Navigating the complexity of hiring exceptional talent in the Middle East
As the Middle East emerges as a thriving hub of economic activity, businesses face the challenge of attracting and retaining exceptional talent.
5 min read
The state of recruitment in the Middle East
The Middle East job market is experiencing robust hiring activity as it recovers from the pandemic and benefits from buoyant oil prices which fuel spending. Salaries across sectors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been rising and UAE employers expanding their workforce.
The challenges to find and secure great talent are obvious to most hiring managers. Being new to the region, I thought this was a unique situation for me not having an established network but in the course of talking with several other executives, the market is hot for exceptional talent.
Despite strong hiring activity, certain industries face talent gaps in specific skill sets. DIFC continues to attract the best financial services related talent in the region, although as we continue to build our position as a leading global financial centre, we need more. There are shortages in specialist service providers that support the industry. These include technology and engineering professionals.
This requires you to be willing to hire talent on their terms. For me, having an engineering team spread across the globe has been a great solution. It takes a lot of discipline and process but once operational, you can scale rapidly and create impact with your team. We have found this model works very well for us. We have a team of top software engineers around the world.
This gives us improved economics and reduced infrastructure requirements without sacrificing quality of talent. The team works in Agile development squads and collaboration tools like Slack, Jira and Confluence ensure that we are working seamlessly across our software development requirements. We do look to get everyone together a few times a year as that builds good cultural rapport and the team doesn’t feel completely isolated.
Hiring trends dominating the region
1. ENHANCING CANDIDATE/USER EXPERIENCE:
Positive candidate experiences become vital in the competitive job market. Organisations invest in employer branding, communicate effectively, and utilize mobile recruiting to leave a lasting impression on potential employees.
2. THE HYBRID WORK MODEL:
Around 70% of UAE companies adopt the hybrid work model, providing employees with remote work flexibility. This model boosts employee happiness, productivity, and work-life balance.
3. ACCELERATING AI-BASED SOLUTIONS:
Advanced HR Tech solutions, like resume parsers and search & match engines, streamline recruitment, and reduce bias, helping identify the best-suited candidates efficiently.
4. DATA-DRIVEN RECRUITMENT:
Organisations increasingly adopt data-driven approaches to enhance the quality of hire, speed up time-to-hire, promote unbiased hiring, and forecast hiring needs.
5. MOBILIZATION OF INTERNAL TALENT:
Encouraging employees to explore new career opportunities within the organization fosters healthy competition, enhances retention rates, and reduces recruitment expenses.
6. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION:
Prioritising diversity attracts and retains top talent, enhances innovation, and improves decision-making capabilities.
7. EMPLOYER BRANDING FOCUSED ON EMPLOYEES:
A strong employer branding strategy focused on supporting employees, clients, and communities helps organizations stand out as preferred employers.
These “trends” I would categorise as “The Future of Work”, rather than something that is of the moment or that will change in the future. Deny them at your own risk, embrace them to ensure you have the right attraction factors for identifying and enticing top tier talent to your organisation.
The Amazon-like hiring culture
Adopting elements of an Amazon-like hiring culture can significantly streamline the hiring process and identify the best candidates. By implementing the following practices, organisations can achieve a structured and effective hiring approach.
We live by this approach to the letter. This creates a number of impactful outcomes, most importantly a great candidate experience, hard tests and assessment of talent. Strong intercompany debate and removes bias in the proces.
Candidate experience matters! You will meet and interview around 30+ candidates for a single role. But you can only hire one. This is your opportunity to win these candidates to fall in love with your company, even when they don’t get the role. They will be disappointed but won’t forget how you treated them. They become your ambassadors! Don’t take this for granted. Give them a bad experience and you will suffer finding amazing talent in the future along likely harming your brand and your reputation.
Aside from the points below, we start the process with a phone screen. 30 mins, framed as not an interview, just a get to know you. Then if that is successful, we bring you in for an interview loop with the team. This is 3 - 5 team members of which one is a bar raiser (not the hiring manager). The bar raiser trumps the hiring manager as their interests align with the company, not the gap the manager needs to fill.
1. ALIGN INTERVIEW STANDARDS WITH LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES
Define your organisation's core values or leadership principles and structure interview questions to assess how candidates align with these values. This ensures a consistent evaluation process and identifies candidates who resonate with the organization's culture. Read more about them here.
2. INCLUDE A "BAR RAISER" ON THE INTERVIEW TEAM
Incorporate a neutral "bar raiser" in the interview panel to assess cultural fit and ensure candidates align with the company's values and dynamics. This helps make informed hiring decisions beyond technical competence.
3. BRIEF EVERYONE ON THE INTERVIEW TEAM
Provide a comprehensive briefing to all interview panelists to ensure consistency in the evaluation process. This helps manage expectations and aligns interviewers with the organization's hiring objectives.
4. CREATE A SIMPLE SCORECARD
Develop a straightforward scorecard aligned with your organization's leadership principles to evaluate candidates effectively. This ensures standardized evaluations and mitigates bias.
5. USE THE STAR METHOD FOR BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Implement the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) for behavioural interview questions to assess a candidate's past behavior and decision-making abilities. This approach ensures data-driven decision-making and eliminates assumptions.
6. BRIEF CANDIDATES ABOUT THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
Provide candidates with a transparent overview of the interview process, organizational values, and expectations. This allows candidates to present their best selves and prepares them for the interview.
Here is also an article that Techstars and myself published in 2019. It’s still relevant and I think a good basis for any team.
The DIFC Talent Network
The DIFC Talent Network connects top talent with companies in the DIFC ecosystem both locally and globally. It offers over 77,000 open positions worldwide, with nearly 900 opportunities available within the UAE at the time of writing this article. These open opportunities are updated eight times a day and take data from over 92 online locations including the companies careers sections. The platform's AI-driven matching technology ensures personalized and efficient job searches for candidates.
The DIFC Talent Network provides access to a vast pool of high-caliber talent, enabling companies to recruit top candidates in a competitive job market. The platform's AI-driven features streamline recruitment, empowering data-driven decisions and building diverse, skilled teams that drive business growth.
Dubai: a dream destination for expats and executives?
Dubai and the UAE offer a perfect blend of professional opportunities, tax-free earnings, and a unique work-life balance that attracts executives from around the world. Whilst there are many benefits, these top three ring true for everyone I know.
VAST PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:
Dubai's thriving business economy and technology-driven industries present diverse career growth prospects for executives seeking new challenges.
The UAE's tax-free income system allows executives to retain their entire earnings, ensuring financial advantages and savings opportunities.
PERFECT WORK-LIFE BALANCE:
With its urban landscape and picturesque beaches and mountains, Dubai provides executives with a unique balance between city life and seaside tranquility. Not to be overlooked, the connectivity of DXB airport and Emirates Airlines flights daily to the top destinations are game changing for exploring the world from your new home in Dubai.
Dubai's charm lies in its abundance of professional opportunities, tax-free earnings, and a perfect mix of urban and natural living. Executives seeking career growth and a high-quality lifestyle are drawn to Dubai and the UAE. With the DIFC Talent Network, offering over 77,000 open positions worldwide and nearly 900 in the UAE, candidates can find the perfect opportunities, while companies can benefit from a pool of talented individuals. Dubai's diverse culture, excellent support for expats, and progressive visa policies make it an ideal destination for executives looking to expand their horizons and experience the extraordinary.
To secure top talent in the Middle East, structured hiring processes, dominant hiring trends, and data-driven strategies become essential. The DIFC Talent Network bridges the gap between candidates and employers, contributing to the region's growth and prosperity. With a focus on exceptional talent, organisations in the Middle East can establish themselves as preferred employers and shape a successful future for the region.