From non-negotiable salary offers to job interviews in cafes and everything in between.
(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?
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
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 Amazon.com 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.)
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?