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10 June 2023

UAE recruiters not looking at your flashy degree

By Shuchita Kapur

Getting a top-notch degree is of course the first step to landing a job. Getting a professional degree is extremely important, but make no mistake – it is not the only criteria that will get you hired here in the UAE, or anywhere for that matter.

An increasing number of employers are now looking for so-called soft skills in candidates before getting them onboard.

Recruiters in the country are now emphasising that candidates with developed soft skills make good employees. This trend has picked up after the recession years and more and more hiring panellists will ask to be shown more than just the degree you hold.

“An MBA might also be the smarter way to take your career forward, and help differentiate yourself from competing candidates. It is by no means the golden key, but it can be the thing that shows you are committed to career progression and personal development,” said Lee Rook, Sales Director, MEA, at Eutopia Solutions, highlighting the importance of a professional degree but at the same time stressing the need for other skills as well to take one forward in life.

Experts speaking on a London Business School recruitment panel recently stressed that future potential of a candidate is perhaps now more important than just the past laurels. And they believe that soft-skills define, in a good way, the future potential of an employee. But what exactly are these soft-skills that employers are scouting for?

Cultural awareness, Arabic capabilities and regional understanding – soft skills – are now the top recruitment criteria for companies in the Middle East who are placing greater value on cultural awareness and regional experience than they did previously. Arabic-language skills also remain highly desirable to companies who are becoming more risk-averse, said a statement released by London School of Business in Dubai.

“In 2008, around the financial crash, markets went soft and companies retrenched across the board. Now companies are looking to recruit quality people for the long-term – it is about identifying high potential candidates as well as high performers,” said Jonathan Holmes, Managing Director at Korn Ferry International, who was a panellist.

Calibre and ambition and the potential to deliver this are playing a much bigger role in today’s recruitment trends. This is a departure from previous years where candidates could gloat and boast their past performance.

According to Ali Qazi, Senior Consultant at Michael Page Middle East, it’s about what the candidate can deliver. “We’ve seen a move away from candidates who simply ‘tick the boxes’ to candidates who bring big potential with them,” he says.

“Personal PR is very important,” believes Rook. “Building a strong, extensive network around yourself could be the most important thing you do,” he says.

According to a recent Bayt.com survey, half of employers across the Middle East are looking for candidates who are cooperative, helpful and flexible team players, and who have good communication skills in English and Arabic. The most desirable experience is managerial, with the ability to manage a team (37 per cent), followed by computer skills (32 per cent).

UAE-based employers also value the same skills (49 per cent look for team player qualities; 48 per cent want good communicators). They also search for candidates with managerial experience (35 per cent) mid-level experience of 3 to 7 years (27 per cent) and engineering experience (27 per cent).

The region’s most desirable graduate/post graduate qualification is in business management, according to 25 per cent of the survey’s respondents. This is closely followed by engineering (24 per cent), commerce (22 per cent) and computer science (21 per cent).

Jobseekers in the UAE will have the best chance of being hired with qualifications in engineering (27 per cent), business management (22 per cent) or commerce (20 per cent).

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)


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