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Making the Most of the Experience: A Reflection on Recruiting Fairs

By Nicholas Forde
Making the Most of the Experience: A Reflection on Recruiting Fairs

With another school recruiting season almost in the rear-view mirror, it is worthwhile to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Whilst virtual conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have made interviewing more efficient and cost effective, this article makes the case for schools’ attendance at teacher recruitment fairs around the world.

What follows are some suggestions for recruiters to make the most of a busy recruitment fair schedule.

Interview Location: Put candidates at ease.

Teacher recruitment fairs tend to be held in hotels. The traditional and slightly awkward format of interviewing candidates in hotel bedrooms is slowly shifting the other way to greater use of open, shared spaces. It is good to see fair organizers offering schools the option of interview booths located in open spaces such as ballrooms. For a candidate, knowing that other recruiters and candidates are being interviewed in the same area adds to a sense of reassurance about the process. If a hotel room must be used, ensure that the door is left open at all times, and seat your candidate closer to the door. Also make clear to the candidate who will be in attendance.

School Information Sessions/Presentations: Support candidates new to international teaching.

There is a natural tendency for school leaders to do the full sales pitch. However, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of a candidate, many of whom are taking their first step into international teaching. Sometimes a general question and answer session is more appropriate. We can all benefit if candidates are supported with our shared collective wisdom about international education and the experience of teaching overseas. At a recent information session, a candidate asked about differences in teaching from their home country, and this led to an explanation of what we valued as a school in a teacher. We have also fielded questions about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging (DEIJB) which allow candidates to understand the specific national or cultural context in which your school exists. This kind of approach helps candidates evaluate if they want to interview for a position in a particular school.

Some recruitment fairs are now actively discouraging schools from presentations and are moving to a question-and-answer format. Promotional films should be shared ahead of time.

Staffing: Take more than one representative from your school.

If budget allows, there is great value in having more than one senior leader in attendance at a recruitment fair. Practically, this can help when it comes to screening candidates and conducting call back interviews. However, more importantly, if interviewing together, this allows for active listening and triangulation when assessing candidates. Viewpoints on candidates may differ, but the dialogue that happens over breakfast or lunch between senior colleagues can be invaluable to selecting the best candidate for the school. We regularly take our Human Resource Director to recruitment fairs so that they can be on hand to answer more contractually based questions or inquiries related to employee assistance programs. From an inclusion standpoint, there are many faces to the school. Having access to multiple leaders helps candidates connect with the community and build up a more nuanced picture of the people who make up the organization. This can only help as candidates make decisions about their futures.

Interview Sign Up: Work the line.

For candidates and recruiters alike, this can often be one of the most stressful sessions. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. By using time at the fair to pre-screen and reach out to candidates to see you at sign up you can prioritize your available interview spots. If you have multiple recruiters, have one stand in the line to help screen candidates. If there are non-negotiable requirements (language, teacher registration, curriculum) make these clear before the candidate gets to the front of the line.

Over the years, I have heard many recruiters use lack of specific curriculum experience (International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, etc.) as a simple filter system for not having to interview a candidate.  If you have space, try to interview some candidates who are new to the circuit or for subjects where you don’t currently have a position. A professional conversation is never wasted time. This is part of the collective responsibility of all of us to care and support those starting out or moving schools internationally. A long time ago, someone somewhere gave you your first start!

Interview Questions: Level the playing field.

Having a common set of questions which have been determined in advance for a position, is a simple but effective way of promoting equity and inclusion as part of the interview process. Depending on the answers given, the follow up questions may be different, but it allows candidates to feel that they a taking part in a consistent and inclusive process. Experience, perspectives, and cultures will be different, so keep the language and tone simple and avoid humor which can be misinterpreted.

Decision Time: Don’t ghost the candidates.

At a busy fair it is important to follow up on call backs and rejections. Make sure you are clear with candidates about how and when you will follow up. Whether or not you decide to pursue their candidacy, how you communicate is an important part of the public relations exercise. Ultimately, you do great reputational damage to the school if candidates never hear from you again. A simple email which communicates quickly your decision should be enough. If you need more time, say so. Depending on whether you have a first timer, you may wish to offer some brief feedback. Ultimately, be clear, polite, and show some care to candidates who may be dealing with multiple rejections. They may not have secured a position this time, but they will talk with other candidates about their experience. In addition, if you genuinely feel that a candidate is a potential recruit for the future, let them know this.

Final Thoughts: Professional development for all.

Although it is imperative to get the hiring done, never lose sight of the chance to connect with colleagues old and new. The annual recruitment round is another opportunity to improve our interviewing, an opportunity to guide and advise new entrants into the world of international education. All of the above will support candidates in navigating and getting the most out of the recruitment fair.  


Nicholas Forde is Principal of secondary school at The Independent Schools Foundation Academy (ISF), Hong Kong.

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