What do I look for when I am hiring a teacher?

The answer to this question isn’t rocket science!  I have been a Head in both the UK and in the international schools sector, and have been recruiting staff for over thirty years.  When you make an international school job application, the recruiter will have the following questions in mind:

1 How does the candidate’s experience (in particular the most recent experience in their present position) match with the job for which they are applying?

What I always look at in a CV is the previous experience education background and what they are like as a person. This helps me assess whether a candidate will be up to the job, committed and conscientious. It is also important that they fit within the ethos of the school as relationships with colleagues are often more important when living abroad.

2 What are the candidate’s achievements in their career thus far?

It is essential that you can demonstrate that that you have the required experience.  I read their CV or profile page to assess their previous achievements, roles, type of school and how long they worked in each school.

3 What is the pattern of the candidate’s career thus far?

It’s great if a candidate has had a wide range of both person and professional experience. If they have worked in another sector, or range of types of schools I see that as a positive so long as they are trained and have necessary experience for the role. Management experience is equally attractive.

4 How does the candidate’s philosophy match with the school’s mission and modus operandi?

International school job applicationI always read personal statements carefully as they help me get a real sense of a teacher and how they would fit in. Everyone’s ideas and educational philosophies are different and I believe it’s important to have a wide range of ideas and beliefs in a school so long as they don’t contradict our school’s mission statement and way of operating. I always recommend teachers read our mission and sometimes ask them about it in interview.

5 How do the candidate’s personal qualities, interests and achievements suit the style of the school?

I love teachers who are passionate about something – be it travel, football, chess or making movies so I always read the ‘personal interests’ part of a CV or profile page. I am not a micro-manager so I look for self-motivated teachers who will take on projects of their own whether it be setting up a photography club or taking a group of pupils on a trip to Uganda. For these reasons I believe personal interests are equally important to professional qualifications.

6 How does the candidate ‘connect’ with the recruiter?

There’s the old saying that Heads hire teachers like themselves. Although this is often true, I have always strived to avoid this. Key to a successful staff team is a having a wide range of personalities as this ensures our pupils benefit from a range of teaching methods and styles.

  • 1-3 can initially be assessed from a thorough examination of the CV or profile
  • 4 can be assessed from the candidate’s personal statement and letter of application
  • 1-4 can be consolidated at interview
  • 5, 6 can be assessed at interview
  • 1-6 can be informed by the candidate’s references

It is important when preparing the application that a candidate takes this sequence on board.  When I receive a number of applications for a number of posts, the CV or profile is the first document to be examined.  If the CV or profile is of interest, the personal statement will be assessed.  Then, referees will be sought and a short-list will be made of candidates who will be called for interview.

So if you can imagine the process from the side of the recruiter, this is ideal.  The Head or Principal may receive over 50 applications for one job, and sometimes this figure is in the hundreds. Your CV has to be concise and to the point, concentrating on how items 1-3 are covered. Content, order and presentation are all very important. The CV has to be no more than 2 sides of A4. Providing additional information (such as the documents and video on your Teacherhorizons profile) will serve to help your application.

The personal statement/letter of application must be equally concise, no more than 1.5 sides.  It must address item 4 and must not be a regurgitation of information in the CV or profile. It must not be an essay. It must not try to cover every detail and explanation of your views.

Remember, the interview will cover the detail.

A crucial addition to this list when it comes to applying for an international school, a recruiter will assess:

How suited you will be to living and working in an environment, which may well be different from your experience to date? This will be covered at interview, but you must prepare for this from the moment an application is considered.

Check out Alexis’ article for more advice on writing your international school CV.
For researching locations, we love Expat Arrivals. Do your homework before you apply, to make sure you’re going to a place that’s suited to you.

Written by John Regan, former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons

Internationalising the teaching profession

The aim of Teacherhorizons is to make it much easier for teachers to explore ALL teaching opportunities and schools all over the world, be it in a glamorous International School in mountainous Switzerland or a charity run school for street children in Mumbai, India.

We want truly ‘internationalise’ teaching by helping teachers to be much more internationally mobile. Why shouldn’t a brilliant physicist from Estonia be able to teach physics in France or a talented Brazilian gymnast teach PE in Hong Kong? A true globalisation of teaching would undoubtedly benefit teachers and students everywhere.

Teachers should be able to access free detailed information about schools to help us make the right decisions and be an asset to the schools we move to work in. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency and vagueness surrounding the term ‘international school’ has meant that some teachers have made some poor judgements and ended up in some pretty ropey institutions. This only serves to give the entire international sector a bad name when really FAR more teachers should be benefitting from the experience of teaching abroad.

As teachers ourselves, we’ve had a fantastic time teaching in Portugal, Japan, Egypt and Nepal and want to help more teachers to benefit from the experience. Professionally it’s fantastic working with teachers and students of different nationalities, learning new techniques, teaching an international curriculum like the IB and getting some exceptional professional development opportunities.

But equally exciting is having change of scene – getting to know a new country, making new friends, discovering new lifestyles, cultures, languages, cuisines… Weekends spent discovering new local markets, beaches or nearby villages whilst you can explore a new continent on your doorstep over the holidays. This personal experience is equally as important as the professional development – something we believe will make you a more inspiring (and fresh!) teacher when you return to your homeland (or move on somewhere else).

But, until now, it’s been hard to find out details about schools which is pretty absurd when we are hoping to embrace a new life as well as a new job.  Surely we have a right to know key things like salaries, benefits, training budgets, pension schemes (to name just a few) before we fly across the world to start a new life.

This is why we created Teacherhorizons and why we believe that (with your help!) we can inspire teachers around the world to join our international community and together, in time, we can truly internationalise the teaching profession.

All the fun of the fair?

Recruitment Fairs have long been a way of finding a job in an international school. Clearly, it’s not practical to visit every school spread across the globe on the chance of an appointment, so the fairs held in main centres like London and Beijing offer a short-cut.  But like many short-cuts, they offer a bumpy ride and a good chance of getting lost or ending up where you didn’t really want to go. My experience of a Recruitment Fair in London was literally a long shot. I fancied a position in South America, and I was working in Mozambique at the time, but I was told the London fair was worth trying.

So, having paid my own fare from Mozambique, I checked in at the soulless three-star hotel where the fair was held – and found 500 teachers milling around nervously, all like me on a mission to get their ideal job. With a minimum of knowledge about potential schools, I hit the hallway. We had just two hours to grab as many interviews as we could. Go, go, go…

I ended up with 6 interviews, only three of which sounded seriously promising.  The next day I found my way to a tiny room – which turned out not only to be the interview room but also the principal’s own bedroom – a bizarre setting for the first one-to-one with your prospective head. The allocated half-hour was too short: neither party really had time to get enough information.

Some of the schools insisted on a second round of interviews the following day.  Was an International School in Baranquilla really the place I wanted to not only commit to a two year, contract but also live in?

By day four, I had cabin fever and felt I was going crazy.  The job fair did yield two jobs offers but the experience had put me off.  I had another offer (in London bizarrely) and took it.  Everybody at the Fair wanted an instant response, so I felt I had to decide there and then.  I had already spent over £1000, going away empty-handed seemed wrong.  Speaking to other teachers at the fair, many felt a similar way.

There had to be another way.

Recruitment fairs – the cost to both parties

Teacher cost School cost (based on recruiting a single teacher)
Fair registration = approx. £120

Return flights (from Mozambique) =  approx. £500

Accommodation = 4 x £80 per night = £320

Food and drinks = 4 x £40 per day = £160

School registration = approx. £1200

Fair registration = approx. £300

Return flights = approx. £500 x 2 = £1000

Accommodation = 4 x £80 x 2 = £640

Food and drinks = 4 x £40 x 2 = £320

Placement fee = approx. £1000

Total cost = £1100 (approx. $1700) Total cost = £4460 (approx. $7000)

If you have an experience of the fairs, what did you think?  What do you think are the best alternatives?

We’ll share what we think they are in next week’s blog post.

Welcome to Teacherhorizons blog

Welcome to our new Teacherhorizons blog.

The purpose of our blog is to reach out to international teachers and teachers who want to teach abroad with:

  • The latest news and opinions about international schools and international education from experienced teachers and heads of schools.
  • Information about our new product releases, giving you an ability to comment on them and improve them further!
  • Insights into the day of an international school (from Brazil to Japan) and their teachers.
  • Tips and suggestions on how to get that great new job or even make your existing job more interesting.

Teacherhorizons truly aims to internationalise the teaching profession – to see how we aim to do it, you may be interested in watching the 3 minute video below:

Should you wish to write and publish a guest blog post, please do contact us.

My perspective on teaching abroad in New Zealand

As soon as I entered the teaching profession I wanted to live and teach abroad. English is my only language and I liked the idea of speaking to the locals so I concentrated on Down Under.  Australia seemed too obvious for a sports fan like me and New Zealand seemed a bit more of an unknown quantity, a bit more exciting; so I set my heart on teaching there.

I checked out a couple of websites and looked into what needed to be done. 10 months before take-off I started the administrative part of the process.  Certified copies of degree and teaching certificates and transcripts were sent to Wellington for verification. I was under 30 so I got a working holiday visa which I reasoned could be upgraded to a work visa/permit when employed. Lastly a letter from the police was obtained to prove a clean record. I was ready to go – hang on a minute what about a job?


Taking a job without having seen the school didn’t sit well with me, given the lack of information available, so on arrival in New Zealand I made the mistake of signing up to an education agency. They set up an interview for a job I had seen advertised online – this jeopardised my chance of getting this job as the principle was unwilling to pay the extortionate fee the agency charged. However, he relented and I was employed – the school year started at the end of January and I had 6 weeks of summer to acclimatise to my new surroundings.

The New Zealand curriculum, whilst different to the UK one was straight forward enough to adapt to – Maths is an international subject after all!  The work was often as challenging as it is at home – lessons to plan, disruptive students to deal with, fights to break up and reports to write.  However it all seemed a lot more enjoyable in a school that was surrounded by green fields and, in winter, snow-capped mountains.

The biggest adjustment for me teaching abroad was getting used to the work/life balance. In New Zealand, it’s definitely more weighted towards the life side of things! I was amazed at the friendly gestures of my new colleagues – ‘I have a spare car, do you want it?’. I threw myself into the many extra-curricular activities on offer to the students. Sleeping in bivouacs in the bush, sea fishing, dragon boating, tramping, white water rafting, sports tournaments – there seemed to be a residential trip to help out with every term. There was also a cultural education for me every week;  Friday in the staffroom before school we learnt about the Maori culture. It was another element to living and teaching abroad which I embraced.   I not only taught but learnt a lot too.


New Zealand is a long way away. So I needed some friends outside of work. This is easily done if you’re a bloke and like sport; I joined a local football and cricket team. In fact I was bragging to my friends in the UK about how good life was that a year later 2 other Maths teachers had joined me in Wellington (they applied to 2 different schools when they arrived in the country).  One is still there the other is going back next year, it speaks volumes for teaching abroad and life in New Zealand!

In the holidays I explored the country. Three years flew by and I loved every minute of it. If you are going to teach abroad I can highly recommend my second home.

Written by Adam Simson, IB Maths teacher and all-round sporting legend at Westminster Academy

Finding meaning in teaching in South Korea

The more I teach, the more meaning it brings to my life. It is an unbelievable feeling to go to work and discover that you actually get paid to do something that you believe in. My husband Josh and I teach in a little city called Yeosu on the tip of South Korea. While I can’t say I really believe in the Korean education system per se (definitely not in its entirety anyway), I surely believe in instilling confidence and a sense of self in children on the way to becoming whoever it is they are going to be. And for some reason I’ve yet to put my finger on, these particular children are well on their way to stealing my heart, making this preoccupation I have with educating them even more delightful and fulfilling.

It was several weeks ago that the teachers at my school were asked to make calls for one hour a day during a temporary period of five classes a day rather than the normal six. We were actually calling the kids without warning to help them gain more confidence in their English ability. Very unheard-of in the hagwan world, but not that surprising given the many unusual things we’ve done since we first arrived. Furthermore, we were a little nervous, given that our ability to say hello and “I am teacher” pretty much encapsulated our Korean vocabulary in its entirety at that time. It didn’t help that our pitiful attempts to communicate with parents were at times received with the simple clicking sound of the phone being promptly dropped back into the receiver.


But the kids were another story. Word got around that “teacher called” someone or another’s house, and pretty soon tiny little voices were answering the phone with baited breath. Sometimes, we’d hear squeals of joy, and other times, voices barely above a whisper. But every time after, there was a little cluster of wide-eyed students at my desk at the beginning of the following work day, “Teacher, you — on phone — my house!!”

One day, Josh called sweet little Kitty, a rather fluent little nine-year old who we both adore in every way, and it ended up not only making quite an impression on her, but as is often the case — her parents as well. In fact, her father was so proud that he called the school and invited us to have dinner with them. It was only a few days later that we all piled into the back of their SUV for a night out on the town. The girls were so excited that they could barely catch their breath. We sang, we told stories and jokes, and laughed the whole way until we arrived at what turned out to be an extremely lavish restaurant, serving the most expensive food I’ve had in South Korea so far. It dawned on us — this was a reward. Not for us, but for them. They had made their parents proud of the their progress, and this was how they got to celebrate.

We sat around the table to enjoy our meal, admiring the fountains and the enormous buffet of food spread before us. The kids beamed at us with polite little smiles. Sally, Kitty’s sister said to me, “Teacher, it ama-jing! Everyone here is looking at us, because we are here with you. I’m so sooo happy!” It was so humbling; I didn’t really know how to take it in. They were so sweet, so polite, and so unnecessarily grateful. These tiny little kids who study more than many college students on our side of the world were pouring our drinks, getting our soup, and asking us intentional questions. Far from giddy or overbearing, they were models of restraint whose attentiveness and voice tone ooozed delight and celebration. The significance of what is happening in a teacher-student relationship is scarcely obvious on the surface, yet it was truly our privilege to experience this rare gift of being acutely aware of just how meaningful this relationship is. It wasn’t til after we got home that we found out that Kitty and Sally’s mom has cancer, which is probably why she was unable to attend last minute. She has lost her ability to work as a nurse, and now travels all the way across the country to Seoul each week for chemo.


When I arrived at work the next day, even better than the mad dash of “Teacher-did-you-call-me” was Kitty’s run across the room to throw her tiny arms around my neck. It’s the first time one of my students hugged me — Korean kids don’t hug like American kids do. Back was the feeling from our dinner out; this feeling that breaks my heart and yet makes it feel so whole at the same time. Being a teacher is quite a gift; a gift to give and receive all at once. The responsibility is frightful but yet the response is so pure, it keeps you honest. It’s a great feeling to have a day that makes you think that, by the grace of God, maybe you’re getting it right at least part of the time.

You can read more South Korean teaching experiences on the excellent blog at www.everythingbutkimchi.wordpress.com

Written by Stephanie Klein, international teacher at Park Jeong Young Academy, South Korea