Advice for jobseekers in the UAE

By Robert Half on 19th May 2023

Given the economic uncertainty in the UK (not to mention the unpredictable weather), it is understandable that many might be considering spreading their wings to get a change of scenery and take their next step up the job ladder. And in this blog, Gareth El Mettouri, Market Director, Robert Half, UAE, shares his thoughts on the ins and outs of job hunting in the UAE. 

With the UAE’s commitment to growing its economy, its burgeoning technology sector, plenty of ambitious English-speaking international companies, beautiful weather and luxury lifestyle, it is certainly a hotspot for UK professionals looking for a change.   

Find out more about what the UAE has to offer expats.

I’ve been recruiting in the UAE for over a decade, and I’ve seen difficult markets, sudden bursts in popularity and shifting attitudes. Today, neither businesses nor candidates have the upper hand when it comes to the process.

The candidate-short market means businesses may need to compromise on seniority or move quickly to secure the best talent, but a posting in the UAE is far from a hardship with its sought-after lifestyle – and candidates should be prepared to meet employers in the middle.  

Employers’ approach to the recruitment process in the UAE can be much different to that in the UK, so it is important to take the local hiring and business culture into consideration when you are searching for, interviewing for and accepting a new role. So, what should you expect?

Challenges in finding a job – be decisive and act fast

Moving abroad is a big decision, but wait too long and you could miss out on your dream role. The high demand for talent in the UAE has seen businesses pick up the pace when it comes to their hiring processes. Across all sectors, it is now unusual for a hiring process to extend beyond a month, and some roles are even filled within a week.

Typically, you can expect two or three stages to the interview process; HR, line manager, and (if you are senior) a final interview with a C-suite representative. Decisiveness delivers results, so make sure you are certain that a move to the UAE is the right thing for you as early in the process as possible. Business leaders are hungry for talent, but they want to bet on a sure thing.

Here is what you need to bear in mind if you are considering relocating to the UAE.

Job hunting techniques – keep expectations realistic

While businesses are hiring at breakneck speed, employers are also conscious that allowances, benefits and the lifestyle on offer – particularly in Dubai – are highly desirable.  The deals on the table are fair, and more employers are adopting a ‘take it or leave it’ approach – so don’t play hardball in a salary negotiation.

Most employers are now basing starting salaries for new employees on their most recent pay packet. You will often be expected to provide a payslip from your last salary in the UK, and your new base salary will most likely be calculated on your net income rather than your gross, taking account of the favourable tax environment. You’ll still get housing, healthcare and education allowances to sweeten the deal, as well as all the benefits that come with living and working in the region.  

When it comes to salary, if you are not sure what to expect, the going rates for roles across the finance, technology, legal, HR and office support sectors can be found in our 2023 Salary Guide.  

Have salary questions? Here’s how to answer “What is your expected salary?” 

Lifestyle in the UAE

Offices in the UAE are fast-paced – there is no time to sit back and relax, at least during the working day. We might work hard, but with that comes amazing growth opportunities. Want to accelerate your career? Jobhunting in Dubai is the thing to do.  

Once the working day is over, we know how to kick back and enjoy ourselves. From shopping to sunbathing, from culture to cocktails, the city is a wonderful place to live, whatever your priorities in life – the lap of luxury awaits.  

So, living and working in the UAE is a lot different than in the UK, and the evolving culture and growth-focus means that it might not be what you expect. If you are prepared to commit to a move, accept a fair salary and work hard in exchange for a fantastic lifestyle, then the UAE could be the place for you. 


If you have any questions about moving to Dubai or the UAE at large, contact us and one of our team of experts will get in touch.

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