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Director's Dispatch: How Does ISD Hire Teachers?

Administrators have already started interviewing and hiring teachers for the 2019-2020 school year.  Twenty-one teachers have already notified us that this will be their last year at ISD.  To attract and hire the best possible teachers, we need to start early.  Hiring teachers is the most important thing administrators do at a school, so we devote a significant amount of time to the process.  About half the teachers are hired at job fairs in major cities around the world, and the other half are appointed through interviews by Skype.  I wanted to give the community an inside look at what happens during these international job fairs.

From November 9 to 11, Elementary Principal Kelly Chumrau, Secondary Principal Lorne Bird, and I attended the Global Recruitment Collaborative fair in Dubai.  There were 600 teacher candidates registered for the fair. Seventy schools participated with a total of 700 confirmed openings.  Before the fair, a number of teachers applied to ISD. The principals and I reviewed the applicants and set up an initial interview with many of them.  In the days before the fair, I reviewed all of the candidates, not just the one who applied to ISD, who fit our vacancies, then invited those to interview with us.

A line of applicants at the ISD table

Before leaving for the fair, we had scheduled many interviews. On Thursday, we left Dakar and flew overnight to Dubai.  We finally go into our hotel rooms, and the interviews began at 2:00 pm. Kelly, Lorne, and I interviewed 17 people over the next five hours in separate locations.  The candidates we liked were scheduled to meet with a different ISD administrator the next day. The fair would not officially start until Saturday, but we have found it advantageous to interview candidates early if possible.

On Saturday morning, there was an interview sign-up session in the hotel ballroom.  Each of the 70 schools had a table. At 8:15, the 600 candidates were allowed into the ballroom and rushed to the table of their preferred schools.  The purpose of the sign-up session is to give the candidates a chance to convince the schools to give them an interview.  As we had already pre-screened the candidate pool, we had interview times set for most of our preferred candidates and a list of those who we were interested in meeting.  If you were not on the list already, we politely informed candidates we would not be able to give them an interview.  By the end of the two-hour sign-up session, we were fully booked for the day.

Again, interviewing in three different locations, we talked to almost 50 candidates on Saturday.  In the early evening, we determined our top candidates and scheduled them for further interviews on Sunday. We then started contacting the candidates’ references to verify the written information they had provided previously. We finished our day by taking one of our top candidates out to dinner to get to know them better and answer their questions about ISD and Dakar. We finally finished our workday at 10:00 pm, 14 hours after we started. As we started meeting with our finalists on Sunday, it quickly became apparent we would have competition. Virtually all of our finalists already had contract offers from other schools and in many cases multiple offers.  Many schools give candidates a limited amount of time to decide whether to accept a contract offer, sometimes a little as 24 hours.   By the end of the day, we needed to know whom we wanted to hire. Otherwise, we could lose our preferred candidates.

Hiring teachers for an international school can be like putting together a puzzle particularly given the prevalence of couples where both partners are teachers.  The preferred candidate for a physics position could be married to a strong history teacher.  However, what do you do if the best history teacher is single?  Do you hire the single history teacher and lose out on your top choice for physics?  At ISD, our practice is that both partners have to be the best available candidate for the position.  We do not accept a lesser quality teacher to hire the other partner. There are times this means we can lose out of some teachers, but we have high expectations for all of our teachers.

We started our third day of interviews at 9:00am. As we moved through the day, the top choice candidates became clear in a few positions, and with reference checks completed, we made our first offers.  It also became apparent we were going to have multiple candidates, many of them part of teacher couples vying for the same positions.  Complicating matters, some of the teachers were partners of administrative candidates. The next round of interviews for the administrative positions was going to be the following week as they involved students, teachers, and parents.  Some of our potential candidates agreed to wait, and some candidates accepted one of their other offers.  We finally finished at 7:00 pm.  In the end, our recruiting efforts paid off. All told, we hired six people that we interviewed before and during the fair.  We were able to fill some difficult positions including IB Physics and IB History.  All six educators have experience in IB programs.  

Interviewing 60 candidates over two and a half days was exciting and tiring work. However, it great news that 60 candidates want to come to ISD.  Five years ago, we may only have had 20 or so candidates willing to talk with ISD.  Many of the teachers were interested in ISD because they knew a current or past student, parent, or teacher. One candidate told me they had never thought of working in Africa until a former ISD student told them about our wonderful community and how much they loved living in Dakar.  Our reputation combined with the move to IB is increasing the number of applications. Deeper candidate pools lead to hiring higher quality teachers.

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