Hunted Worldwide: Dubai

My family moved to Dubai when I was six months old. We lived in Jumeirah. A while before the Marina existed.

There were nowhere near as many people as there are now. Lots of drives across desert roads, only one or two shopping malls with not a lot in them. You get the idea.

I’ve seen it go from a place without a skyscraper in sight, to a bona fide metropolis where the tallest building on the planet dominates the skyline.

I’ve seen family run businesses grow to become some of the region’s biggest and most successful.

And I’ve seen recruitment companies carve their niche in an ever growing landscape.

I spoke to tech recruiters Discovered about what recruitment’s really like in my home city.

1 Market Overview

There’s a real opportunity in Dubai for recruiters sourcing talent from overseas: a large portion of the population’s expatriate, so a lot of recruitment in the Middle East is cross-border. Which could mean importing candidates from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or further afield in Europe.

This means recruiters with large global networks should at least have a bit of a head-start.

On the ground, big tech’s landed. And giants like Uber and Amazon have been busy acquiring UAE startups, putting the region on the map. 

The digital and tech space is also seeing plenty of support from the government at the moment, particularly in digital transformation, AI, and smart cities.

2 Contract Vs Perm

Due to the fact your visa status is largely contingent on being employed (more on this in a bit), freelance assignments are few and far between. 

The contract market’s still getting underway in Dubai, and general consensus is it’ll take a while until it’s as established as it is in other recruitment hubs around the world. The talent’s there, but for now the market’s predominantly perm. 

3 Professional Community

The tech, creative, and digital scenes are still in the process of being built. Meaning for the recruiter who knows how vital it is to meet and learn from the key players in their industry, there’s a chance to both establish and differentiate your service offering by hosting or sponsoring networking events.

Arab culture’s all about etiquette, respect, and hospitality. So you’ll find a friendly welcome’s waiting for you at any meetup groups.

4 Business Culture

One of the biggest challenges you’ll find placing people is convincing them it’s not all sun, sand, and tax-free earnings. The spirit of opportunity’s very much alive and well in Dubai. So if you’re willing to work, the business is there to be won.

The team at Discovered can boast genuinely remarkable retention. Arguably one of the most important KPIs for a company’s culture.

Recruiters here are given a full Apple kit, the flexibility to choose which days to work, when to start and finish, and when to work remotely. Consultants have recently done month long stints in Thailand and Bali, very much indicative of the culture here.

5 Language

Everyone in Dubai speaks English. And it’s written on everything from road signs to restaurant menus.

Knowing Arabic, while not essential, will be a huge plus. I’ll start you off: depending on the context, “yalla” means hurry up/come on/let’s go.

6 Business Development

The pace of business is slower working with local companies. And you won’t have to stand throughout power hour because your manager’s taken away your chair. Recruiters who work smart as well as hard and are prepared to put the effort in can stake a major claim to the markets here.

Most of your clients will be expats. Meaning the majority of your interactions should at least start on friendly terms.

In fact, BD in Dubai is mostly quite social, with the lines between candidates, clients, and friends often being blurred. 

Relationships go a long way and most people will be open to meeting you for a coffee and a chat starting out. 

7 The CBD

There are a few main business hubs in Dubai. You’ve got DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre), Business Bay, Media City, and Internet City. Each hosting some of the biggest and more obscure names – and everything in between – in banking, media, technology, etc.

Discovered call the 70+ 40-storey towers and 3 artificial lakes of Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) home. Good spot to stretch the legs and contains rows of shops, restaurants, gyms and bars. Nola, nearby, is a New Orleans inspired eatery and social house that comes highly recommended.

8 Dress

As with most places, you’ve got to match your market. But as with recruitment in a hot country, you’ve got to get the balance right between looking the part and not cooking yourself.

Suits, but perhaps not ties during the working week. For Discovered, who work in digital spaces, it’s smart casual with a twist of summer, so you’d see plenty of shorts when there’s no meetings booked.

9 Travel

Some of the Discovered staff live quite close to the office and just walk in. There’s a metro which runs North to South in Dubai. And a tram which will zip you around the Marina.

Most people in Dubai drive. And failing that, there’s always public taxis and Careem: Dubai’s answer to Uber, which gets the city moving at an affordable rate.

Either way, your commute’s unlikely to be much longer than half an hour.

Life in the city:

1 Weather

“Dubai typically has two seasons, 1) lovely and 2) hot. October to May is lovely and June to September is hot” says John Richardson, Discovered Co-Founder and Director.

It’s early to mid twenties in December and high forties in summer. Which means you’ll get used to having the air-con on wherever you go.

Trust me: everyone looks forward to winter.

2 Housing

The market’s in a really beneficial position at the moment for expats: rental prices have declined over the last few years due to the oversupply of properties. 

Dubai can be an expensive place to live. But in terms of rent, it not only works out cheaper than most major cities, but you’ll also usually get more bang for your buck too: apartment complexes overlooking the beach will often come with a gym, pool, and spa facilities on site. 

3 Food

The food in Dubai reflects its cultural diversity. You can eat whatever you want, whether that’s traditional Arabic cuisine, pizza or fish and chips.

“You can visit the Michelin star chefs in DIFC or one of the well-known restaurants amongst the top hotels within the city. You may even want to pay Salt-Bae a visit.”

And if all else fails, no matter where you are, even sat on a random spot on the beach, you can get whatever food you want delivered right to you. Dubai does delivery well. In fact, it’s one of the biggest industries there.

There’s also a big voucher culture in Dubai too, so you can get some amazing discount deals whether you chose to eat at home or out.

4 Outdoor Space

Dubai is most instantly recognisable by its man-made feats. The infrastructure, the skyscrapers, the re-drawing of landmasses. But it combines it’s sprawling urban area with long stretches of white sand beaches, the desert, a huge array of green parks, and the old town: a far cry from the modern metropolis. 

It’s a landscape fit for off-road adventures. And it’s common to see residents wake surfing, paddle boarding, quad biking, hiking and riding horses on the weekends. 

5 Social Scene

Well, you’ve got the aforementioned, for the outdoorsy types. And the city’s one of the most built-up and fastest-growing on the planet. So there’s enough there to cater to every taste.

Ladies enjoy a slightly cheaper night out than the gents, with free entry and deals on drinks at most places. Sorry fellas. 

The weekend’s Friday and Saturday in Dubai, which is when brunch begins: all you can eat and drink for up to 4 hours. Then onto a beach club or a night in at one of the many hotels, bars and clubs.

6 Family

Dubai’s one of the safest places on the planet, boasting extremely low crime rates year on year. Which make it a perfect place to raise a family.

There’s no public school system, and it isn’t cheap with school fees (some of which you get back once the kids leave). Although a large number of schools operate under an international curriculum, meaning wherever you’ve come from, your little ones can continue learning uninterrupted.

Childcare’s available from minders and nannies and the kids won’t be stuck for things to do with all the beaches, pools, and theme parks to explore.

7 Cost of Living

Getting around’s cheap and rent’s not as expensive as many people believe. But Dubai’s still a major city and can get quite expensive. On the whole, prices for most things are about 20% cheaper than you’d find in London.

It’ll depend on where you do your weekly shop and how frugal you are on a night out but you can sniff out a bargain if you play it smart.

8 Tax

This is one of the main draws to considering Dubai as a recruitment relocation opportunity. Aside from the fact you’d be living in literal paradise.

You pay no tax on your income here. So everything you earn, you get to keep. And in a commission-based role, you’ll start to see the benefit to that in your earnings in next to no time.

A 5% VAT has recently been introduced but as you can probably imagine, won’t upset the books too much.

9 Visas

I’ll let John from Discovered explain this bit:

“Visas are provided by the employer. It’s fairly straight forward: applicants need a passport with a minimum of 6 months until expiration and an attested educational certificate (should they have one). If someone’s coming with family, they’d need to have their marriage and children’s birth certificates attested by the embassy.”

10 International Travel

On your doorstep, you’ve got the entirety of the Middle East. Seeing places like Petra in Jordan and Pyramids in Egypt just became that much easier.

Dubai’s an international travel hub with Europe only 7 hours away. And Asia, the same. 

Locals mostly head to Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and the Maldives on holiday. But there are direct flights to New York, Buenos Aires, Australia, Bali. So the world’s your oyster.

Check out Discovered on Hunted. 

Click through to take a closer look at their profile, office, and open jobs. At the time of writing, Discovered have five open positions across tech, digital and sales markets.

I manage the Middle East and Asian markets at Hunted. Connect with me on LinkedIn to chat through opportunities in Dubai.