With thousands of international schools around the world with varying styles, quality and employment packages, you want to make the right choice. With only an interview or two (usually on Skype) between you and a 2-year contract, you want to have as big a picture as possible to help you pick the best job for you. Asking the right questions is key. The current market is still abound with teaching jobs, and so if you have a few years under your belt and something to show off on your CV, there will always be another job around the corner and never a need to choose something that isn’t right. A job interview is just as much about you, as a teacher, interviewing the school, as it is about the school interviewing you. So with that in mind, one of our fantastic teachers, Sarah Morris, has compiled a list of must-ask questions to ensure that when you land your next job, your preferences are met and there are no surprises.
Important things to do before applying:
- Google search the school directors.
Some people are surprisingly well known, good or bad, in the international teaching world. You don’t want to be working with someone who is known for poor management.
- Consider signing up to the website, International Schools Review, or search up the school on Glassdoor.com.
Take reviews with a pinch of salt, but avoid applying for schools that are poorly reviewed by a number of other teachers.
Questions to ask before interview:
- Please could you give me an idea of the package you are offering?
Not a rude question to ping across in an email. With teaching salaries varying from below an average Western European salary to close to six figures, you won’t have any idea if this will be a complete waste of time both for you and the school unless you know the salary. If you have a recruitment agent, then ask them.
Questions to ask at the interview:
- What would you say are the best things about working at the school?
- What are the goals of the school over the next year?
- What needs to be improved about the school?
- How many hours a week will I be teaching?
- I have a really keen interest in X, what kind of extra-curricular opportunities are there?
- How much time is spent on staff meetings/Saturdays/boarding duties?
- What kind of professional development opportunities do you offer to staff? Do you invite trainers from outside the country or offer an allowance for travel? Could you give some examples?
- Do you have any requirements for lesson plans to be submitted?
It is not uncommon for a head of department or senior management to ask for weekly lesson plans. If this isn’t your preference, you want to know about it now.
- Have any teachers left after only a year or less? If so, why?
Asking ‘how long do most staff stay at the school’ gives the opportunity of the school to mislead you by missing out significant anomalies.
- I’m used to working in a happy and professional environment. How would you describe the school environment for staff and students?
- Will I have my own classroom or will I be based in an office and be moving around?
- Do you provide laptops for staff?
I’ve never understood why some schools think it is appropriate for teachers to use their own. Imagine turning up to any other job and being asked to produce your own computer to work on.
- Who exactly will be my line manager?
- What does your student behaviour policy look like?
- How would you rate how well-equipped the school is in my department? What is the annual budget for buying equipment for my department?
- Do you offer multiple exit visas? (If Saudi Arabia or Qatar)
Questions to ask after you have an offer but before you have accepted the offer:
- What will happen when I arrive to the airport and in my first few days?
It is standard for a member of senior management to greet you at the airport, take you to provided accommodation and invite you for at least one dinner/drinks event in the first few days. The school should help with settling by organising visas, medical insurance, getting a sim card, showing you around town and looking for longer-term accommodation (if applicable). If a school doesn’t do these things, it is not a good sign.
- Can you send me some pictures of the accommodation that I will be in? Are utilities, internet etc. included? What will be the address? Search your accommodation on Google maps. Check for potential problems like heavy traffic noise or pollution.
- Can I talk to another member of the teaching staff that I will be working with? This is very important for getting a more realistic feel. Once, I was glad to have been informed by my would-be head of department, that a school was having problems and many staff were leaving. By being realistic, she avoided disappointment for me and for the school.
So that’s it. Thanks Sarah! Remember, interviews are a two-way street. Ask the right questions and you’ll find the job that’s right for you and avoid making any wrong decisions. Click here to read Sarah’s other useful blog 3 mistakes to avoid during your job search.
Written by Sarah Morris
who enjoys throwing herself into life in new cultures and has taught in Nicaragua, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cuba and the Cayman Islands. When she is not searching for new adventures, she is often found rescuing street dogs, and runs www.brainhappy.co.uk - a consultancy and coaching provider aimed at helping workplaces all over the world, including schools, improve staff well-being.