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Old-fashioned job-hunting methods that still work in some parts of the world

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In a world of online profiles, applications and social networking, the Middle East is one place that still values an old-fashioned approach to job hunting.

Because Dubai is a such a magnet for talent from across the world, recruiters and HR workers are flooded with applications from financial professionals who have little knowledge about working in the region, and are simply speculating about a particular vacancy they’re often unsuited for. Invariably, these are directed into junk.

However, job seekers are reporting old-school techniques that appears to work. One is delivering printed-out CVs by hand to the right person in the organisation.

“I found out who the CTO was, addressed an envelope containing my CV to them and handed it in at reception,” said one IT worker who just secured a role in Abu Dhabi. “I received a number of call backs this way, one of which lead to my eventual job offer.”

For local candidates, this is not a new technique. Job fairs aimed at increasing the number of Emiratis in the banking sector simply involve young people walking from stall to stall handing over printed copies of their CV and – often – sitting down to an interview there and then.

Expats have it much harder. Aside from successfully applying online for a vacancy, most job hunters spend a few days in the UAE, setting up meetings with recruitment agencies, and trying to get a feel for what opportunities are available. This isn’t always effective.

“All the big-name recruiters are here, but whereas they might have hundreds of consultants with deep relationships with the banks in places like London or New York, in Dubai there are 20 people chasing up opportunities on a more ad hoc basis,” admitted one recruiter who declined to be named. “We’re getting hundreds of applications every day, and a lot of them are terrible. We unfortunately can’t keep everyone happy.”

It therefore pays to be more enterprising and, in the Middle East, the personal touch works. While receptionists have started to grow wary of job hunters handing in speculative CVs, other methods have proven successful.

“We get a lot of people turning up and asking to talk to senior bankers whose name they’ve dug out,” said one HR manager at an international bank in the DIFC. “Occasionally, they’ll turn them down, but at the very least they’ll take the time for a handshake and a five minute conversation.”

The problem, suggests the HR manager, is that banks’ resourcing teams in the region are as stretched as the recruitment agencies. Therefore, while “the dream” is to develop a pipeline of potential candidates for future opportunities, most of their time is spent on immediate vacancies and turning people down when they speculatively apply.

“People who work in banking are much more open to the prospect of networking with people they don’t know from outside of the region, particularly in this part of the world,” he said. “If you email them saying that you’re in town and would like to meet for a coffee, assuming that you’re CV is decent and you’re in the right field, they will usually meet you.”

The key, he says, is to not be overt in your ambitions to work for them, but make a good enough impression that they may either consider you for a future opportunity or put a good word in at a firm that is hiring.

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