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8 Top Tips: Preparing for and Conducting a Successful Job Interview

By Forrest Broman
8 Top Tips: Preparing for and Conducting a Successful Job Interview

Over the next three months, you will most likely be interviewed through Skype, or in person at a recruitment fair or private meeting. This is the period during which the leading international schools will recruit at least 80% of their new staff.
Exhaustive lists of criteria and strategies for creating successful applications and interviews abound, but here are some tips that can determine whether your first choice school makes you an offer. These are distilled from over 25 years of experience recruiting candidates for schools, working closely with international school recruiters, and interviewing over 5,000 candidates.
Most schools will want to interview you in person or via Skype, before they make you an offer, although this is not always the case. Your success then depends very much on how you prepare for the interview and how you conduct yourself. Here are a few vital tips for this process.
1) Recommendations from Supervisors
Very few recruiters will ever get to see you in the classroom before they make the hiring decision. They may need to rely on your recommendations from past and current supervisors, and the best schools will conduct extensive phone check-outs to get a better handle on the person they are considering. They also are aware of the chronic reluctance of US administrators to be forthcoming, so be sure to include any international school references in your experience.
Hence, you should inform your references about the different kind of schools you are applying to and let them know the factors you would like them to highlight. Their written and oral comments should include placing you in the top 3%, 10% or 20% of the faculty they have worked with, both in terms of teaching abilities and personal characteristics. It's much better if they are prepared for these questions.
2) Your Personal Presentation
Many international schools exist in relatively conservative societies and serve a largely upper middle class constituency. This often means that, like it or not, your personal style in dress, accessories, hair style, etc. could be important factors in a hiring decision. It’s best to dress in a conservative fashion and refrain from showcasing things such as nose rings, inappropriate clothing, or even extravagant jewelry.
3) Listen Carefully to the Questions Asked
Many school heads are experienced interviewers and have distilled their approach to a number of vital questions. If you are not sure at any time what they are asking, be straightforward and ask for clarification. They will appreciate your desire to answer them with clarity.
Your own good questions are another major indicator of intelligence and understanding. See my last point on on key topics to consider when developing your own list of questions.
4) Learning Results
The best schools will focus sharply on learning results, rather than just teacher "inputs." So your best strategy is to provide evidence of student work and accomplishments under your guidance. This may be written work, art projects, exam questions that challenge and promote thinking skills, videos of performances, and student presentations.
Don't be afraid to bring these to the interview, or find a way to discuss and present them even if not requested. Most recruiters will be very interested and impressed and for highly desirable schools, this is the very best way to set yourself apart from the competition.
5) Use of Video
Since recruiters won’t be able to see you teach in person, they will appreciate any capacity you have to create a filmed lesson that can be shared. This can make a major difference in selecting one candidate over another; But of course, only if it demonstrates effective teaching strategies. If you develop these clips, have a knowledgeable educational supervisor review them before sending them out. Don’t worry whether filming your lessons is appropriate. It is completely ethical and allows you to put your best foot forward and to show them your classroom skills.
6) After School Coaching and Teaching Skills
Most international schools attempt to mount substantial after school programs in sports, theater, games, IT, cooking and almost every other skill appropriate to K-12 students. Thus your ability to add something significant to these will make you a more attractive candidate. Good coaches are a primary quest of every school, but if you don’t have athletic expertise, you should be prepared to offer at least two types of activities that you would be willing to teach after school.
7) The Personal Factor
Your personal characteristics are even more important to international school recruiters than to your local school districts at home. In these schools you are expected to fit into and enhance a community of expatriates, and to be able to reassure anxious parents from many nations that you are not only be an effective teacher, but a positive role model for their children. Invariably you will be drawn into the broader school community; and your potential impact on the well-being, optimism and morale of other staff members is a matter of serious concern.
This means that very positive, engaging people, with excellent social skills and personal resilience will get the nod every time.
8) Ask Your Own Questions
Know that the best candidates, at a crucial point in the interview, turn the process around and ask thoughtful questions about the school. Inquiring about the school’s goals, concerns, the most difficult challenges the school and staff face, and other important topics show you’re seriously interested in the school.
The idea here is to remind the recruiter that in the same way they are evaluating you, you are carefully considering whether this is a school where you want to work. Probing, thoughtful questions, focused mainly on learning issues, (not benefits and remuneration), are clearly the most effective way to impress your prospective employer.
From Forrest Broman's Blog: "Preparing for and Conducting a Successful Job Interview"
Forrest Broman, founder and director of The International Educator (TIE), located in Hyannis, MA, directed three international schools and created two others during his international school career. TIE is a non-profit organization that for 25 years has been dedicated to developing links among teachers and the extensive American and international schools network worldwide. TIE publishes a quarterly newspaper featuring the latest in international school news and developments for K-12 educators around the world. TIE’s website,, offers the widest selection of K-12 teaching and administrative jobs available anywhere in the world.

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11/21/2013 - Spaulin
Another important factor to consider for Skype interviews is the importance of factors beyond your brilliant answers. Consider the background you are viewed against, the lighting, etc. Interviewers impressions of you can be impacted by viewing you against a messy background ( you're at the kitchen table and the sink counter behind you is strewn with dirty dishes and fast food wrappers, the room is piled with dirty laundry, etc.) Also plan to Skype in a location and time where you will not be interrupted by family members, pets, etc.
11/09/2013 - DMJ06
Great advice, especially the final point about asking questions that show you are seriously looking for the right fit and not just any job on the market. Also, a follow-up email/note of thanks for an interview can demonstrate soft-skills that are essential and can help to establish rapport. Even if you don't get the current position, Directors will remember candidates that stand out and, especially at recruitment fairs, may refer your candidacy to someone else who has an opening.
11/08/2013 - Mimi
These are excellent tips.
One suggestion: Skype practice would be an ideal way to improve the above ideas.
Thanks a lot!

02/06/2013 - travelhog1
This was a very informative blog....particularly the "ask your own questions" part. I would have questions to enlighten me on the schools philosophy and theory of education. So, any information as to who they are would be a deal clincher for me.

My best regards
01/09/2013 - B
This article hit the nail directly on the head, very helpful, many thanks!
11/30/2012 - Paul K Ainsworth
If any readers are looking for any more advice particularly for schools which are based on the UK curriculum why not read 'Get that Teaching Job' or



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