The Gulf is something of a hub for finance professionals; a melting pot for local candidates, Western professionals and those from Asia and Indian sub-continent. However, when to applying for new jobs there are important rules to follow.
English is the language of choice for the financial industry in the region, which doesn’t always make for the most professional covering letters and CVs from non-native speakers. Bad grammar is the least of your problems, however – recruiters reveal the resume mistakes that mean you application fails at the first hurdle. Avoid them at all costs.
It’s something of a convention, but by no means a requirement, to include a photograph as part of a resume for finance jobs in the Middle East. If you’re going to include this, get a professional picture done: “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received a CV where someone has sunglasses on their head, or a T-shirt on,” says Shane Phillips, managing director of headhunters Shane Phillips Consultants in Dubai. “The picture isn’t a case of getting you the job, it’s about ensuring you don’t lose out on one.”
If you apply through a headhunter, they’ll be the one selling your expertise to a potential employer, while if you’re going direct, a covering letter should be your method of getting a message across about who you are. Too many people dedicate a huge amount of space to often vacuous personal statements, says Susie Hingston, managing director of emerging markets search firm Loxley Partners.
“It’s unwise to dedicate a long paragraph to a personal statement when you only have two pages to give an accurate snapshot of your career history,” she says.
You’re a seasoned executive with years of experience, therefore it’s perfectly acceptable to contravene the guidelines of two pages for your CV, right? Well, no, actually. “This week I received a 32-page CV from one senior banker. Suffice to say, I did not have time to read this,” says Peter Greaves, managing director of IES HR Consultants in Dubai. “Any experience over five years’ old should be kept to a minimum on your CV.”
Is your CV chocked full of words that make you sound ‘dynamic’? The long-winded management spiel may impress in the meeting rooms, but exposed in black and white they say one thing – you are not telling any employer what you can do. Philips says one CV came with the sentence “Seeking opportunity with a dynamic organisation where I can utilise my strong communication and innate multi-tasking skills”.
“What, so you were born with multi-tasking skills?” he quips. “Filling your CV with management speak tells me you’re fishing for opportunities you’re not qualified for and that you’ve not tailored your CV to the role.”
In the family-oriented world of the Middle East, it’s common for CVs to have information about marital status, number of children and other family connections. This, in itself, is not a problem, but keep it to a minimum. “I’ve had people tell me the date of birth of their children, which is a bit much,” says Greaves. “Once, they included the fact that they had three children and, in brackets, included the fact that they were ‘test-tube’.”
As with any part of the world, any CV in the Middle East needs to demonstrate not just what you do, but what you have achieved. This allows a potential employer to both gain an insight into what you bring to the table, and what additional skills you possess that could be useful for the job you’re applying to. “If someone lists too much about their current role, especially when it’s simply a list of duties, it can appear that they only have very few transferable skills,” says Hingston. “Often, employers are looking to see the strategic input they had in the role, rather than their day to day duties.”