Need expat info for UAE?

Connect with fellow expats in the UAE
Join exciting events and groups
Get information in our UAE guides
Exchange tips about expat life in the UAE

Finding the Right Job in the UAE

Knowing which sectors are booming is a good first step on the way to your new job in the UAE. Next, although it may be different to what you’re used to, making sure your application is in line with UAE standards will go a long way when you apply for a job in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
The UAE offers a fast-moving and exciting business environment.
  • The job market in the construction and hospitality sectors is profiting greatly from the preparations for the Expo 2020.
  • Adjusting both CV and cover letter to the norms for job applications in the UAE might just make or break your application.

Beyond Oil — Main Sectors in the UAE

If you’re still at the beginning of your job hunt, deciding which sector to focus on can narrow down the search. The oil and gas sector is an obvious choice when you look for jobs in the UAE, but it should be noted that as of 2015 the UAE has committed to diversifying its economy.

The plan is to bring the oil sector’s contribution to the national GDP down from around one-third to one-fifth by 2025. This measure is meant to protect the UAE economy from being affected by the volatile oil price. Nevertheless, this sector is still, and will remain, a significant player in the UAE: petroleum exports were valued at over 107 million USD in 2014.

Fortunately, the UAE has a diverse range of significant sectors which, with the new diversification strategy, will be increasing in size. This shift will notably affect the industrial sector. In 2014, real estate and business services accounted for just over 12% of the national GDP, making up a large section of the non-oil-driven sectors in the UAE. Tourism contributed around 8.5%, placing these three sectors above financial services, which stood at approximately 7.6%.

A High Demand for Labor: Hospitals or Hospitality?

The Expo 2020, to be held in Dubai, has called for a significant increase in the size of the hospitality sector, which is expanding rapidly. Skilled hospitality staff is in high demand and language skills in particular will make you stand out. Another safe bet is the construction sector, which has been on full blast since the Expo 2020 was announced. Construction projects are numerous: other than the venue itself, housing for staff and new transportation infrastructure have to be built, not to mention the construction activity in the hospitality sector.

An area experiencing a shortage of experts is the medical sector. The UAE’s population is growing and new hospitals are being built to accommodate this, but the number of medical graduates is stagnating. In August 2015, the job search website Monster conducted a survey based on online job postings by employers in seven countries in the Middle East: the UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. The survey reveals that the healthcare sector has the steepest growth in demand for qualified staff out of all industries in the UAE — 44% from 2014 to 2015.

Many other sectors are always interested in candidates with specialist, hard skills, especially fields such as aerospace, finance, and pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, according to Monster’s survey based on online job postings by employers, occupations related to software, hardware, telecommunications, logistics, and supply chain management have proven promising in the UAE, each with a yearly increase ranging from 22% to 38% since 2014.

Online Tools for the Job Hunt

There are many approaches to the UAE job search: jobs can be found through classified ads in newspapers, through online job websites, social media, and recruitment agencies. Between them, the print versions of Gulf News and the Khaleej Times list vacancies every day of the week, except for the weekend (i.e. Friday and Saturday). Naturally, their websites also feature these job offers. Other UAE job sites include the following:

As can be expected in such a fast-paced country, social media has become an increasingly popular recruitment tool in the UAE. LinkedIn and Twitter are used by serious employers, but following a company’s Facebook page never hurts as they will occasionally post vacancies.

Sharing the Burden — Recruitment Agencies

Having trouble navigating the UAE job market? Then recruitment agencies might be a good medium for you. Using a recruitment agency can be beneficial for expats as the language and cultural barriers attached to the job search are taken care of by (local) professionals.

Here are four agencies in the UAE to help you with looking for work:

Typically, these agencies get a commission from the future employer. In fact, UAE labor law prohibits them from charging a finder’s fee when they have set a client up with a job. If you’re using such an agency from abroad, they are also not allowed to charge you for anything visa-related as this responsibility lies with your future employer. 

How to Shine on Paper

Seasoned expats will recognize the value of adjusting their CV to the standards of the country where they are applying. In the UAE, for example, it is common practice to embellish your CV a little, nor is it a bad thing to make it look more extravagant with the use of borders and other designs. 

Some jobs in the UAE are gender-specific. It is therefore recommended that you indicate your sex on your CV, even if it may seem obvious from your name. Other facts that may be of interest to your future UAE employer are your age, your nationality, and even your marital status. You might be surprised to see that it is not uncommon for companies to specify which nationality they are looking for, not to mention the age range of the candidates.

Evidently, anti-discrimination laws are not a high priority in the UAE, especially at the hiring stage. However, this might change with the new federal anti-discrimination law introduced in the summer of 2015, which applies in respect to discrimination based on belief, creed, faith, sect, religion, ethnicity, race, or color. Note that only Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are defined as religions in this context, though, and that Emirati nationals are still legally prioritized in regard to recruiting. Some zones which have outlined their own labor code, such as the Dubai International Financial Center, have also included anti-discrimination clauses.

Resumes without a photograph will not be as well received as those that do have one. Cover letters are common practice in the UAE and should be tailored specifically to the position you are applying for.    

A general tip for expats applying for positions from abroad is to take into account the fact that other nationals might not be familiar with certain abbreviations, for example those used in academic jargon (e.g. GCSE, IB, 2:1). Also check what the norms in terms of CV length are in the specific country where you’re applying. In the UAE it is common to spread your CV out over two A4 pages. Finally, employers abroad will be interested in knowing how well you can adapt to an international work environment, so highlighting your experience with different cultures is a must.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.