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Every month recruitment consultants in my company speak to hundreds of teachers who seek new international school jobs, and they often tell us “I’ve been applying to schools but I never hear back”. Are you one of them?

It may surprise you to know that international schools, particularly those in popular locations such as the Middle East, routinely get hundreds if not thousands of CVs for their advertised jobs. Many of the applicants don’t meet even the most basic advertised requirements for the jobs, and schools with their small HR teams, must wade through them all to pick out the most relevant CVs. They simply don’t have time to write back to everyone.

How can you improve your chances of making it to interview? By knowing what an international school wants to see and giving it to them quickly and concisely. Here are the three top questions an international school hiring team needs to answer:

Can they hire you?

International schools can only hire you if they can obtain a visa for you, and you can be approved to teach by the local authorities. This is why your nationality, date of birth, marital status, tertiary education details, teaching qualifications and details of recent, relevant post-qualification teaching experience, should all be on the first page of your CV. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or what potential you have if a school cannot legally employ you, so don’t make them dig for it. They don’t have time.

Do you have the experience they want?

Let’s face it: International schools would prefer to hire teachers who have experience of teaching their curriculum. There’s less training and support required, less risk because you know what is expected, and you can provide proof, through referencing. Therefore, if you have experience teaching the curriculum of the school to which you are applying, make sure this is very clear on your CV. Indicate what subjects and levels you have taught and for how long.

If an international school can’t find someone who has exactly the curriculum experience they want, they will look at other types. You as the applicant need to put yourself in the shoes of a foreign principal and give them the information they need. For example, a Scottish teacher who taught grade P1 should explain the age ranges P1 covers. A South African teacher should not expect an American Principal to know what SACE or FET stands for, which is why you should always spell out acronyms in the first use. It’s still important to explain what academic results you achieved, but do it in a way that a foreign HR person or Principal can easily grasp. Avoid terminology that is specific to your country.

Are you the best candidate available right now?

Now that a school has determined that they can legally hire you and that you have sufficient experience, they must prioritise who to contact first. And this is where it gets subjective.

Below are some of the reasons your CV might get pushed to the bottom of the pile:

  • Plenty of candidates with more relevant experience have already applied
  • Your application or cover letter was not tailored
  • You have a family and dependents so you will be a costlier hire
  • You have a spouse who must find work, which might cause you to leave the post early if it doesn’t happen
  • You had frequent job changes, indicating a lack of personal and/or professional resilience
  • Your age range is at the upper end of the limit for which they can hire, so they might not be able to renew your contract
  • Your CV has been received from many agencies so you appear desperate
  • CV, email or cover letter was sloppy, poorly written or had spelling or grammatical errors.

Having realistic expectations about the kind of job you are likely to get is important to correctly target your applications, and understanding the top three considerations used by hiring teams can help make an application more successful.

By: Diane Jacoutot