How ‘Fair’ are Recruiting Fairs for Expat Teachers?

needajob15470498For educators currently living/teaching overseas, recruiting fairs are risky business. First off, you must resign your current teaching position. Then, shell out thousands of dollars to attend a recruiting venue you think offers the best chance to land a job. There are no guarantees!

Should your recruiting efforts yield anything less than a contract in hand, you’re potentially facing upcoming unemployment, and without the necessities of life in place to return to in your own country. Just the thought of such consequences is stressful.

   Looming unemployment was my situation after resigning a position in Guatemala & failing to find a position at the ISS Fair. Each & every school which had expressed interest earlier in the season had filled all the positions I was qualified to teach by the time they got to the venue. I did then scramble to find schools I thought might be a good fit & managed to secure 2 interviews. I left the fair with a firm handshake & a promise of a contract, which 2 loooong months later turned out to be empty words, leaving me with no job, no home, no car, no insurance, no school for our children…..disaster!

  When you’re currently living in your own country & decide to attend an international teaching recruiting fair, it’s simpler. You go to the fair & if you find a job, just inform your current boss you’re leaving. But for teachers currently overseas who risk financial/emotional security to attend a recruiting event, the stakes seem unreasonably high. Especially so since no one seems to care enough about educators’ well being to send an email saying, “Oh, by the way, we filled the position you were interested in.”

    Is there a solution to this dilemma? Or, as some international educators have suggested, are we really just disposable commodities to be traded with little regard for our well-being? ISR suggests international schools at least have the ethical decency to update candidates as to the continued availability (or not) of advertised openings & do so on a continual, daily basis. Something as simple as posting to a web page would accomplish this & spare many educators costly, often devastating surprises. What do YOU think?

Comments &/or Solutions Are Invited

35 thoughts on “How ‘Fair’ are Recruiting Fairs for Expat Teachers?

  1. I find it odd that schools require a resignation before being allowed to attend a fair. I am the recruiter at my school in Thailand and I have never required that.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to see what is out there if one is unsure about staying where they’re at after their contract. It seems so disrespectful of a teacher’s autonomy.


  2. Lot’s of interesting comments- do what works for you. Some years are super competitive. The one job fair I went to, the posted jobs were gone by the time the fair arrived. This may be ok if you are willing to ‘take an adventure’ but not with dependents or concerns about being in a certain geographical area.

    Doing your research and applying to schools directly can also work. The dates are going back further and my Director told me this year was the craziest he has seen; 1100 applicants. He was getting emails and CV’s in oct. before there was any thought to advertising.

    I refuse to go to a Fair now as they are filled with Middle East and Asia jobs that I have no interest in. I have had Skype interviews and even missed 2 jobs by 1 day; I had the job but the Director hired at the Fair before talking to the Principal back at school! I refuse to pay 2000 + dollars to interview with the 1 or 2 schools I’m interested in.

    Love the comment about ‘realistic’ advertising as teachers are a commodity. Having been in the biz overseas, it astonishes me at the amount of crazies that get hired when I know there are so many good people out there. How can we fix that?

    What really bugs me is that schools no longer update their websites for available jobs. I can do research but often the schools now only show vacancies through Search, ISS or TIE. TES is ok if you want British Curriculum schools. For this reason, I recommend people share the passwords because you don’t get the whole picture! I compare Search and TIE but school don’t want to pay more than 1 fee but teachers have to for the big picture.

    I like the idea of ISS adding Skype fairs and I like the idea of doing fairs organized by region i.e.. A Fair for Latin America and the fair for the Middle East.


  3. I got my first 2 int’l school jobs — both solid schools — through Skype, without attending a fair.

    The first time around I just had a TIE subscription; the second time, I registered with Search. My associate actively discouraged me from attending a fair when looking for my second job, citing lack of experience. I still got a great job by Chinese New Year just through TES and Skype.

    This time around I decided to try a fair and received an invitation to Bangkok. I had air miles for the flight and was able to afford the fair hotel — however, there were plenty of great hotel options within walking distance for a fraction of the price.

    To be honest, I loved the experience. It was incredibly exciting. I did a lot of great networking. This was mostly with other teachers but I did make some connections with recruiters which may be useful in future. Overall I felt it was a great experience.

    I didn’t put any pressure on myself when attending the fair. If I hadn’t been able to afford it, I wouldn’t have gone.

    The schools I encountered at the fair seemed to take the same attitude. They were far from being so desperate that they were counting on fair-attending candidates. Far from it, I got the impression that they were going to select the best candidate regardless of whether they met them face to face or just over Skype.

    So far this recruiting season I have done more than 10 Skype interviews and ended up turning down 3 offers which I didn’t feel were right for me. A fourth offer is on the table now — TIE and Skype — which I will probably accept.


  4. Job fairs for expat teachers are incredibly stressful. What other profession requires one to resign their job before being able to seek or being assured of another job?


  5. I think the fairs have become a big money maker for the ones that put them on. I don’t think thevorganizers are all that interested in the teachers. I was at one where the organizer said something about not making negative comments about the recruiters. The recruiters are arrogant. The cost of flights has become extremely expensive. They hold them at fancy hotdls. It’s also interesting to me that these administration don t even spend much time in the country they live in as about 1/4 is spent coming to the US to recruit. If the schools were any good which so many are not then they’d try to keep teachers bug every year it’s the same large number of schools looking for teachers.


  6. I imagine any of us would like to be fired, so I understand we should not do the same to our school. If you want to leave a school for another one, the reasons to leave should be more important to you that the reasons to stay If I were a head of school I would not want to have faculty who stays just because they do not have somethings else. IF you want other to be good with you you should be good with others


  7. My husband and I have been in a similar situation. Attending a fair is complete crap shoot. I have found that most schools just don’t care about the thousands of teachers waiting for a redponse. We’ve obtained contracts through job fairs and Skype interviews. I think in the future I might not tell my current school I’m leaving and try to obtain another contract in secrecy. It’s just way too stressful to resign a position in November and then not know what your employment prospects are for months. I feel like the schools always have the upper hand and we have to play along with it.


    1. Not telling the current school you are leaving sounds like a reasonable strategy ONLY if you plan to do interviews via Skype. That strategy worked only once for me.
      On the other hand, the Fairs are usually organized during our regular working schedule, and you will need to take a day or so off from your job to fly to the Fair site, even if it is on a weekend.Your absence from school, even if you’ve applied to take personal days, or whatever, will be suspicious because of the timing. If the site is nearby your city and you can just attend the slated weekend days, be careful you do not run into one of your bosses who may be there recruiting.
      It’s like Las Vegas where the house always wins, just substitute the word ”schools” here.


    2. Trying to recruit for a new job in secrecy is not a recommended option, unless you are happy to do it without listing your current school or using any of them as references. Schools recruiting you would be highly suspicious of the gap in your employment and would ask your older references why you left (O, she left for her present job in ….). If they don’t figure it out……..well do you don’t likely want to teach at a school who puts so little effort into recruiting, and you’d have to lie about your past for the time you’re there.
      Still sound like a good option?


  8. Recruiting fairs are terrible. You spend so much money to go and then find out the same few jobs are being offered at all ISS and Search fairs. Many recruiters play games and string out their decisions so they can attend all the fairs from January until April. Very difficult situation. I wish everyone would go to virtual recruitment fairs because at least then you aren’t out $2000 in airfair and $500 in hotel.


  9. For me, recruiting fairs are what I consider a necessary evil. I have found 5 positions through fairs and 2 on my own through the use of email. Fairs are a big outlay of money for the teachers but the directors are treated like royalty with a refreshment room full off food and beverages and preferential treatment. But, if your think of it, teachers will come and go and so will directors but the schools will continue on and on and a good word from the leader once back at the farm will prompt the school to continue to send successive directors to future fairs.

    I will say that when I attend a recruiting fair I know what it’s like to be a fish in a pay pond.


  10. Hmmm? Unfortunately we, as teachers, are becoming commodities and we are hired and let go far too easily. With so many schools and so many teachers, the aim of the game is to fill posts with a person who is ‘on paper’ employable rather than encourage people to commit to a school. I have noticed over the years there is less and less attention paid to who you are and what you can do and more on filling posts earlier and earlier. However, this works both ways. I hear of so many people being ‘blacklisted’ for agreeing to stay and then leaving, and this is an over-used threat in my opinion. I have not heard of this being a career ending issue for people (let me know if I am wrong)…a decent school would look beyond this for a good teacher and realize that schools are being unfair and avoiding the reality of a teacher’s situation. The ‘fill up positions by November’ schools can take a hike for me. I am at a school now which asks teachers to sign for the following year in October. However, they encourage teachers to return and re-sign in the event they don’t find what they are looking for (although they can’t guarantee a position, but they still encourage an application). A refreshing acceptance and grasp of the reality for international teachers and one which is reciprocated with teacher honesty and integrity (and commitment to the children for the rest of the year) – look for one of these schools and let the others fight it out for the teachers who are inadvertently encouraged to ’emotionally’ leave a post 9 months before their final contract date.


  11. I entered the international market five years ago at the age of 55 primarily to give my two young boys the opportunity to have an international education and to see the world. Since then we’ve lived and worked in three countries in very different parts of the globe, enjoying the culture and the traditions of each. Now we’re off again, back to a land that we first fell in love with when we first started this venture. And, it all happened because of employment fairs. At 60 I was still able to interview with 8 different schools, I had four job offers and I networked and talked with some great administrators and fellow teachers. A fair can be a moment of professional growth and a chance to reassess where you are in your career. Now, I have three dependents, two children and my wife is not a teacher, but my credentials are competitive none-the-less. Three of the schools I interviewed with questioned if they could pay me enough for us to live well, a serious consideration. There are so many factors for schools to considered before making an offer and the amount of applications they receive is staggering. True, it’s frustrating to not know the status of your application, to go to a fair and not come away with a contract, to have to inform your current school that you are not returning the following year without having a new job lined up, but this is the nature of the international school industry. Think about the turn over these schools face yearly, the ever-changing local governmental policies, its got to be tough heading up these schools and I think, for the most part, its all done pretty well. Teaching in the international community is a risk, you have to be adventurous, and confident, and know what you can bring to the table. I find that a positive, energetic, and sincere and genuine attitude and posture wins out in the end. I don’t ask what the school can give to me (until its time to sign) but what I can give to the school. My only advice is, that if you do go to a fair, see it as an opportunity not just for a job but for professional growth, don’t be desperate, be calm, be personable and above all have a great time!


  12. I don’t understand what some of you mean by “don’t resign until you have another contract”, do you mean sign on for another year at your present school while looking for a new position at the same time, then letting down your present school if and when you secure a new job? This seems very underhand and not principled. If we don’t want schools to treat us badly then we also should not knowingly lead a school on. Having integrity is important to me. I agree it is difficult if you have to give your school an answer before new jobs are even advertised, it is a very nail biting time. I’m not sure what the answer is though.

    I agree with jdobbe, you need a contract and not just a handshake or a verbal promise. I’m sorry you were treated badly by the recruitment fair organisers,


  13. I read these posts and smile – not because I’ve been fortunate with the jobs I’ve had – but because none of you seem to have struggled with the kind of ‘fair’ that I have had to struggle with. Try attending a job fair where recruiters turn you away because of the colour of your skin. I attended the Search Fair in London and boy, was it an eye opener. Schools that left me invitations for interviews (having looked at my name and qualifications/experience) were left mumbling when they found a brown skinned person standing in front of them. I understand why schools want teachers from the west — from my (Indian) point of view, a fair skin and an American/English accent are some of the biggest qualifications in the world. Unfortunately, it often is Asian parents who want their children taught by people from the west. The old colonial mentality continues to plague us. I constantly feel I have to prove that I, with my brown skin, can do everything as well, if not better than my fair skinned colleagues can. Not only are we discriminated against because of our skin colour and accent, but also on the basis of our passport. If I were to work at an international school in India or in the Middle East, I know I will get a lower salary than my foreign colleagues will get only because of who I am. Fair and unfair have so many dimensions to it. (I must add that I am a language teacher. I do know that science and maths teachers from India seem to have fewer problems).


    1. The Truth is that this is an ugly truth that most teachers/directors/school boards would rather look the other side and pretend that ‘it is not happening’ – I equate it with sexism in the early years (still an issue), and also religion – basically social differences that the society tend to shy away from.

      Politics also does play a major role – when you consider EU /US passport holders Vs. Non EU/US passport holders.
      Funny here: the EU /US citizens work in Africa as expats but Africans despite their qualifications cannot work in EU or US as expats teachers.

      Check point: I have 2 post grad qualifications, thoroughly experienced in the IB curriculum (Examiner, workshop leader, accreditation visitor) but can I work in an IB school within the Eurozone? No. Why? ‘We only hire EU passport holders’. Can an EU member work in Africa with the SAME qualifications? YES- actually on a middle or higher management level.


    2. Otieno – One of the reasons EU schools tend to hire EU teachers is due to later hiring and Visa requirements. Schools in the EU are subject to EU labor laws so teachers can give notice 3 months before the end of the contract i.e. before the end of April. Acquiring new visas for replacing those teachers can for some countries take 6 months or more. For alot of schools it is not practical to hire a teacher who does not already have a right to work in the EU. My current school (IB school) in the EU doesn’t take that approach and not all do. IF they only hire teachers with EU passports or current visas then those schools are generally up front about it.
      MY current school has teachers with US, UK, EU, Canadian, Russian, HK and Australian passports. Is it easier if they hire people who already have the right to work here? Yes. Is that the only thing they are looking at? No.


    3. SG- I think that both of us agree on one aspect which I was highlighting: ‘EU passport-holding’ is one of the MAIN qualifications to work in EU countries – in any profession, not only teaching. It is not entirely the school boards / directors /school owners choice to have this as one of the main ‘qualifications’ – this is dictated upon them by the EU politician that have put that ‘elaborate’ EU visa rule, purportedly to safe guard EU countries on unemployment levels.

      The irony is: the same EU citizens have a free-fall when it comes to working in Asia or Africa as expats 🙂

      Finally I admire the question that you posed: “Is it easier if they hire people who already have the right to work here? Yes.” – that is something 🙂


    4. You nailed it! The situation is worse if you are African. Am baffled by the ironies in some International schools.


  14. I have found the most success in applying directly to the schools you want to work at or use some of the excellent International Teaching recruitment agencies. The more prestigious schools are certainly using them more. I secured a position with Harrow school using an agency for next academic year.


  15. I have never been to a job fair, and I don’t think I ever will. The cost, in terms of transport, accommodation, food etc. is very high. And it is a pressure-cooker recruiting environment. Competition is fierce, for a limited number of jobs, and there is little time for doing due diligence and to consider other options. Getting a job over the internet has always worked for me. It is much more flexible, and there is no cost. Seems like a no-brainer to me …


  16. This forum has not the nail on the head! I can’t think of any other profession where you have to resign many months before having a job!

    We targetted and applied to about 12 schools this time around. We heard had interviews with two and heard back from two others saying no thanks. I don’t was to sound pretentious but we are coming with 10 years of experience at top international schools and we were applying to some less than top schools and still nothing. It makes me think the schools have the person in mind before they advertise.

    Oh well, we have a great job for next year at a fantastic school with very supportive administration, in a great place so I can’t be too cynical.


  17. I got my last two jobs through old-fashioned applications. I went to my first job fair this time around. By the time I got there, many of the jobs I was originally interested in were already filled. Luckily, I still got a good post from the small number of positions on offer. I’m not sure if I would do it again, but it worked out this time. One school never contacted me to tell me that the position had been given to another candidate – I only found out via the fair’s email update about positions filled.


  18. Disposable commodity needed to teach year 10 Science. Well being will be advocated but not delivered and being taken for granted is a requirement. Now that’s an ad.


  19. Several years ago my husband and I left an interview with only a handshake. When we asked for a contract or something official the interviewers just laughed and said, “our handshake is our bond, or some such nonsense.” We didn’t feel right about it so we interviewed with another school and when they offered us jobs they had us sign contracts right there and then. When we informed the other school right away that we couldn’t take jobs at their school (we were still at the fair) they went to the fair organizers and we ended up getting blackballed by the organization. Thankfully, we have never needed to go back to any of their fairs and we still would never leave a fair without a contract in hand.


  20. My daughter and son-in-law used fairs to get one good international teaching assignment, and then three years later, a better one. By contrast, I used a low-cost service that generated job two initial job offers, one of which I accepted. Two years later, at the end of the contract, I used that same service to obtain two other jobs. Since then, national age restrictions pre-empted job offers I had accepted. In other words, use what works for you.

    By the way, it is NEVER good to quit a job until you have a solid offer in hand. Even then, “things happen.” Years ago, I accepted a job in aerospace… only to learn on the day I was to start that “Skybolt was canceled; all job offers are rescinded.” ###


    1. Of course it is smart practice to avoid resigning one job until you have the next job secured. Unfortunately, most international schools expect that you inform them by Christmas if you intend to accept a new contract, and most jobs are not then advertised until after that time. The reality is that most international teachers have to resign one job before they get the next one.


  21. I agree with Wilbert. I would never resign a job in order to interview. And I do not think teachers need to, in this day and age of technology (i.e. Skype). All educators, and all employees in general, can be replaced. So we need to look out for ourselves first and foremost.


    1. I have a close friend who has been interviewing at other schools all year. She did not secure a job by Christmas, so she signed a contract for another year at her current position. She continued interviewing with other schools after signing the contract and when an interested school contacted the director of our school for a reference he would not give her a reference because she had signed a contract already and would be breaking that contract. She lost the job she wanted because she did not resign at the start of hiring season. She tried to look out for herself, as you suggest, and it obviously did not work out very well for her. I think you would be surprised how many directors are looking out for themselves, first and foremost, and are bitter when they find out employees want to leave their school.


    2. Nicole, I am not at all surprised by your story. Indeed, I assume schools always look out for themselves first. Which is why I have a file of written letters of recommendation (from previous directors and coworkers) available all the time, so as to prevent a school from being able to deny providing a recommendation.


  22. I think that to continue to rely on fairs and the people staffing them to do what is best for you as a teacher or administrator searching for a positions is foolish.

    I personally wouldn’t pay for a fair. If I can’t get a job through my connections and contacting schools directly, then I’m not going to play the game. I know too many people who wouldn’t consider a fair yet have many options every time that they decide to move schools.

    I really don’t understand why anyone would pay to put themselves in the situation described in this article. Until a person demands to be treated better than that, there will be no shortage of people willing to treat them that way.


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