UAE Executives look to expatriate recruitment to fill critical roles finds new research.

A shortage of skilled professionals in the UAE labour market is causing businesses to look at hiring professionals from overseas

  • Eight in 10 (85%) executives are challenged in finding the skilled talent they need
  • Companies are focusing their recruitment efforts on North America and the United Kingdom
  • Emiratisation efforts has both its advantages and challenges
  • Robert Half offers five tips to making an offer a candidate can’t refuse

Dubai, 18 September 2013 – Expatriate recruitment remains a priority for finance executives in the Middle East finds new research from recruitment specialist Robert Half UAE. With finance directors expecting to increase permanent headcount in the second half of the year, they are targeting professionals from North America (32%) and the United Kingdom (27%) to fill critical roles. With more than eight in 10 (85%) executives challenged in finding the skilled talent they need, expatriate recruitment will remain a central strategy for the foreseeable future.

UAE FDs/CFOs were asked, “Thinking about the recruitment of expatriate talent, from which area do you find the most suitable talent?” Their responses:

North America


United Kingdom


Continental Europe






South America




When asked what makes candidates from this region the most suitable for their organisation, one quarter (24%) said the market/business environment was the chief reason they would look to this area. This was followed by the accounting standards (20%) and language skills (16%). Other criteria include the regulatory environment, education and cultural awareness.

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director, Robert Half UAE said: “A favourable economic environment and increased hiring has companies investing in their permanent headcount to manage new projects and initiatives, business expansion and new market penetration. A shortage of suitable candidates, however, has sparked a ‘war for talent’, as companies unsuccessful at sourcing the requisite local talent are turning to international recruitment to fill business-critical roles. Many professionals with the most in-demand skills who relocate to the UAE without a job offer in hand are finding that they are receiving multiple job offers within weeks of arrival.”

Despite Emiratisation efforts to recruit more local professionals in the region, executives are citing recruitment challenges, with lack of local senior-level talent (56%), inflated salary expectations (51%) and a preference for Western education the primary factors preventing them from doing so. In contrast, executives mention several benefits for recruiting locally, including local business knowledge and connections (81%), greater cultural understanding (63%) and longer tenure with the organisation (61%). The most successful organisations will be able to balance both local and expatriate recruitment to create a team with both the cultural understanding and global exposure to drive real and measurable value across the organisation.

To help companies secure the talent they need, Robert Half offers the following five tips in making an offer a candidate can’t refuse:

  • Don’t wait. After you make up your mind about someone, extend the offer immediately. Even a delay of a day or two can cost you. 
  • Lay your cards on the table. Put together an attractive package that includes competitive pay, benefits and other rewards. If you don’t have these details nailed down yet, you’re not ready to make the offer.
  • Continue to promote your company. Don’t just discuss the financial aspects of the offer. Remind the candidate of the benefits of joining your company, such as flexible work arrangements or training options that may apply. You want the candidate to feel good about becoming a member of the team.
  • Stay connected. Remain in touch while the candidate considers the offer, and even after the candidate accepts it, so you can reinforce your enthusiasm about this individual potentially joining your organisation. If you’re hiring from abroad, provide information about relocation, housing and living environment, including potential neighbourhoods and schools in the area. 
  • Know how to negotiate. Be prepared if the candidate wishes to negotiate salary or other aspects of the offer. The market for certain roles is especially competitive, and top candidates may have multiple offers. Determine in advance how far you’re willing to go. You don’t want to get so caught up in negotiations that you lose sight of what’s appropriate for your organisation. Likewise, you don’t want to lose a great potential employee over a minor negotiation point. 


Notes to editors

About the Survey

1 The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 75 finance directors / CFOs across the UAE. The survey was conducted in June 2013.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 345 offices worldwide offering recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, HR and legal professionals. For more information visit