Jobs in UAE: 'Wasta' is dead; long live employee referrals

Not a common peeve but you may have encountered the odd jobseeker complain that someone else was picked up for a job because s/he had the 'wasta' (the leverage that one has by knowing someone who can influence a hiring decision).

Landing a job through 'wasta' may have been popular in the traditional past, but with the efforts made by the government over the last couple of decades and the general professionalisation of the private sector, this mode of hiring is now dead for all practical purposes.

Auditors at the UAE Internal Audit Association scam recruitment procedures with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that government bodies and businesses are not offering jobs to people who use their 'wasta'. With stringent checks in place, this isn’t a practical way of getting a job.

 “'Wasta' is something we rarely encounter, if at all. Having said that, it’s a global phenomenon employers will always give preference to people within their employees’ personal or professional network.

"Birds of the same feather flock together and if an employer highly rates a member of staff, they would expect this person’s recommendations to be at par,” Hasnain Qazi, Gulf Region Head at recruitment firm Huxley Banking & Financial Services, explains to Emirates 24|7.

The traditional 'wasta', therefore, is now giving way to employee referrals.

In this case, a candidate’s chances of landing a job are brighter if s/he knows an employee in the company they’re seeking employment, and if that ‘insider’ takes the trouble of referring you for a position that needs to be filled up.

According to recruitment experts in the UAE, your CV may have been looked at, but a referral in the company can put it in the express lane.

In fact, this is exactly what executive search firms now aim for while trying to position a candidate’s credentials for a job in any company.

According to Qazi, “generating referrals is the hallmark of any top tier executive search firm".

And this isn’t limited to the UAE alone. It’s a phenomenon fast picking up globally where an internal push does come handy.

“Many candidates under estimate the importance of having strong employee references and the importance of exiting their last company gracefully.

"If you have more people on your side, they can vouch for your expertise and credibility down the line,” states Qazi.

The rise of employee referrals can be seen everywhere. According to career website Glassdoor, “job interviews from employee referrals are much more likely to lead to an accepted job offer; employee referrals boost the odds of a successful job match by a statistically significant 2.6-6.6 per cent".

For its research, the global career site sifted through 440,000 job interview reviews posted to the site since 2009, analysing how people landed their interviews and whether or not those interviews ultimately led to jobs.

Globally, employers in the technology, consulting and finance industries rely most heavily on employee referrals, according to Glassdoor reviews.

Government, retail and food service, and energy and transportation employers use employee referrals least often, it says.

Employee referral indeed plays an important role in the so-called hidden job market – the ones where positions are filled up without being advertised to the general public.

Many firms are now setting ambitious internal goals to increase the proportion of hiring that come from internal referrals.

Even though employee referrals and networking are gaining importance they still form a small percentage when it comes to overall hiring plans of companies.

Glassdoor statics reveal the most common hiring channel reported in job interview reviews is online applications (42 per cent), followed by college or university referrals (10 per cent), employee referrals (10 per cent) and recruiter referrals (9 per cent).

According to a previous report released in the UAE by Cazar, an organisation that caters to companies to meet their recruitment objectives, reveals that applicants mainly come to companies’ via their own career website.

As per their study, a majority (45 per cent) of job applications were received through a company’s own career website. This was followed by job boards – 28 per cent of job applications were made through this channel.

Next on the list are non-recruitment websites (such as news sites and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter) at 6 per cent and search engines at 5 per cent of the job applications.

Gaining importance is professional networking (at 2 per cent) and LinkedIn (at 3 per cent).

Internal sources also play a part in attracting job applications – internal head hunting (1 per cent), employee referral (2 per cent) and intranet (4 per cent).

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