From non-negotiable salary offers to job interviews in cafes and everything in between.

What You Need to Know About Israeli Job Search
Photo by Amir Appel

(Looking for an internship in Israel? Here's a long list)

Some background about Israel

  • A tiny country of about 8.5 million people in 2015, most Israelis are first- to fourth-generation immigrants.
  • Having brought their different customs with them, many citizens and their children speak at least Hebrew, English and a 3rd language like my kids do (in our case, French).
  • In a perpetual state of war since being founded in 1948, the majority of Israel’s teenagers are conscripted at age 18 for multi-year military service. Many men and some women will then continue to serve up to one month annually in the military reserve.
  • With lots of couples meeting while in the “army” (although called that way in Israel, it unifies the Air Force and Navy too), Israelis usually marry and get pregnant while still in their twenties.

How do these facts impact Israel’s job search culture?

1. Networking-heavy

As a soldier you’ll meet hundreds of people from every corner of the country, many of whom will later come to your wedding. Often enough, one of them will also be able to connect you with a new boss.

On my Israeli job search in 2002, one army friend helped translate my CV while another actually got me a job offer.

2. Army experience

My secret job t-shirt

It used to be that you couldn’t get a job unless you had army service on your resume. That Israeli job myth now debunked, army experience can still be important. For example, it’s not rare for defense-related or hi-tech/IT job descriptions to require that you served in a specific army “unit” (sub-division) and those are two of the biggest industries in the country.

This can also help beyond Israel’s borders. When I joined in 2000, the local country manager introduced me to everyone in part by boasting that I had single-handedly built the IDF’s intranet (internal Internet), which was non-existent at the time. In reality, I built the intranet for my base. It was a large base, but still not the whole army.

3. Resume language

Israeli entrepreneurs stereotypically turn to international markets – usually focusing on the USA first – in considering the local market too small. With that, many Israeli companies use Hebrew internally but English the rest of the time.

Many local job seekers used to wonder in which language they should submit their resumes but there’s an easy language rule of thumb for that: use the same language as the job listing. That said, many aspiring professionals will prepare resumes in both languages.

In my 2006 Israeli job search, my Hebrew CV was the one I sent out most, though it had a link to my English LinkedIn profile, but it was my English CV that landed a job.

4. Specific resume elements

Every Israeli has a national ID card with a personal number that you’ll use when banking, creating an account on a website, etc., and on your resume. Also, as you can imagine from #2 above, alongside the classic resume sections like Work Experience and Education will usually be an Army Service section mentioning the period of time served, unit, rank, title and a short description of achievements while in service.

5. Less formality

The physical smallness of Israel and the national army service – among other things – combine to give Israelis an “everyone knows everyone” familiarity. As a result, people can be very open with their thoughts, not hesitating to yell at you over the phone when you follow up too soon. Or, dressing casual most if not all the time.

To give you an idea- when the Internet Bubble began in Israel at roughly the same moment as in Silicon Valley, the dressing-down of programmers and engineers was a non-issue compared to what people were saying about it in North America. Or, how about the job interview that took place in a cafe.

6. Job interview questions that get personal

Like in the USA, Israel also has laws about which questions can’t be asked in a job interview. Unlike in the USA, those laws don’t prevent many of those questions from being asked.

In all fairness however, there are often good intentions behind some of those questions, such as when a woman is asked how many kids she has, the reason may very well be that the hiring company wants to impress that it has daycare facilities to offer.

Good personal judgement is really important in these situations.

7. Salary negotiation (or lack thereof)

Many Israeli employers are old enough to remember a time when Israel was less prosperous and the unemployment rate was double the current 5-6%. In those days, getting a job offer was a cause for celebration. An unfortunate consequence is the still widely-used “take it or leave it” salary proposition.

Thankfully, the newer generation of entrepreneurs is more appreciative of how quickly employees can jump ship and are softening their negotiating stances. But you definitely need to research current salaries and know how to negotiate.

8. Job benefits

From Pixel/Point Press‘s Kelli Brown, via Facebook:

“The benefits are different here. From my experience in the US, you negotiated for days off, healthcare coverage, a laptop to work from home, etc.

Here, flexible benefits schemes often involve company cars, flexible hours or the ability to work 1-2 days a week from home, etc. since the government covers healthcare and there seems to be less flexibility in vacation time (but maybe I’m wrong on that).”

@MarnaBecker reminded me of other classic Israeli benefits such as negotiable vacation days, “Keren Hishtalmut” (Continuing Education Fund), pension plan contributions and more. Nefesh b'Nefesh has published a good list of the possibilities.

9. Religious considerations

As the Jewish state, and with over 75% of its citizens being Jews, Judaism is felt in the hiring process in many ways.

Like in any country, discrimination is an issue and religious discrimination here is no different. As people naturally prefer to hire and work with people similar to themselves, candidates can illegally be rejected for being too religious, not religious enough or just not being Jewish.

Most candidates will never experience that, thankfully, but they should keep in mind more basic things like Jewish holidays or just the fact that religious Jews are careful not to touch members of the opposite sex, so the polite thing is to not offer your great handshake to interviewers with their heads covered i.e. men with kipas (yarmulkes) or women with hats, headscarves, etc.

(Thanks to @JenMaidenberg for reminding me to mention this last point which in hindsight, I can’t believe that I forgot to mention.)

READ NEXT: A Complete Guide: How To Make An Israeli CV Out Of Your Resume

What do you think?

If you’ve looked for a job in Israel, what made you think “this would never happen where I came from”?

If you’ve never looked for a job in Israel, which of the above differences is most/least surprising?

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. David Corman

    As always, great article Jacob!

    Another difference in the Israeli job market is that salaries are almost never publicized and can fluctuate dramatically depending on experience. Job candidates need to really be informed about what standard salaries are in both the industry as a whole and the position in particular. Other factors that influence salaries include the size, age, and financial situation of the company or organization. Employers or HR also commonly ask what you made in your previous position.

  2. Jacob Share

    David- it’s common in many countries for HR to ask what people earned previously – in France I was even asked to show an old pay stub! – but it’s true that in Israel, salaries are almost never publicized up front. Good call, thanks for that.

  3. David Corman

    Wow. I should add that it is also happened to me on a number of occasions that potential employers ask me what I want to make. In other words, not only is the salary not publicized, they also don’t tell you verbally what they are thinking to give you until you first give an offer!

  4. Jacob Share

    David- that goes along with not publicizing the salary up front. The employer has a number in mind and they want to know if your expectations will fit, otherwise why bother continuing, right?

    That said, even when the salary has been publicized, it doesn’t mean that the candidate has seen it and many HR people will still ask this question. Never hurts to see how well a candidate has done their research.

    My favorite answer to this question is to say “I’m flexible, the market rate will probably be fine, but I can only really say once I have a better understanding of what my responsibilities will be.”

  5. Alex

    “I’m flexible, the market rate will probably be fine, but I can only really say once I have a better understanding of what my responsibilities will be.” >>this is really a gem. I’m glad I stopped by.

  6. Resa

    Wow great article! In past interviews I was blatantly rejected for being non-Jewish and black and even told these were the reasons. My husband was shocked and couldn’t believe such racism exists in his beloved country. So good to know that it’s not impossible to happen as your article pointed out because I thought my situation was isolated.

    But I must admit that I continue to feel marginalized because even though I have the necessary experience and qualifications to secure a job in my field (and I usually pass the interviews) I often feel that employers by-pass me to hire a Jewish person. So it does feel discouraging at times. So this article does help make things clearer as it’s the first time someone ever admitted what really takes place in the job market. So thanks Jacob, for not making me seem crazy 🙂

  7. Jacob Share

    Alex- you’re right, that came out a bit weak. The point is to give the recruiter a legitimate reason for you to not respond with a number. Get the employer to put the number out there first.

    Resa- “I often feel that employers by-pass me to hire a Jewish person.” Maybe this came out differently than what you meant, but it sounds like you not only know who was hired instead of you, but also that they’re Jewish. Can you clarify how that works? Sounds fishy.

    The best response to racism in the job search that I ever heard was from a former employee and friend of mine in France. He’s black but has an aristocratic name, so sometimes it would “surprise” the interviewer when he arrived instead of a white son-of-a-nobleman. But as he told me years ago, it’s too easy to think you didn’t get the job because of racism. True or false, it’s an excuse. You just have to continue being yourself and interviewing your best.

  8. Sharon A

    Resa, in the hotel industry being a religious Jew makes it hard to get hired.
    Jacob,age discrimination is huge in Israel. Many new olim start their own businesses as they cannot find jobs in their field, especially the tech market is a “young” one.

  9. Jacob Share

    Sharon- to generalize your good point to Reza, any industry that generally requires work on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, is going to be hard for a religious Jew to get hired.

    Otherwise- age discrimination is a big problem *everywhere*. What might be true in Israel is that the age threshold (where such discrimination suddenly increases) may be lower in Israel, but I have no statistics to back that up and don’t want to discourage anyone unnecessarily.

  10. Resa

    Hey Jacob – your comments as well as Sharon’s are well noted and you are right in many instances. But as I said I’ve had employers outrightly told me this was the reason they won’t hire me which I thought was illegal to even mention. Others have been more covert but the thing is I did have a job for more than 2 years in a hi-tech company but bc they worked mainly internationally they were more inclined to hire me as they needed to show a mixed workforce for their clients and as Sharon mentioned I was the scapegoat to travel and work on Jewish holidays and Shabbat. So in cases like this it can be a double-edged sword.

    So as Sharon pointed out my best option was to be independent which I have done.

  11. alisa

    hi Jacob
    very much to the point.
    one extra point to add is that often, even if you managed to negotiate some points ( such as renegotiation of salary after one year for example) that does not mean that the employer will stick to it….aside from that, my experience has been that I have been discriminated by an international company because I was not working on Friday evening and jewish holidays and could therefore not communicate with the global clients. I do wonder tho, why the rest of the world can declare that during their official holidays they are closed but Israel cannot: I have been working in many lands and never have I experienced this problem when stating that I needed to take off for religious holidays: Israel was the only land where this happened to me more than once

    1. Jacob Share

      Sadly (or perhaps, fortunately?), employers ignoring their own promises is not only an Israeli thing.

      As for the whole working on yomtov/shabbat thing here, it depends on the context. Sometimes it’s simply a company bending over backwards trying to keep international clients satisfied (even though often, the clients could care less) since so many Israeli companies are international-facing and they want to be available during foreign work hours. Other times, it’s simply passive discrimination- an excuse to ward off religious candidates from wanting to work there (“we’ll need you to work every other Shabbat”). Either way, it makes work harder for religious and secular employees alike.

  12. Marna

    Hi Jacob,

    Great post here. I agree with your rule of thumb on whether or not you should submit a Hebrew language resume or an English one should be based on the job posting. However, it also depends on the industry too. I recommend most individuals have a resumes prepared in both languages just to be on the safe side. As far as job benefits, I think you forgot about items like “Keren Hishtalmut”and our pension program that is required by law. You need to negotiate for vacation days, but by law, a full time global worker gets 10 days a year and a worker who works 6 days a week gets 12- and this is on top of government holidays and Election Day (which we seem to have frequently 😉 ) One other bit that you could add to a post like this is maternity/paternity leave benefits here in Israel which differ significantly from the other countries I’ve lived in. While they are not up to snuff with some other countries, many of my US-based friends are quite jealous of our policies here. Maybe for the next post. Thanks again for a great piece.

    1. Jacob Share

      Thanks for the feedback, Marna, and I now mention you in the article. I’m surprised that I forgot Keren Hishtalmut!

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