Companies are set to get hiring as the UAE returns to business after Ramadan, two recruitment experts have told 7DAYS - but employers are looking for quality, not quantity, as they seek to staff their firms for a changing UAE economy.
As the US and Europe struggle to create jobs against a backdrop of modest economic growth, the UAE is expecting growth of around four percent this year and firms are set to make up for a quiet summer by recruiting new faces between now and the end of the year. But according to industry experts, the latest round of hiring will be quite different to the “frenzy” the country experienced prior to the height of the global economic crisis in 2008, with companies looking to make selective appointments rather than fill whole new departments or offices.
Andrew McNeilis, managing director for the Middle East and Africa at recruitment and HR firm Talent2, and Amer Zureikat, vice president of sales for online recruitment site bayt.com, shared with 7DAYS the likely winners and losers as the UAE looks to change the makeup of its economy.
Zureikat, whose firm recently conducted a survey which found that 53 percent of employers in the UAE plan to hire new workers in the next three months, says he believes “lots of hiring decisions have been left to the end of the year”. But even as firms loosen thUAE e purse strings, McNeilis warns that things will be very different to the influx of workers during the UAE’s pre-crisis property boom. “The days of building big buildings for people who are going to come and build more big buildings have just gone. They are never coming back,” he says.
Dubai in particular, he adds, has “moved into another phase of its economic life” and re-emphasised the strengths in logistics and services which underpinned much of its early development. This change will impact where new jobs are created. Expatriates are likely to remain in demand in sectors such as railways and aerospace - where there is not a deep local talent pool with experience of major projects. But foreign consultants who have cashed-in on advising governments in other areas could be in for a shock, McNeilis says. “Anybody who thinks that they are going to be that great expat independent consultant to local and national government - I think that is certainly going to be a career on the decline. I think there are some very educated, highly experienced Emirati talent and I think the government will be less reliant on expatriate consulting,” he explains. Like other regional governments, the UAE is trying to create jobs for its own people, and Zureikat echoes McNeilis’ belief that nationals will get priority for government projects.
Major foreign banks are unlikely to embark on hiring efforts before the end of the year, McNeilis believes, but the prognosis in heavy industries like aluminium production is better. But before you scan the vacancies, be aware that, particularly for specialised roles, some firms are favouring headhunters over publically advertising positions. They want people with specific skills - not just more bodies in the door. “If you are extremely good at what you do, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is going to ring you up and talk about an opportunity in the next six to 12 months,” says McNeilis. And while some employees may have followed a ‘better-the-devil-you-know’ strategy and stayed put during the crisis, there are growing signs that more are prepared to risk changing jobs - a key measure of returning confidence. Zureikat says his firm’s survey found 45 percent of those UAE employers questioned only want to hire between one and five new employees before the end of the year. “I don’t think we are going to witness the mass recruitment like the old days,” he says. “However, we still see it being very active.”