Teaching is a truly global profession and, for prospective international teachers, there are so many options when it comes to working on foreign soil.
But before you put a pin in a map and start polishing your Skype interview technique, there are some questions you’ll need to answer. Not all of them are easy, which is why we enlisted the help of three experienced international educators.
Our recruitment editor, Grainne Hallahan, was joined by Oanh Crouch, director of education at Globeducate, experienced international teacher Steve Mattice, and Genevieve Hoppe, assistant head of school at North Broward Preparatory School in Florida, US. Each of them offered advice for those hoping to secure an international post this autumn.
Here you can watch a full recording of our webinar or check out some of their answers below.
Should I choose my school first or location first?
GENEVIEVE HOPPE: “That starts with the person themselves and asking, ‘What are my personal and professional goals? What is the most important to me, is it the salary or a leadership role I’m trying to get, or is the most important thing getting to know a new culture and meeting new people?’
“First, you need to identify what you want to accomplish and the goals you have for yourself in finding a new position.
“If your goal is to experience a new culture, start with the country and then maybe the job title isn’t as important. If your goal is about advancement or a certain role in a school, then I think you start by looking at schools that meet your needs and use the country that it’s in as another deciding factor.”
Can I apply to teach a curriculum I’m unfamiliar with?
GH: “I recommend applying. It’s about being aware of what makes you the most marketable for that position and what are the base-level criteria.
“There are going to be some positions that you might not qualify for based on your experience or qualifications, but I do think there is an opportunity, even more so now, for people to get their foot in the door with other background work that they bring with them, if they have a commitment to meeting those other criteria.”
What are the advantages of working for a chain?
OANH CROUCH: “This allows for a school not to feel so isolated and to be able to connect to a supportive network. Leaders and teachers are able to collaborate with each other.
“One of the main advantages for candidates is that when we find good teachers, we want to keep them. So when a teacher is ready to experience a new culture, new country or new curriculum, we want them to stay within our Globeducate family.
“What we tend to do is try to make that happen, so if there is a position available we will connect schools and candidates together. So if we see teachers that are passionate, dedicated to teaching and are really good at what they do, we want to promote within and mentor them on that career journey.”
How does the international recruitment process work?
GH: “One of the big differences is the timeline – a lot of international schools are looking for their top candidates much earlier than you might be looking for a domestic change in schools.
“So one of the key messages for candidates looking to teach internationally is to have your materials ready, make sure that you’ve really spent time researching. Start now. Start looking at the schools that are available, start looking at the countries that are interesting to you.
“There are a lot of virtual job fairs you can attend. Also, a lot of schools are now running their student admissions process virtually so take advantage of that by watching the online videos they have for their prospective families and see what the school values. There is a lot of value in checking the school’s social media.”
What does the interview process look like?
GH: “Currently it’s much more of an online process. We’re still trying to give candidates many experiences to understand what our school values and if it’s a good fit for them, because ultimately the interview process is a two-way street.
“Schools should be trying to put their best foot forward and they should be very transparent and clear about what they are looking for in the people that they’re hiring so that way people have an authentic experience and know, yes this is a good fit for me.
OC: “For schools, it’s making sure that you are the right person, not only from a qualification point of view and your ability to teach, but it’s about your personality and what style of leadership you have and what type of person you are.”
Do you have any advice for teachers attending jobs fairs?
STEVE MATTICE: “It’s quite intense, with a lot of people talking very quickly, and things can move really fast. If you’re going to attend a jobs fair be really prepared to say what you want to say as quickly as you can in a way that’s memorable.
“Have your CV on hand to distribute and then be prepared to get a call and perhaps an interview that day. It’s a lot of fun in many ways but it can also be exhausting.
GH: “What I would look for when candidates come to us is that they have some type of knowledge of us as a school. I would recommend that candidates, prior to going to the jobs fair, research who’s going to be there and what schools might be in line with what you’re looking for and show up prepared, look professional, have your CV and know something about that school.
“As an employer, we will be meeting so many people that we don’t really have time to explain too much about our school and what we do. Be aware of who is going to be there and be able to articulate the things that are most important to you.”
Is it worth getting your paperwork prepared in advance?
OC: “Documentation is massive. In order to work in a country that is not your nationality, you require a work visa and that entails a great deal of documentation. Depending on the country, the copies you need may also need to be verified in a legal capacity.
“The HR department should liaise with you and give you lots of information, but in preparation, there’s a core list of things you should have readily available:
- Your degree and anything proving your professional qualifications.
- Police clearance checks, not just from the country you’re currently in but if you’ve been living in other countries previously you’ll need clearance from those places as well as your own country of nationality.
- The DBS safeguarding check or equivalent.
- Marriage certificates or documentation of any name changes.
- Your passport and extra passport photos.”
What makes a perfect international candidate?
GH: “You’re looking for the skillset and the experience but you’re also looking for their leadership or teaching style and personality. For me, when I’m looking at a CV, I’m looking for someone who has intentionally crafted their CV to meet the things we’re looking for as a school.
“Don’t assume that because you put a previous job title on a CV that the person reading it knows everything that the job entails, so make sure you pinpoint the pieces of your job experience that connect with the school you’re applying to.
“When I’m looking at a cover letter I’m looking for an authentic connection to our school based on some form of research.
“Then when it comes to finding the perfect fit, I look for people who work hard and love kids, and if you can articulate that to me, pretty much any other professional development we can offer in support.”
What can candidates do that goes above and beyond?
OC: “At the end of the day, schools are businesses, especially in the international sector, and our clients are parents who have chosen to spend their hard-earned salary on private education for their children.
“For me, it’s all the extra bits that make an international education just that little bit more unique. So when I look at CVs, I look for the different skill sets that can be added to the co-curricular programme that we offer.
“So if you have skills in specific sports, music, drama, public speaking, creativity, IT…any of those skills are always needed and will help us understand how you can best fit into a school as part of the jigsaw puzzle.
“Flexibility and adaptability are two things I also look for in a candidate. If things go pear-shaped, which they can, I need to know that the candidate will go with the flow and they can be relied upon.
“Schools change in any setting, but on an international level that escalates. If you can demonstrate how flexible you’ve been and how you’ve been able to adapt to challenges that you weren’t expecting I think that’s a plus.”
What are the big things that will rule out a candidate’s CV?
GH: “It’s those applications that feel incomplete and hurried, where the candidate has not paid attention to detail and not done the research.
“Misspellings, obvious copy and pasting, wrong names – people are looking for a level of professionalism and you should come to the table as someone who is prepared and professional."
Is previous travel an advantage?
OC: “For me, it’s whether or not you’ve learned from previous travels. I would encapsulate it as part of ‘What has your life experience taught you up until this point?’
“It’s about flexibility and adaptability. Also, if your travel experience means you’re able to go with the flow and not miss your flight or you can be culturally sensitive to the country you’re in that's good, but I don’t think that experience is limited by not having travelled."