This article summarises the highlights of a survey we recently conducted with candidates in Saudi Arabia around the subject of job applications in 2021: where are they applying for new roles, what time of the day are they dedicating to their search, how often are they applying, and if they are 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 Saudi Arabia?

The most popular website for job applicants in Saudi Arabia is LinkedIn, with 41% of candidates using the site to find and apply for open roles. The second most popular website for job applicants are employer websites used by 13% of job applicants, followed by recruitment consultancies and job boards, and finally 12% applying for roles via social media platforms. 

Interestingly, for 22% of job applicants who look for jobs several times a week, recruitment consultancies are key, highlighting the pull of using a specialist to help job seekers find a new role. "Some benefits for 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", shares Domenic Flazarano, Regional Director - Saudi Arabia, Michael Page Middle East. 

Have you downloaded Michael Page Middle East’s 2021 Salary & Hiring Insights Guide yet for post pandemic overview of the job market?

"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", adds Domenic. 

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, 41% of applicants use LinkedIn everyday, 23% several times a week, and 4% once a week. 

This statistic tallies with job applicants checking when the job ad was posted - 9% of applicants in Saudi Arabia said they felt it was too late to apply for a job after it had been live for 2-3 days, compared with 12% who felt it was too late to apply when the job was live for 5-10 days. 

However, with 20% 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 roles even if they are not newly opened, suggesting they still think their application is likely to be viewed by a hiring manager even if it is not a ‘fresh’ job", says Domenic.   

And in terms of time of day for applications, it seems as though many candidates in Saudi Arabia follow the saying “the early bird gets the worm”, with 34% applying in the morning. Although not all of our job applicants align with this - 39% apply at any time of day, and only 11% 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 Saudi Arabia generally look for positions that match their skills and experience, with 59% following this path, and only 10% applying to all open roles. 

Further statistics from the survey suggest that some candidates tare aware about the importance of including keywords on CVs and in cover letters and applicant tracking systems (ATS), with 23% adapting their CVs for each role they apply to. 21% alter their CV most of the times and 23% only sometimes. That leaves 33% who never adapt their CV for each application.

So why do candidates take the effort of adapting their CVs? 55% explained that they know it adds value to an application. 47% 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. Another 45% said they do this to increase the response rate from the potential employer. 41% 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

Few job applicants in Saudi Arabia consider cover letters important when sending in an application. 9% include a cover letter specific to the role, and 21% include one sometimes and specific to the role. However, a surprising 39% send a cover letter only when it is mandatory. 

So why do candidates send a cover letter? 40% of applicants who send a cover letter explain that they do so to prove their motivation for the role, with 43% explaining it is to demonstrate their understanding of the role. 19% include a cover letter to add keywords/phrases from the job description and 43% include one to explain their experience in an engaging way. This prompts the question: are cover letters growing or declining in importance? 

Domenic advices, "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. Read our advice on how to write a great cover letter."

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

253 job applicants based in Saudi Arabia participated in this survey.