On the hunt for perfect people

When it comes to recruiting the people you need to grow your business, what unique opportunities and challenges do UAE SMEs face? We’ve gathered a number of key issues you ought to have a clear view on if you’re looking to initiate a recruitment drive in 2015.

Based here or brought in?
Quality candidates already in the region are, for most companies, the dream hire. They come with local knowledge, local skills, or both. For example, if you need to fill a client-facing role, someone with bilingual English and Arabic is invaluable. Likewise if you’re filling a technical role such as technology or risk management, qualified individuals with not only the required technical knowledge but also the regional experience to match are perfect.
Of course this makes such candidates appeal to many employers, and most people of this type are likely to already be in a job. So when you have a role to fill, you may need to think less about traditional advertising and waiting for candidates to come to you, and more about headhunting and networking, for example through LinkedIn, to identify people you want to approach. This isn’t to advocate ‘poaching’, it just means that the more proactive approach tends to work best in the UAE.
If you decide that the expertise you need can’t be found within the region, then you face two new challenges. Firstly, the cost of a relocation package, if offering one is necessary to attract a candidate. Secondly, adding an extra factor to your assessment: namely, judging whether the candidate will be able to adapt to both the local culture and your company culture enough to ensure they stay.

Work permits
Beyond being able to attract candidates from overseas, there are also legal implications that can restrict the talent pool further. The increasing pressure certain nationalities have in being able to obtain the necessary permits to work in the UAE means that, in some cases, you might not be able to get the person you want.

The age factor
Another issue to bear in mind is the experience level you need. A 2013 survey by employment agency ReThink found that over half the workforce here is between 26 and 35 years old. Only 13% are over 46, meaning there are few people looking for work beyond the age of 40.
So if you’re looking for candidates with 15–20 years of experience to fill really senior roles, for example, that can be a challenge.

Although Emiratisation as a policy commitment tends to be mostly for larger organisations, SMEs should also embrace its benefits, whether they’re Emirati-run or not. Indeed there can be significant advantages to having a strong local component to your team: opening up connections, adding even more entrepreneurial spirit, bringing insight into local consumers…
While it’s true that less than one per cent of Emiratis work in the private sector, that is changing. Some of the old preconceptions – for example around high salary expectations – are no longer as valid. In fact, the key issue for local candidates now tends to be career development: the new generation of ambitious Emiratis could be just what your company needs.

Give yourself time
One 2013 survey found that it takes an average 4–5 months to fill a position in the UAE. To an extent this is a consequence of the issues listed above, which make the job marketplace here less fluid than in many other countries. When you’ve secured an employee, this works in your favour; but when you’re looking, it means allowing for a potentially lengthy search.

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