I spent the weekend writing emails. Not to family and friends but total strangers. Well, not total strangers, at least I had their resumes in front of me. I was trying to entice them. It’s that time of year. The dance begins and recruiting is in full throttle. Searching the data bases from SEARCH, TIE online, COIS, etc , writing emails to folks to see if they are interested in dancing to the beats of West Africa. It’s time consuming and challenging. But the time has come for me to put on my dancing shoes and Happy Feet (see penguins dancing, 2006) and plunge full throttle into the Big Dance!
From an administrator’s perspective it’s one of the most important task of the year. Finding the right teachers for your students
is critical. Figuring out who will be opening school in August and introducing themselves (or intro & dancing with) your students on that first day is a daunting responsibility. The challenge for a moderately sized school in West Africa, is that not everyone really wants to dance to the beat of West Africa. You’ve got to be ready and willing to deal with the challenges and excitement of the developing world!
I remember going to my first recruiting fair with ISS in New York City in 1985. We walked into the room and behind a row of desks were the recruiters – THE HEADS in SUITS, also known as “Guys with da Ties”. I remember the adrenalin of moving around and setting up interviews. Fantasizing, with my wife, about each exotic locale and possibility. I remember the long lines for European schools – everyone, it seemed, wanted to go to Madrid (was it the flamenco dancing?) I remember the anticipation, the intensity, the scramble for signing up. It was a thrill and it was exhausting. Our 3 days of interviews and multiple job offers led us to taking jobs in India. We danced out of the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, down 42nd St and back to our Port Authority bus to suburban New Jersey beaming and ready to immerse ourselves in South Asia. That’s the romantic side of our first job fair.
That was before email, web sites, skype, even before fax machines. But somehow we managed to communicate in the upcoming months. Western Union, telexes, and snail mail all worked. It took weeks before a contract arrived at our idyllic little farm house in northern Vermont.
I’ve been to multiple job fairs in 30 years. I’ve been a candidate. I’ve been a recruiter. It’s an emotional drain on both sides of the dance floor. You can leave the dance broken hearted, disappointed, OR aligned with your “star candidate”, your “dream come true” who is ready for “the time of their life” (ala Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray – 1987)
Obviously the face of recruiting has evolved. Even in the past 5 years, let alone 30. More agencies involved in the profitable recruiting business, more dance floors aka “recruiting fairs”, more international candidates, more international schools, an extended recruiting season that lasts at least 10 months, more skype interviews, more pressure to fill positions with qualified candidates. Nimble feet are required to navigate the party! If you ain’t got the dancing steps, it can be really challenging! Travolta would have been a master recruiter….or candidate…..
In a couple of weeks time I will attend a recruiting fair in London to interview candidates. I’ll seek to imagine myself with the smoothness of a Fred Astaire as I prep for the big dance. I’ll scour the candidate data base ahead of time, seeking a match – I’m sure Ginger Rogers is out there. I’ll head down to the sign ups at the outset of the fair wearing my best suit and dancing shoes. I might even slick back my hair, hoping for a bit of that Kevin Bacon (Footloose) charm. I’ll identify who I want to dance with, court them with an email note, entice them to consider our school while knowing they are being courted by others, and hopefully waltz (or disco) our way through a full on interview (ala Travolta). I’ll pitch the school, query their interests and understand their experience all the while hoping for a match. First impressions in that initial face to face encounter matter. Maybe, just maybe, a diamond in the rough (ala Billy Elliot) will jump out and scream – “I’m the one” – take me to Accra!
Recruiting is a challenging dance! One to approach with humor, perspective, professionalism, and a sense of open ended wonder!