Gone are the days when references were used as the main criteria for judging the quality of a teacher. This is a shame, as references actually add a lot of value to an application; they reinforce a candidate’s achievements and add value to their credentials.
In the UK, many schools are so distrusting of references that they only use references as a final check once they have decided to employ a candidate. This is not the case for international schools where references still carry a lot of weight, provided they are from quality sources.
Provided you are a good teacher, solid and confidential references will actually help you secure great jobs. Choosing your referees is critical to this process. We have had a number of teachers who have selected their friends who then go on to provide outstanding references. This does not help your cause as it easy to spot and asks all sorts of questions about why a teacher has chosen their referees this way.
We strongly recommend that teachers make their current Head of School one of their three referees. Most good international schools will demand this and want to hear an assessment from the top. We would also suggest that you use a former Head of School for your second reference. The third can be more flexible but chose someone who has been your superior, a Head of Department, Deputy Head or line manager would be the most obvious choice.
Worried about a bad reference? In the vast majority of cases, you shouldn’t be. If your school have been particularly unreliable or unfair, you may choose to use your line manager rather than a Head of School as a referee. However, please be aware that you may need to justify your decision and most schools will call your current head to discuss the issue if they are suspicious in any way. You are often better off being completely honest, using the current Head and then explaining your situation. Heads of School know there are rogue schools or that personality clashes happen sometimes provided you come across well at interview and are completely open about your situation. If you are worried about this, a video interview can really help your cause as it may reduce any doubts a school may have regarding your applications.
The great news is that good teachers have nothing to worry about. A strong profile that is backed up by strong references is a winning formula and you are likely to be in pole position for that next job!