POLL: Should You Depend on a ‘Letter of Intent’?

..Three grueling days at a Recruiting Fair & all you have to show for it is a ‘Letter of Intent.’ The recruiter did say a Contract would be forthcoming, but you wonder … Is this ‘Letter of Intent’ in your hand worth any more than the paper it’s written on?

Weeks, maybe months, pass and you’re still waiting for a Contract or (at the very least) an email congratulating/welcoming you to the faculty. You wonder some more … How long should you wait before you start looking for a back-up plan &/or another job?

‘Letters of Intent’ are offered for 3 common reasons: 1) The person representing a school is not authorized to hire you & has been sent to meet, evaluate & report back to the Board for a final decision. 2) The school is disorganized & can’t get it together to have Contracts ready by recruiting time. Consider this a potential red flag. 3) The school may be recruiting at other Fairs this season & leaving their options open (& you on the line) until all their hiring options are examined.

International Schools Review hosts more than a handful of School Reviews in which teachers recount how they gave up current teaching positions, rented out homes, sold cars and put personal belongings into storage, ALL based on a ‘Letter of Intent,’ while later informed a Contract would not be forthcoming. Schools can easily back out & leave you jobless by simply saying, for example, “One of your references didn’t check out.” One teacher tells how the rejection letter came only one day before she was to board a flight to her new school! Our advice? Don’t put all your trust/future in a ‘Letter of Intent,’ no matter how good it appears!

ISR invites you take our Poll on ‘Letters of Intent’

To Comment, scroll past the Poll

Select Up to Two Choices

16 Responses to POLL: Should You Depend on a ‘Letter of Intent’?

  1. Anonymous says:

    A letter od intent is not a contract and thus not binding. Schools use a letter of intent to aid in the planning of the next academic year. It helps with staffing and teacher allocations and gives better direction to the person who need to set out the plan. Don’t be fooled by a letter of intent. It is not a contract!


  2. chris soda says:

    re: letter of intent. The only “letter of intent” that matters is a dated contract signed by the school that includes a commitment from the employer to pay return airfare if applicable. Anything else is worhtless


  3. Wary says:

    If you go to a recruitment fair run by one of the big organizations, the organizers will tell you that even verbal commitments are binding on the part of both school and teacher. I have worked with both Search Associates and Council of International Schools. They emphasize that if an agreement is made verbally or with a letter of intent, you should email clarification and confirmation with the recruiter and copy the fair organizer on it.

    Now having said that, I wonder how often, if a school reneges, the fair organizers actually hold a penalty for the school. The recruiters pay them much higher fees than the teachers, and teacher interests are not truly on their mind.

    I was at the recent Search Fair in London, and many, many recruiters were filling up their interview time slots with Skype interviews for people who were not attending the fair. My Search Associate basically told me that is their right to try to fill their positions any way possible. If that is the Search Associate’s attitude, then what is the point of paying all that money to go to a fair? Skyping is fine, but during recruitment weekends, recruiters should only be meeting with attendees during the allotted hours. Skype after hours.

    I guess my point is check with your Recruitment Fair Associate, but don’t trust that they will have your back.


  4. Alan Newbigging says:

    So many of your discussions revolve around the obvious fact that it is often very much a ‘one way street’ in favour of the institution….any school run as a ‘for profit’ business is likely to have priorities for things other than staff treatment, conditions and welfare…..stick with reputable schools….ones that are run as ‘trusts’ where the findings goes back into the system.


    • Anon says:

      Well, the reality is that this is true in the case of hundreds of ‘international’ schools. Greedy for-profit owners exploit teachers and don’t have the interest of their students at heart. They also employ unscrupulous and under qualified principals who can’t get jobs in their own countries. Seriously, this is a huge problem and psychologically damaging for teachers who are the victims in this situation.


  5. PR says:

    I was offered a letter of intent, and told it was binding, and the school came through just fine. The superintendent was the one who would provide the contract, and she was not at the job fair. I think one would also need to consider the school offering the letter. If it was a well-known, reputable school, well known in the top international circles (which mine was) I would feel a lot more confident than if I was a less well-known school.


    • Wary says:

      I agree with this. Many schools don’t have the contract at the recruitment fair, but offer the letter of intent and then send the contract. However, you also have to be familiar enough with the reputation of the school. I also suggest when offered a letter of intent to ask your recruitment associate about it and what it means.


  6. omgarsenal says:

    Letters of intent are just that, simply the equivalent of a verbal promise to seriously consider you until something better comes along OR they discover they don’t need you at the moment.
    They are NOT contracts, nor legally binding documents, whose validity can at least be contested, if not enforced. Due diligence is fine but you can NEVER be sure a school is serious until you get a firm contract in English and the language of the country you will work in. At that time you need to have an expert legal opinion on both contracts:

    1) whether they essentially say the same thing,
    2)are both binding in that country or is it just the native language version,
    3)what are your options IF they do the dirty deed and refuse to honour the contracts,
    4)not burning your bridges until you are CERTAIN that you are going to be hired and that you have the visa and apartment keys in your hand!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. me back home says:

    I was not offered a letter of intent but rather a verbal promise. After months of calling and repeatedly talking with the director he finally sent me an email that he had hired a couple without a child. Even if I had a letter of intent I think the outcome would have been the same. If you have a contract and the school is incorporated in the USA or England, for example, for tax purposes, then you can bring legal proceeding against them for loss of income, etc. If the director is a citizen of either country you can go after him, his house, his bank account.


  8. RD says:

    I think it depends on the school. I didn’t sign my official contract at my school until I arrived. It has something to do with Mexican law and paperwork. And yet I’m here and so is everyone I work with. So it really comes down to whether the school is trustworthy or not.


  9. mautio1 says:

    I also have experienced that admin will not write letters of employment for exemplary staff members. At one school, 16 teachers left in one year, 12 the next. None were given letters. Instead, the next school doing the hiring must call said school and request letters of employment, length of employment, job description, and the teacher’s competency in the job.


    • Horrified says:

      Yes, fairly common and very unprofessional and vindictive.


      • Anonymous says:

        “Very unprofessional and vindictive.” I think I am very professional and supportive, but I would never write an open reference about any teacher. Nor would I give any credence to one I read that was provided to a teacher wanting to work in my school. Open references aren’t worth the paper they are written on, because they are all, invariably, lovefests for obvious reasons.


        • Anonymous says:

          Are you saying that there is a level where hypocrisy is rampant and acceptable? I hope you are wrong and that many other Principals actually trust open references. On the practical side, would you contact a former supervisor who’s retired? Would an admin accept to be contacted by phone years after retirement? On another side, that is giving very little credit to Principals and teachers, don’t you think?


          • Anonymous says:

            As it happens, more and more administrators refuse to give open letters, which is “a good thing”. Have you ever seen an open reference that wasn’t wholly complimentary? I haven’t. Adults find it extremely difficult to be fully frank and fair – and transparent at the same time. They know that if they say something critical in a letter and then show it to the person concerned, there will be bruised feelings, an inquest and lots of residual pain. My closed references are generous but truthful ane administrators who read them know that they are trustworthy. That serves everyone well.


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