Choosing the Right Recruiting Agency and Fair

q-and-aChoosing the right Recruiting Agency and Job Fair can, and will, make all the difference between landing the perfect International teaching job or spending another year stuck in a rut you may deplore. If you’re new to International teacher recruiting, the chances are good that you have questions and/or concerns. You most likely are also looking for someone knowledgeable to ask.

Questions such as the difference between big Recruiting Agencies and how they compare to smaller Agencies, or the best Fair for a newbie, or which Fair to find a specific position (i.e. in Spanish-speaking countries) are inquires ISR receives on a regular basis. Many teachers are also looking for insight into the support they can expect to receive from a recruiter after they plunk down their money.

Choosing the Right Recruiting Agency and Fair is our newest ISR Blog venue, created in response to readers’ requests for a place to ask questions and get answers about Recruiting Agencies, their representatives and their Fairs. Teachers Keeping Each Informed is what ISR is All About! Your participation will be well appreciated by colleagues around the world.

Please...NO  no-gossipno-life-story

Note: Do you have a question about your chances of finding a job based on your own very unique qualifications & circumstances? If so, this is not the right Blog for you. Please post such questions to the ISR Forum where the number of responses has been impressive. (Example: “I have two kids, a degree in art & a husband who works from home….” ISR Forum)

17 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Recruiting Agency and Fair

  1. Interesting. I have now signed up with the Council of International Schools Fair, London because after careful analysis of the data banks of both CIS and Search, I found that, being an IB PYP teacher, there were more vacancies for this area, or at least the same amount at the CIS Fair and I would not have to pay a huge amount of money for nothing.
    I also agree that the Search associates do not help and do teachers really need to be judged by non teachers as to whether they are good or not or sellable or not! The Search Associates Fair is, I am told, a cattle market and one friend told me that schools haggle over teachers according to their needs. However, I have also been told that this is the better fair to go to if you want to land a job and do not care where.
    Here wishing all of you good luck with your job search.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with the previous poster in that both companies offered similar fairs – both high pressure job fairs. But my experience with ISS was just a tad better than my most recent Search fair. Best to look at the dates and city that works best for you. AND of course go with an open mind where you might accept a position. In both job fairs that I’ve attended, I ended up teaching in entirely different countries than I had originally though possible.


  3. I found six positions at ISS fairs in the US. It’s been some time since I recruited so I’m sorry to say I don’t remember which fairs I attended. I’ve had good luck with ISS and they have treated me just fine. Lots of top level schools recruit through ISS so it’s a good place to find a really good school. I did sign up one year with Search and had planned to use them as a back-up if I didn’t find a job at the ISS fair. The Search fair was in the same city and started the day after the ISS fair. I found a position at the ISS fair and the director said he would give me three days to accept or decline – I told him I wanted to check out the Search fair and he knew his school was in a part of the world not on my list of place to visit, let alone live. I went to the Search fair and quickly realized there was nothing that compared to the package of the school that offered me a job. I called the director that evening and accepted. He said he had been expecting my call. It turned out the be a really good experience for me and I actually ended up loving living in Pakistan.

    The best advice is go into these fairs with an open mind and don’t close yourself off to opportunities. Sometimes what we think we are looking for is so limiting that we become hindrances to ourselves and miss out on life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will give you an administrator’s perspective. I have recruited for three different schools over 10 years. This is in addition to recruiting as candidate three times.

    It is definitely true that recruiting has changed in the past ten to twenty years. When I started as a candidate twenty years ago the vast majority of all hiring was done through the job fairs. Today more than half of all hiring is done outside of the fairs. However, it is premature to say hiring fairs will become extinct. The number of fairs has increased significantly over the past five years and the larger ISS and Search fairs; Bangkok, London, Cambridge are larger than ever and cannot accommodate all the teachers who want to attend.

    The question of should you attend a fair is a personal decision. How do you decide? If you are only looking at a couple of schools, will only consider a specific region of the world, have two or more children and a non-teaching spouse, I would not recommend you go to a fair.

    If you are open to the possibilities and are willing to put yourself out there, I would highly recommend a fair. They can be very exciting. Quality teachers, particularly in high need areas, can get 6, 8, or 10 interviews in 36 hours. Many of them will have multiple offers. You can network with candidates and recruiters. You can get first hand information on what it is like to work and live in the different countries.

    To those who think recruiting fairs are so form of fancy vacation for recruiters have no clue what they are talking about. I have never held back from hiring someone so I can go on to the next fair. I want to hire the best teachers and then go home to my family. Recruiters work 12 to 16 hours a day leading up to and through the fair, then have to travel to the next site, while still dealing with the issues back at school. For us, outside of a one or two dinners out, it is just one hotel to the next.

    Going back to the original question, if you are going to attend a fair, which one should you attend, below is a summary of the different fairs I attended as a recruiter.

    ISS Bangkok – tends to be smaller with fewer schools and candidates, some schools will wait to the Search Bangkok fair as it is larger and right after this one. Schools will focus on hiring IB teachers, math, science, and couples at this fair.

    Search Bangkok – very large 500 plus candidates, but over 100 schools, mostly from Asia and Middle East, but also a few from Europe, Africa and South America. Very competitive fair. Teachers with limited experience will find it difficult. Schools will focus on hiring IB teachers, math, science, and couples at this fair.

    University of Northern Iowa – large fair but a significant percentage are university graduates, so teachers with some experience have an advantage. Good number of schools with a large number from South American and Middle East. Top tier schools have just started attending in recent years. A high percentage of candidates receive offers here. Can be complicated if it is scheduled at the same time as Search Cambridge as you may have one interview face to face at UNI and the other by Skype with a recruiter in Cambridge.

    Search Cambridge – about 450 candidates and 120 plus schools. All geographic regions are represented. Some of the top tier schools have filled all or most of their positions by this point. Recruiters will offer contracts at this fair. Single candidates can do well here. They also invite new teachers to apply as interns at this fair.

    First ISS Fair – often in Boston, but has been in San Francisco. Tends to be a bit smaller 300 to 400 candidates. Many top tier schools have hired all their positions or only have one or two left. Single teachers and teachers with fewer years of experience can do well here. In a scheduling quirk, this fair is before Search Cambridge this year. Normally, it is right after.

    Search and ISS San Francisco – smaller fairs 250 to 300 candidates. Do not count on jobs being advertised in January still being around by this fair. Top tier and some 2nd tier schools are finished by this point. Offers will come quickly. Quality teachers tend to have multiple offers. This is a good fair for teachers with multiple dependents.

    This is one person’s perspective.

    Overseas teaching is a great life. You have the chance to live in so many great places and travel to countries on a week-end that some people save a lifetime to go. The best advice I can give is keep an open mind. There are many hidden gems, places with great living conditions that you may not heard of or even knew existed. Do not be scared off by CNN. Do your research.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This was so helpful! We’ve accepted invitations to Search BKK and Search Cambridge and your post has given us a much more well rounded view of where the schools will be in regards to their hiring process. Thank you 🙂


  5. Got the T-Shirt, I’ve posted before about some of the differences between the recruiters:

    I’m with many of the other posters in the respect that I do not intend to go to a job fair if at all possible.

    If I changed my mind one day, I would try to go to more regionally specific fairs like AASSA for South and Central America. Or perhaps since I’m planning on spending quite a bit of time in Latin America I will want a change of pace and aim for a fair in Europe.

    I think the best approach would be to use your network first to apply to jobs directly, email schools you are interested in to secure an interview, and if that doesn’t work, then register with Search or ISS to gain access to their database and hope a school contacts you.

    I’m at school 4 and I’ve managed to avoid a single international job fair! Being a curious person, I am tempted just to attend a fair one year during my job search because I want to see what it’s like first hand.

    -Amanda at


  6. When I was going to my first job fair I asked my friend, who was a principal, where I should go. He told me to attend a job fair in Waterloo, IA. Shortly after I found out there was a fair one hour away from me in San Diego. I asked him, “Why Waterloo?” He told me that I probably wouldn’t get hired at any other job fair because I had no experience. I’m on my 3rd school now and I really don’t understand this job fair process still. At the first one no one wanted me but on the last day three schools were scrambling for me. I took the one that offered me a 10 year pay scale (even though I had no experience. I also got three more offers after the event from schools that didn’t even meet me. My second job wasn’t from a job fair, I was on Search Associates website and a school, that I didn’t even apply for, contacted me for a Skype interview. For my 3rd job I sent my resume to schools listed on Search and tried to set up interviews but all of the schools told me to go to a fair. Part of me wonders if the administrators just like getting the free travel. It really doesn’t seem very practical from any other stand point.


  7. I personally think the recruitment fairs are not very honest. Many schools I talked to in January Bangkok Search told me they will go to all the SEARCH and ISS fairs (Sydney, London, January Bangkok) and then make their decision.

    I did accept one of the offers I had at Search Bangkok so perhaps the $3,500 it cost to get to the fair paid off? It still seems wrong to me to pay so much money to find a job since teachers are not compensated at the same level as other expat international hires.

    So while it looks like a lot of job openings at fairs it really is not. It is just the same job pool being advertised at multiple fairs.

    Unless a recruitment fair is happening convenient to where I am teaching I have decided I will not go to any more. I do not know of any other profession where we are expected to spend up to $4000 (airfare, hotel, food) or more out of our own pocket to go to beg for a job.

    10 years ago there was a glut of international jobs and not enough candidates. Schools were very aggressive hiring at fairs and hired early and quick. Now there is a flood of qualified teachers competing for a small pool of open positions so schools can play more games of attending all fairs and waiting to hire after they have seen all the candidates.

    One school made me very angry by stringing me on with 2 skype interviews, written questions, and then suggesting I pay $800 to fly and meet their director who was visiting a school that was 2 countries away from where I was teaching. Then that same school agreed to meet me in January at the Bangkok fair. When I got to their table they told me they had already hired. They could have sent me an email to say they hired instead of stringing me along! Honesty is best. Let’s see financially what is a better gamble? Pay $800 plus hotel and food to see 1 school or pay for a fair? I don’t know.

    We teachers are too nice and put up with whatever all for the sake of the children. It is time we stop and demand that we NOT have to pay our money to find a position! Imagine that the average teacher changes jobs every 5 years (most I know change jobs every 2 years). That would mean over a career of 30 years conservatively and without adjusting for inflation the teacher could shell out $24,000 of their own money to attend fairs! Of course the money depends upon the cost of the airfare and may be lower and may be higher.

    I hope more and more schools will be open to skype interviews but unfortunately many heads of school view these fairs as a way to get their airfare paid to a desirable vacation location like Sydney, Bangkok, London, etc.


  8. We used Search Associates a few years ago; and then more recently used ISS. They are quite similar — competitive pressures move them close together in terms of price and offerings. In our case, we found ISS more amenable and personally helpful, but I think it comes down to luck more than institutional difference. Note that ISS is but the recruiting arm of a bigger educational services company, whereas Search is solely a recruiting company. ISS runs some schools themselves. I recommend: look intently at both, then go with your instinct to sign up with one. It may also come down to the timing/location of their jobfair.
    Much as many writers pooh-pooh old-fashioned jobfairs, I think they are exhilirating for both hirers and searchers, giving us a sense of context in our little life bubble. Most of us are being hired for face-to-face jobs, so it makes sense to have personal contact before hiring. Video is a cheap substitute–if video hiring is good enough, then so is video teaching.


  9. Recruitment fairs are an excellent network opportunity for school principals. A top tier school would be lucky to make 3 appointments a year through these fairs. Let’s be honest, how this model of “speed dating” recruitment still exists is madness. Do you see any other profession secure workers like this?

    Line yourself with a reputable recruiter (talk to friends/colleagues) who understands what you are looking for & communicates effectively. Be realistic of what your value is in the marketplace (eg. you hold the right amount & type of experience that is in demand, do you have the right qualifications for the location you are looking to work in & understand the sort of role/salary package you can expect in the country you are looking to work in).

    Have a covering letter & CV that sells you in the best possible light. Have referees who are reliable to get back to reference requests as references hold more weight abroad due to it being sight unseen employment.

    It is a highly competitive space now particularly if you want to work in the popular locations with the majority wanting to target top tier schools. Be realistic that you will need to work your way up in a school as well much like you would need to do back home.


  10. Search has been fine for us but these job fairs must be on their way out. They are archaic and a waste of money for teachers (not so much the recruiters). We have already seen that ISS are doing an e-fair in November and there are a group of 40 or so schools around the world getting together to trial a “job-pool” this year.

    I, for one, am planning on never signing up to a recruiter or attending a job fair again.


  11. I was happy with Search based out of Toronto. Ray Sparks was very personable and helpful. He was very honest about the 2 schools we were considering. The Toronto Fair however is quite small, with lower tiered schools. We felt we got a job with a good school in Dubai, DAA, but the other options were not so great. Nice little fair if you are from the Toronto area, otherwise go to Boston or the Queen’s Fair. The Queen’s Fair which is independent is pretty good in regards to school options, but still not quite the large fair. It isn’t as overwhelming as going to one of the massive fairs where some people might feel lost. Just my opinion….


  12. Can anyone tell me the basic difference between ISS and Search Associates. I am trying to decide which one to go with and could use a little help. Is there another agency I should check out? Thanks in advance


    1. Search assigns you an associate that works with you. Each associate has a group of teachers they work with. Your associate will approve or decline your request to attend a specific fair. If it’s a highly competitive fair and you have meager qualifications the chances are you won’t get to go to that fair. Keep in mind that the associate only makes money when you get hired. Search can be very good and my associate worked with me and got me into what I thought was the best fair.

      ISS is different in that you just sign up for the fair of your choice and go for it. Also as mentioned in a different post on this blog, Search is a dedicated recruiting agency while recruiting is just one part of the ISS group. I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either of them. I would base my decision on where the fairs are held in relationship to where you must travel from to get there, time of year, possible weather conditions (you could get snowed out in some places) and are the school slated to attend from places that interest you and which fair has the most schools with positions in your subject. Do keep in mind that positions close prior to the fairs.

      There are loads of variables to consider. Think it through and weigh your options. Then jump in with both feet.


    2. Take the Search “Associates” with a grain of salt. We’ve been with Search for over 10 years and our associate has never, ever, done one thing to help us get a job. She is a point of contact and we send her the checks but other than that she has never been particularly helpful, responsive, friendly or understanding. Overall we are happy with the database and the options for fairs but the associate experience continues to be a negative.


    3. Totally agree about the Search Associates experience. I have participated in the UNI fair in Iowa (wonderful for first-timers, especially, I thought) and LOVED ISS but the woman at Search wasn’t honest, helpful or professional. Never going with Search again!


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