Talent shortage: UAE firms have trouble hiring skilled professionals


Applicants in the UAE can still find jobs amid a tough job market – if they know where to look

Employer have trouble recruiting the right talent because companies abroad are also looking for the same calibre of professionals.

Published: 10:16 November 1, 2016 | Image Credit: Supplied

Cleofe Maceda, Senior Web Reporter

Dubai: Companies in the UAE are still having a hard time filling many positions despite the huge number of professionals looking for new jobs in the country, according to an industry expert.

Some of the most in demand jobs right now include those that fall in the accounting and finance, financial services and technology fields.

Accountants, financial controllers, private banking sales professionals, IT security managers and anti-money laundering experts are just a few of the professionals that UAE organisations are having trouble finding.

Hiring managers are also on the lookout for candidates with effective communication and collaboration skills, expertise and/or knowledge in taxation, Islamic finance, advanced Excel, enterprise resource planning (ERP).

Organisations say they have a hard time recruiting for the right talent because there is a “lack of niche” and employers abroad are also looking for the same calibre of professionals.

“The competition for [talent] is heating up in the market as the majority of organisations are seeking skilled professionals,” said Gareth El Mettouri, associate director, Robert Half UAE.

“Within the current market, over a third (35 per cent) of employers cite a lack of niche, technical experts as the primary reason it’s challenging to find talented professionals,” El Mettouri told Gulf News.

LinkedIn has revealed that amid reports of job cuts and hiring freezes, the employment market in the UAE still opened 16,000 jobs in the past year. The company said that tech positions and statistical analysis and data mining roles are in demand. Candidates with qualifications in robotics, data science, 3D printing and the so-called “internet of things” are also popular.

“The hiring market has become more specialist focused, as organisations look to add employees to their teams who can add value from day one,” said El Mettouri. “As such, organisations are seeking to add professionals who have the expertise to succeed, have effective communication and collaboration skills, and have the cultural fit to support the long-term goals of the organisation.”

Accounting and finance

Within the accounting and finance category, companies are looking for chief financial officers, finance directors or managers, financial controllers, financial accountants and financial planning and analysis professionals.

The skills and qualifications that are popular among employers are expertise in ERP (Oracle and SAP) systems, effective communications, advanced Excel skills, Islamic finance knowledge and qualifications of ACA, ACCA, CIMA, CFP and MBA, according to El Mettouri.

“With the proposed introduction of value-added tax (VAT) in 2018 and potential changes to corporate tax in discussion, the demand for tax specialists and management accountants will increase in the lead-up to their introduction and thereafter,” he said.

Financial services

In the financial services field, there is a shortage of institutional sales specialists and wealth or private banking sales professionals and brokers.

“The skills and qualifications in demand for these professionals are existing local client relationships, experience in interaction with sovereign wealth funds and family offices,” said El Mettouri.

“As regulations and compliance continues to be high priority for financial services firms, professionals with proven experience working in highly regulated environments and AML (anti-money laundering) specialists continue to be in demand.”

To secure jobs, applicants must have financial crime and sanction expertise, particularly in customer due diligence (CDD) and know-your-customer (KYC) processes.

“Overall, professionals in this market require expertise in multinational banking environments, fluent in Arabic and have certification in CAMS, ICA, FSA, and/or CFA,” said El Mettouri.


Companies always strive to be in step with technology in order to compete in the global market. To do so, they need professionals who can help them update their systems and adopt emerging technology.

Those in demand are ERP application and functional experts, project managers, business partners, sales directors and managers and IT security managers. Candidates seeking for these roles will have an edge over other applicants if they have ITIL and COBIT expertise, user and customer experience expertise, experience with new platforms such as the internet of things and convergent technologies.

“Firms are seeking professionals who not only have technical expertise to execute projects but also require a collaborative nature and cultural fit, as these investments in IT are integral part of the commerciality of the business,” said El Mettouri.


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