Many job hunters preparing for the Tawdheef career fair, which launches today in Abu Dhabi, may be wondering what employers are looking for. The answer will surprise some.
A recent poll of employers by the job-searching site Bayt.com revealed that "hunger, drive and ambition" were the most important factors when hiring new staff.
Salary considerations came in second, followed lastly by one factor many might assume would be on top - a person's career track-record.
"As many will have discovered, good past performance is no guarantee of success within a future appointment. Hiring for talent, as opposed to experience, will secure a better employee," says Dr Terry Galvin, a chartered occupational psychologist with Innovative Human Resource Solutions in Dubai.
Experts say employers identify ambition as an important attribute. "In today's incredibly demanding, frequently uncertain and increasingly competitive world, the intuitive appeal of these qualities is obvious," adds Dr Galvin.
But even if companies home in on a candidate who shows a mix of hunger, drive and ambition, hiring decisions are still not without risk. And one expert warns that the survey results may not get to the heart of what hiring managers actually look for.
"The findings are certainly interesting, but they reflect the way that hiring managers like to think they would react, rather than a track record on their actual decision making when hiring," says Toby Simpson, the managing director of the Gulf Recruitment Group in Dubai.
There are also differences between how employers look at individual candidates who are seeking a job here. When it comes to expatriates, their skillset is by far the most important aspect in any hiring decision as, if the skillset exists on the employment market, there is no need to train someone to perform a specific function, argues Mr Simpson. But among Emiratis, employers have been taking a longer-term view as hiring already skilled Emiratis is both expensive and competitive so, in this case, training and development is socially responsible and financially prudent.
So how should job seekers sell themselves today?
Employers who are seeking to identify potential, rather than experience, will be looking for people who have thought about their own personal strengths, where they want to be in five or 10 years, and whether they can answer why they want to work for a particular company. "An essential preliminary task for all job seekers is to establish what a prospective employer's requirements are in terms of candidate qualities," says Dr Galvin.
However, having all the relevant qualities is not enough to guarantee a job offer, so candidates must think back over their careers and identify times when they have demonstrated them. Candidates need to be ready to describe the situation in which they showed the quality in question and be specific about the task they had been assigned. "Make sure you can describe each example briefly and specifically," says Dr Galvin.
Employers will also want to know how candidates can relate to them on a personal level.
"Remain professional, but smile and make sure any interaction you have is a conversation, not a question and answer session," says Mr Simpson.
Hiring managers are often highly engaged with the company they work for on a personal level, so any research a candidate does and positive comments they are able to make will improve their chances.
"This is, in effect, indirect flattery," says Mr Simpson. "[But] not as obvious … as flattering someone directly, and more professional."