Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Week in the Life; regional digital headhunter Richard Smith

Richard Smith , regional director – Mena of Salt company at his office in the Marina Plaza in Dubai Marina in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Richard Smith , regional director – Mena of Salt company at his office in the Marina Plaza in Dubai Marina in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Richard Smith is the director and founder of Salt’s Dubai office, a recruitment service for Digital teams across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

The office has grown rapidly in the past two years and now Salt is the largest digital specialist recruitment firm in the region. Mr Smith, 34, was previously a managing partner of Newstar Recruitment prior to merging with Salt to leverage their global network. He graduated with a degree in Asian studies with economics from Birmingham University, UK and has an MBA from Aston University, UK. He has worked in Dubai for six years and he and his wife Danielle have a new born daughter, Elodie.


My alarms chime at 6am and I am up almost immediately. I am definitely a morning person and I always prefer to get up early and have a controlled build up for the day. I find the way you start your day on Sunday dictates your momentum for the rest of the week so I make sure that I have a positive start. The first thing I do every morning is take our dog (a beautiful American Cocker Spaniel named Layla) for a brisk walk, this is a great way to get the energy flowing and allows me to start digesting my plan for the week. When I get back I grab a shower, have breakfast with my wife and hop in the car to arrive at work by 7.30am.

The first thing on the agenda is hosting our weekly kick-off meeting, everyday my whole team gets together at 8.30am for a ‘scrum’. Our Sunday scrum holds extra significance, as we use this time as a point of reflection on the week that was and set the agenda for the week that will be. I know that our truly collaborative and open culture is one of the things that sets Salt apart from our competition. Having daily touch points where everyone can communicate progress and receive recognition is really critical in making that dream culture a reality.

The rest of Sunday I spend doing one-to-one sessions with my team, reviewing their portfolio of open vacancies and making sure we have the right amount of resources dedicated to each vacancy to deliver a great service.


Client meeting, I regularly meet clients and discuss how their current recruitment campaigns are progressing. We assess sticking points in their recruitment process and I make suggestions on how to adjust these to allow a quicker, smoother candidate experience. Today, we discuss how to shorten the clients' interview process without reducing the depth of the candidate assessment process. During the meeting the client also discusses upcoming new vacancies and I run through a detailed qualification of those vacancies ready to brief one of my specialists in the office to help source candidates.


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Today I am onsite with a client at their offices as part of a three-month HR consulting agreement. We have retained to advise a firm aiming to build a large digital team to support their already huge offline operation. The consultancy project covers the attraction, retention and development of millennial employees. Trends across the generations are of particular interest for me with millennials making up 80 per cent of digital teams. It is critical that established employers know how to engage with this cohort effectively. Over the three -month engagement, I have used research and market knowledge to put together a board-level presentation that reflects an appropriate human capital strategy for the clients’ digital division.

Circa 6pm, I wrap up at the client site and head to meet a candidate for an informal interview. My team and I always try to meet candidates if they are based in the UAE as a simple CV rarely tells the whole story of a person’s capabilities. The 'soft skills' a candidate offers are equally as important as technical capability and they are thus a critical determinant as to how they will fit the requirements from our clients.


We are fast approaching the end of the week and we need to ensure that our promises to clients regarding the volume and quality of applications are upheld. During the daily scrum with the team, I highlight our collective position on various projects and then I focus my effort on supporting the team to source applicants for our clients.

Recruitment in Dubai, especially digital recruitment, is a truly global affair. A big part of what we do is attracting candidates from overseas - this year alone we have relocated candidates from over 40 countries to join the digital revolution in Dubai.

I support the business by providing knowledge of digital hotspots where we can attract relevant candidates, as well as also being hands-on in screening and sending applicants to clients. Whilst my team is now large enough that I wouldn’t need to do the hands-on engagement, I feel that staying directly in touch with market participants keeps my knowledge of their desires and marketplace trends up to date.


End of the week and several of the team and I are already looking forward to our Lunch Club incentive afternoon. Each month, I take a selection of our top performers out for a no-expense-spared afternoon starting with lunch followed by various nightlife highlights. Being a bit of a foodie, I take pride in making sure that for these special afternoons we try out the best restaurants that Dubai has available.

This year (in no particular order) we have attended: Coya; Nusr Et; Atmosphere; Le Petit Maison; Hakkassan; and Zuma among others. We take the afternoon to enjoy each other’s company, have some banter about non-work related topics and. of course. enjoy some incredible food and drink. Later, we meet with the remainder of the team at our local bar The Scene in Pier 7 and some of the guys stay out late. I, however, have responsibilities at home and so I call it a night about 7pm and head back to see my wife and daughter.


I generally try to keep the weekend free for time with my family.

Having a new-born child is a real blessing, but it is also important that Danielle gets a break from diapers and feeding. Often I have to work late during the week entertaining clients or meeting candidates, so when I am at home I try and chip in by taking on some of the domestic duties.

Our social life before Elodie was led by the usual brunches and dinners that most couples we know tend to gravitate towards for weekend fun. Now, however, we really enjoy our time at home and with our friends in a slightly less party-led atmosphere. I guess I am getting old! Today we had a couple with another small child come and visit and say hello to Elodie for the first time. We have a couple of drinks, catch up, and discuss parenting ideas. One thing I have noticed is the abundance of different opinions around child rearing in Dubai. It can sometimes feel like a maze trying to make the right decision that works for your family and fits the goals for your child.

Our friends, especially those who have gone through childbirth in the UAE themselves, have been a huge support in giving us tips of providers that suit our preferences.


After again chipping in on the regular dog walking for Layla and care giving for Elodie, we decide to venture out to the mall for a change of scenery and some fun. We generally shy away from Mall of The Emirates and Dubai Mall due to the crowds and opt instead for Marina Mall or City Centre Me’aisem. We grab a pizza, walk along the marina boulevard for a bit and grab a frozen yogurt for desert. We have a quiet evening in on Saturdays as I mentally prepare for a high-impact week coming up, we watch a series on Netflix and then call it a night at about 10pm.

Updated: November 28, 2017 02:29 PM