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Opinion: Bedside Interviews

By Joy Jameson

I wonder why it is that, at international school job fairs, applicants are interviewed in the headmasters’ hotel rooms instead of in a more public area of the job fair hotel?
Even if the headmaster has other administrators in the room with him, it is still a rather odd, intimidating, and perhaps questionable practice. In fact, in April 2013 The New York Times printed a story on international school job fairs. A female applicant featured in the article mentioned her strong feelings of insecurity when she was summoned to the headmaster’s hotel room for the interview.
The day after that article was published, The International Herald Tribune printed a spin-off story about international school recruitment that included a link to The New York Times piece. Even after this widespread negative publicity, the hotel room interviews continue.
Since this is a rather bizarre practice, it leads people to form many different opinions regarding the rationale behind it. Does it offer a means to get around U.S. labor laws, since international school contracts sometimes include terms that fly in their face? Perhaps conducting negotiations in a hotel room informalizes the process, making it more like an agreement between two people rather than a normal work contract and thus offering a way to skirt the laws.
Is it done to intimidate applicants, making them feel so uncomfortable that they will quickly take care of business in order to leave the hotel room as soon as possible? Or, is it a way for sponsoring organizations to save money by not renting a conference room at the hotel, for example? If the latter is the case, what does the sponsoring organization do with the thousands of dollars in registration fees that the applicants pay to attend the job fairs? There is no end to the guessing game inspired by this practice.
I wonder if administrators realize that this disconcerting practice may possibly be a factor in the recent decline in the number of applicants for international school positions, since for many people it tarnishes the prestigious international school image. Why do administrators want to put themselves in such a high-risk position when they could easily meet with applicants in a more public part of the hotel?
Most of all, I wonder when the alarm will sound and administrators will wake up and realize that these bedside interviews have the potential of becoming their worst nightmare, no matter how advanced their level of bedside manners may be.

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