Hiring a new Head

Planning for successful recruitment

For many years TIC has been involved in the recruitment of senior leaders as well as teachers, for international schools. Here we share some suggestions on what to do, and what not to do in order to successfully recruit a senior leader:

Process and plan

Finding a new Head; one that is absolutely right for your school as it prepares for its next three or four years, requires a clearly defined recruitment process starting with detailed planning. This should include full Board agreement of a hiring strategy, clearly defined responsibilities for the role of the incoming Head, essential qualities and skills required for the appointment, remuneration package, and a thoroughly planned recruitment time-schedule.

Some schools focus too much on simply filling the shoes of the previous Headteacher, instead of taking the opportunity to step back and look at where the school is today, and identifying exactly what it needs now in its new leader.


The hiring process needs to be efficient and move forward at pace. This is particularly so once good candidates have been short-listed, in order to secure your preferred choice before other tempting positions are offered to them. Many schools have missed out on excellent opportunities because of their need to gather consensus from too many decision-makers.

The selection team

Appointing a trusted and decisive selection team is crucial. This team needs to have a mix of individuals who represent different priorities of the school, and have an understanding of your immediate market and of the wider international school sector.

Careful selection of a specialist recruitment partner is important at this stage too. Not only do they need to be experienced in school leadership recruitment, but also know the international school sector. Appointing your recruitment partner at this early stage will mean they can advise you on the strategy for the selection and hiring process as well as providing you with access to a targeted pool of candidates.

Many schools rely too heavily, or entirely, on the Board to be their selection panel. To ensure maximum positive acceptance of your new leader, and a complete stakeholder perspective within the selection process, a representative from every one of your stakeholders should play a part (where and when appropriate) in your selection team. This should include a representative from teaching staff (both primary and secondary), parents, students and support staff too.

Your candidate pool

A healthy pool of candidates is essential for successful international leadership appointments. Too many schools rely entirely on placing an advert in the TES which severely limits applications. Multiple routes should be employed to seek out best possible candidates.

Your specialist recruitment partner will have a database of senior and middle leaders who are actively considering roles in international schools. Many people seeking senior leadership and Headship positions will advise a specialist agency two years in advance of their planned move to start assessing the potential opportunities.

Some of those in this pool will already be working in international schools, but there should also be a good source of potential candidates who are yet to enter the market, who are currently leading schools in their home country but wishing to move to an international leadership position.  Some of these candidates may be looking for their first Headship, or a move to a specific region or school type, others may be actively seeking new school openings, or more challenging leadership positions.

In addition to this pool, a specialist agency may be able to provide headhunting services too.

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