If you want to know how to get a job in the UAE as a foreigner, the answer will both please and disappoint. On the one hand, expatriates make up 84% of the UAE’s 9.2 million population, so hiring foreigners is a common practice. On the other hand, dropping oil prices have forced companies in the desert country to slash salaries and cut many positions. This means the once luxurious expat lifestyle is becoming increasingly more competitive and harder to come by.
Despite this downward decline, the UAE job market is predicted to rise slightly in 2019 with certain job sectors, such as advisory and legal, expected to rise by 10 to 15%.
How to Apply for a Job in the UAE
With a slowing job market and increasing competition for jobs, making yourself standout as an employee in the UAE is more crucial than ever. According to expats who have been living in the UAE for years, “it’s an employer’s market.” The UAE is an attractive destination for expats around the globe. Because of this, employers know they can be very selective when hiring candidates.
So how do you apply for a job in the UAE and make yourself standout?
Start by crafting a top-notch resume. Know that you may be competing with thousands of other applicants for just one position. It is important to have a resume that is polished, concise, and highlights your best assets.
A UAE-style CV is similar to most standard western CVs: a brief bio of yourself and your relevant work and education experience. Where UAE-style CVs differ is that many companies may also want you to include the following:
In such a competitive and progressive job market, the best way to search for a job in the UAE is online.
Some of the best sites are:
- Efinancial Careers
- Gulf News Careers
- Khaleej Times Jobs
Online Job Fairs
The UAE hosts several job fairs. These fairs provide job seekers with the opportunity to meet organizations face-to-face and learn about job vacancies within. Job fairs also offer networking opportunity for jobseekers.
Popular job fairs are:
- eFair (online job fair in Abu Dhabi)
- Careers UAE
- Fujairah International Career and Education Fair
- National Career Exhibition
Online and print publications often post job vacancies in their classifieds section. You can find these publications in Arabic and English.
- Khaleej Times
Companies in the UAE will often post job vacancies only on their own personal website. If there is a company you are particularly interested in working for, go to their website and see if there is a Jobs or Career section. Do not be afraid to contact hiring managers directly, but also do not be surprised if you do not get a response.
In Dubai, many businesses hire through headhunters. With such a competitive job market, this creates less hassle for companies and helps them narrow down candidates to only the best ones.
Working with an agency is a common way to get a job in the UAE. Some of the best reviewed agencies include
- Jivaro Partners: marketing and communications jobs;
- ESP International: conferences, events, and hospitality jobs;
- MCG & Associates: PR, publishing, marketing, and communications jobs;
- Robbert Murray: development, construction, engineering, and public sector jobs;
- BAC Middle East: engineering, marketing, and management jobs.
If you decide to use an agency, look for companies that take a commission from the employer end, not from you. Be wary of recruiters that collect high fees from job-seekers as these tend to be scams.
Just like your CV, it is important to make yourself standout during the interview process in the UAE. Companies know they can afford to be selective, so the interview is your opportunity to make the best impression possible.
- Do your research beforehand. It is important to know about the company and position you are interviewing for.
- If going in person for an interview, be sure to look into the company culture so that you dress accordingly. The UAE is a conservative country so expats, especially women, should keep this in mind when dressing for the interview. Dubai is more liberal than the other emirates, but dressing modestly is still advisable.
- Because of the strict adherence to Islamic culture throughout the UAE, relations between men and women can be tricky for expats to navigate. If you are an expat woman interviewing with an Emirati man, or an expat man interviewing with an Emirati woman, wait for them to extend their hand for a handshake. If you are able to handshake, always use your right hand as using the left can be considered an insult.
Networking is an important part of business culture in the UAE, especially in the epicenters of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Networking in the Gulf country is similar to networking anywhere else in the world, but with a few minor alterations to compensate for the Islamic culture.
- The Handshake: Just like during the interview process, if you are introduced to an Emirati national of the opposite gender, wait for them to extend their hand for a handshake. It is especially crucial that an expat man not touch a Muslim woman without her consent as doing so is taboo and could cause great offense to not only the Muslim woman, but nearby Emirati nationals.
- Business Cards: Handing out business cards in the UAE is common practice. Be sure to always have a stash on you. Only hand them out using your right hand. Using your left is seen as an insult.
- Senior Level Connections: Many enterprises in the Middle East are considered “top-down,” meaning those in senior positions hold a tremendous amount of sway and respect. Keep this in mind if you meet anyone in a senior/leadership position. Even if you meet someone whose senior position is not in your desired department, the connection could prove beneficial.
- Dress: Even though the emirate state of Dubai is considered ultra-modern and contains more expats than Emirati nationals, it is still a conservative city-state. Keep this in mind when dressing for business networking events. Always dress modestly, professional, and stick to subdued colors. You can read more about dress code expectations in our Living section.
- Arabic: Expats would be wise to learn a few Arabic words and phrases. This is seen as a sign of respect towards the Arab nation.
General Tips for Landing a Job in the UAE (as per the UAE Government Website)
- Start with an impressive cover letter and an honest CV.
- Keep your CV updated.
- Be diligent and regular in searching—do not give up mid-way.
- Check for the email ID from which you receive job offers. It should reflect the domain name of the organization.
- Do not pay. If the hiring company or the agency asks you for money to process the visa or medical test, it is not a genuine company.
- Learn Arabic. Knowledge of Arabic (at least speaking) would be an advantage.
- Keep yourself updated about your field of work.
- Be realistic about your earning potential.
- Grow your network.
- Increase your general knowledge about the region and its social and cultural value system.
The last point is especially crucial. Keep in mind that although the UAE is known for extreme modernity and innovation, it is still a conservative country dictated by religion. Expats would be wise to learn the customs and traditions associated with Islam so as to avoid any grievous faux pas.