Dominoes Falling in Bangkok

dominoesYellow slips.

One of the reasons I started this blog ten months ago was to chronicle the preparations and steps involved to move overseas and begin an international teaching career. Although I’ve read much about this for several years, it’s only been in the past ten months that I’ve seriously planned to enter this arena next year. This past week marked the first domino to fall, so to speak, with the kickoff of the widely recognized and respected Search Associates’ (SA) Bangkok International Recruiting Fair. This fair is thought of, by many, to lead the pack of fairs that will happen almost every weekend from now until mid-February. Starting in Bangkok, the fair tornado will spin north and westward traveling to Hong Kong, London, Toronto and Cambridge (USA), clearing everything in its path, before dying down in San Francisco in mid-February. There are clean up crews that follow the storm, including fairs in Dubai, London and Bethesda (US), but for many, the rush of the hiring season will be over. And this list only accounts for the Search Associates’ fairs. Not included in this list are the ISS fairs and the UNI fair, which are also tucked into this 5-week equation. The race is on!

I am going to paraphrase a unique report given on the ISR Forum, this week, by a writer who calls himself Shadowjack. He and his wife were teacher candidates in Bangkok this week and he gave a page turning, daily account of what it was like riding the recruiting wave these past few days. His reporting was transparent and seemingly accurate. I applaud his tireless efforts and celebrate his victory. If any of my readers are planning to attend an educational recruiting fair this spring, I hope this will be helpful to you. For those not attending a fair this year, this post may not be anything you are remotely interested in. Feel free to exit now.

The Scene: (quoted from the SA website)

Held at the Royal Orchid Sheraton on the Chao Phraya River, this fair is designed for experienced, top administrators and teachers from around the world (with or without IB experience) who are looking for positions in highly regarded international schools.

Paraphrased through the eyes of Shadowjack and others:


Arrive prepared: laptop, CV and related materials, quick fact sheets on schools, Thank You notes. Make a table in Microsoft Word that lists: School, Country, and Position/s and have these printed out, ready to fill in. Have three or four professional clothing ensembles ready for interviewing; casual clothes for evening wear.

Know where you want to be and pursue it. Hopefully you’ve already learned about the schools and the countries. Imagine how it would fit YOU. Bangkok is an early fair. Recruiters are willing to walk away from you and take a gamble that they will find a better candidate in an upcoming fair. Know this.

Register. Grab your package and start comparing school openings to the list you brought. Some school openings will be posted that aren’t even on SA’s daily list yet! Yellow slips =“I want to request an interview”. Fill in the yellow slips for schools that you are interested in. Paperclip CV and yellow slip together and put your “package” into schools’ folders. This takes time as there is a queue.

If schools want to interview you, they will also put a note in your box (each candidate has a box or folder of some kind). If you’ve had contact with a school before the fair, you may have notes already in your box or notes can show up at any time. Keep checking back.

After this is done, sort out which school presentations you want to go to. Go to many, as it allows you to network with school heads and principals. Start conversations.

Allow some time for schools to sort through their yellow slips, but go back and check your box for notes from schools from time to time, which, by the way, can also include rejection notes. You may/may not want to scratch off going to presentations of schools that have nixed you this time round.

QUOTE from Shadowjack:

“AT THIS POINT DO NOT PANIC. I have talked with several of my colleagues who are fantastic teachers – if I were recruiting I would hire them on the spot – but they have heard nothing. Zippo. Zilch. Understand that fairs are very hit and miss. This year there might not be that great combination position for you and your wife/husband. It might not be posted at this particular fair. Your school of choice might not be in attendance. Your dream job might have already been filled before the fair. My advice – keep an open mind and go listen to some of the schools in intriguing places that you know nothing about…talk to the recruiter – and see what happens.”

Go to school presentations. Presentations are spread over 3-4 conference rooms. More than one happen at the same time. Know that the schools will (naturally) present themselves in the best light. Most of the presented information you can glean from their websites, but you will get to observe the administrator and you can get insight into how they act and behave. Notice if they appreciate questions. Do they have stories or just show slides? Based on their presentation, how well versed are they with technology? Do they talk about staff and students (people and relationships) or do they talk about facilities and infrastructure (money)?

Introduce yourself to recruiters at the presentations, at sign-up, in passing and at the social. Make a pitch for yourself and possibly get an interview. You have 30 seconds – 1 minute to tell them your strengths and why you would be a great fit. Have about 25 CV’s on hand for this purpose. After meeting a recruiter at a presentation, they can change their mind about you and drop an interview request note in your box, when originally, they hadn’t done so.

Regarding CVs: Highlight your skills, experience and training. No fluff. Seriously, don’t go back to what you did in high school. No one cares about this!

After a day of this, you will be tired. Exhausted.

Go to bar/restaurant.

Go find your rejection letters (or not…) and plan the next day.

Swing by the candidates’ lounge where schools post their openings to see if there are any changes. Decide which schools you will approach during interview sign-ups first thing in the morning. Which presentations will you attend? Sweet dreams.


Go have breakfast. Try to remember recruiters’ names (from meeting any the day before!) You will run into them, here and there. You want them to remember you! Swing by candidates’ lounge to see if there’s any new listings. Go check your box to check for interview requests or rejection notes.

Sell yourself. This is the day that you will try to sell yourself (in 30 seconds – 1 minute) to recruiters who have either already contacted you for an interview, or who you talked to during presentation times who might be interested in you, or who you meet in the interview sign up time, or even those who have no idea who your are, but you like their school and you put a CV package in their file. Go meet these recruiters of schools where you’d like to be, even if there aren’t any current openings in your subject. If you don’t have an opportunity to interview with them, meeting them at their presentation is the next best thing to have them remember you for the future.

Interview sign up.  Located in ballroom and ballroom foyer. Admin candidates (about 100) went in at 12:30 pm; teaching candidates (about 450) started entering at 1:00 pm. GET IN LINE EARLY (maybe 45 minutes early). Smaller schools were set up in foyer so you can check out where they are located early. Inside the ballroom, schools were in alphabetical order by country, then school name. SA’s organization was excellent!

Approach recruiters confidently.  Know your skills. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Go to your top schools first. “I want to be your next _______ teacher!” They will be bluntly honest with you. Don’t take offense. They have many people to see and jobs to be filled. If they are not interested in you, they will say so. It’s exhausting, selling yourself over and over. Don’t give up, just keep going. However, schools can smell desperation. Don’t be desperate. It will all work out. Be patient.

Go to presentations. Or – go to interviews if you have any scheduled! Interviews may be scheduled during presentation times. Interviews are held in recruiter’s rooms. Wait outside the room door. About three minutes before interview time, gently, but firmly, knock. Previous candidate will exit and they will take a minute or two to prepare for you and invite you in.

Do your homework on the school, the city and the country! Do not lie about your ability to teach the curriculum. Be honest in the interview. If they say they will get back to you, good! It is not a brush off. If they don’t want you they will tell you that. They will be very honest with you.

Check back for newly posted openings.

Check your box.

Do not panic. Do not self-doubt. Just keep to the business at hand. Check out SA website for updates in positions. All kinds of things can happen. A hired candidate can change their mind. A school may not extend a contract because of an upcoming fair in a different city, only to call you in two weeks and extend a contract. Don’t freak if you have not yet got a contract.

Go to the social, whenever they are scheduled. Excellent opportunity to network again.

Dinner. Bed. Night-night.


To quote Shadowjack:

“By the end of the day, some people will have a sense that the fair was a waste of time; others will have multiple job offers to choose from, and others will still be waiting for that elusive offer to appear and make it all worth while.”

Early rise. Breakfast.

Early interview appointments (hopefully). Do not panic if no contracts are offered. Be strong! Don’t doubt. Contracts may not be offered but the experience and networking is valuable. You will be tested at this point. You should understand that your attendance at a fair is NOT a guarantee of a job.

Check your box. Check mail. Go to candidate lounge. You will see a variety of scenarios to include happy people that have been offered a contract, candidates filling out interview requests, candidates Skyping and chatting.

Attend candidates/recruiters reception. You have paid for this. Keep the drink ticket from your fair package, wear your name tag and talk with everyone. Learn about offers that were made. Keep your chin up.

Check file folder again. Stay positive.

Prepare your suitcase to leave tomorrow. Go to bed. Sleep tight.


Leave luggage with concierge.

Early to breakfast. Arrive early (before 8:00 am) because everyone is eating breakfast this last day before they make their way through a couple of last interviews and then to airport.

Go to scheduled interviews. Recruiters want you to want their job as much as they want to offer it to you. If they sense any kind of reservation, they hate making you an offer. Also keep in mind that some candidates never get a single interview. If you’ve had any, thank your lucky stars. If you feel it is needed, go back to schools and tell them you are genuinely interested.

And if a contract is offered, and if you sign it, arrangements are briefly covered. More details are forthcoming in a month or so. Celebrate! The search is over for you!

If recruiters are waiting to hear from you, let them know if you accept an offer from another school.

If no contract is offered, chin up. There are more fairs and there are more jobs. Be thankful of this experience. Think about how much more you know now than when you arrived.

Last March, when I started this blog, I started tracking the art teacher jobs, going forward, from March 12 through September 4. There were 33 additional art teacher jobs posted in the SA daily post. Keep in mind this was after all the international fairs had happened. All kinds of things can happen to cause this. Maybe a candidate at Bangkok, who accepted an offer, had a change of heart and decided to abandon his post. Maybe an employed teacher had anticipated returning to her post, but a change in life caused her to have to leave her assignment. Life is like water, it’s fluid and ever changing. Remember: Your oath is your bond.

Think about a Plan B. I have a Plan B figured out although I don’t know all the details. Basically my Plan B is to leave my current position, as planned, spend some of the money I’ve been saving and travel during the summer, then probably move to California to be close to my daughter. Plan A would be awesome and Plan B would be awesome. I’m not going to take any ‘ol job. It has to be “right”. I’ll know it if it is offered. I’ve got two weeks until I will have personal experience at this. Breathe. . . and good luck everyone!

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5 thoughts on “Dominoes Falling in Bangkok

  1. Suzanne says:

    Anita, thanks so much for posting this! I really needed it. I want to be as prepared as possible. It’s shocking how the number of openings are already decreasing on the agency sites–hope all the good jobs aren’t gone by the time I get to Boston. And didn’t you say you are going to SACambridge, too? I would love to meet you there. I am staying at the overflow hotel (shuttle supposedly running day and night). Please contact me if you’d like to touch base!

    • Suzanne, you are so welcome! I thought Shadowjack’s reporting was incredible helpful! I’ve spent this entire weekend preparing “my package”! Remember, Don’t Panic! 🙂 It’s a learning opportunity! Yes, we’ve got to meet! I’ll be at Cambridge! Do you teach art? Will we be competing with one another? 🙂 ha! I am staying at the conference hotel. Why don’t you email me at anitajohorton at me dot com? Then we can exchange phone numbers.

  2. amy j says:

    Can’t wait to see God’s ultimate plan for you!

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