Get ready for your interview
Read about how job-hunting teachers can prepare for the moment that matters
Today’s job interviews are demanding, and preparation is essential for success. Interviewing for an international school teaching or leadership job can be even more challenging as there are many unique needs to take into consideration. If you're applying to the latest international school vacancies, here's what you need to know.
International schools in the northern hemisphere advertise the majority of their vacancies in December, January and February for jobs commencing in August. Most will be interviewing in January, February and March so now is the time to start thinking about your interview preparation. Here’s some advice from the recruitment team at TIC:
International school recruiters interview in many different ways. Some will run a very traditional question and answer session, others will have a set of scenarios and challenges for you to respond to, and others may do most of the talking at first but will throw questions at you towards the end of the interview.
The key concern for all international school recruiters is knowing whether you will fit well into their school community and location. This means they will want to find out if you the qualities to work with their international team of teachers and leaders, the skills and experience to teach an international group of children, the right personality to work with the parents (some who will be local, others who will be expatriates and many who will not speak English), and the right abilities and mind-set to face the challenges of working and living in a new country.
The interview will likely be quite different to interviews that you’ve been used to for jobs in your home country. For a start, the interview may take place via Skype. You may have to attend an off-site interview in a central location, such as London, Bangkok or Dubai. Because of distance and travel costs, you may never get the chance to visit the school before you are offered a job.
Some interviews will appear to be very informal while others will be extremely formal. You may also find yourself being asked some very personal questions to ensure that you will be able to work within the requirements and restrictions of the local laws. Such questions may include age and marital status.
Many Headteachers feel it is their responsibility to ‘tell you how it is’ in their country or school. All schools and countries have their good and bad points and many Headteachers believe that you should know the reality before you make your commitment. This will help you to make an informed decision rather than going in ‘blind’.
Preparation is the key
The first and most important step you can take for a job interview is to prepare. Take the time to research the school you will be interviewing with. Read every page of the school website and any supporting documents the school shares with you - that way you will be able to relate to the school during your interview. Talk with your recruitment advisor who can give you plenty of information about the school. Check out the school’s social media pages and blog to see what has been happening recently and how the school is promoting itself. Find out about the school leadership team and your interviewers if you can. LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media is very helpful for this.
Think about the questions that you may be asked – what would you ask an interviewee if you were conducting the interview for the school? Think about your responses to the most likely interview questions that you’ll face, and practice the ways you might answer typical questions. To find out about some of the typical questions you can expect during an international school interview, look out for next week’s TIC Blog.
Within your responses, think of actual examples you can use that will help to best describe and reflect your skills and experiences. Providing evidence of your successes is a great way to promote your candidacy. In your responses to questions, think about the school, its community and learning-focus, and try to relate to this within your answers.
Think about some questions that you will want to ask. These questions will say a lot about you. If your first question is about the salary and benefits, or promotion opportunities, that is what your interviewer will consider you find of most importance. You might want to focus your first questions on the learning community, assessment and evaluation the curriculum, staff development or your integration into the international community of the school.
The details that matter
It sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how some people turn up for an interview or present themselves during a Skype interview! Make sure your attire is neat, tidy and appropriate, whatever the interview setting. Always dress smartly and professionally. Have accessible a portfolio with copies of your CV, teaching certificates and any work you are particularly proud of. Be prepared to share this electronically as well as in a hard copy. Have a pen and paper or iPad handy for note taking. Look like you are well prepared and want the job.
Be on time for the interview. On time means five to ten minutes early. If need be, take some time to visit the interview venue ahead of time so you know exactly where you are going, and how long it will take to get there. If it’s a Skype, locate yourself in a suitable environment – not your bedroom, and make sure you have good interview access and your Skype sound and visuals are working well, in advance of the interview time. If you are unavoidably held up, communicate this as soon as you know that you’ll be late.
Try to feel relaxed and calm as you go in to the interview. Be warm and welcoming to all of your interviewers. Be the first to extend the handshake or appropriate welcome. Ensure you maintain appropriate eye contact with the interviewer(s). Pay attention to all the discussion, listen to the entire question before you answer, and pay attention to everything you’re being told about the school - you will be embarrassed if you forget the question or don’t refer to important comments that have already been made.
When discussing your career accomplishments, match them to what the school is looking for where appropriate.
Once it’s over
Always follow-up with a thank you message to everyone you interviewed with, confirming your continued interest and enthusiasm for the position.
You may also be interested in these informative blogs:
10 things international schools look for when hiring new teachers
Writing a CV that counts when applying for an international job
If I could teach anywhere, where would it be?