UAE job seekers focus on recession proof sectors

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    Although the economic downturn has severely trimmed the number of available jobs in the UAE, there are still a few sectors where jobs are relatively plentiful. However, employers are clearly in a better bargaining position as demand for jobs intensifies.

    Jobs are becoming harder to come by in the UAE as the global financial crisis continues to put the brakes on the country’s economy.

    According to a recent survey of 250 companies in the UAE by BAC Middle East, just 37% of respondents said they expect their organisation to do any hiring this year.

    However, while a large number of companies are being cautious and adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach towards hiring, experts say there are some sectors that have remained relatively immune to the crisis.

    ‘Hiring activity has diminished, particularly in the sectors that have been worst hit by the economic downturn such as banking and real estate, but while some companies have enacted hiring freezes, this has by no means been uniform across the board,’ says Amer Zureikat, Regional Manager, Bayt.com.

    ‘Booming’ sectors

    Mike Hynes, managing partner of Kershaw Leonard, says there are three sectors that are ‘booming’. The first is retail, which is getting a boost because of the large number of malls and outlets that have either opened up or will be opening up soon in the country.

    He says his firm has been ‘inundated’ with vacancies for operational roles like store managers, and employers are increasingly looking for candidates who speak Russian, French, or Arabic to better facilitate communication with customers.

    Surprisingly, another area where hiring has remained strong is construction. ‘Again, there are a lot of projects that are ongoing and yet to be finished. The people they are looking for are those who will actually do the building, such as engineers and equipment operators, rather than the finance and administrative sections of those companies,’ he said.

    Hiring is also strong in the IT industry, which is one sector that ‘seems to be completely unaffected by the downturn’, Hynes said.

    Cliff Single, Commercial Manager, BAC Middle East, says the pharmaceutical and medical sectors are also well placed due to the essential nature of their products and services. But the most resilient companies right now are those in the food products and FMCG sectors, Single argues, as their demand has been hit less than other goods and services.

    The situation with other sectors is less clear cut. ‘We are still recruiting for some shipping and logistics firms as the region’s dependence on international trade means that the sector has built-in resilience. Certain clients in the insurance and telecoms sectors have also expressed optimism as they still anticipate growth for their firms within the region. There is also speculation that the Islamic Finance sector could receive a boost in the longer term from the current financial turbulence,’ he added.

    Employers’ market

    Due to layoffs in Dubai and feeder markets such as the UK, the quantity of candidates for jobs in the UAE has changed dramatically in the past few months compared to year ago.

    ‘The downside is that we are drowning in CV’s,’ says Hynes. ‘If we advertised for a mainstream job last year we might get 400 or 500 CVs, while now we might get 2,000.’

    One trend that has emerged is that there are many people who are applying for lots of jobs. ‘One person might apply for 10 jobs, which is clearly the wrong thing to do, because they are devaluing their own application. But people are desperate to find jobs and are applying for anything to see what they can get,’ he said.

    Moreover the quality of talent in the market has risen sharply as many highly talented professionals have recently been made redundant. ‘I used to get maybe up to four senior CVs a week from overseas, now I am getting up to 20,’ Hynes said.

    All of these factors mean that employers hold all the cards in terms of hiring. ‘I would certainly say that the balance has shifted in the market towards the employer when it comes to recruitment,’ Single said.

    ‘The employer is now in a stronger position in terms of selection and negotiation. Companies are being more careful and cautious with their hiring: this entails more interviewing, a longer screening process and a stronger approach to salary negotiations.’

    Hynes agrees, pointing out that employers now have the time to do their recruitment process to the full. ‘Perhaps in 2008 they were rushed a little in doing their hiring because if they did not jump at a particular candidate that person would be gone. Now they have got the time to do the complete recruitment process, which does not necessarily mean more interviews but taking their time after an interview, whereas before the pressure was on to make a decision the same day,’ he said.

    Zureikat says many employers have been upgrading their minimum requirements due to the higher calibre of talent that is available.

    Job search tips

    With fewer jobs being listed and more people searching for employment in Dubai, Hynes says candidates need to observe a few key rules to help differentiate themselves from other job seekers.

    The first is to only apply for jobs that you can ‘really really’ do. ‘It does not make you more attractive as a candidate to apply for 40 jobs, because there is no way you can do all of them. So be very choosy,’ he said.

    The other key is to focus on your achievements. ‘Do not list a boring ream of responsibilities – everyone knows what a sales manager does. It’s far more interesting to show what you achieved and the difference you made for the company you worked for,’ he said.

    For people who have been laid off in Dubai and want to stay in the region, Abu Dhabi and Qatar may be easier places to find jobs as their economies have so far been more resilient during the downturn.

    ‘There have been projects that have been cancelled in Abu Dhabi, but the whole atmosphere there is much more positive,’ he said. ‘Our office in is Qatar is also very busy. If I lost my job here in Dubai, Qatar would be a place where I would be looking.’

    www.ameinfo.com United Arab Emirates: Monday, March 23 – 2009

    The construction sector is, surprisingly, still hiring
    The construction sector is, surprisingly, still hiring