This article summarises the highlights of a survey we recently conducted with candidates in the United Arab Emirates around the subject of job applications in 2021: where are they applying for new roles, what time of the day, how often are they applying, are they tailoring their CV and including a cover letter?

There is no denying it: the pandemic changed the employment market in 2020, and the effects of the global health crisis will continue to be felt for many years across many sectors. 

With any increase in unemployment, there is a corresponding increase in applications to open roles. One question about this increase is where do job applicants put their efforts when applying to open roles in the UAE?

The most popular website for more than half job applicants in the UAE is LinkedIn, with 59% of candidates using the site to find and apply for open roles. The second most popular platform for job applicants are employer websites, closely followed by recruitment consultancies and job boards, with social media sites like Facebook the least popular platform used by only 21% of job applicants to assist with their job search and application.  

Interestingly, recruitment consultancies are key for 31% of job applicants who look for jobs every day, highlighting the pull of using a specialist to help talented and experienced job seekers find a new role. Some benefits of employers using a recruitment consultancy are the assistance they will give regarding shortlisting candidates, their understanding of the employment market, and which skills are in high demand in any sector. Have you downloaded Michael Page Middle East’s 2021 Salary & Hiring Insights Guide yet? 

This information is important for hiring managers, as it can give an indication of where they should focus their efforts in terms of job ads promotion, and when thinking of using a recruitment partner. 

When do candidates think it is too late to apply to an open role? 

Other key statistics our recent survey found relate to the frequency people apply for jobs and when they consider it too late for a role. In general, 59% of applicants use LinkedIn everyday, 20% several times a week, and 8% once a week. 31% use recruitment consultancies every day, 28% several times a week and 10% once a week. 

This statistic tallies with job applicants checking when the job ad was posted - 9% of applicants in UAE said they felt it was too late to apply for a job after it had been live for 2-3 days, compared with 15% who felt it was too late to apply when the job was live for 5-10 days. 

However, with 19% saying they would still apply for a role even if it was live for over 10 days, it seems as though the quality of a position will prompt a dedicated job seeker to send their CV in. 

These figures suggest that candidates want to apply for newly opened roles so they don’t get lost in a process, suggesting they think they will be more likely to have their application viewed by a hiring manager if they apply to a ‘fresh’ job. 

And in terms of time of day for applications, it seems as though candidates in the UAE follow the saying “the early bird gets the worm”, with 43% applying in the morning. Although not all of our job applicants think like this - 36% apply at any time of day, and only 4% use their lunchtimes to find new roles. 

What approach do job applicants take: apply to all open roles, or only ones that match their profile? 

When applying for open roles, candidates in the United Arab Emirates generally look for positions that match their skills and experience, with 74% following this path, and only 9% applying for all roles. 

Further statistics from the survey suggest that candidates today know about keywords on CVs and in cover letters, with 20% adapting their CVs for each role they apply to. 25% alter their CV most of the times, and 26% only sometimes. Their knowledge of keywords and of applicant tracking systems (ATS) means that job seekers today are very aware of the why behind adapting a CV for a specific role. Read this article to learn what employers and recruiters look for in a CV.

But for what reason specifically? 46% said they do this to increase the response rate from the potential employer, with another 49% explaining that they know it adds value to an application. 44% adapt their CV because the role is a perfect fit, meaning they want the opportunity to interview, and know a role specific CV is the gateway to this. 42% of job applicants adapt their CV to meet a specific job description, potentially highlighting many people’s ability to perform one or more roles in their specific skills area. 

To send a cover letter or not send a cover letter, that is the question

Job applicants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other parts of the UAE, are very aware of the importance of cover letters when sending in an application – or at least 13% of them are, as they include one with every CV sent. 

17% include a cover letter specific to the role, and 24% include one sometimes and specific. However, a surprising 37% only send a cover letter when it is mandatory. Which prompts the question – why do candidates include a cover letter? 

42% explain it is to prove their motivation for the role, with 36% explaining it is to prove their understanding of the role. With 15% saying they include a cover letter to add keywords/phrases from the job description, and 51% including one to explain their experience in an engaging way, are cover letters growing in importance? 

Cover letters can help an application pass through specific points of a job application process by helping the candidate detail their history in an engaging way, and by meeting search terms from the potential employer. 

If you want advice on writing job descriptions, asking for cover letters or any part of the hiring process, Michael Page UAE & Northern Gulf’s team of expert recruitment consultants are here to help you. Simply get in touch via this form, or find your local office from our contact us page, here

635 job applicants based in the UAE participated in this survey.