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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2015

Finding a Job

With the aid of online job portals, you can start your job search before you leave your home country. They also enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords. Some of the most popular Emirati job portals are:

Most daily newspapers also publish job advertisements both in their printed issues and online. Some of the most widely read newspapers also have employment sections:

Once you have arrived in the UAE, you can also look in newspapers and browse notice boards in shops. As in most countries, networking is also very important, and if you have any connections, you should not hesitate to use them. Also, keep an eye out for career fairs and exhibitions, and look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on websites of organisations that interest you. You can consider making speculative applications to these organisations.

Job seekers can also turn to private recruitment agencies. In the UAE, it is particularly important to check that agencies are accredited and reputable. An alarming number of them are fraudulent and will try to wheedle money out of you if they can, such as by illegally charging you a fee for their services. If they try to do this, cease all dealings with them immediately and report them to the Ministry of Labour.



As your curriculum vitae or CV (note that the word ‘résumé’ is not widely used in the Emirates) is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience.  Job adverts for positions in the UAE will appear in English and Arabic. Naturally if you speak English, you will only answer those in English, so your CV can be in English as well. As UAE employers can afford to pick and choose candidates, first impressions are even more important than usual so you might want to attach a recent passport-style photograph to your CV.

The CV must be well structured. You should first list your personal details: your name, age, nationality, marital status, current whereabouts and preferred place of work in the UAE. This can be followed by contact details then the main body of the CV. Typical main body sections include Employment History, Education and Training, IT Skills, Language Skills, and Interests. The UAE is a multilingual country, so make prominent mention of any language skills you have.

Arrange education and work experience sections in reverse chronological order, accounting for any gaps. When listing your academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study programme, degree obtained and your study focus. Work experience should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

In all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used.


Cover Letters

Employers typically require a cover letter, which should be one to two A4-pages long and drawn up as a formal business letter. In a cover letter in the UAE, you should start by mentioning where exactly you found out about the job. It is also important to profess your enthusiasm for the position you are applying for. As with any cover letter, you will need to demonstrate how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and comment on how you fulfil them.



Job interviews in the UAE will vary from employer to employer. They differ in length, number of stages, interviewing technique and the size of the panel. In recent years, telephone and video conference interviews have become more common, especially for candidates based abroad.

Generally, interviewers will first give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, present your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. After this, employers will ask questions about your previous employment and test how your skills match their requirements. Finally, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about your potential future role. In all cases, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are, and how you could contribute to its success.

International companies based in the UAE and large domestic companies sometimes use recruitment assessment centres. Such assessments last a day or two and test your suitability for the position using tasks such as presentations, group activities and written tests. There is more information on interviewing techniques and sample interview questions on the Robert Half website.



When attending a job interview, punctuality is key! Additionally, you should address the interviewers using their correct title and surname, unless you are specifically asked to do otherwise. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still advisable to opt for business wear in discreet colours; women should avoid wearing eye-catching jewellery, heavy make-up and short skirts. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!




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