10 Tips to Help You Ace Your Interview in Israel

Your hands are sweating, you can feel the pressure and you look at your CV and cover letter for the millionth time. The day is here and you sit outside the HR office waiting for your turn to have THE interview that will maybe, maybe land you your first job in Israel. You can hear the muffled sounds coming from the other side of the door as you try to hear what they are saying.

Does it sound all too familiar? You are not alone. Having your first job interview here in Israel may seem like daunting task especially given the vast cultural differences you are far too acquainted with, be it the non-existent line system, the yelling or the packed trains never leaving or arriving on time.

Fear not! There is help to be had. We have listed the 10 most common tips to make you excel at every single job interview here in Israel.

Research. Research. Research. And more… you guessed it- research!

You have been called to an interview. Great news! That means the company or organization is actually interested in you and that you have passed the first screening test. So what can you before arriving in their office?
Find out everything you can about the company you applied to. Be it from the company history, their main product line to who works there. They will most likely ask you the common question “so, what do you know about us?” If you can answer that question well and add that you know that the CEO is a die-hard League of Legends player by snooping in on his LinkedIn profile, you have just bought yourself plenty of good will.

Formal or informal?

Welcome to a country where you can show up at a funeral in jeans and a t-shirt. Job interviews are quite the same. Forget about the suit and tie unless you applied to be a banker, lawyer or diamond district worker. Informal is the key here. Casual but stylish will carry you a long way.

Smile, you are on candid camera!

Well, not really, but a smile, look the interviewer in the eyes and present yourself with a somewhat firm handshake will make sure you look confident, happy and ready to work. Sit down and keep your arms open in a casual, relaxed composure. You are not the least nervous, you are ready to work, so show it!

Who are you?

You are unique, at least your mother tells you that. But to HR, you are one of 100 candidates and that is just this week. So how do you stand out? The interview is your ONE chance to shine, so do that. Every company will ask you the same question 99 % of the time- “so, tell us about yourself”. What they don’t want to know is that your hamster’s name is Eric and that you like noodles. What you will tell them is a 45 second epic saga of what you can do related to your CV, that you have x amount of skills and that you are looking forward to working here. And of course that you love being in Israel as long as the AC is working in the summer.

Tests, did he actually mean that?

Depending on the company, tests can actually be part of the recruitment process, especially if your job is technical. Make sure you prepare yourself in advance, because they can be quite a few. The tests are there to make sure you actually know what you are talking about in your CV. Call it quality assurance if you please, but they are a piece of cake if you know your skills. Just show them what you can and rest assure- you just need to pass. You may even be required to take a polygraph test. Don’t fear, it is mostly just to make sure you are not a pathological liar.

Weaknesses, that is easy, I have none!

Thank you for coming, we will be in touch. No, everyone has a weakness or two and the key here is to turn them into strengths. Before the interview, make a short list of things you are terrible at and how you can possibly turn them into a strong selling point. That is actually why you are there, to market yourself and your skills.

So, why do you want to work here again?

Oh, I am just here for the money. Right… Classic question that everyone asks and here in Israel too. The best way to answer that is to say that this seems like a good fit for your skills and a great way to develop them further. Oh by the way, I heard that you really have fun here and that you treat your employees really well. Flattery will make it far so use it. After all you are in a country where you can argue yourself to an interview (it’s actually true).  

Money? No, I work for free.

If you’re being asked how much money you want to earn, please understand that it is a tricky question. If you’re being asked that early on in the interview process it is a way to vet you out. If you’re being asked that at a later stage, they want to know how cheap they can get you for. In Israel, salaries vary a lot. Getting a new job is your best shot at getting a good starting wage. The best way is to give them a wide span of two numbers instead of a fixed number. The chances are higher you will see yourself at the top end of those digits the further you progress in the interview. But you can also ask them to tell you a bit more about what perks you can expect when you start working such as vacation days, laptops or other company benefits. But don’t sell yourself cheap. The worst thing is that they may offer you a bit less than what you asked for.

Partner visa…? What is that?

Don’t be alarmed by questions about your status. The fact that the employer called you in for an interview means they probably already have some experience with hiring foreign citizens. However, the partner visa that you hold may be new to your interviewer (unlike other working visas). When asked, you can mention that you aren’t a work immigrant. If your status in Israel is acquired because of your relationship, your visa should say “permitted to work unrestrictedly”. This means it is not limited to a specific employer/working field and that it isn’t subject to any third party. You may be a foreign citizen for the time being, but you are in a naturalization process that will eventually grant you an Israeli citizenship or permanent residency, and you can totally mention that.

Nevertheless, you may get the question about how long you will stay in Israel and that is a valid one. The easiest way to answer it is that no one knows how long you will work there and that can be said for any person they will hire. But, you actively made a choice to come to Israel, to be with your partner (and you have a partner visa that will eventually grant you, if it didn’t already, an Israeli ID) and not only that- you overcame the extreme hurdles of Misrad Hapnim and God knows what else the Israeli bureaucracy threw at you. In short, you are here to stay and the fact that YOU chose this company over all the rest (again, flatter!) says a lot.

Your employer might also ask you about taxes / fees or regulation that is applied to workers like you. To put it simply – employing you is almost the same as employing an Israeli citizen. Check this post (coming soon!) to read more about taxing and social rights.

What’s next? Did I pass?!

In some jobs, you passed level 1 and is on to the next stage before you finally will reach level 3 and the big boss upstairs. Yes, there is a process and HR will tell you that they would love to see you some more, perhaps an interview or two and maybe a test. Every process is different, but HR will know. If you don’t know, ask them what the process looks like. If you are lucky, you may be asked, to start right away.  

There you have it. That wasn’t so hard was it? Now, go on and prepare yourself for your next opportunity and please understand that excelling at interviews is a form of art. For every interview you just get better and better until you finally nail it. Practice makes perfect and with a bit of chutzpah, you will make it!

Martin Telinius is a former career coach and is now on his 34th position working as an English teacher and a translator. Hailing from Sweden he loves board games, Israel in every season except the summer and exploring ancient sites.

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Martin Telinius
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