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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

UAE companies losing out on good talent when posting discriminatory job adverts, recruiters say

Recruiters say candidates are being picked on nationality not merit

Payroll numbers across the non-oil private sector decreased for the second month running in September. Paulo Vecina / The National
Payroll numbers across the non-oil private sector decreased for the second month running in September. Paulo Vecina / The National

Employers in the UAE listing desired genders or nationalities when advertising for staff are being discriminatory and potentially missing out on more suitable candidates, recruitment professionals have said.

The practice is so widespread that the vast majority of companies in the region are guilty of favouring candidates from certain backgrounds or countries over others.

Mohammed Osama, managing director Gulf Recruitment Group, said companies are shooting themselves in the foot by not having a level playing field for all candidates, regardless of their backgrounds.

“I have witnessed first-hand how companies put restrictions up on who can apply for a job,” said Mr Osama.

“They end up hiring the wrong people. I have seen companies rise and fall based on their recruitment policies and the more successful companies all have the attitude of getting the right person on board, regardless of background.”

Mr Osama said, while a large percentage of companies make their preferences clear in job listings, that figure rises even higher when they talk to recruiters about who they want to hire.

“They make it clear they want someone from a certain background or country,” he said.

A trawl through the jobs section on Dubizzle reveals a host of adverts specifying job candidates need to be from a certain background or gender.

One advert, for an account sales executive, states that is important the candidate is a female who can provide a photograph and CV to a WhatsApp address as emails will not be answered.

Another for the position of account business executive is clear that the job is only open to women who ‘must be presentable’.

Indian females are the only candidates who will be considered for the role of a business development manager.

Another advert for a finance manager is only open to candidates who are western educated.

It might not be racism to only want candidates from certain countries, said Mr Osama, but it is still clearly a case of discrimination.

“It is quite common for people to want to hire someone from the same country they are from,” he said.

“It is not unusual for people to want to grow their own clans within companies.”

He said insisting on hiring people from similar backgrounds has become the main consideration in recruitment for many companies.

“Merit is no longer the top criteria for companies that are hiring staff in the UAE,” he said.

“A lot of good people are not getting looked at.”

He said the discrimination works both ways as it is not always companies simply looking for western expats.

“I have seen a lot of good western expats get effected by it,” he said.

“Companies can insist that candidates be Arabic speakers when often there is no need for it.”

One person who knows only too well about discrimination in job interviews is UAE resident Gemma Pugh.

“A few years ago in a job interview I was told I was ‘too white and too feminine’,” she said.

The interview was for a learning and development specialist and she said the recruitment team initially reached out to her.

"Then I met with one of the senior managers about the role and their comments were just bizarre."

“I’m a white female, there is not a lot I can do about it,” she said.

Mr Osama said many companies want to hire someone from a culture they are familiar with.

“If a Lebanese person, for example, wants to hire somebody they will be confident they will eventually be able to find someone from their own nationality that ticks all the boxes.”

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Employers would rather hire a candidate from their own country that scores well in terms of suitability for the job, said Mr Osama, than an excellent candidate that has a perfect suitability but is from another country.

“The reasoning behind this is they believe a candidate from their own country will adapt easier to the established culture in that company,” he said.

More robust employment laws, when it comes to hiring, would greatly improve the quality of companies across the region, according to Mr Osama.

“With the exception of Emiratisation, which obviously is in the interest of the country, there should be no preferences when it comes to hiring one expat over another,” he said.

“It should never be about country, religion or race.”

Ian Jenkins, manager with Dubai-based recruiters Carter Murray, agreed that companies that put a potential employee’s nationality at the top of the list are losing out.

“I would always advise clients to focus on skills they need as opposed to any other factor,” said Mr Jenkins.

“Nationality plays no role in how effectively a candidate can execute the required duties for a role assuming they have the necessary skills and experience.”

He also echoed Mr Osama’s view that stricter rules of recruitment would be to the region’s benefit, using his previous experience in the UK as an example.

“I would say that the UK, where I previously worked had stronger legal support to discourage discrimination than countries in the Middle East in general,” he said.

“This legal coverage includes not just nationality but a wide range of other protected characteristics.”