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The biggest mistakes schools make when hiring teachers internationally

If you’re in charge of hiring for an international school, you know that the process of hiring teachers from overseas isn’t always necessarily a smooth one. Finding that perfect teaching candidate with the right mix of skills, qualifications and experience is critical to maximizing student achievement, growing enrolment and, ultimately, allowing your school to continue to thrive in the competitive landscape of international education.

This means doing all you can throughout the hiring process to ensure teachers are being hired for the right reasons. Perhaps you frequently feel pressure to hire quickly – even though you feel like you haven’t found the right person quite yet. As we all know from past experience, rushed decisions can often lead to bad hires and, consequently, poorer employee retention. So, whether you’re hiring for a single school or group, you should avoid the following common mistakes:

Writing a vague job description

It’s worth taking the time to write your job descriptions – the age of dry, generic descriptions is well and truly over. Candidates expect more from a job posting and will lose interest if it’s not well crafted enough to appeal to your ideal candidate. Weak job descriptions have been proven to result in poorer candidate pools and could very well put great candidates off working at your school.

Instead, use a clear, concise title that’s optimized to be found online. Keep the job summary as short as possible and don’t forget to include critical information like salary, benefits and growth opportunities that are available to teachers at your school – this is important to international teaching candidates. A job description that brings engaged and informed applicants to you should also highlight your school’s culture, mission and values.

Do you know what really matters to your teaching candidates?

Being too rigid in your requirements

A lot of hiring schools are set on candidates having a specific set of skills and experience and turn a blind eye to any applications that fall outside the lines of their predetermined list of qualifications. Narrowing the pool of candidates to rigidly-specific qualifications, educational backgrounds, skills and experience levels, however, could mean letting a highly-effective teaching candidate slip through your fingers.

Someone who’s qualified on paper might seem to have all the right attributes for the job could, for example, end up being a bad fit for your school’s culture. Consider extending an interview to someone different than you were initially envisioning. Hire for potential, not years of experience.

Not casting a wide enough net

It’s important to expand your recruiting efforts to reach the biggest pool of applicants. In today’s mobile-first job market, you need to be creative when it comes to expanding your search for the best international teaching talent. Posting your vacancies to your school website just isn’t going to cut it, anymore.

An online job board that caters specifically to international education professionals, instead, is a great way to get your jobs seen by active, qualified job seekers. Many international education recruitment companies also have a strong social media presence that can also promote your job posting to their teacher followers, to ensure the widest audience possible can view and apply to your opening.


Having an unreasonably drawn-out hiring process

With demand for quality teaching candidates at an all-time high internationally, you can safely assume the candidates you’re interested in are also interviewing for other schools elsewhere. They’re not likely to stick around for weeks on end waiting for an offer.

Even mapping out the process is exhausting – there’s resume screening, phone calls, interviews, background checks – a whole long list of things that need to happen before you even make that offer. This can have a huge impact on your talent pipeline. Consider using an applicant tracking system that can help cut down on some of the manual processes and paperwork traditionally involved in hiring.

Candidate experience counts for everything these days, so make sure your shortlisted candidates know where they stand at all times throughout each milestone in the hiring process. Act quickly, where at all possible – great teaching candidates are not going to wait around for you. A protracted hiring process is a surefire way to lose great candidates.

Coming up short on a backup plan

You’ve spent a lot of precious time and effort to find the perfect candidate and the unthinkable happens. They either decline the offer or drop out just before their start date. This is why need to build your talent pipeline – it’s well worth having two (or more) candidates that are equally capable of doing the job during the offer phase. Which leads me to the final hiring mistake many international schools make…

Not having a solid onboarding process

Once you’ve spent the time, effort, and money to find top talent and your new hire is finally set up with a start date, you might think the hiring process has ended. This is not the case. To maximize candidate retention, it’s important to create a bond as early as possible with your new hire in order to bring them into the school effectively and set them up for long-term success.

As the saying goes, there’s never a second chance to make a first impression. You need to set the right tone for their career at your school. Before your new teacher even sets foot in your school, you need to have the right onboarding and orientation process in place to help them learn more about the school, their compensation package and specifics about the job to get them comfortable in their new role. In short – make them feel that they made the right decision by joining your school!


Not following background check best practices

Don’t forget to conduct a thorough criminal background check on all of your new teacher hires, to help ensure a secure learning environment for your students and safeguard your school from future liability issues. Ensure background checks are up to date, are at the national level and that you have a police check from every country your candidate lived in prior to joining your school, where at all possible.

By paying attention to these hiring risks, you can keep candidates engaged, spend less time sourcing new candidates and protect yourself against losing high-quality candidates through the process.

This article originally appeared in ConneXions, the bi-annual newsletter of the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA).