Job-hunting in a saturated market – how to stand out from the crowd in Dubai

Dubai cityscape with sky scrapers and water in the foreground


Updated 19th March 2021

With over 200 nationalities, the UAE is a melting pot of cultures, experiences and people. Emiratis make up roughly 20% of the population, while expats from Europe, Asia and Africa consist of the other 80%, emigrating for career progression, an improved quality of life and the chance to increase their earnings.[1] The booming expat population, and the effects of the pandemic, continue to place a strain on an already-saturated job market, making each job application more competitive than ever. This has seen salaries drop, as many jobseekers are willing to take on roles for a lower salary in order to stand out from the crowd and win a lucrative position.

With this is mind, jobseekers should ensure they are getting the basics of the job search right in order to stand out from the crowd. To help, here are our top tips to increase your chances of securing a job in the UAE!

Understand the market

It’s important to understand what the market looks like before applying for jobs. If you plan to move into the region, do your homework first. You should know the cost of living, how much you could potentially earn and what opportunities could be on offer. If you don’t have any MENA experience, you may need to carefully consider why a business might employ you over someone who does. Unfortunately, we see many jobseekers wanting to move into the region without knowing much about living or working here, so it’s important to prepare as much as you can beforehand.

When it comes to salaries, it’s essential to educate yourself so you know what you’re asking for is in line with expectations. For example, top level industry-specific EAs can earn AED 25,000 (GBP 5150) a month, but if you have moved over with no local experience, it is unlikely you will find something at this level. EAs who have recently immigrated should expect to take a role on for around AED 12,000 (just under GBP 2,500) per month. This will allow you to get your foot in the door, gaining useful experience to then transfer into a higher paying role.

Read the job description carefully

While it may tempting to apply for every role you see advertised, this isn’t the way you’ll find your dream job. In fact, by applying to roles where you don’t meet the clearly specified criteria, it not only wastes your time, but it also leaves you feeling disheartened by the mounting rejections. Even when you think you may have enough experience for the role, if you don’t have the right qualifications, you won’t even be considered. For example, if a role requires +10 years of accounting experience and an ACCA qualification, there’s no use applying if you’ve not even completed your ACCA exams.

So, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your capabilities by only focussing on the roles that match your experience. In the UAE, you should expect to hear back from a role you apply for within five days (if not sooner!). If you don’t hear back in this time, assume you aren’t the right fit and keep looking.

Format your CV

Your CV is a potential employer’s first impression of you, so it needs to pack a punch. It should be no longer than two pages, clearly set out and justified. It should be clean and uncluttered, as this makes it much easier for recruiters or hiring managers to read. In the UAE, it’s common practice to include a photo, but make sure it’s not a selfie (a professional-looking headshot is best).

As always, it is essential that your CV is free of spelling and grammar errors and includes a personal statement, your professional experience (with both responsibilities and achievements), education and any other skills, such as languages. It’s also important that your CV is up-to-date. For example, if you left a role in October 2020, don’t list it is ‘current’. This little detail could make all the difference. If you’re worried about being seen as ‘available immediately’, don’t be! This could actually make you more attractive to a prospective employer.

The power of a cover letter

Unlike the UK, a cover letter is a necessary part of any application in the UAE. However, it’s not enough to include a generic letter – you need to tailor each submission, highlighting your ability to do the role. This is your chance to demonstrate why you’re the perfect person for the job, with specific examples about how you satisfy the criteria.

Network offline and online

Networking is such an important weapon in a jobseeker’s arsenal. You never know where an opportunity will come up, or where a conversation could take you! Therefore, keep an eye out for any jobseeker networking events in your city or other opportunities to meet employers, such as job fairs and career expos.

If you’re networking online, LinkedIn is a great place to connect with those already working in your industry. Ensure that your details are up to date and accurate, with your latest positions, responsibilities and achievements. It’s also a good idea to look at other social media, like Facebook. For example, if you’re from the UK, the Brits in Dubai Facebook page [2] can be a fantastic resource.

While you’re online, take the time to clean up your social media profiles. One of the first things a hiring manager or employer will do is look you up online, so it’s best to remove any unprofessional photos or content. It’s also worth checking your privacy settings and adapting as needed.

Pick up the phone

With so many jobseekers looking for roles, companies are receiving thousands of applications on a daily basis. Make sure you’re memorable by following up with a phone call – a simple introductory call will differentiate you from the crowd and give you yet another chance to impress.

skype interview

Register with a recruitment agency

Another great way to ensure you stay ahead of the crowd in the job hunt is to register with a recruitment agency. Your consultant will be able to provide advice on your job-seeking efforts, as well as put you forward for any suitable roles. Recruitment agencies like Tiger often work exclusively with high-profile companies, providing a direct pathway to lucrative careers.

Word to the wise – if you’re using recruitment agencies in your job search, you shouldn’t agree to be put forward for the same role by several different recruiters. You may think this will maximise your chances of being called in for an interview, but it actually has the opposite effect as hiring managers will be more likely to discount you.

Prepare for your interview!

A hiring manager has seen your CV and welcomed you in for an interview – congratulations! Don’t throw away your chance by not preparing accordingly. Make sure you research the company, position and industry prior to the interview and have a think about your answers to potential interview questions. If interviewing in person, look up your route beforehand and make sure you arrive with plenty of time – it’s much better to arrive early and go for a coffee nearby, instead of rushing in a few minutes late. If interviewing virtually, double check the calendar invite to make sure you log in on time.

Should you be looking for a new role, get in touch with Tiger’s Dubai office.

1. HTTPS://WWW.EXPATEXPLORER.HSBC.COM/SURVEY//FILES/PDFS/COUNTRY-REPORTS/AE.PDF
2. https://www.facebook.com/groups/britsindubai

 

Author Zahra Clark Tiger Recruitment Team

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