Interviewing International Candidates: What to Consider

International teaching candidates. There’s no doubt that numerous, qualified candidates exist around the globe, but ensuring those qualifications transfer to each state’s requirements can often feel overwhelming — for both the teacher, and the school.

Interviewing International Candidates: What to Consider
Person holding six different flags, representing six different countries. 

With many schools across the U.S. searching for great teachers — principals and recruiters are left wondering if it’s time to start considering international candidates. There’s no doubt that numerous, qualified candidates exist around the globe, but ensuring those qualifications transfer to meet each state’s requirements can often feel overwhelming — for both the teacher and the school.

We’ll cover key questions to help avoid missteps and confusion in the process with some advice from our partner, Cultural Vistas — and bring more excitement to experiencing a classroom cultural exchange with qualified, overseas educators.

But first thing’s first, get realistic about the costs related to supporting a visa — then budget and plan accordingly. Remember, there will likely be an annual visa sponsorship fee associated with each international candidate — and some programs require the school to cover all the sponsorship costs.

While this might sound daunting — and quite simply, out of budget — there are so many benefits to working with international candidates. Do your research, and consider what your school can afford to cover. Just remember to consider the costs for both you and the teacher when presenting your best employment offer:

  • Annual visa sponsorship fee.
  • Health insurance fees for the candidate, and their spouse/dependents.
  • Flights and the cost of setting up life in a new country.

Questions to ask before interviewing international candidates:  

Who needs to be involved in this discussion?

Consider all parts of the process — sourcing, recruitment, interviewing, licensing, human resources and payroll, vendor management, and so on.  Working with candidates that are not U.S. citizens could impact various aspects of your hiring process and you want to make sure all parties are prepared.

Example questions to consider:

  • Has your HR ever processed an I-9 for a non-U.S. citizen?
  • Does a visa sponsor need a vendor contract?
  • Does your team know the licensing process for such teachers?
  • Does your legal counsel need to weigh in?

What are the state licensing requirements for international teachers?

This is critical for the teacher to understand what’s required in order to obtain a license, and it helps your team pinpoint what to look for during the resume screen and interview process.

  • Teachers need to know the steps and costs associated with this process.
  • They are required to follow any applicable existing laws.
  • Some states have special international teacher licenses, others do not.
  • Teachers will have to provide a credential evaluation report to demonstrate the U.S. equivalency of their education.
  • Some sponsors will offer a service to determine eligibility, others will simply defer to school experts to make this call.
  • The visa requirements sponsors go by are not necessarily the same as state requirements.

Remember, the path to becoming a teacher in other countries can be very different. Just because they seem to have degrees and are employed as a teacher does not mean they have exactly what’s necessary for the license in your state.

Should we have a sponsor we want to work with or should the candidate have one?  

If the candidate mentions they want to work with a particular sponsor, you should reach out directly to the sponsor to learn more about the process.  It’s possible, depending on the time of year, that the sponsor no longer has the availability or capacity to sponsor any more teachers — or even the DOE permission in your state. Making sure there is a viable path will save time and effort on both your and the teacher’s part.  

It is best for you to be in direct communication instead of putting the teacher in the middle.  This way you can begin to establish a relationship, get your questions answered, and try to ensure the school and open teaching position qualify for the program.  

Pro Tips: Teachers who are searching for their own jobs may not realize to ask private schools about their accreditation which is a visa requirement.  They also may not understand that preschool is not permitted except in language immersion schools.  

Do we know what the process looks like and what’s required from us?

You can expect to fill out an application or form detailing the basic profile of your school and the position you offered, as well as how you plan to support the teacher.  You should consider who in your school is responsible for gathering the information and communicating with the sponsor both during the initial application process and throughout the school year. Other things to consider:

  • A contract or offer letter will be expected.
  • An attorney is not required though your school may be more comfortable with that.
  • You will likely need to sign an agreement with the sponsor which may require certain personnel to review or sign.

Where are the candidates originating?

You may have found your candidates on the Selected platform, through a referral, or through a direct application to your open positions. It’s also possible that you’ve been working with a visa sponsor that has offered recruiting assistance.

If, however, a teacher is working with a third-party recruiter to help them find positions with schools, it’s important to take note of the following:

  • An organization that is not a designated sponsor must have its candidates apply with a sponsor organization that has been designated by the U.S. Department of State. You’ll want to fully understand the roles and contacts involved and, again, reach out directly to the sponsor.
  • Depending on the third-party recruitment firm, some visa sponsors may not be able to consider the teacher’s application. So, always ask your international candidates if they are working with a third-party recruiter, and be sure to check on eligibility with a sponsor you trust.

What will be unique about interviewing international candidates?

Time zones! Think about this when scheduling a meeting.  Remember that U.S. interviewing practices could vary from other cultures.  

  • The teacher may not be familiar with demo lessons.
  • Some countries include age, religion, or marital status as best practices on their resumes — and we would likely not see this information on the resume of a domestic candidate.
  • “Selling” yourself, your skills, and your strengths is less typical in some places where the focus is just on experience and education.
  • The teacher may have attended the best education program in their country, but you may not be familiar with the school — and the candidate may not realize the need to share this.
  • When it comes to resumes, the U.S. is also much more focused on an individual's accomplishments vs. the collaborative teamwork other cultures prefer to emphasize.

Bottom line, if the resume looks different than what you’re used to, consider the types of interview questions that might help you highlight the ways in which the candidate is — or is not — the right-fit for your school.

Can we provide support for the teacher’s transition?  

Just like the whole child approach, you have to consider the whole experience for the teacher. This means looking beyond the initial hiring process and securing the visa. These teachers are uprooting their whole life and will need some support. Do you have someone that can spend the time needed to provide advice or resources to them?  This could include airport pick up, assisting with housing options or information, securing a host family, doing a community/neighborhood orientation, etc.  It also includes making sure supervisors and key staff are ready with patience. Some teachers will have a lot of questions and may be more anxious and challenged by the transition.  

Pro Tip: Some sponsors or third-party recruiters may be able to assist in some of these areas if they have local staff.

Do we have time to hire international candidates?

If you haven’t answered these questions by January, then it might be too late for the upcoming year.  It really depends on whether or not you have one candidate you’re ready to hire — or if you’re trying to build a program and recruit a number of teachers.  One reason starting early is so important is that several steps come into play after the teacher arrives and before they can often start working or getting paid.  This includes applying for a Social Security Number, completing the background check, and other requirements depending on your school.  Arriving before school starts helps ensure a smooth process.

Once you’re able to answer the questions above, the real fun begins — meeting the international teachers that are eager to be a part of your school community and share their culture with your students and staff.

You can find international candidates on Selected, and Cultural Vistas is happy to help schools better understand and plan for the J-1 visa sponsorship process.

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For one, international candidates bring cultural diversity to your campus.
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