Teachers Comment on Recruiting Fairs

We originally invited teachers to tell us what they thought could be done to alleviate the problem of schools filling advertised positions prior to recruiting fairs. Our query brought a wealth of comments on this topic and recruiting fairs in general.   This lead us to change the title of this blog and open it to a general discussion on recruiting fairs. Have something to add?

44 thoughts on “Teachers Comment on Recruiting Fairs

  1. Am at the Search Cambridge 2015 fair. The market is flooded with teachers looking for jobs. There are even candidates here with no international experience. There are a lot of experienced candidates too. It is really bad as there are too few jobs and a huge candidate pool. Can’t tell you how many tables I went to and asked for an interview to be told that they had preselected their candidates for interviews and weren’t accepting anyone else!!! They should not have been posted as “open” Many of these same jobs have been offered at previous fairs so we are competing against many more people than the 800 present at this fair. It is a bad situation for teachers.to pay all the money to fly in, get hotel, and find out there really are no open jobs in their area, etc.

    Teachers are then told by the agency to be “open” to more possibilities or to schools they have not yet considered. This is difficult because people pick certain schools because they feel there is a match between what the school has and what the teacher has. It can lead to teachers feeling pressure to accept a job that is not in a good place or not a good fit for them..

    The other emerging trend is some schools are hiring many “interns”. This means that jobs that would have gone to teachers are now filled by interns. This is a devaluing of existing teachers’ experiences and education. Very disturbing!!!

    I think if I were to register today for an agency I would choose ISS because they are also hosting virtual fairs! That is so much cheaper for candidates.

    Anyhow these are just my opinions and maybe others may or may not agree


  2. I think we can all agree that job fairs are a thing of the past. Phasing them out would be a true “quantum leap” in the mechanics of hiring/being hired. But friends, remember that a job fair means something vastly different to us than it does to a recruiter or a school administrator. The two latter entities MUST perpetuate the illusory notion that fairs are a necessity. Agencies like ISS and Search NEED the revenue generated by fairs. Admins. WANT to enjoy the pseudo jet-set perks for a few months, feel like players, and reap the benefits of their position.

    I, like many, have dropped $2000 dollars and a sizable chunk of time to fly to an exotic locale (which, sadly, we never get to enjoy because we are sequestered in a hotel hi-rise for the duration, aside from a dash to 7-11), don my suit, stand in lines, and be thankful for the chance to spend a rushed 30 minutes in a hot hotel room with some guy who’s got ten more candidates to interview, three more fairs to hit, and certainly won’t make a decision until he’s squeezed his working vacation for all it’s worth.

    Now that I can boast nearly ten years of international experience, I can honestly say that I will never attend another fair; it is simply not necessary. This time around I was hired after a pleasant one hour Skype session with a fine IB school. For the record, I did wear a tie during our video chat. I was barefoot, though.

    This is not to say that Skype is a total breeze. prior to my successful session, I had been online with quite a few other school (sometimes over the course of several days, totaling over three hours with one) and did not get a job. But, Skype is free and so are my evenings (when interviews happen).

    Historically, boycotts are usually failures. But in the case of our relatively small community, we could make one work, maybe. Simply put, don’t go to fairs. Use the online services of Search or whoever, but just don’t bother with the fairs. I explained my fair avoidance, in diplomatic and concrete terms,in every cover letter I sent. Schools responded to me because my reasoning was unassailable, and my resume is posted lavishly online. I urge all to follow suit. If an administrator won’t consider you without a face-to-face meeting, then ask yourself: What is their motivation for this attitude? Do I really want to work for someone with this stance?

    So, don’t go next time. Or invite them to your house. If fairs become a situation of financial diminishing returns for Search/ISS, then they get a poignant lesson in market economics, scale back their fairs (or end them) and force School Heads to get their frequent flyer points elsewhere.

    People say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.


  3. My husband and I accepted jobs prior to the fair. We had a few interviews lined up at the fair, but the schools were of lower quality than the school that gave us offers.

    I went through sorority rush when I was a freshman and I have not intention of going through it again as an adult.

    I would stay away from recruiters other than tieonline. Some of the online recruiters tried to sign me into positions by trying to make me feel insecure. One recruiter from an agency told me to take a job because I didn’t have good chances at finding another one.


  4. All in all, I think the recruiting system works reasonably well. Yes, people who make themselves desirable candidates and do their homework have generally good experiences. Yes, people with long experience and good connections get hired more easily. Yes, the practice is evolving and changing in response to technology and economics and whatever. What’s so strange about this, aren’t these same things true in every field?

    Remember that just as good people occasionally have bad hiring experiences at fairs, good schools do also, taking on someone they thought would be a great fit, but wasn’t.

    My one large complaint about job fairs is aimed at the agencies. They get around and they know precisely who the “bad apple” schools and administrators are, but they do practically nothing to screen these people out. Such schools are predators of young and inexperienced candidates still learning right questions to ask, and I would think that an agency which afforded these candidates some selectivity, and advertised it, could gain a competitive advantage in the recruiting world.


  5. I am a “seasoned” international educator and in the “olden days” directors of schools could NOT hire you on the spot until they went back to their school board and received a stamp of approval.eventually, that changed and they would hire you on the spot. Now, it can be done on Skype which can enable the director to enteview you more than a 30-45 minute slot. Let’s face it, once the directors want to hire you, the call to your current director/principal will make it or brake it for you. The directors want to continue going to the fairs to get their free trip to the States. Many of them will hire their “people” immediately then go to their hometown until it is time to go home. — A no brainer. And in my opinion, ISS and Search are out to butter up the Supt.’s rear –not out to help or protect the teacher. (Look at how many unprofessional schools are out there allowed to go to these fairs.) Iowa is a different story – nonprofit.


  6. My experience with recruiting fairs has been good and bad – I would not be so fed up when I was mislead about the fair (my recruiting agency assured me there were jobs in my specialty when there was not many for my qualifications, effectively taking my money for nothing in return) if there was a ‘hiring’ period that most schools could agree on. I know it’s impossible to coordinate, but it would make our lives as teachers easier. Anyway, what can you do? We are takers of the process, but I wish it was better organized – so fairs were all in the same region, for example, at the same time, making it more economical for everyone to go from fair to fair.


  7. I can’t comment on fairs, but I can comment on actively seeking out positions. I’m currently teaching in my Third international school and have never attended a fair.

    The first school I was hired by asked me to fly in for the final face to face interview. I asked directly, are you seriously interested. When I arrived, I toured the school, spoke to various department heads and two principals. The director offered me a contract.

    Same with the second school. I sent out my resume early, and we did couple of phone/skype interviews. I spent my spring break vacationing in the country that hosted the school, did a tour, and signed my contract.

    My third school was done completely on-line. Sent my resume and letters of recommendation.We did a series of email exchanged with questions, then had a phone interview. (Skype) I was FED Ex a contract and fed ex it back.

    I agree with what some have written above. If you want a job, be proactive and start by contacting schools you’re interested. Email makes this easy. Scan letter of recommendation and have current contact info on past supervisors.

    I hope I don’t need to attend a fair anytime soon.


  8. I have an angle different to some here, and that is from the point of view of being part of a teaching couple with young kids. We are most definitely NOT favoured at interview, to the extent that schools will see us both at fairs and then offer one job – usually to me, purely because I am male. They offer ‘vacancies’ in the future to my immensely well-qualified wife, and wonder why we decline. Job fairs are, in my humble opinion, an absolute waste of time, money and effort. We have,though, been successful and unsuccessful at them. It is too easy to ignore your prior research and be seduced – by fear and trepidation about potential unemployment – and sign something you would never normally do. I just want transparency: if a persson is appointed, please tell me via this archaic internet system you all brag about your school’s cutting-edge use of. Grrrrrr.


  9. I have been to fairs where I’ve found good jobs and I’ve been to fairs where I had 10 interviews and no offers.

    I’ve also had Skype interviews where I felt that both parties got a very good sense of the other and Skype interviews that did not seem to click.

    I’ve also read countless reviews where thorough, searching and professional-seeming face to face interviews led teachers into accepting complete horrorshow postings.

    What does all of that mean? I keep reading about the irreplaceable element that a face to face interview brings, but no one seems to be able to articulate what that really means. A Skype interview is different and new, but can anyone really say that a 30 minute interview in someone’s hotel room in a distant city is a better way to determine your future than a video interview (usually from the comfort of your own home)?


  10. From cash cows to misleading info there is one thing that is certain in my mind. Get rid of JOB FAIRS!!

    Because of technology, they are becoming and will continue to become obsolete. I know some schools required a face-to-face before a contract offer is made but lets face it…with the rising costs of travel, hotel and other fees, attending a job fair is quite dated. Plus, what about families with dependents trying to recruit—whew? Imagine the efforts and the costs they have to cope with?

    4 of my colleagues, this year, got excellent jobs at GREAT schools VIA SKYPE, emails and telephone etc.it was just as rigorous a process as an in-person interview but without the mess and costs of travel.

    If candidates, schools or the agency’s are not updating their data so that the job fair/positions honestly reflect the attending schools, then that’s a professional and ethical issue over which we have no real power except for to boycott that fair or that agency.

    The entire recruiting system is in need of a serious overhaul and some equitable guidelines that put people before profit are desperately needed.


  11. I had a very good experience recently with Search despite not finding a job at the fair and many jobs being withdrawn or being unavailable too for reasons recruiters may not have immediately make plain. I (expensively) attended a late fair, and did not find a job- however Harry Deelman and his wife kept in close contact with me and when an unexpected job came up late in the year, they recommended me and I am now placed.

    Yes I think it is a mad rush at the first fairs and it is very unfair that those are often where the ‘plumb’ or sometimes only jobs are taken, but it is always going to be an uneven system as there are no ‘universal’ legal rights for teachers. As we know from many of the horror stories on this site, a lot of these schools can pretty much do what they like and we have to ‘swallow’ it.

    if it weren’t for the ethical actions of people like those at Search (who have also been known to impress upon schools after hiring through them that they are not being true to their contract offers- which is welcome, but little enough and sadly unfortunately all they CAN do)we would be and sometimes are left swinging in the wind.

    An international legal organisation set up specifically for International teachers and their issues small and large is very much needed!We have all spent years working extremely hard to make our classes student-friendly because of current pedagogical thinking. Surely all school administrations should answer to an organisation that ensures they reach standards that are ‘teacher friendly’???


  12. I am a single, lower elementary teacher with 5 years of international teaching experience. I chose to register with Search for a few different reasons – it was much cheaper, the fair dates were more convenient for me, and they did not bat an eye at a broken contract on my resume. I’d been told that with ISS, it would be very difficult to register with a one-year stint on my resume – friends of mine had a really hard time proving that they’d had a one year contract before ISS would take them. I happen to live in Bangkok, so it was easy for me to attend the Search fair, which occurred over my holiday break. For me, it was a freebie, although I did choose to stay in the hotel to be in the fair “bubble.”
    I did not end up accepting a position at the fair, but overall if was a positive, if stressful, experience. I had several skype interviews before the fair, and many excellent interviews during the fair. A couple of elementary principals from top schools told me I would be excellent, but their heads wouldn’t allow them to offer contracts to singles yet. I got 3 offers from great schools but decided to wait for my #1 to get back to me after a couple more fairs. It’s good that I waited, because another school contacted me a week later saying they were interested in me, and we had a couple of great skype interviews and I ended up accepting what I think will be a great position for me at a great school in Russia. So for me, both the fair and skype were productive for me this season. Personally, I enjoy fairs, even though they are stressful.


  13. I’d like to chime in to agree with the minority. Like Meg above, I believe that a face-to-face interview is irreplaceable. Of course Skype interviews will take place in advance of the fairs, especially for ideal candidates in tough-to-fill specialty areas. When any of us are lucky enough to get a desirable job offer by that means, we’ll take it. But in the absence of that lucky break, going to the fairs is not such a horrible thing. I went to Bangkok this year, and although it was a tough year for my specialty, my husband and I had many conversations with directors, principals and fellow teachers that really helped us come to some new conclusions about what we wanted (and needed) professionally. What I liked especially was that in many cases, directors seemed interested in helping us when they didn’t even have jobs in our areas.

    Perhaps the above is a reflection of our relative youth: I can see how a seasoned veteran would have no need of the type of guidance I’m describing. However, I’ve been teaching for long enough that I’ve worked for some awful administrators. Meeting the people I may be working for in person means a great deal to me. I do think you can tell far more about potential employers in a live interview setting than via a web-cam. And furthermore, the insight we gained about a variety of schools (and directors) will no doubt be useful in several years when we embark on another grueling recruiting season.

    Others’ comments about directors enjoying the opportunity to cruise the fairs are probably valid. This doubtless applies to some recruiters more than others – I know that ours was overjoyed to cut his trip short this year when hiring was completed early, but by the same token I doubt he would be content if his annual tour were eliminated entirely.

    Finally, a few words about cost. Yes, the fairs are expensive. But seriously – as international school teachers, we are simply not (as another poster put it) one of the “lowest-paid professions”. The cost of a flight and a reasonably-priced hotel down the street from the fair is not insurmountable when compared to our annual compensation packages. I do think the fact that Search includes the registration cost of one fair in its sign-up fee is a decided advantage over ISS, which is by far the more expensive of the two big companies – this may cause us to switch to Search the next time around. But when I look at our overall annual budget, the job fair really didn’t take that much of a bite out of it, and what we did pay was more than worth it for the solid jobs we accepted (which were not, I should add, among any of those we were drooling over before the fair began – those all went to teachers with more experience or IB backgrounds).

    Personally, I hope that Skype does NOT take over as the hiring method of choice. I would learn very little from an impersonal internet interview, and I would be nervous entering a new job I’d gained in that manner. I would think a director would be less confident about me as well. However, reading some of the horror stories in the comments above, I do wish that schools and companies would be held to a somewhat higher standard of professional conduct – as teachers are.


  14. In response to the post by Meg:

    I have attended two fairs in the past six years: UNI and AASSA. Even though I have a very negative perception of these fairs, I have landed great jobs at both. I am a single, young female with nine years of teaching experience in the elementary classroom.

    I AM DONE WITH THESE FAIRS! Those who seem to like them are probably the ones who received lots of offers, mostly couples and/or singles in fields other than elementary, maybe in specialized fields. Or someone who just went to the fair to explore and/or didn’t mind keeping the same job just in case it didn’t work out.

    International teaching is my career. I LOVE my job, and I love traveling. It is so disheartening to spend thousands of dollars (especially when flying in from overseas) to attend a fair and then to see positions filled by people who you feel don’t have the experience, passion, sincerity, or attitude for this career. ( I know, it’s not my right to judge someone’s potential, but I’m just voicing my opinion).

    One post said, we have to be professional 100% of the time, so yes, the directors should too. One director told me I was a great fit for his school, but he preferred teaching couples because of cost. Between the couple that he chose, one spouse had NO teaching experience. His wife was finishing her third year of teaching in Asia and wasn’t present at the fair. So, he interviewed her through Skype. The husband told me that he was even surprised that they were hired. And this was one of the top schools in Ecuador!

    One school told me I would be great, but that I was too expensive. Couldn’t they have emailed me that information beforehand so that I didn’t waste my time with them?

    Another school told me that single elementary teachers are the easiest positions to fill so they wait until April/May to hire them; couples get priority.

    As I waited for a fourth interview, I realized that the recruiters for this particular school were not going to show up. I waited for thirty minutes, left a note, then left. Later, I saw them in the hall. I politely reminded them about the interview, and without shame, they both stated that they had decided to take a long lunch! What!!!! ????I later heard from other candidates that they had hired all candidates before the fair, and were now just taking the time to enjoy the beautiful city of Atlanta. Ha! (And this is supposed to be the top school in Brazil!) I received no apology, so I just took it as a sign as two people for whom I would not like to work.

    I had to ask myself: Why in the world am I here?

    I did have some positive experiences, but the negative surely outweighed them.

    Technology is the key. I am also willing to fly to specific schools if I feel I have a fair chance of landing a job. I don’t mind spending the money, but I don’t want it to be in vain. I just want to feel that I have a fair chance, an equal opportunity to interview and “sell” my talents.

    By the way, I could care less about networking with other candidates and meeting new people. Not meaning to sound harsh, but when I attend a job fair, I am there to land a job, not to chit chat. I am serious about my craft and don’t have time or money to waste with money-hungry job fairs. It’s all a money-making scheme!

    To make matters worse, many of the schools pay poorly. I don’t pay those schools any attention. If I’m paying two-three thousand dollars to fly to and attend a job fair, it seems fair that the school pay me at least that much monthly. Some of the schools should be ashamed of their pay and benefits.

    I landed a great job, but it was a hard battle. Thank God I met a recruiter who was open-minded and serious about finding the right candidates for his school.

    I have a great new job, but I’m too intelligent to put myself through this crazy process anymore. Competition is fine, but this system is outdated, unfair, extremely basis, and seems to be more interested in chasing money than seeking quality teachers.

    I’m done with them.


  15. I agree with what many people said here. Job fairs are a waste of time and money, for the schools and the teacher. I had a terrible experience going to a job fair in Boston once, since there was maybe 2-3 decent oppenings for my position, and about 30 candidates… I got a grand total of 3 interviews, all with schools that didn’t interested me at all. All the money I spent on flying in, etc., all wasted. Latter in the game, I started using internet and got much better interviews via Skype.
    So, my best advice: do NOT go to fairs. Simple.


  16. Job searches are a stress. After 30 years on the circuit, I’m happy to accept a job at a fair…. rather than wait for a telegram. Qualified teachers will find work, younger teachers have an advantage, married to am IB physics teacher (even that is not a shoe in)…..
    Of course jobs will fill before a fair, administrators are under extreme presure to fill positions with qualifed cadidates as soon as possible. Look for jobs during the Chrismas holidays, that’s when the real jobs are open.
    Try to find joy in looking at the A7 papers w/your job!! You never know what will happen or where in this wonderful world you will end up.


  17. I am getting the impression that the majority of people who are posting here about the evils of job fairs have all had very negative experiences with them, which makes sense. However, I think it is important for everyone to realize that not everyone finds the fairs to be horrible, or wonderful, for that matter. There will always be people who benefit from job fairs, and those who do not–that is just the way it is. Any job market, whether it be in education or elsewhere, is going to have some people accepted and some turned away. I think people need to realize that, yes, they are paying a lot of money, but it is a gamble. Search and ISS and other organizations DO NOT guarantee that you will be hired, and they make this very clear when you register with them. I agree that it would be better if they were less expensive, but no matter how expensive they are, there will always be people who are upset because they have lost money by going. This is just the reality of the fairs, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing as long as you go knowing that this is a possibility.

    Also, many people are commenting that they think the fairs are just a nice cushy vacation for the directors, and to a certain extent I agree. I do think there are some directors who take advantage of their schools by attending so many fairs for such a long period of time. But again, I don’t think that is always the case. I think there are many good directors out there who genuinely use the time spent at fairs effectively. In international schools, marketing and networking is huge, and many directors do this non-stop at the fairs.

    Finally, it is not only directors and superintendents who benefit from the networking and collegial atmosphere of the job fairs. Teachers also are able to meet and talk with huge numbers of people who they otherwise would never have had the opportunity to meet, both teachers and directors alike. It’s true that the atmosphere of the fairs can be a bit stressful, but taking the time to talk with others who are in a similar situation can be extremely beneficial and rewarding, and having the opportunity to personally introduce yourself to so many administrators in one place is also a huge bonus. Skype is great, but meeting someone in person is, in my opinion, much better.


  18. I am glad to know that I am not alone in feeling the scam of the job fairs. I am sure others like myself spent hours, and hard “aggressive” work trying to secure a position well before the fair. This stress compounded with trying to maintain a workload of a good teacher. It would seem the point of the job fairs and these recruitment agencies would be to help alleviate the stress, as many teachers (who are any good at all) would not have a supply of extra time to job hunt. It’s all so frustrating, and I am with the folks above, BOYCOTT the job fair scene, avoid the cash cows of the agencies! Skype and other methods have to be the solution. I just wish I’d saved my job fair fees and taken a vacation to Europe instead!


  19. Several others have hit the nail on the head. I know our director enjoys leaving the school and country for 2-3 months to be wined and dined by ISS and Search while staying at 5 star hotels. It’s on the school’s dime as others have mentioned. I just think of the money that could be used to upgrade our school’s facilities when this guy (and his wife) is gone. Sad, I tried setting up interviews via Skype this year and only had one. I thought this was the direction that hiring was going. I couldn’t justify spending money to go to a fair for the few jobs I saw advertised.


  20. Why do we even need fairs anymore, except possibly small, local ones? Obviously many people are being hired via Skype and video chats, so I think large fairs’ days are numbered, especially as it would cut costs considerably.


  21. Five years ago I attended my first Search Associates job fair. Knowing that I wanted to work overseas I had little knowledge about the process, schools, rules, etc. I went to many websites and looked at schools but the information for every school was always super-excellent. The staff, grounds, students, country, everything was wonderful. Well,I knew they are trying to sell themselves to me as well. I also knew that there are thousands of schools around the world, some good and some bad and that I had no way of knowing which was which.

    At that first meeting I met my “handler” for the first time and she, Marie Bogat, explained everything she could to me. The initial sessions explaining to us newbies how living overseas would be was very calming.

    I got several offers from schools that other attendees who had worked there told me to reject. When one person said avoid it I took the advice with a grain of salt, but when 5 or 6 said the same thing I paid attention. They were far more experienced than I. Those other people looking for jobs were very helpful in so many ways.

    Finally I took a job at a school I loved and spent two wonderful years in Mexico City. When my contract was up after 2 years I returned to the job fairs to seek a second job. Now more saavy about what to look for and what to ask I expected to have a much more positive experience. It was anything but.

    I spent thousands of dollars to go freeze my butt of in Boston and didn’t get a job offer. In fact, almost NOBODY got one! Only the most highly qualified teachers, married couples or Physics teachers got an offer at all. Almost everyone walked out with nothing, new or experienced. It was an expensive, heartbreaking lesson.

    Now that I have contacts all over the world and know so much more about the international schools than I did 5 years ago I won’t use fairs again, but I will list my resume with Search when I am looking for another job. It allows the schools looking for teachers to find me easily.

    I now interview with my chosen schools directly and have been very successful at that, but if I didn’t initially have the support of Search I might not have had such a good start to my international career. I think job fairs are very helpful for those just starting out on their international careers but become less so as the international teacher becomes more knowledgeable. I didn’t use Search for my current position, but I did get a very nice offer from a school associated with them after I had already accepted this one. If I had not already had a contract I would have happily accepted that one. It was a much better deal.

    So I think it is good to be listed with an organization like Search (I know nothing about ISS) and it is good for the novice to get the support s/he needs for that first experience. I don’t think that in the long run it is beneficial for an experienced international teacher to go to job fairs.


  22. Those of you who want to go back to the policies and methods of 20 years ago are totally unrealistic. Those of you who want schools to stick to published deadlines have never had to hire someone for yourself.

    There is as much impetus for teachers to accept jobs early as there is for administrators to offer them. That is just the way things are.

    What can you do?
    – Use modern techniques to research jobs and market yourself as early as possible.
    – Be willing to use your fair money to fly to schools you are interested in directly.
    – Network, network, network.
    – Keep a fair as one of your options, but realize that today it is not the only option. If you land a job before the fair, well, there are worse places to be in February than Thailand.

    I still enjoy fairs, and I have been in this game for years. They are great places to run into old friends, speak with teachers from the schools your are interviewing, see potential bosses face to face, and ponder positions in places you have never considered.

    They are becoming less important, especially for seasoned veterans, but still provide a crucial link in the hiring chain for both teachers and administrators.


  23. I have a rule of thumb (not for beating my spouse) regarding Fairs. #1 is avoid them at all costs if I can. #2 If they can’t be avoided, pre-arrange interviews with interested schools well before the FAIR.# 3 is to contact the hiring administrator who will be at the Fair as close to the actual Fair as possible to ensure the position is still available.#4 Arrange to have the administrator e-mail you if they decide to hire someone else there in lieu of you. #5, if they don’t cooperate, scratch them off your list for the future!


  24. I agree wholeheartedly with Joseph, above, who suggests teachers boycott the fairs in the future. I have found ISS, is the worst of the lot and should be the first to go.

    There’s no reason why, in today’s technologically adept world, that real-time information can’t be provided for applicants. There’s no reason why Skype interviews can’t take the place of in-person interviews. Does a director really need to breathe in my presence? I don’t think so. Money spent on 5-star hotels, conference registration and inter-continental flights could better be spent by a candidate who, if necessary, flies to a school as a final interview and meets the staff and signs the contract.
    Oh, no wait….there IS a reason why the recruiting conferences happen….Directors like to shop, they like to ‘get away’ from the office and soak up fine dining and being courted by ISS, Search and the lot. They like to feel important, and maybe they aren’t so technologically competent enough to be able to conduct an interview online or via Skype, a possibility they might prefer to hide.

    Judging from the interviews I’ve had with recruiters who talk endlessly about themselves, or ask inappropriate questions, or can’t make up their mind, or forget to communicate, or can’t be bothered to update their school websites and/or conference postings with positions that have already been filled, I think ISS, Search and the rest of them would be better used as a filter for recruiters, with more hoops that recruiters are required to jump through in order to be allowed to interview teachers and fill positions.

    Early in my 20 years of international teaching career, I got several jobs through ISS, but without a doubt I know they have failed the international teaching community and especially me. They are only in business to serve themselves, and need to go. I, personally, have boycotted them. I have not and will not attend one of their fairs again.

    The solution to the job dilemma is to boycott the fairs.


  25. I have to agree I keep spending thousands and the jobs I want are already gone when I get to the fair or suddenly only for “couples.” I have gone two years in a row now and come home empty handed. It’s frustrating.


    1. I have been to 2 fairs – several years past. My first job out of the country was for an American school in Monterrey Mexico and was through a newspaper ad in the Miami Herald. This was before there was http://www.aassa.com/index.asp (Association of American Schools in South America). Five schools got together and placed an ad and traveled to Miami for interviews. I taught there from 91-93 and had a great time. I subsequently went to an ISS fair in Orlando and an ISS fair in Boston. Neither fair DIRECTLY netted a job — however — my next overseas position came about via one director recommending me to another director and by April – May of 1995, I had landed a contract to teach for a brand new school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My interview was in the Fort Lauderdale airport in between his flights. So, yes, some directors use the opportunity to see their families and travel the US – wouldn’t you if you were a director in the middle of Malaysia!?? But others scramble, reroute their plane routes to fly into an airport, conduct an interview and then continue to another fair. One more thing, don’t try to tell me that local job fairs advertise for jobs that are always real and still available. If you think they do, you are lying to yourself. It is a meat market like any other field, and HR often just wants a pool of resumes. Keep writing letters (thank you for the interview letters), EVEN AFTER THE FAIR IS OVER! Why ? People cancel contracts all the time, hence the need for a summer job fair.


  26. I attended my first “fair” a while back with a ton of experience, lots of emails and promises from schools and I did my “homework”. I got there and a lot of the schools I contacted never took me for an interview. Not to mention some schools “forgot” to put on the sheet that a job was available? So there was a lot of guessing. it was unprofessional and really awful. So I ended up interviewing for schools I was not interested in after being told “have an open mind”??? I was over qualified for those positions but felt desparate to find work and anything would have been nice at that point.
    I understand no guarantees but I wish these schools would be more up front before the fairs.
    Perhaps I am missing something?
    Aside from a lot of money and time put out, we are expected to be professional 100%. When are the people who hire us going to do the same?
    I will say I met some great directors and people.


  27. I think the criticism of ISS is a bit unfair. The openings at this time of year are very much in a state of flux and no one can help that, or predict which openings will stay and which will go.

    Search Associates told all of its Cambridge candidates, well in advance, that the posted vacancies change all the time and that they will not know the actual openings until they actually come to the sign up sessions at the fair. They told us if we came to the fair with our heart set on a specific position, we probably would not get an offer, and if we came with an open mind, a spirit of adventure, and stayed flexible about where we would go, we probably would get an offer. They run a great organization, by the way !


  28. The thing is, many, if not most, directors want to go to these fairs! It’s a boondoogle for them, …on the schools dime. This is when they do their networking, seeing many of the school heads from around the world. I’d want to go if I was a school head! Plus they do get to see candidates face-to-face, although their selection may be from only those who can afford to go to the fair; finacially, as well as from a timing (working/not-working) perspective. I got a job two years ago through a fair because I was available to attend a US fair cheaply, living nearby. This time around, I now have even more Intl School (and IB) experience, but I’m in rather remote country and it’s too expensive to hit a fair, and many schools want to only interview at the fairs. For teachers, fairs are good if you land a job, but I find it ironic that one of the poorer paying professions has one of the more expensive hiring processes (for the candidate)! Of course Skype is the solution… but directors want to go to the fairs, and Search and ISS will supply as long as there is the demand.


  29. Teachers should boycott all the fairs. Period. There is NOTHING remotely “fair” or reasonable about them. They may have been a necessary evil at one time, but now they are merely an evil. Directors are off campus for months, costing schools thousands of dollars in travel, food and hotel expenses. Teachers can only attend one fair, and then it’s a huge expense in both money and psyche. Almost every international school loves to tout itself as having “world class technology.” Cool. Then use it to hire teachers and stop playing the stupid fair games. Just because ISS and other organizations make money from these events is hardly reason to continue them. The fairs are cruel anachronisms. What if they gave a fair and no teachers showed up?


  30. I am one half of a teaching couple. My wife and I attended the 2010 Search Associates event in Toronto, and had a remarkably positive experience from start to finish. We had decided to return to overseas teaching in August of 2009, after a long hiatus in Vancouver. The first major choice we made was picking Ray Sparks and Search Associates as our partners. Although we had both taught overseas, neither of us had any experience with “hiring fairs” and we were worried that our inexperience would somehow cost us. We needn’t have. From the very beginning, Search Associates in general, and Ray in particular, made everything extremely easy. Ray not only explained everything very clearly (numerous times), but the simple, logical format of the fair itself and smooth, hands-on management by Ray and his team made the entire process easy to understand and participate in fully. Having taken Ray’s advice early, we were careful to prepare ourselves as completely as we could, but to keep our minds open about particular schools or regions. Building on Ray’s recommendation, we treated the fair like a pro sports training camp we’d been invited to, and committed to giving our best efforts, showcasing our strengths, learning as much as possible, and reacting to whatever opportunities presented themselves as they unfolded. I think that attitude was key to our success. We were very fortunate to receive four firm job offers, and accepted a position that was even better than what we had imagined the best possible outcome might be. Search Associates took great care of us (and everyone else we talked to) and we’re very happy we chose to go with them and Ray, who handled our entire job hunt with just the right level of involvement.


    1. I deal with Bob Barlas at Search and got both my jobs through Search (first by data base, second by Fair) and both company and Bob are amazing. He is definitely NOT hands off and I have only had positive experiences to back up what Bob says. I personally wrote letters to over 10 schools looking for jobs through their website and most wrote back they want to see you in person at the Fair (for those few who bothered to even respond).
      Seems the Fairs are the way to go.


  31. We have to put this issue into perspective – it is a job market! If you sit and wait for something to be delivered to you in a nice neat package then you will have take what you get.
    I have registered twice with job fairs and twice finalized jobs before the fair. I used the listings and then aggressively sought out the jobs. We signed the deals at the fair. The listing helped me get the job. Why would you sit back and wait?
    It is a tough job filling these positions every year. The schools will take good candidates when they can. If you want to be successful, be aggressive and select your schools carefully.


  32. After 19 years of living and teaching abroad on several continents I would suggest that those interested in such positions learn the way the game works. Having a degree, appropriate teaching license and experience are MINIMUM qualifications for securing a teaching job abroad. These qualifications MAY get you looked at as a potential employee. Recruiting schools have a staffing jigsaw where specialists, generalists, counselors and everything in between need to work out for the best staffing picture. Recruiters priorities and obligations are to recruit and retain the staff they need to deliver the best programs possible for their schools and, ultimately the students and parents of their school community. Please understand that just as teachers must lookout for themselves, school heads must be prepared to act on the best matches for their needs. The best a teacher can do is be cross certified and experienced and to be flexible in the locations they are willing to work. Remember, these schools exists to serve the needs of their respective school communities, not to provide employment opportunities for teachers.


  33. It seems like most of the comments posted so far are directed at ISS. I don’t know anything about ISS, but I recently attended my first international job fair through Search and found it to be a very positive experience. I am a special education teacher, and for a few months prior to the fair I kept close tabs on the positions listed on the search website. About a week before the fair I made a list of the positions still available, and shortlisted the jobs I was most interested in. When I arrived at the fair (Cambridge) I found that pretty much all of the jobs that were posted on the website were in fact still available at the fair. I don’t know if that was just luck, or the nature of special ed. jobs being harder to fill, but I was pleasantly surprised as I’d heard that might not be the case. My only complaint about the process was not with the website or the jobs posted, but rather with the associates being too “hands off.” I honestly don’t see what their purpose is other than to plan and organize the fair (which they did very well, in my opinion). Was it expensive? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Definitely. I will definitely go to another Search fair the next time I’m looking for a job, and I completely trust that their website is kept very current. Also, upon leaving the fair all candidates were required to submit a form stating which schools had offered positions and which positions were accepted. The schools also had to submit forms stating which candidates they had offered jobs too. I think that this helped/helps Search keep track of what jobs are still available after each fair, which seems like a pretty good system. 🙂


  34. I can understand the frustrations of teachers that find jobs have been filled before a fair, but how about if we look at it from the other perspective; how many teachers would refuse a job offer before a fair, claiming it would be unfair for those still waiting. Directors are trying to fill positions and teachers are trying to get jobs. Its a simple supply and demand situation. What is clear from the comments made by teachers here on ISR is that you need to know whether you are suitably qualified for a fair before you go and find out which fairs best suit your needs.
    I have attended two Search fairs and was successful at both – though in one case accepting an offer the day before the fair started. I will definitely be using Search next time.


  35. I believe the only solution to this problem is to return to the policies of the past. Years ago (20 yrs ago), directors agreed to wait to offer contracts to candidates until AFTER the fairs. As soon as the first director broke this ethically verbal agreement, the whole concept fell on its face and every director from that time forward felt the need to hire ahead of the fairs, or be left with the less-than-the-best candidates. It only works, however, if EVERY director follows the rules, and human nature being the way it is, makes this ideal less than realistic.


  36. I have done the job hunting things both ways. I’ve gone to job fairs and also had phone interviews (skype not available at the time), and the best jobs were the non-fair jobs. So how do we all get around the pre-hiring issue? Well one solution would be for schools to stick to their deadline dates for applications, THEN do their interveiws. It is unfair to those who apply to have the job filled before the cut off date for applications. The second solution would be for schools to quit paying huge money to fairs, and for teachers to quit paying huge money to agencies. Given the economic times we live in, it makes far more sense for schools to do Skype interviews, AFTER the date of their closing for applications. This cuts out the middle man, might keep schools from prefilling positions,and gives teachers a much fairer playing field. As an English teacher with IB training and experience I realize that in my field we are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a good job in a good school even late into the recruiting season.
    So I’m back to the internet to hunt for jobs and won’t ever pay the money out again for another fair.


  37. I think that the fairs will be around for a while, but the writing has been on the wall for a while. Just think how much things have changed in the dynamic of the fairs.

    Why would ISS or Search give up their game? They will pretend to have the ability to deliver the best jobs until the end. It is not an efficient system for teachers or schools. But as long as there is money to be made, organizations will continue to milk the situation.

    I agree with Reggie’s assessment above. I have no intention of using fairs. I’m a competitive candidate in a high demand field. No way that i’m paying that much money to get a job.


  38. I think for early fairs those teachers that are in demand will find jobs. Those that aren’t in demand will need to wait. Supts know that they don’t need to offer contracts and can wait to interview a ‘pool’ of candidates. It all comes down to supply and demand. If you are a generalist, then you’ll have more possible jobs, but more competition. I’m a specialist in a technical field. I know that there is less competition, but fewer jobs.

    If teachers didn’t go to early job fairs, it would improve the situation. As long as teachers play the game, the condition won’t change. UNI used to be a good fair with good schools attending. Now it’s a lot of smaller school that aren’t as competitive. Jobs are filled by the time UNI comes around. Bangkok will end up being a regional job fair. UNI for smaller, non-competitive schools.


  39. Yes, this is a big issue that the FAIRS need to solve. I went to UNI 2 years ago and it was exactly as described. Openings had been filled prior to the fair or there were flat out lies on the part of the recruiting school. For example, a school says non teaching spouses are OK, only to have them push your resume back in our face when they discover you are married to a non teaching spouse. I had one school in Dubai (who offered me a job two years previously for the SAME POSITION) refuse to even look at my resume because my I was now married. Their loss, happy I missed out on that school, based on subsequent reviews. LOL. The int’l teaching HUSTLE just ain’t what is used to be, ain’t what it used to be… Free soon!


  40. I agree with the statements above. ISS seems to be a money making scheme. The ISS IRC Boston was my first and last fair, as the job postings were not real time. Even well after the fair, a position I know for a fact was filled, was still posted on their website! My husband and I had a fabulous time in Boston, (outside of the fair experience), because we didn’t have much else to do! (ie. all jobs previously posted were filled by the time the fair started). I hate to beat a dead horse here, but I feel in a way cheated or mislead by this agency! I think the solution will have to come from the schools not playing this game anymore, and go video conferencing or skype to interview. I happened to luck out with a non-related to the fair skype interview this week, and was glad to interview with a great school who did not play the job fair game. What a learning experience this has been, and I know no matter how hard I prepared for this job fair, I wouldn’t have been prepared to be mislead by a “reputable” agency. Recruitment agencies are generally supposed to help you find placements, that is their primary responsibility. Not once has anyone been visably trying place me in a position through this agency.


    1. I think most of you are getting the point I made in November. If those international schools are so technology up-to-date then why not using skype and even a web cam? Why should I spend over 2000 $ to go to a stressful event. I went few years ago and ended-up having many offers. Why couldn’t I get one before going there? Directors have access to database no?
      Directors like to go because they can connect with others and work on their own agenda at the school’s expense. We are cutting on budget but they can send 3 people overseas for a job fair?
      I also felt ISS or else are just cashing money and not doing anything beside organizing the fairs.
      Finally good schools are usually retaining most of their teachers and therefore do not have to attend job fair.
      Boycotting fairs is the teachers’ future.


  41. Just like the teachers have to let ISS know right away if they are hired, the schools should have to do the same. Within 48 hours (at the most) the website should reflect changes in availability. That is plenty of time considering it only takes a moment and can save people so much money. There are STILL positions LISTED on the vacancy site that I know are not available. For instance, the job that I got myself 10 days ago is still listed as a job opening…

    On the other hand, if I submitted a form to ISS the day I got hired,(which I did), then I guess it would be their responsibility to take down the information off of their site. THey know I got a job, in which school, and for what position… So maybe the schools are not at blame as much as ISS. That being said, I am happy with ISS overall, because I landed a great job though them…


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