the energizing buzz of attending one of the fairs. You’re in a cattle yard of your peers, everyone looking for their next big break. You share ideas and stories, and learn that the school in say, Kuwait, is definitely not the kind of place anyone would want to work. You blow off steam afterwords with new friends in a city you’re probably excitedly unfamiliar with. No, it’s not a vacation, but its definitely an adventure.

    For me, my first job was through a fair, and my second came through the Search website. Both were… interesting. I’ve had some frustrating times at the fairs in Boston and Bangkok (must have IB experience to interview for an IB school, must work in an IB school to get IB experience…)

    My current school hired me through a phone interview, no agencies involved. While not a completely terrible experience, I doubt I’d have taken this job had I the chance to have “read” my interviewer a little more closely. Lesson learned: Fairs are a crap shot, but at least you know what kind of crap you’re dealing with.


  2. Michelle says:

    I went to Search Bangkok in 2009 and got one interview and no job offers. Many of the schools i was interested in promptly told me and other candidates that they are only hiring couples. The jobs offered at the fair were very different than the jobs that had been listed online, and many of the positions were filled at the ISS fair in Bangkok a few days before. For admin candidates, there were only 3 positions although many more had been posted online. I communicated with several schools before the fair, and some of them did tell me they were only interested in couples, but several more said they would consider an interview. When I got to the fair, these same schools then told me that they were only hiring couples at that time. It would have been useful to know that before paying to go the fair! Going to the fair was certainly a learning experience, but it was very stressful.I probably wouldn’t go to Bankgok for a fair again until my husband has his teaching certification and we both have ten years of experience.


  3. Sweet-D says:

    Times have indeed changed. Praise be to Allah. My last three international jobs have all come through telephone or Skype interviews. That’s probably five or six grand in my pocket rather than shelled out for what amounts to nothing less that a crapshoot. I went to the UNI fair years ago and got offered jobs in place I didn’t want to go and nothing from countries I wanted to live in. Never again. I hope ISS and Search go the way of Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros.


  4. redpen says:

    Times have changed. NO longer are there more overseas teaching vacancies than applicants as it was a couple years ago (and publised in ISS newspaper). Experienced top-notch teachers were not snapped up at the Bangkok ISS and SEARCH fairs last year. And true, many of the directors of the schools may wait until they have made their “sweep” across North American before making their final decision. IF you are a secondary science or math specialist/ libriarian/ or band teacher, I think you can be more confident to find a job more easily than other teachers.


  5. llt says:

    I have been a ‘single mom’ with one dependent in the international school circuit for over 20 years and I must say that I am surprised at all of the negative comments about fairs and hiring practices of schools on this blog! I have been to 5 fairs in my career and have NEVER walked away without at least 1-4 job offers! I advise those of you who have been disappointed to start looking at your own TEACHING practices, adaptability and willingness to excel at your craft rather than blaming administrators and fairs for not being hired. Interveiwing administrators know when they have found a candidate who is an EXCELLENT practitioner and team player and will scoop them up in a heartbeat! International schools are looking for dedicated PROFESSIONAL teachers. If you are not getting offers, then perhaps you need to work harder at being one.


    • Bel says:

      I’m a single mom, as well, and am wondering where you’ve taught and if being a single mom has ever hindered your chances of landing a job. Thanks!


      • llt says:

        Hi Bel,
        I have taught in Colombia and Uruguay,South America at 3 different schools in and one school in Asia. Some of the smaller schools with lower salaries will be leery of hiring a single parent…not because they don’t want you or think you are good, but simply because they feel it is unfair to hire you if they don’t think you will be able to make ends meet on the salary they offer. However, there are loads of school out there where being a single parent doesn’t make a difference. The schools in Asia usually pay very well so that would be where I would look first. I worked at Jakarta International School for 9 years and the pay was fantastic! It helped me pay for my son’s university education for the past 3 years. Some of the schools in South America also pay relatively well, although they just can’t compete with the asian schools…there is just not as much foreign investment in S.A. as there is in Asia. If you have more than one child as a single parent, it could definitely be more difficult. Many schools, even in Asia, are limiting the number of dependents that they will allow to have free tuition, usually one per teacher in the school. Jakarta changed to that policy last year as well. I wish you luck in your search!


  6. Ris says:

    I went to 2 Search fairs this year – Jan in Bangkok and Feb in London. The CIS fair is the week before both of these fairs, so many of the jobs advertised available for both jobs had already gone.

    I definetly would NOT go to Bangkok again. It had a horrible atmosphere (ready bad meat market) and the big schools are not giving away jobs – preferring to leave with vacancies unfilled in the hope that they find someone/teaching couple to fill post in future fairs.

    Teaching couples seem to be favourites (because their cheaper) so if you’re a single (like i am) you’ll be passed over time and time again.

    London was much nicer, and would go to London again, but will probably sign up with CIS instead, because thats does seem to be when the majority of the good jobs go.


  7. chowmein says:

    Does anyone have any factual information about age limitations for foreign teachers and administrators in the countries located in Western, Central or Eastern Europe? Thanks.


    • Joy says:

      Look at the forums on this website. There have been a couple of surveys with listings of age limits by country. Also some good input from teachers with the very same concern.


  8. quinoa says:

    I signed up with Search last year and attended their Boston fair in February of this year. I paid $1500 for the 4 days of travel from India, where I had been teaching in an International School for two years. It was a grueling trip. I visited many tables, but did not get a single interview. Mostly I was told that they were looking for teaching couples or singles and I have a non-teaching spouse. Many teachers left that fair empty-handed because of last year’s economy, but I learned my lesson. I landed a job from an online application in April in a desirable western European country. I will not go to another fair unless it’s close to where I’m living and free! Search was a waste of my money. I got very little help from them.


  9. help with applications please says:

    We are a female same sex couple with two children looking to attend two upcoming job fairs (AASSA and Search London). We are wondering if there are any other international school teachers out there in a similar situation. If so, how did you apply for the job fairs? Did you apply as singles or as married couples? We are officially Civil Partners under UK law but are not sure how we will be received if we apply as a couple for this upcoming recruitment season. Any thoughts from Heads of schools or teachers very much appreciated.


    • Ris says:

      I think it’s really down to the open-mindedness of the HOS or area principal (or recruiter at the fair). Also the political situation/opinion to gay people in the country is a big factor.

      I know a couple who were recruited as a teaching couple.

      Good luck!


    • BeHonest says:

      I arrived at my current job single but am leaving as part of a same-sex couple. After conversations with several people, our approach is to be honest and to interview in pursuit of a job on teaching couple status, but flexible to offers as two-person single status. I recently sent out letters of interest and gauging from the response, it doesn’t seem to make a big difference that we’re gay. The responses indicated they’re more interested in good candidates and best fit than orientation (as it should be). I think schools that have issues with it won’t contact us, which is fine because we might not becomfortable working there anyway. So be honest, professional and flexible and I think you’ll do fine.


  10. jeddahg says:

    I never went to a job fair- It seems to work to answer adverts from the Times Educational Supplement. Go to You can register for jobs alerts there- but it is easist do a weekly search under international. Usually they only advertise if they have jobs- I guess also this goes for late jobs- mine was april. Ater the fairs finish schools that have not filled posts may advertise. They are mainly UK curriculum / pyp IB schools- but another avenue and it is free. I was then interviewd in the UK. There have been plenty.


  11. JustMe Again says:

    Sure. Go to TWO fairs. Go to ALL of them, like the admin recruiters do. Oh, wait… Who’s going to teach your classes for six weeks? Nobody notices when the admin is off campus for 6-8 weeks recruiting, but let a teacher leave for five minutes and see what happens. I’m shocked at how so many international teachers are such sheep. The fairs benefit recruiters, not teachers. Period. Schools often allow teachers 3 days to attend recruiting fairs. Any school days missed after that are unpaid. Add in flights, “cheap” hotels, food and the stress, and I don’t think you’ll find too many teachers looking at a fair as a vacation (deductible? international teachers don’t usually have to pay taxes). Just because international schools are stuck in the 1950s when it comes to recruiting doesn’t mean teachers have to let them persist. You want to travel thousands of miles, spend thousands of dollars for a few 15-minute face-to-face “interviews,” have fun. Me, I’ll take charge of the process. I’ll stay home and Skype any school I want anywhere in the world. Schools should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating an outmoded, exploitative system which costs them thousands of dollars and leaves them without top admin for weeks and weeks. End the madness. Stop the exploitation. Avoid the fairs.


  12. jesatlarge says:

    Go to the fairs. Go to the early fairs in BKK if you want to work at any of the top schools in Asia. Go to BOTH of the early Asian fairs if you want the best possible chance.

    I am a single teacher with a non teaching spouse in the Humanities area. Exc credentials but not in any hard to fill area. Went to these fairs in 2006 and 2008 and was offered multiple jobs from excellent schools on the spot. Many folks I know had exactly the same experience.

    Plus fairs are great fun (if stressful) and a super way to make contacts. And if you stay outside the expensive fair hotels ( no problem to do so if you invest in a local SIM card and give your number to interviewers) they are a cheap and high energy tax-deductible(sometimes) vacation.

    But to make the most of these fairs do your spadework in advance as per TomSays.


  13. JustMe says:

    Fairs are unfair anachronisms. Teachers should refuse to play these games any longer. Everybody stay home. Demand that you have access to ALL openings at EVERY school for free via Skype and the Internet. Let’s see the admin run these schools without the teachers… Can anyone keep a straight face while trying to convince an intelligent human being that a teacher should travel thousands of miles, spend thousands of dollars and then be happy to accept whatever job offers might be thrown their way? Thomas Friedman knows the world is flat. Why don’t international school recruiters? My wife and I have been teaching overseas for about 20 years. We’ve attended two fairs. UNI is by far the best, but we’ll never attend another fair, no matter who sponsors it. If we can’t get a job WE want by using the simple and free technology available, we’ll hang it up. Fairs? They may have been necessary at one time, but then so were the horse and buggy.


    • smileycakes says:

      I agree with you 100%. I am single without dependents and have 10 years teaching experience. I attended two recruiting fairs and both were a complete waste of my hard earned money and time. I stood in lines only to be told when I finally reached the recruiters, 1) The position for which I had just stood in line for 45 minutes had just been filled or 2)The school is only hiring couples or 3)One South American school flat out told me that if I didn’t speak Spanish, I was wasting my time. All three of these reasons, along with many others, could have been addressed online! I will not be attending any other recruiting fairs. With Skype, technology and a good dose of common sense, there isn’t any reason to shell out heaps of cash to attend these fairs. You can find a GREAT international teaching position without spending heaps of cash and previous time on recruiting fairs!


  14. Expatparent says:

    As an administrator, in 2008 I chose to go to the ISS Administrator recruiting day (one day before the regular ISS fair in February). We found out that MANY schools had hired administrators at the Bangkok fair in January. It was disappointing because if I would have known they were going to be doing that I would have gladly gone to the Bangkok fair. From now on, as an administrator (and part of a teaching couple with 2 kids) I will always go to the first fair.


    • lippy says:

      I am wondering if it is worth the time, money and investment to go to ISS Bangkok or wait and go to ISS Boston? Based on recent advice, it may be worth it to have our kids stay with grandparents and bite the bullet and go to Bangkok. We are looking for a family-friendly school where we can stay for 5-10 years so we are doing our research early. We are both generalists (Elem. & SS) with 12 years experience, half overseas and we have 2 school-age children. We would obviously prefer to get jobs without investing in a fair, but are pretty sure that we should register for one. Advice or thoughts? Can anyone recommend strong schools for families?


      • Tom says:

        If you think you are strong candidates and can get some attention through emails before the fair, do it. Bangkok is an early fair with a preference for teaching couples. Many of the big Asian schools look for couples and families because of the stability factor.

        However, being an early fair, the schools will pass up people if the fit isn’t just right, so most schools come with a dance card that’s already half full. So hit the email hard in the fall and if you find some strong contacts and potential, I wouldn’t hesitate to go.


  15. Tom says:

    What a depressing bunch of comments — and completely contrary to my experience. Don’t worry so much about what the individual fairs are like and what some schools’ biases may be; you are better off focusing on your own preparation and qualifications. Yes, some schools are picky — mostly the good schools with hundreds of applicants, as you would expect. Yes, couples are more in demand at the early fairs — and why not, they are less costly for schools to employ.

    To improve your odds a lot, start early by sending out resumes to target schools in October and getting some conversations going. Get the best possible recommendation letters ready to go. Put together an online portfolio; schools really do look at those things. Be open to possibilities and don’t obsess on any one job or school or country.

    Plain and simply, if you are hot stuff and the job fit is reasonable, schools will put aside their biases and preferences and do what it takes to hire you. You will be in control, not having to blame the fairs for your disappointments.


    • llt says:

      I agree, Tom…you have to be “hot stuff” to really be successful at international school job fairs. You can’t just have mediocre recommendations and no evidence of taking a leadership role in your previous schools, “without a stipend”. Most international schools are looking for people that are highly involved in curriculum development, after school activities, and volunteering to serve on committees. If you can’t show on paper and in references that you are a team player, and willing to put in the time, then you only have yourself to blame for not getting any offers!


  16. Kathy says:

    We attended the AASSA fair in Atlanta in December 08. Had 4 interviews for my position. Although my husband wanted to retire, he was willing to interview if couples were necessary for the school in question. This is a great fair if you are interested in working in South or Central America – well organized, seemed to be lots of positions open, and you could check it out online in advance too. Since it is one of the first fairs of the season, it seems the positions didn’t change much from the web postings to the actual fair. We were fortunate to be interviewed and hired by one of the schools who said they wouldn’t take a trailing spouse – but they did! So my advice is to take all the posted info with a grain of salt and just attend any fair with a flexible attitude (and no children if possible). It’s a big decision you are making and it helps to be able to focus totally on it.

    I did hear from some of my colleagues who attended the Search fair in Boston in February that it was a waste of time for them as so many positions had been hired a couple days before – interns maybe? We also had two experienced couples hired on-line last year thanks to Skype interviews – so maybe fairs will start coming down in size in the future??


  17. MamfeMan says:

    My director went to Boston last year to recruit a teaching couple for our school. He came back and said he interviewed over TWENTY couples and all of them were more than qualified. The couple he hired are first-time overseas teachers, but have a lot of experience, and went to the best universities in North America. The point is that, with the economic crisis, schools are now in a position to wait and see, and pick the best candidates available. I mean, 20 couples over the course of a five-day week is quite a lot. We will be looking at doing a fair this year, but I just can’t see how spending the almost 6000 dollars it will cost to fly to one, much less hotels, transportation, et al will make it worth it. We had two teachers here last year who found jobs on-line and interviewed on Skype. And they spent nothing.


  18. Hellei says:

    I attended a fair in May in London. Not a wise move!Most of the vacancies were not in my subject and when they were- were not suitable. Do your homework as to the fair with the most vacancies in your subject and choose the earliest one!


  19. Carl says:

    Univ. of Iowa is where we were hired in 2008. Being run by a university they were not into making a bunch of money from teachers. They served as host and liasion. There were over 100 schools, many not just fishing. They were making commitments.

    Of course schools favor couples, it make sense for them economically and from a stability standpoint. If you have to bring your children then you have to but best not to if it can be helped. Everyone is there on business and children have little care for business. They want to have fun and job fairs are not fun. Exciting, intense, but not fun for kids.

    I have not been to any other fairs but I will say that U. of Iowa was organized and well run. Once you get hired somewhere you should be able to network during the course of your tenure to move directly to another school without having to return to a job fair. Skype and email are great tools. Post your credentials on a site and allow schools to see what you have and who you are. Schools are hiring and I cannot imagine returning to the U.S. Our family is in the Middle East and we love it!


  20. Stacey says:

    I attended the SA fair in Boston last year. It felt endless and hopeless as I walked around. I just kept getting told that I had the “minimum experience” (3 years teaching) and no “IB” experience. It got to the point where I would stand in line for 30 minutes just to talk to anybody who would take the time to look more at my resume. Though it was very nice to make friends and connections with other candidates, it was very stressful, frustrating, and depressing to be there. We were told recruiting was down from 50 to 17 percent from the previous year and it showed. Recruiters were being extra extra picky because they could be. Not to mention the hotel we were put in was way overpriced and not near anything, so you had to take a taxi everywhere (we’re teachers here, so picking expensive hotels probably wasn’t the brightest idea). Long story short, I ended up with no job but have been offered a few since online. Why can’t it just all be down online by resume and phone interview?


    • Hmmmm says:

      Where did you end up going? I’m right in your boat (3 years, no IB).


      • llt says:

        You know that you can pay for your own IB training…it didn’t used to be available to anyone that wasn’t already in an IB accredited or pending accreditation school, however now, ISS has joined up with the IB programme to offer the introductory and stage 1,2, and 3 classes as well as specific subject level courses for High School. just go to and look for pd in IB OR do a google search…you can get the training you need to get the job you want.


        • Anonymous says:

          I have a question about the validity of obtaining the education without having the practice. I have a degree in biology, but have always worked in middle school. Now, no one will hire me for high school biology because I haven’t ever taught it. Could the same thing happen with the IB program if I pay to get the training and then don’t get a job in order to apply my knowledge? Just because you have it on paper, it doesn’t mean that the schools will take it as having actual IB experience.


  21. server says:

    We attended the Toronto Search Fair in February of 2008. We brought our two young children. Not a good idea. One head made us interview with our children sitting on the floor. Talk about a test! We too found that some schools were just fishing. We had one interview for a school we desperately wanted, but they didn’t know if they had a position for another month after the fair. We had to decide whether or not to take an offer on the table or wait and see if the job of our dreams opened up. We went with the offer on the table and it was a mistake. A month later the better school called and offered us the post.


  22. Scott says:

    ‘would not repeat the experience’ that should have read…


  23. Scott says:


    I attended the Search Fair in Bangkok in January 2007. Quite a number of schools were represented, but annoyingly not those we had been in contact with and who said they would be there…

    We went with our two young children – not something I would recommend. It was tough, for them as well as for us.

    We found on the whole that schools were not recruiting. We had some interesting interviews, but the impression we got was that schools were fishing for candidates, and that they’d get back in touch after the ISS fair – they were simply keeping their options open and not committing to people. We weren’t alone in this impression, and would repeat the experience, at least not as early as January.(We were offered a take it or leave it now job in Qatar, which we turned down simply due to being pressurised to answer there and then.)


  24. single says:

    I attended a job fair in Bangkok three years ago with ISS. There was a position open with The American School in Shanghai, but as I was walking towards their booth I could hear one of the administrators from the school calling out to teachers “We are only interviewing couples”. How depressing.


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