This helpful guide on CV and job interview tips in the United Arab Emirates will help you navigate the world of job hunting and land your dream job.
Job-hunting in the UAE is much like it is anywhere else in the world. You will need to look at job ads, create a compelling CV, go through some interviews, receive a job offer, and negotiate for the right benefits package. However, there are some stylistic and cultural differences that you will need to be aware of if you are hoping to make a good impression on your next employer.
This guide includes the following sections:
- Applying for a job in the UAE: what to expect
- Writing a CV in the United Arab Emirates
- Cover letters in the United Arab Emirates
- Job interviews in the United Arab Emirates
- Recruitment tests and tasks in the United Arab Emirates
- Qualifications in the United Arab Emirates
- After the job interview in the United Arab Emirates
- Help and support available for CVs and interviews in the UAE
- Useful resources
Applying for a job in the UAE: what to expect
Applying for a job in the UAE is much the same as it is anywhere else in the world – with only a few subtle differences. Jobs are almost always advertised in English as that’s the lingua franca of the UAE’s business community. This will usually state what the job is, what the responsibilities are, what skills the candidate should have, and how to apply. Sometimes, a salary will also be stated, and you may also see personal descriptors such as gender or ethnicity – after all, there are no anti-discrimination laws in the UAE.
After you make your application for the job in English, you can expect to submit a CV and cover letter (and sometimes an application form). If the company is interested, you will usually then have a series of interviews (these can be by phone, online, or in-person) and sometimes some kind of test or assessment. At this stage, you will probably need to provide references before they make an offer. The full recruitment process in the UAE usually takes more than a month.
Successful candidates will generally be contacted by phone with a brief offer, before being sent an email with the initial offer and contract. Most unsuccessful applicants won’t be contacted.
Writing a CV in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates CV structure
While a UAE CV will be similar to what you are familiar with at home, in terms of structure, there will be a few small differences. Your contact details – name, location, email, and phone number should be at the top. You will then start with a short professional summary and statement of objectives; showcase your work experience in reverse chronological order; state your education and vocational training; note important skills like languages and job-specific programs; and finally, list any publications or external positions.
Your CV should be in English, and your language should be factual and professional; be objective, and don’t use jargon. Your CV should be clean and easy to read; use font size 10-12 and fonts like Calibri, Arial, or Cambria. Bullet-points are acceptable.
It is expected that your CV will have a photo of the candidate on it, so you will need to put this towards the top. All of this should be done within two pages – three at the most, if you are highly experienced.
Tips on writing a United Arab Emirates CV
- Emphasize your skills in the present tense; however, don’t lie or exaggerate;
- Don’t just list responsibilities; illustrate your achievements using examples and figures;
- Make sure to check spelling and grammar;
- Indicate future potential; if you are currently pursuing another qualification, say so;
- Don’t indicate nationality, race, or political affiliations;
- Don’t list your current salary or references.
United Arab Emirates CV templates
Cover letters in the United Arab Emirates
You will need to submit a cover letter along with your CV when applying for jobs in the UAE. Not only is this expected, it is necessary; if it comes down to two candidates, recruiters will often choose the one with a good cover letter.
Your cover letter should be brief – around 300 words – and typed in a format that is well laid out. You will need to include your address, phone number, email, and date at the top, followed by the company name and address.
Begin your cover with an appropriate salutation – as much as possible, try and find out who your letter will be going to so you can write ‘Mr. Smith’ instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam.’ Your first paragraph should state the position you are interested in and why, and showcase something you like about the company and its work; research is key here.
In your second and third paragraph, mention some of the skills and requirements listed on the job advertisement and show how you have developed these or used them, and what results were achieved. Don’t just state what’s obvious; they have your CV for that. This is your chance to show why you are unique, so go ahead and elaborate.
Close the letter by reiterating your interest in the position and company and stating your availability for interviews.
Phrases and accented letters
There is a range of common phrases used in cover letters around the world, and you will find them useful in writing a cover letter to apply for jobs in the UAE, too.
- Dear Sir/Madam;
- I am writing to apply for the [role] with [company] which I saw on [job source];
- Kindly find attached my resume for your consideration;
- I look forward to hearing from you soon;
Job interviews in the United Arab Emirates
What to expect in a United Arab Emirates job interview
Generally, once you have been selected for an interview, you will have a short telephone interview for about 15 minutes with an HR representative. They will not only be confirming your skills and experience, but judging your communication style and interest in the job to determine whether to proceed with the next step in the recruitment process.
If you make the cut, you will then be asked to come in for a face-to-face meeting with your potential manager. During this interview, you may expect a few questions about your skills and experience, however you will also be evaluated for your fit with the position and corporate culture, interpersonal skills, and behavior. For a good interview, you can expect this to last between 30 minutes and an hour.
Sometimes, you may be asked to come for a second interview with senior management or future colleagues. This is usually when the company is deciding between their top two or three candidates, so they will be looking to get a better sense of your character and personality. This is your time to shine! However, remember to maintain your professionalism. A second interview will be shorter than the first, therefore expect to spend about 30 minutes there.
Dress code and appearance for UAE job interviews
Appearances count for a lot in the UAE, so make sure you put your best foot forward – literally speaking – when you are interviewing for jobs in the UAE. Dress appropriately in clean, well-fitted clothing. For corporate jobs, a suit and tie are appropriate; for more relaxed offices and creative industries, you can go for a more casual but professional look. However, stay away from jeans and don’t forget to be culturally sensitive; women should cover their legs and arms.
It is usually best to avoid loud colors and stick to subtle, neutral shades like white, black, navy, and gray. You will probably also want to ditch the sneakers, hoodies, and t-shirts.
Grooming is important, so make sure your hair is brushed and set properly; brush your teeth and use a breath mint if necessary; and don’t forget to swipe on some deodorant. A spritz of perfume is fine, however don’t go overboard.
Questions to expect in a United Arab Emirates job interview
- “Tell me about yourself” – describe your skills, qualifications, and experience;
- “Describe a difficult situation you have faced at work and how you handled it” – try and pick a situation that wasn’t caused by you, and quickly explain what options were available, why you picked the one you did, and what the outcome was;
- “What are your strengths?” – list your top three proficiencies, and give examples;
- “What are your weaknesses?” – pick one or two that don’t relate directly to the job, and describe how you are working on it, i.e. “I find public speaking difficult, but I’m taking a ToastMasters course and actively challenging myself by taking public speaking opportunities”;
- “Why do you want to leave your current job?” – whatever you do, don’t speak negatively about your current company; instead, talk about seeking growth opportunities or new challenges.
Questions to ask in a United Arab Emirates job interview
As with interviewing in any other country, you will have the chance to ask your own questions while interviewing in the UAE. Use this opportunity to find out more about the job, your employer’s expectations, and the company. Whatever you do, avoid asking about salaries and benefits until they bring it up. Here are a few good questions to ask when you are given the opportunity:
- Which skills and experiences would your ideal candidate have?
- What does the day-to-day of this job look like?
- What abilities do you consider necessary to succeeding in this role?
- Where do you see the company in five years?
- What’s your favorite part about working here?
- Do you have any hesitations about my skills or experiences?
When are salary and benefits discussed during the hiring process?
In the UAE, job advertisement often include salary details; if not, the advertisement will usually mention that salaries will be discussed during the interview process – however, don’t expect to rush this.
You can expect the interviewer to ask about your salary expectations towards the end of your interview (or second interview, if there is one). Prepare ahead by researching what average salaries for this position in the UAE are, and have an ideal range in mind before going into the interview.
Negotiations are expected – therefore, be ready to ask for a higher salary by creating your value proposition in terms of what qualifications and experience you have. You can also think about your benefits package as a whole – if the company can’t (or won’t) budge on salary, see if you can get more annual leave, extra visits home, better insurance, education benefits, and whatever other compensation you think will be useful.
Tips for job interviews in the United Arab Emirates
- Remember to dress appropriately (and modestly);
- Attitude is important – be confident but humble;
- Be restrained and professional in your demeanor;
- Research the company thoroughly beforehand;
- Be ready for any kind of questions; because there are no anti-discrimination laws, you may get a few curveballs;
- Ask insightful questions.
Online and phone interviews in the United Arab Emirates
In the UAE, the first step in the interview process is usually a phone call with the company’s HR representative. This is an initial screening to verify your CV and decide whether you are a good candidate for the job. In some cases, you might be need to do an online interview instead, through Skype, for example. This is usually the case if you are interviewing from overseas. Here are a few tips for preparing for a telephone or Skype interview:
- Ensure your phone/laptop is charged before your scheduled interview;
- Make sure you are in a place with good phone/internet signal, and have a back-up plan for if this fails;
- Pick a quiet place with as little background noise as possible;
- Listen carefully and respond appropriately; it is very easy for miscommunication to occur over the phone;
- Speak slowly and clearly;
- Keep your tone friendly but professional;
- Have your CV handy for reference, and a notebook and pen on standby for notes;
- If you are doing a video interview, dress and groom yourself as if you were going for an in-person interview;
- Practice a few common questions, but try not to sound too scripted.
Recruitment tests and tasks in the United Arab Emirates
Like in any other country, certain jobs in the UAE require candidates to take tests or assessments as part of the recruitment process. Depending on the job, these may be highly structured, formal assessments, or casual tasks you can complete in your own time. There is a good chance you might have to do some sort of test or task, so be sure you are ready for this.
In a government job, for example, you may need to undergo language tests, skills assessments, and behavioral analyses. In finance jobs, you will often need to complete online assessments for numerical and reasoning skills. For creative positions, you might have to prepare a project according to a brief – such as writing an article or designing a basic website.
Qualifications in the United Arab Emirates
Any foreigner looking to work in the UAE will need to have an equivalency assessment on their foreign qualifications by the Ministry of Education. This is required as part of the procedure to get a UAE work visa. It is usually a pretty straightforward process. You will have your qualifications certified by the issuing country’s embassy (i.e. if you have an American degree, you will need it certified by your local US embassy) as well as your local UAE embassy.
After the job interview in the United Arab Emirates
Once you have completed your job interview in the UAE, it’s a waiting game. The full recruitment process usually takes around 35 days from application to offer, so don’t expect things to move fast (unless they really need to fill the role immediately). You will usually need provide references, so you will be waiting some more while they contact them.
If you are already in the UAE, you will usually get a phone call with the job offer, and then an email with the contract. At this stage, you might spend a little more time negotiating salaries and benefits, if you haven’t already done so. If you don’t get a job offer, however, don’t expect to get feedback on your application and interview. Most UAE employers – yes, even the big international firms – simply don’t have the time or resources.
Assuming it’s all systems go, you might then have to wait while your work visa is being processed; this usually takes a few months. Once your visa is issued, you will have two months to go to the UAE, begin your job, and complete the rest of the visa formalities.
Once you start your exciting new job in the UAE, it is common to go through a six-month probation period. During this time, either party can terminate employment without notice. For your first day on the job, you may be asked to show your work visa and passport, Emirates ID card, health check certificate, and any documents directly related to performing your job (i.e. practicing license).