Survey: Are Recruiting Fairs Headed for Extinction?

In recent years, droves of educators have opted to abandon high-priced, time-consuming, Recruiting Fairs and instead, rely on digital platforms such as Skype for landing international teaching positions. The ease and ability to interview for schools in foreign lands without physically being present has certainly changed the recruiting game!

To help keep International Educators abreast of trends in teacher recruiting, ISR periodically conducts recruiting-related Surveys designed to help YOU make informed decisions on how best to approach your next job search.

The first ISR Recruiting Fair Survey dates back to 2013 and revealed just 34.6% of participants found new overseas teaching positions without attending Recruiting Fairs. Jump forward two years and the same Survey in 2015 showed a full 46% of educators found overseas teaching positions outside of Recruiting Fairs. Recruiting Fairs appear to be fading in popularity.

Fast Forward to 2019
Are Recruiting Fairs continuing to sink in popularity or has there been a resurgence in popularity? ISR cordially requests your participation in our 2019 Recruiting Fair Survey, the results of which will help colleagues around the globe better plan their recruiting strategy for the 2019 – 2020 season. Your participation is well appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Click the “View Results” link (just above) for up-to-date results

2019 Recruiting Fair Survey Results

+ 477 educators participated in the ISR Survey
+ 43% did not attend a Fair and used a digital platform to land a job
+ 8% found a position through networking
+ 19% attended a Fair but only about 1/2 of this group found jobs
+ 4% said they tried on their own but did not find a job
* 26% reported they did not go recruiting this year
*Note:  If we remove the group who did no recruiting this year from the Survey, we find that nearly 60% of the educators who did recruit, did so through digital means, and 11% did so through networking, to total more than 70% of educators who recruited and found jobs outside of Recruiting Fairs.
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21 thoughts on “Survey: Are Recruiting Fairs Headed for Extinction?

  1. I have attended fairs and have been offered a job via a fair and offered a job without attending a fair.

    Personally, I find them to be incredibly expensive affair which may not be worth it. Too often, you head to a fair with ‘x” number of job postings and when you arrive it is totally different. Obviously, I understand why. One of the advantages of attending the fair I that you have an opportunity to get an interview where you may not get one via online communication. Unfortunately, many recruiters shortlist their candidates long before the fair. When I attended my first fair, the recruiter may approach you to come to their table to set up an interview. I noticed at the last one they tell you not to bother. To make matters worse, recruiters are now leaving early from job fairs. I missed out on some possible interviews because they were leaving early. Of course, it stinks even worse is when a group agrees to meet with you only to ask a couple of cursory questions. I don’t know, if you are really not interested, you at least owe me the courtesy of letting me know.

    For me, I have gotten job offers via Skype interviews. It is easier. cheaper, and no one is wasting their time or money. If fairs are losing their appeal, then the blame is on the recruiters who fail to see it has a great opportunity to learn about a candidate that may actually be a better fit to their school than they initially thought reading a cover letter and resume.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the poll would yield substantially different results if it included an option for signing up with a recruiting firm and one of their fairs, but accepting a job offer through the firm before the fair. I’ve never attended a fair, but have always been hired in advance of one by signing up with a recruiting fair that holds them.


    1. I agree. I took the poll and marked the first option, but in reality I registered with two recruiting services, went to an early fair, did not get an offer, found the same opening through both recruiters, contacted someone I knew at the school who talked me up and gave me some insight, did two Skype interviews with school leaders, one of my current admin had met the director at a conference and reached out to them, and finally canceled my registration at a second fair when offered the job. Oh, and my new school was at the fair I had attended, the job just wasn’t available at the time so I hadn’t interviewed with them then. So many factors at play in finding the right position that it is misleading to say there is only one path to success. You have to cast a wide net to catch not only the most fish, but the right one!


  3. There’s too many variables in play.

    Job fair face-to-face interaction can help. 5 teachers including myself got jobs at fairs this season after having 3 interviews total between the 5 of us prior to the fairs. Two families are going to Tier 1 schools and the other is going to a strong Tier 2.

    Quite a few other colleagues got their jobs in Skype interviews.

    The rise of the Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) which is expanding to two job fairs this year indicates the schools still want the face-to-face job fairs.

    At the same time, the expansion of the number of international schools means there’s a far bigger pool from which a fairly static number of schools attend job fairs. Mathematically, obviously more people are getting jobs without attending job fairs.

    Job fairs do also offer forward looking networking opportunities with school presentations and multiple interviews with school you won’t work this go around.

    Job fairs also are costly to attend and require a different level of preparation (from clothing to CV printing and perhaps Ichiros (search for and see PysGuy’s description on the public forum if you’re wondering what an Ichiro is).

    In the same way that VCRs and Cable TV and Satellite and DVDs and Blu Ray and streaming have all still not combined to wipe out the movie cinema industry despite predictions it was “over” in the 1980s, job fairs will continue in their fashion to serve a function in international teaching, albeit one piece of a complex job matching puzzle.


  4. Ive been teaching internationally for 17 years and never attended a recruitment fair. I cannot afford the cost and have been able to interview for the past 10 years via skype.


  5. What a great topic for doctoral research: do we get better matches (i.e. everybody happier, longer retention, better fit) when recruiting via job fair or via skype? How much does the personal face-to-face contact really matter?
    I have attended eight job fairs over the years, and appreciated the networking and personal knowledge gained at each, considering the travel expense as an investment in my profession.
    It is interesting that ISS is now adding some professional-development seminars to their jobfairs, apparently as a way of attracting first-timers.


  6. It seems a fair number of people think directors enjoy recruiting and fairs. I have worked for a couple who travel as much as possible, but the majority don’t look forward to them other than as a means to filling their vacancies and heading ‘home’. I’ve been on both sides of teaching and admin and the view is very different when you are on the admin side.

    If you were not going to go to a fair and you have a good track record with consistent references, good recommendations, positive parent references, and have been at decent schools, it isn’t necessary to go to a fair to get a job. But Search still has the best data base for teachers in its organization and presentation.

    You can also use TIEonline for non-Search schools.

    I would never use Dave’s for a teaching job – not the best source for IB specialists, for instance, or counselor. The schools I want to work at don’t advertise there.

    In the end, if you aren’t moving up, increasing your skills and making yourself noticed for teaching, plus other teaching associated areas, or staying at decent schools, and if you aren’t staying longer than 2 years, after 3 schools it is hard to get to a better school.

    But no, job fairs are not dead. Far from it. The fact is, though, that when I started teaching internationally there were maybe 2,000 international schools total. The best were rep’d by ISS and then Search came along. Search became top dog for a reason.

    Fast forward 20 years and now there’s almost 9,000. Huge changes driving the lower and middle end of the market. Not as necessary to go to a fair – but if you want to aim for the top schools – you go to a fair for the most part. Not always, but for the most part.


    1. I appreciate the nuance of your perspective, but I think you’re going in a dangerous direction with this worship of Search. Is it the “best” database? It’s certainly not as comprehensive as it could be. The steep price tag and (deserved) reputation for favoritism scare many away, and it’s sad to see schools putting Search on a pedestal despite its shortcomings.

      It is fitting that you note the dramatic rise in the number of international schools. Do we expect the candidates for 9,000 schools to jump through the Search hoops? Of course not. And let’s not pretend that there’s a 1:1 correlation between school quality and their affiliation with ISS, Search, etc. I’ve seen some atrocious, “lower end of the market” (in your words) schools at prominent fairs: start-ups, schools with no institutional memory, school with websites so incomprehensible/awful that one might think they are a Nigerian spam scam.

      And I’ve had great interactions with (and offers from) elite schools who haven’t attended the same fairs I did–or, in some cases, did but were nonresponsive during the fair experience.

      Most students at international schools attend schools that aren’t represented at “top dog” Search fairs. Are they less worthy of quality teachers? And plenty of quality educators have legitimate objections to forking over $200 for some low-impact “associate” to represent them, then thousands more travelling to a meat market. Should those educators be ignored by top schools?

      I’m not saying fairs have no value. I think there’s a benefit to meeting face-to-face and having unexpected networking opportunities. But the culture of fairs needs to change. Profit-driven entities like Search should (and hopefully will) be supplanted by more open-source recruiting. The global consortium seems promising. ISS, TIE, TES, and others will still there for their databases and (limited) support. But Search’s model is flawed. And I don’t see their indifferent leadership evolving with the times to change that model.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agreeing re Search. I have found it a racket and never could afford it. In the old days, you could go in there, look at who was hiring, research the school and apply privately. I did this and was offered a job at a good school, which I decided to turn down for other reasons. Now it appears Search figured out people were doing this and have stopped providing this lovely, free service. Same with TIE, no luck there now, and a lot of the jobs they have are substandard anyway.


  7. The question is what do these services offer the candidates? The biggest problem out there now, that i see, is the integrity of the schools as well as the candidates. I have been teaching overseas since 1997, and what the fairs represent is the integrity of the schools they represent. If i spend money to go to a fair, I expect a certain level the school s at. In the early days, schools were band if they exhibit misconduct. Now it is floundering aimlessly with no direction. Recruitment fairs could have a come back, only if they guarantee a certain level that their schools conduct themselves. And, there are plenty of candidates that also conduct themselves inappropriately. But they get banned. So the recruitment fairs need to guarantee a standard from both schools and candidates.


    1. I think you identified the right question. They CLAIM to offer candidates these wonderful networking opportunities, but clearly the playing field is tilted toward recruiters. And their existence itself hits candidates with a major expense, as recruiters start relying on the services more and more and keep upholding a preference for meeting candidates face-to-face.

      In the meantime, do the services admonish schools for unethical (or unfair) practices in the same way they admonish candidates who might dare “break contract” (even an oral contract with many unresolved details)? You’re right, these services really need to hold schools to the highest standards of conduct: minimum time frames for accepting/rejecting an offer, honesty in communication, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it all depends on the position / school you are wanting. Last year I did not go to a fair, and I couldn’t get interviews with MANY of the schools that I wanted to work with. They told me that they wanted to hire in person at the fairs and the emails beforehand were used as a pre-screening. My former director was the same. He said he had a better sense of a person meeting them in person for an hour than on skype for the same amount of time. He would use Skype for pre-screens or follow ups, but rarely hire anyone he hadn’t met in person. Some directors will happily hire classroom teachers via skype, but admin / specialist positions will only get done at the fairs. Yes, fairs are expensive, but they do give you the edge of handshakes and networking opportunities.


  9. It all depends on the school. Most Heads of schools recruit well before the fairs but go to the fairs to be seen and also to have a free trip. Many negotiate for Business Class travel and that way they get to see their families and escape work!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I know several of the top schools that my wife and I wanted to apply to did not take applications other than through Search Associates. Going to the fair was the best way to meet with head of these schools.
    I do think there are countless job opportunities at schools all around the world that do not require meeting at a fair. But the ones we were truly interested in almost all receive so many thousands of applications online that they don’t reply to emails and only hope to find their candidates at fairs.


    1. That’s disturbing. Hopefully the culture will shift and schools/candidates will be able to connect directly without relying on an undeserved arbiter like Search. Or maybe it’ll evolve into a more “open source” model like the global consortium.

      I won’t apply to any school that requires Search. I’m even wary of schools that give implicit preference to Search (e.g., noting on their “careers” page that Search applicants can apply through a different mechanism, and mentioning no other services). If I choose to contact them, I get a bit passive-aggressive in the closing paragraph, noting that my “full profile” can be accessed on [list of other agencies/services]. Maybe in the future I’ll throw in a line that I am not on Search due to a conscientious philosophical/pedagogical objection. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It is important to remember that everyone has different perspectives and experiences. In my 20 years overseas I have attended a number of fairs and been hired at outstanding schools by administrators I’d be happy to work with again (well, almost all of them!). I cannot say what I will do next time, but I would not rule out attending another fair. In my opinion, there is value to being able to see people “in the flesh,” shake hands, and look someone in the eye while asking questions rather than relying on an internet connection and staged online meeting.


  12. Ending fairs would keep administrators on campus all year instead of spending months every school year on “working” vacations all over the world. Technology puts teaching candidates in charge of the process. No one should attend a so-called “teaching fair.” They were a necessary evil until technology came along. Now they make as much sense as traveling to school in horse and buggy.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Recruiting fairs have never been fair to teaching candidates and should have been ended long ago. Travel halfway around the world for a few 15-minute interviews while schools with better matches aren’t even there. Or use technology so that every candidate has access to every international school all the time. Hmmmm.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Everything I have ever heard about recruiting fairs gave me advance warning that they were all but useless, as well as demonstrating that the young and attractive are more likely to get hired than older and more experienced. I have always been able to find my own jobs through many means, including applying cold, using Dave’s or jobs listed here, or simply word of mouth. I have not found LinkedIn helpful either, except to establish a web presence. I am currently using a recruiter in Mexico who has been very helpful, and joined many teach abroad Facebook pages, where I’ve noticed recruiters are very active contacting suitable folks for jobs that are not otherwise being advertised. Recommended! I think recruiting fairs are a waste of money and time, and deserve to go away.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I will not attend another recruiting fair again. I did so in 2014 and that was my last one. I was not able to attain a position at that fair in Bangkok, three weeks later via Skype, four positions were offered.

    This year in 2019, I never attended a fair I had five Skypes and have landed a position in Guatamala; with four other offers being politely rejected,

    I went through TIE online and ISS.

    I will no longer attend fairs as I do not feel the cost or quality of schools attending are worth the time.


    Liked by 1 person

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