by Ralph Anzarouth

Q. I am making Aliyah in the next few months. When should I start looking for a job?

A. It is not frequent to get offers before actually making Aliyah. The best way to do it is by visiting on pilot trips. If your Hebrew is good enough, or if for any reason you plan to skip Ulpan, you can start looking for a job as early as 3-4 months before Aliyah (but not more). However, this is not for all olim, because the huge majority of job opportunities require a reasonable level of Hebrew. If you need to spend a few months in Ulpan anyway, a pilot trip would hardly contribute to your future job search (though it might help to discover other facets of your new country).


Q. By what means should I search?

A. You can send resumes (or at least a message) to potential employers, or to people you know and who could forward it as they find appropriate. Then, you can discuss by e-mail or on the phone, but a face-to-face meeting is necessary before you can expect a serious offer. Therefore, the purpose of your first contact should be to get interviews. If you plan a pilot trip, which is highly recommended if you are ready to work right away, you can concentrate all interviews during the trip. If an interviewer is really motivated by your profile, he will try to fit one of your dates into his schedule.


Q. Is it really so difficult to get an offer when still abroad?

A. Without a pilot trip, this might be very difficult. I see only 3 ways of doing it: A) Have your current company move you to Israel (some of the major multinationals do). B) Check whether a potential recruiter plans a business trip to somewhere close to your area (I got an interview in Paris this way, but no offer). C) Check whether there are organized Israeli Job Conventions in your area: I know that in high tech field, Intel regularly sponsors Job Conventions for potential Olim. The Jewish Agency should be able to tell you if this opportunity exists.


Q. Am I supposed to have already some work experience?

A. Just like everywhere, it’s not easy to find entry-level jobs for inexperienced young people, or for workers with no diplomas. Try to put forward any experience, which is relevant to the job sought. You might be able to find the job that you want, but be aware that, without relevant experience, salary might be lower than average. Also, recruiters expect in general a working knowledge of Hebrew, though you might find jobs for which fluent English is more important. If you are weak on all of the above, better spend some time to improve your selling profile, like learn Hebrew before Aliyah (actually this is best advise to everybody).


Q. How do I find potential employers?

A. Answers can vary, according to the field. Many candidates (especially in high-tech) would consult the job offers in Maariv and Yediot newspapers (Friday edition). The Internet offers several free databases of Israeli companies from which select potential recruiters. Also, consult Jacob’s links to both Jobnet and CJI at www.jr.co.il . If you are interested in software companies, when I worked at TTR I published an article on Israeli software publishers. The products might be outdated, but most companies are not. Company databases are available also in other fields. If you ask the Tachlis mailing list, we should be able to turn you in the right direction. Government agencies have lists (though they are not always up to date). Also, when you start discussing with your new contacts, you can discover additional sources of information and target companies. If you are told that there are no jobs for you there, ask them nicely if they can help you get in touch with other companies or professionals, who could have jobs for you. It is key for a candidate, especially if new in the country, to establish and expand his own professional network. You should be able to find somebody who likes your "Oleh Chadash - New Immigrant" story and to whom you could pay a call when you need his judgement on a prospect company or on an offer you have received. Do not forget to send him your first business card, once you are employed.


Q. How should I prepare the interviews?

A. Many Israeli companies are visible on the web, both on their own and on other web sites. One of my recommended sites is Dun and Bradstreet at www.dandb.co.il . There are other nice lists of sites, like the following home.earthlink.net/~saraleah/li_isdrawer2.html . You can always make blind calls to companies or to their distributors to better know them. Prepare questions in advance. This is a good opportunity also to test your new network, especially if you are already in Israel. You are not expected to know everything on the company, but you must show that you have done reasonable homework. If you are still in the old country and really can’t find anything, do some research on similar companies in your place: that should enable you to ask better questions during the interview. And accept all interviews, at least in the beginning: even if you do not expect an offer, it’s good exercise to explain yourself and to be confronted with tricky questions.


Q. Should I tell my tentative Aliyah date?

A. State clearly when you will be available. Don’t tell the story of your life (or your new apartment or your lift): just the date on which you can reasonably start working. If it’s more than 3 months ahead, you shouldn’t be there and won’t get an offer. Once you have given a date, stick to it, because by not doing so you’d reinforce the stigma of the new immigrant who talks a lot and in the end doesn’t show up. I entered my new office just a couple of hours after my Aliyah flight landed. Some people need some adaptation time before beginning their new job, and this time can vary according to people. Plan this in advance.


Q. How am I expected to dress?

A. The answer depends on the field: the local dress code is to wear whatever we feel comfortable with. If you feel you can’t part from your tie, you needn’t, and people will get used to it, until you’ll get rid of it (I haven’t yet!). If you’re in doubt, it’s always better to be conservative, as the interviewer is expecting a new immigrant, not a sabra. Those covering their head for religious reasons should be able to keep doing it with no incidence on their employment chances.


Q. What documents do I need?

A. Always go to interviews with copies of your diplomas, though most chances are that nobody will ask to see them. If applicable, bring documents that show your past accomplishments (like manuals for a Technical writer, or printed material for a publisher). Israeli recruiters like to check recommendations, so better bring the written ones and have handy the phone numbers of previous employers who could recommend you, whatever that’s worth (better make sure in advance that they will give an excellent report on you). When you start to work, you are expected to already have an Israeli ID (Teudat Zehut).


Q. OK, I’m out of the interview, what do I do?

A. Never get out of an interview without a clear next step: who is contacting whom and when. If they were supposed to contact you and didn’t, you are absolutely allowed (and even required) to call them. The first interview rarely drives a job offer, and when it does, it seems like "too fast to be true". When you decide to touch base again, explain that following the first interview you are very motivated to explore opportunities for cooperation. They’ll understand what you mean. If there is place for a second meeting, you’ll get one. Make sure that this time you head for a firm job offer. When you get one, better have it in writing.


Q. GREAT! I have an offer!

A. Congratulations. Unless it’s the job you’ve always dreamed, you are not expected to accept on the spot. Thank them for the offer, but ask for some time to review it. Give a precise date for your answer. They should accept a one-week delay, but be flexible if they are under pressure. If you think that you deserve and can get a better job, keep interviewing with other companies; Now that you have an available option, you’ll find it easier to force other negotiations into firm offers. In any case, always give your answer by the day you promised.


Q. Is there any room for negotiation?

A. Hey, this is the Middle East! The first offer you receive is never the highest a company is ready to make. There is generally room for salary and/or benefits negotiation, and there’s nothing bad in trying. Most of the times you’ll be asked how much you want to get. I personally believe there are 2 compensation tracks in Israel: low and high. If you ask high, and this is compatible with your profile and the company’s possibilities, you can get a good offer and start an Israeli career on the right track. If you ask low, you’ll get a low offer, which can stick on your skin for long. If you ask average, you’ll get low, no question. In the end, I know you’ll request a salary in line with what you perceive as your current competitive situation in your job search. You’ll think something like "I have many offers, I go high (or the contrary, R"L). Therefore my advise is: IF you are going on a low or average target, do NOT give the first figure. In other words, if you have decided that you do not deserve a high salary or that for whatever reason you won’t ask one, DON’T. Let them do it, at least you’ll be in a better position when negotiation a salary raise.


Q. How should I chose between a local and a multinational firm?

A. In many fields, some of the major companies have offices in Israel. You should check in your field if they do. It is interesting to check if these offices are managed by Israelis or by foreigners, if they have stable perspectives or they might be closed, and how they pay with respect to the mother company. You might take advantage of your international background to offer your services to local firms who want to expand into international markets (especially to start ups in high tech), but be aware that when they succeed they might open offices abroad, and ask you to move back to California. They might also be sold to major multinationals, and then they might not need you anymore. This is when they succeed, and as you can imagine most don’t. Be prepared to a job market which is more flexible than in North America and much more flexible than Europe, and there is a high degree of uncertainty. Also, companies can fire you giving no reason, and leaving you one month to get another job (Europeans scream when they hear this!). Therefore, if you look for stability, ask local people to tell you the risks involved in the choice you are about to make.


Q. How should I choose the best offer?

A. That’s not always easy, especially when you are not familiar with local companies, markets and people. Pick up those criteria that are important to you: compensation (salary, benefits, stock options), content of the job, location, seriousness of the company and of the people who hire you, compatibility with other activities on your agenda, your readiness to take risks. Now, find a nice way to turn down offers. This is nearly as important as getting them: you might need that company again in two months, or you might send there an unemployed friend, or they might even become your clients one day. This is a small country, it’s better to build bridges than burn them. And you’ll find sooner than you can imagine that you are in somebody else’s network, trying to help him find a job.

May this be very soon! Behatzlachah!

Ralph Anzarouth is Director of Channel Marketing at Lucent Technologies in Tel Aviv

Special thanks to Eli Birnbaum