Recruiting Fair Timing for Best Results

best-time44088211Undeniably, ISS & Search Associates are the two big players in the International Teacher recruiting industry. From November 2013 through March 2014, these two agencies, combined, sponsored no less than 20 Recruiting Fairs. Interestingly, some of these venues took place on the heels of the competitor’s Fair. For example, the Search/Bangkok Fair began the day following the conclusion of the ISS/Bangkok Fair. Search/San Francisco & ISS/San Francisco followed the same protocol.

Along with piggybacking each other, Search & ISS do the same with some minor, but well-known, players in the industry. For example, the AASSA (Association of American Schools in South America) Fair took place in Atlanta on December 5-8 & was immediately followed by ISS/Atlanta on December 8-10. The Search/Toronto & Queens University/Ontario Fairs were on the exact same dates, January 24-26.

Business is business & just as McDonald’s opens a ‘restaurant’ right across the street from Jack-In-the-Box, recruiting agencies appear to follow the same business model. The question is, with recruiters so strongly competing for your dollar, how do YOU choose a Fair that’s right for YOU? If you’re new to International Teacher recruiting, you might opt to attend the event closest to you.  But isn’t this a bit like buying a Chevrolet instead of a Ford based solely on a dealership’s proximity to your home? Recruiting Fairs, like automobiles & dealerships, each have their individual characteristics & shopping around before you commit may well be the smartest option for your overseas teaching career.

ISR asks: With a multitude of Fairs to choose from, how do you pick the Fair that’s right for YOU? If you participated in a Recruiting Fair this season, what criteria did you use to select a fair to attend? Was your decision based on a list of schools slated to attend? Flying distance? Or, the reputation of the particular Fair to hire predominantly couples, or singles or newbies, experienced educators, families with kids, etc? For example, the Bangkok Fairs have a reputation for hiring experienced overseas educators while some Fairs are known for hiring mostly seasoned couples.

Tell us about YOUR experiences this recruiting season. Why did you select one Recruiting Fair over another? Did your instincts prove valid? Did you sign a contract? This information will greatly help colleagues recruiting in 2015!

Thank you!

23 thoughts on “Recruiting Fair Timing for Best Results

  1. I am an experienced school counselor, but I don’t have international experience. I do speak Spanish, but I really want a counseling position. I have a non-teaching spouse and one young child. The SA person I’ve been emailing with made it sound next to impossible to get hired with dependents. Can anyone verify this? Or tell me where that is not likely? Thanks!


  2. I agree with the people who said UNI. There was a good collection of good schools there – lots of Latin American ones, but also schools from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. There were a lot of new teachers there, as well as teachers who were older (retired from their positions in the states but not ready to finish working), as well as people like me who were teachers with at least a few years behind them but new to international schools. It seemed like those were the main groups, but there were also people who had been on the international circuit for awhile interviewing at the fair – one guy said he’d been to ISS, SA, and UNI, and he liked UNI the best because all the people there were much nicer to each other than at the other fairs.


  3. UNI fair in Iowa is a good fair. There are many top tier schools there, as well as other types of schools so this fair has something for experienced international teachers, as well as newbies. Unless you are an experienced couple avoid the early fairs like Bangkok.


  4. Regarding the Bangkok fair: being one of the first ones during the year, most of the Schools will fill the positions that they’re trying to secure since the previous months via skype interviews so, they just attend to secure that deal.
    Other interviews are just to ‘taste the waters’. Many of us had a couple of interviews but we saw a current pattern from schools answers: ”well, as you know, is a bit early for us to decide, we want to talk to other candidates, bla, bla,bla.. ”
    It’s just common sense: there are more fairs to go, they don’t want to close it right there. A person above said it well, ‘they really string you along’, it’s true because even the people I met there who had a great interview outcome, waited for the confirmation of the job after the school finished the next fair.

    Most of the candidates spent the 3 days of the fair just chatting and socializing rather than trying to fetch a position, why? as I said, recruiters won’t invest right away. Search knows this so, they also know you will probably have to attend another fair.
    At the end of the day is all about business 😉
    Unless you already have had a follow up interview with a school attending there, go. Otherwise, don’t waste your money and time.


    1. To say that the early fairs (i.e. Bangkok) do not hire teachers and “they just really string you along” really is operating on a false premise. As an administrator, I will tell you that we hire great candidates the first chance we get. If you are a top candidate that fits our school, we will offer you a job. If you are an average candidate, or the fit is just not quite right, we will hold out for a better candidate/fit at future fairs. If you weren’t offered a contract in Bangkok, then it is more about your candidacy than it is about the fair. That being said, the early fairs, especially in Bangkok are very competitive. Only highly experienced candidates with outstanding references should be confident at these early fairs.


  5. I attended the SA fair in Sydney (it alternates between Sydney and Melbourne – held at the very beginning of January) quite a few years ago with no international experience (but with plenty of experience with remote schools, teaching the regular curriculum with ESL etc) and walked away with 3 job offers, all of which I could have happily taken. None were ‘top tier’ but all were good, reliable schools with decent pay, reasonable conditions and a good reputation. Several people I met, however, received minimal interviews and didn’t get any offers so there’s certainly no guarantee. (Maybe they were aiming too high?)

    Personally, I was disappointed with the cost – both to join SA then the costs involved with the fair – and the dishonesty of many recruiters when it came to what they *said* compared to what they *did*. I felt the conditions put on the candidates (time frames within which to give a response etc) were unfair, especially as the same conditions weren’t put on the recruiting schools. Also, many of the schools that were supposedly going to be there weren’t – despite saying that they wouldn’t be employing until the fair they had already filled the positions via skype interviews etc.

    I’m still happily working at one of the schools that offered me the position back then but will be looking to change in the next couple of years. The fairs will be my absolute last resort when it comes to job hunting. I just don’t think they’re worth the stress and expense.


  6. I think it really depends on your experience, your location and your expectations. Do you want a top tier school? As other posters mentioned above, they were told at Bangkok to come back after getting more experience. If you are not experienced in International teaching, don’t do Bangkok or London fairs! San Fran was the first fair I went to, as a newbie, and I think it was best for that, as I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have experiences or know what I was getting into! I think the Melbourne fair would be a good one as well for newbies. This year, I was going to London, but managed to get a job via a Skype before I even arrived in London.
    For my next recruiting experience, I might not do the fairs. I found this year’s round to be quite frustrating. I was not given an invitation to Bangkok- apparently I wasn’t experienced enough with4 years international teaching, and I had to fight for my London invite. I was told to attend the Australia Search fair, which did not have any of the top tier schools I wanted. I felt that this recruiting process was actually more frustrating using a recruiting company, as the recruiters seemed to only be out for their own, and to make more money off of you attending their fair. I heard some bad stories from friends who attended the London fair- people’s wives who had never taught a day in their lives advising teachers on what schools to work at (well its a horrible school but just take the job).
    But saying all this, out of 4 people leaving from my current school, I am the only one who had registered for a fair with a recruiting company, and I am the only one with a top tier school job- only one with a new job! they are all still searching.


  7. I’ve had more success using sites like TIE and going to the local job pages in places I want to live in.

    I just don’t see any need for fairs in the future as with Skype and other webpages becoming more mainstream. For the top tier schools there will always be people willing to travel to get a face to face interview but for me I have no need to go to fairs. That I don’t have a desire to work at a top tier school.


    1. I would just like to note that for three years I used TIE and emailed, skyped etc, but without any luck. While TIE offers a great service I guess my resume or cover letters, or even just my experience weren’t strong enough to get me in the door. I finally opted for a fair and had much more success.


  8. The Search Assoc. fair in Bangkok is VERY competitive so beware. Luckily I was interviewing with school I set up outside of the fair, but not one school would even agree to interview me. But as was mentioned, be humble and make connections for the future. Several admins told me “Come see me in 2 years when you have more experience.” Yes, networking is key.


  9. I have been to quite a few fairs and on the circuit longer than I would like to mention. All the fairs have their good and bad points like everything else. There are teachers who swear by certain fairs and organizations and also those who swear at them.

    Things have changed a lot over the years and are continuing to change.

    I think it is important to look at your eligability honestly. New teachers; especially if you have never taught abroad before, I would suggest going to later fairs. At that time the schools are quite serious about finding a good fit – that is a teacher for the position that will work with their school environment and be happy living in their country. School sare ready to sign contracts. Admin are more ready to take a chance on an unknown and untested quantity. Early fairs tend to have a lot of more experienced teachers, many of whom have been overseas for years and might well know the administrators from past position. Honestly knowing administrators helps they talk to each other just like we do.

    Often teaching couples have an advantage as the school can fill two positions for the cost of one housing allowance. If you have children then they will occupy seats at the school. For a new school this is a positive as your children add native speakers to the school population as well as numbers. However, if the school is full your children are taking seats from paying customers.

    Lots of schools are doing Skype interviews and hiring outside the fairs now. But joining the agencies gives you access to the lists of schools who have openings. Then you can contact them directly before the fair.

    I hope this helps a little and I have not stepped on too many toes.

    I know their are lots of different opinions out there and hope they have the time to share and correct my poor advice.


  10. There are so many variables to consider! Even after my 2nd round of recruiting fairs I still have only “ideas” about what goes on in the minds of recruiters.

    Here are some things I have learned.

    1. Be realistic with yourself! Recruiters read resumes for a living, they see right through your glamor to the heart of what you are and they are nice only on the surface about it. If you are replacing a person with 20 years of experience in IBDP who wrote one of the text many people use, they most likely are looking for someone similar, they like consistency. (meaning your 2 years at that 3rd tier China school no one has heard of probably won’t even get you an interview)

    2. Pick where you want to go based on what schools are there, and what jobs are available. If you have 1 school available and they hire at a previous fair, you are out a lot of money.

    3. I have Never stayed at the recruiting hotel and I am 2 for 2 in getting jobs at the fairs. Aave a TON of money, use a hostel or sharing website to find a glorious place for a fraction of the cost.

    4. Be open minded. I have a job in a country I never even wanted to go to, let alone live in, but it was fantastic and led me to my next job which I am excited to start in the fall.

    5. Network at these fairs! I met heads of schools at places that had no jobs for me, and know I will see them again. Job interviews where I didn’t get the job do not mean you won’t be a future hire, it just means you were not right, right now. I know several schools which allow people to increase their experience and then approach them later (seriously this is true!)

    6. I have only gone to Bangkok, which everyone says is the toughest fair (I agree, it is brutal! I saw a lot of sadness this fair), but it led me to remember #1. Be realistic! We all want to work at our favorite tier 1 school, but if they are not that into you there is probably a reason (lack of experience, bad reference, or any of a thousand other possibilities). If you are a career educator, take what you can and grow, pick wisely, enjoy your post as much as possible, talk to other teachers, and in your next round of recruiting you will have even more to bring to the table.


    1. I definitely agree that the ISS fair in Bangkok was brutally competitive. Many schools would not even interview us. Additionally, it’s in the beginning of recruiting season, so employers can really string you along before they make a final decision. On the other hand, if you have an incredible resume, you could land your dream job there.


  11. I recently attended the Boston SA…I did not secure one interview, despite having experience matching open positions. So, I would not recommend that one.
    I am thinking about trying ISS next year.


  12. I chose the London SA fair this year because I was told that was where to go if I wanted to work in Europe. It turns out that a large number of jobs in my area were take the week before in Bangkok.

    When you have to sign up several months ahead, it can be hard to know the best fair to attend.


  13. I am new to the scene and planned to attend the Atlanta fair b/c it was close to where I lived. I don’t have the $$ to shell out for several days. But when I looked on ISS at the list of schools attending with openings in my area, I decided that Boston would be a better option. Luckily, I skyped my way to a position in late January and did not have to attend the Boston fair. I was shocked to see how costly these fairs are for teachers. Yikes!! And, why are they spread over so many days? Just seems like they are taking advantage of teachers. I hope I never have to attend one.


  14. My husband and I will be looking for admin positions next year. I noticed that admin are hired early in the season so which fair would be best to attend.


    1. I’d like to know this too as a close to retirement admin person. My niece is just completing her second year if teaching in the UK and wants advice on which fairs are best for newbies


  15. I chose based mostly on which schools were in attendance. It would be nice to know ahead of time which fairs are predominantly for which demographic. Knowing that ahead of time would have saved me some grief as I originally targeted one Search fair but was denied an invite based on being single. Fortunately, I could afford to jump to ISS and had success at the fair that came on the heels of the one I wasn’t allowed to attend.


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