Shanghai skyline: Pearl Tower
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Abu Dhabi mosque
International high school
International high school
A group of teachers discussing their lessons
A job interview at an international school
Shanghai skyline: Shanghai Tower
Shanghai skyline: Shanghai Tower
Leader interview

May 13, 2022

Questions in a crowded job market

It’s boom time for teaching vacancies in China. Asking the right questions is vital to identifying the culture and benefits of schools that never needed you as much as they do now.

International teachers who are in China right now are spoilt for choice. COVID fatigue is driving a lot of expats out, while complicated visa applications, flight restrictions, and absurd costs make it hard for schools to fly teachers in. If you are considering a change of jobs right now, there have never been as many options to choose from.

COVID will pass. The borders will reopen. But the teaching job you choose today will be yours for at least the next two years. Identifying the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) of the schools you are interviewing with is crucial to making sure you find yourself in the place you want to be.

What is EVP?

An organisation's Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is the set of benefits it offers staff in return for their skills, experience and qualities. Brett Minchington, thought leader in employer branding, notes that this also encompasses the values and associations of an organisation. In other words, an EVP not only answers the question "What's in it for me?" but also "How will I feel about working for these people?"

It's unlikely that Somewhere Middle School No. 24 in Somewhere Province is going to have a published EVP, or have even thought about what makes their school attractive in a crowded job market. Salary, the most visible aspect of EVP, is not in itself a reliable indicator of how an organisation really values its employees. This is especially true in the kind of bubble economies that occur in periods of high demand.

Finding out what a school can offer you is key to making a discerning employment choice.

"Do you have any questions?"

Let's assume the interview has gone well and now it's over to you. Here are some example questions which should help you recognise a school's EVP:

Why do you like working for this school?

Conversely, you might ask: Why do you think your teachers like working for this school? If the answer is not a cliché, that's a good indicator of honesty. If there are no specific examples, and if you've heard the same answer more than five times before, it's a cliché. Also, note the enthusiasm in the answer. If the interviewer emotionlessly states, “These are the best days of my life” it might not be an authentic answer.

What was the last team building you held for your staff?

Specifics are key. If the interviewer struggles to describe a once-a-year KTV splurge, it's unlikely they have a strategy for employee engagement or wellbeing. You might also ask where teachers usually prepare for class, or have their lunch, or where they spend their time between classes. If the interviewer has no idea, chances are the school is not that invested in their teacher's lives outside the classroom. Alternatively, if that's how you prefer your work culture, this might be the place for you.

How do you recognise outstanding teachers?

Less appealing schools manage their teachers with a stick rather than a carrot. They only intervene when there is a problem, or to add a task. If the interviewer is able to describe an example of success in a classroom, this indicates that a teacher's individual performance is valued. Emotional compensation is not going to be listed on your contract, but being seen, and being recognised for being great, is an employer habit that should set it apart from the competition.

What will my daily teaching schedule look like?

The answer you get will help you identify how much the school values the time of its teachers. Are there flexible 'fifth periods'? Will ECAs be pre-arranged, or will they be randomly foisted onto your late afternoon? It may also be that the school is understaffed. How will this impact your course load? Whatever response you get, the manner in which it is delivered will indicate the culture on offer, be it chaotic, calm, vague, or direct.

Do you support your teachers in upgrading their qualifications?

In the current hiring climate you may have the chance to step into a teaching role that places new demands on your existing skillset. For example, you may be a high-performing ESL teacher with the chance to step into a formal English teaching role at a middle school or high school. Will the school help you get the qualifications to keep your job once the borders reopen and more qualified teachers flood the market? Asking the questions shows your honesty and commitment. The answer you get will show the school's commitment to your future career.

next steps!

If you're ready to continue in your job search, visit our vacancies list to review our great selection of specialist teaching roles for August 2022. Our expert team of recruitment consultants would be glad to help you through to your perfect job.  

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