Back in 2016 I wrote a blog post weighing up the pros and cons of attending in-person job fairs. Since I am a busy teacher with small people to look after, I have firmly landed on the side of the cons: surely in this post-COVID age of Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams, there must be a better way that saves time and costs less.

Have you ever been speed-dating? You know the concept: turn up at a bar, circulate around a series of tables at which fidgety people are sitting, biting their lips and taking great gulps of their drinks. You have a quick chat, evaluate the chemistry, and then make your mind up about who to see again at the end of the evening. Job done. I don’t think there can be a more efficient way to find love.  

The team at Teacher Horizons has taken the concept of speed-dating and applied it to international recruitment. We think it’s a brilliant idea that can save time for both employers and teachers.

I spoke to Anisha who came up with the concept a few years ago. During the pandemic, she realised that the in-person job fairs were no longer a feasible model, and that using the virtual space was the way forward. Having worked for Teacher Horizons for a long time, she understands how quickly it can take to decide whether a teacher is going to be right for a role, but often teachers are chatty, and even if you know someone isn’t a good fit in the first five minutes, you end up speaking with them for half and hour or more, just because they are nice. 

When she spoke to Heads, Anisha realised they faced the same issue, often wasting hours of time interviewing candidates. So she developed the structure for an online speed-matching event, and since then it has developed into a powerful recruitment tool for many of our partner schools. 

Unlike fairs, speed-matching offers interviews for pre-screened, quality candidates that have already been briefed on the school. The purpose of the conversations is for schools and teachers to understand if they are the right match as quickly as possible, so that the subsequent interviews are with the right people. Since 2020 we have held events for 28 different schools, and many more are signing up this year.

I wanted to get a flavour of one of these events, so I asked if I could attend as an observer. I joined a speed-matching event earlier in the Autumn for the Lisboan International School, a new school which is being set up in Portugal for a 2023 opening. The school is focused on innovation, and the team are the kind of people who are open to new approaches. They loved the idea of using speed-matching as a way to shortlist candidates quickly and with the minimum of fuss. 

My role was to be in the ‘waiting room’ with the candidates as they prepared for their interviews. The event started with a quick introduction to the Teacher Horizons team, and the panel from the Lisboan. After this, candidates were moved around carefully curated breakout rooms in order to chat to different people in short sessions of seven minutes or so.

The atmosphere in the waiting room was at times a little tense, but that tension exists in any interview scenario. I was there to break the ice a little by asking them about what they are looking for in a school, and why they were drawn to teach in Lisbon. We commented on the deliciousness of pasteis de nata, and agreed that living surrounded by sunshine and sea was an excellent plan. 

We were joined by my colleague Caroline, who works with the school and knows the team there very well, and she was able to provide much more useful information to the candidates and answer their questions. One candidate reported back after the event that she ‘was able to get a lot of info about the school that ultimately I wouldn’t have had time to ask’. Another said, ‘the process went smoothly and the waiting room was pleasant with relaxing small talk. I really enjoyed it”.

At the end of the event, the recruiting team from the Lisboan gave us feedback too, telling us that the event ‘really allowed us and the candidates to explore a personal connection that goes beyond a CV or a school website. It also forced us to think about the qualities and outlook we want teachers at The Lisboan to embody and challenged us to target our time to explore these. We have been able to make more informed recruitment decisions because of this – thank you!”

Since then we have held two more speed-matching events for schools in China, one for Dulwich College Shanghai Puxi, and the other for Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong, and this Saturday we have one for the European School of Azerbaijan.

If your school would be interested in hearing more about this time and money saving approach to recruitment, please take a look at this information page which outlines the process. It’s worth a read as a teacher too: if you are invited to a future event, it might make you less fidgety.

photo of author
Written by Camilla Cook
Camilla has been working in education for the past sixteen years, teaching English in the UK, El Salvador, Thailand, and Tanzania. She participated in the Teach First Programme in 2005, and went on to support another Teach First teacher in her efforts to set up The Literacy Pirates, an education charity working to develop the literacy, confidence, and perseverance of young people referred for extra support by their teachers. As their first Director of Learning, she was responsible for planning, leading, and evaluating the learning programmes. She has worked as the Head of Language and Literature in international schools for the past five years, and is now living in Brighton with her husband and two children, attempting to reacclimatise to the weather by cycling around as much as possible and eating lots of ice cream.
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