Monday, September 13, 2010

Israeli Phrases and Job Search Don't Always Mix

Anyone that moves from one country to another has many things to learn, including a whole new set of idioms. For instance, Yihiyeh B’Seder (יהיה בסדר), which means “it will be okay”, but oftentimes is used to justify doing nothing and hoping for the best, something which should be the antithesis of a job seeker’s creed.

I would like to concentrate on another very common phrase: haval al hazman
(חבל על הזמן). A rough English translation is: “waste of time”. You will hear this often when someone is describing something good. Essentially the meaning is that the thing being mentioned is so great that it is a waste of time to even try to describe it adequately in words. Of course in Israel, typically after a person invokes this phrase, they will immediately launch into a long explanation attempting to disprove the impossibility of the task, but that is another story.

I have found that when people are presenting themselves for employment opportunities, they sometimes misuse the haval al hazman concept, conserving words and sacrificing effectiveness. Here are a couple of examples:
  • Cover Letters/CVs – I can’t count how many times I have received job applications with cover letters which introduce critical details that are not contained in the CV. A job seeker can’t assume that a person reading a CV will have previously read the cover letter; the CV must be a stand-alone targeted document. If you have specific experience/knowledge/interests that are relevant for the job and they are not contained in the standard version of your CV, then personalize your CV to incorporate the additional detail. This is not a waste of time, and in fact is quite the opposite.
  • Networking – When you finally are able to get a good networking professional on the telephone, or even better in person, don’t waste the opportunity. Sometimes people make a tremendous effort to identify the right person and find a way to get to them, and then somehow become shy. It is not a waste of time as part of the discussion to emphasize your unique characteristics, yet often job seekers will simply hand out their CV and hope for the best.
Don’t fall into the haval al hazman attitude. Deliver the message that is best for you, without forcing the receiver to make inferences that may not do you justice.

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