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Why 475 Emirati Graduates Chose to Interview with us in 12 Hours

Amongst Emirati university students, graduates, and young professionals, a kickstart to their career no longer means a government job, and employment is no longer reserved for the public sector. At the Oliv Talent Hunt at CareersUAE this year, we welcomed 475 Emirati candidates who wanted to speed-interview with private sector companies and land their dream job.

But before we break down how Talent Hunt became a success, first let’s take a look at…

Why this shift in employment trends is happening in the first place

The majority of young, Emirati candidates, 57 percent to be exact, are now looking to work in the private sector. That’s pace, growth, and diversity.

An increasing number of UAE nationals are going private because they want a faster work environment, more growth opportunities, and diversity in experience. The millennial workforce desires projects that will constantly challenge them and keep them busy. But with that pace also comes another- this workforce wants to be able to work at their own pace, which means working from home, working remotely, or being able to set a flexible work schedule is a very attractive private sector perk.

The private sector’s emphasis on training and growth, pushed in part by Emiratization, is an added benefit to Emirati youth as it helps them develop a variety of additional skills and progress in their careers. Another benefit is the greater diversity in projects, co-workers, and the work environment, something that the incoming Emirati workforce is hoping to experience and learn from.


While career fairs are a great resource for job seekers, keeping them fresh can be a challenge. We couldn’t be more grateful to CareersUAE for joining forces with us in order to make Talent Hunt a reality.

A few years before Talent Hunt was born, our team got together to brainstorm ideas for career fairs that would be different to the traditional events; something the job seekers had never done before. We also wanted to expedite the hiring process but without compromising on top candidates. But how?

During a particularly brilliant brainstorming session, one of our career enhancement specialists, Dee, asked:

“Why don’t we just skip the first step of hiring completely – no more applications?”

The team was not convinced at first. Going straight to interviews would be scary for candidates, and interviews would have to become a lot shorter to accommodate the nearly 500 candidates. Plus who would ever want to do a job interview, on the spot, with zero preparation (you should have seen the look on their faces when we said “wanna do an interview, right now?”)…

We also did not want candidates to just interview; we wanted them to be excited about the positions. So we created a new interview process that would be productive, fun, and transparent, but also set the right expectations for both the employers and the candidates.

We built the excitement with 5 to 10-minute speed interviews with the hiring managers. No paper, no applications.

But how did we get to 1,425 5-minute interviews in 12 hours?

We listened.

Before we began planning for Talent Hunt, and CareersUAE as a whole, we listened to everything the local surveys and newspapers were telling us about Emiratization and changing employment trends. Basically, all of the above. We also conducted our own research. We contacted our Oliv Emirati community and asked them what exactly they were looking for and what they needed help with in their job search.

We’re in the business of empowering youth by connecting them to career opportunities. But much of the Emirati youth told us they’re caught in the paradox of choice with no real guidance from recruitment and hiring professionals about making the best choices. We listened to the candidates talk about a lack of opportunities in the private sector which still allowed them to support the UAE government. We also listened to candidates expressing a strong interest in opportunities that would allow them to grow in their roles and work with a diverse team on diverse projects.

And this is where we decided to step in. We combined all the feedback we received, and lessons from CareersUAE 2016, and assigned some…

Career Enhancement Specialists 

Young job seekers in the UAE, whether Emirati or Expatriate, need guidance that they can trust, so we assigned Career Enhancement Specialists to all of our Emirati candidates for some micro-level career counseling before Talent Hunt.

We invited employers that were taking great strides in working closely with the UAE government, had been quick to align their objectives with the UAE government’s vision, and were looking to hire Emirati candidates.

We focused our career counseling efforts on our most qualified and proactive Emirati candidates – these were the budding professionals who had pre-registered for Talent Hunt and were extremely motivated to get their dream job.

Here’s how we did it:

Step 1: Collected all the information about employers, the job or internship opportunities available, company culture, industry news – we mean everything. This type of research is what top candidates would typically conduct in their preparation for traditional interviews. But at Talent Hunt, our candidates would not have this luxury.

Step 2: Conducted preliminary interviews. We made sure to have a casual conversation with every single candidate who signed up to interview at Talent Hunt. We asked them about their interests, career plans, and goals to get a better picture of what they were looking for and what they were good at. Most importantly, we asked them which companies they were most passionate about and wanted to work for.

We provided the candidates with a list of employers and their schedule for Talent Hunt:

Talent Hunt at careersUAE Schedule

Step 3: This is where the magic happened! But not without calculation. We matched candidates with opportunities based on what was best for both sides. This meant an alignment between the needs of the employers and candidates, a correlation between the requirements of the jobs and skill set of the applicants, and a match between the mission of the company and values of the candidates. During Talent Hunt itself, we squeezed in some quick feedback from employers in between interviews; just to make sure we were on the right track.

We made their goals, our goal, and we succeeded by focusing on the Emirati voice, every step of the way.

Job searching doesn’t always have to be scary.

In fact, at CareersUAE, it was all fun and games! Before Talent Hunt began, we encouraged our Emirati candidates to relax and play a game with us: Mission Possible. Our goal with Mission Possible was to engage with Emirati youth, build trust, and just have fun before beginning their interviews!

We focused a lot on engaging with UAE nationals at CareersUAE on a whole, not just college graduates or potential applicants. We engaged with everyone from high school students (who would be our future candidates), to seasoned professionals.

And we couldn’t have done it without our clients!

Here’s where the 1,425 interviews happened at Talent Hunt: Bosch, Cisco, Palladium Group, WSP Parsons, DNV GL, Clip, SAP, Majid Al Futtaim, IBM, Sephora, and Al Nabooda Automobiles.

These organizations were exclusive to Talent Hunt so the job seekers could only meet with them if they were brave enough to interview on the spot. And brave they were! Not only were the job seekers excited to be able to meet the employers directly, they really loved the idea of no paper applications!

We’ll let the candidates speak for themselves:

It was really nice to meet the hiring managers and the rest of the team in person as opposed to interviewing initially over the phone.
RashidCisco, IBM, SAP
It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to contact the employers directly at this career fair
AhmedCLIP, Sephora, SAP
This is the most exciting interview I’ve ever done! Other exhibitors ask you to apply online, they don’t ask you what you’re good at. This is the only place where I felt like they were asking me questions as a person.
FadhelMajid Al Futtaim, Al Nabooda Automobiles
Talent Hunt is a great event, I got to meet a lot of senior hiring managers and understand how they think and what they look for in candidates.
I loved how fast the interviews were done!
AhmadBosch, WSP
Doing the interviews on the spot took away the anxiety, just, right there! I’d do it again if I had to!
As soon as I came in here, I saw there were only government institutions, but after spending some time here, I’m quite thankful that I was given the opportunity to be here, it’s very different to all the rest of the stands. I was expecting to just hand off my CV, have a quick chat, and continue on. However, when I came to Talent Hunt, they actually didn’t take my CV,  they relied on my own experience shining through instead of whatever I had written down on my paper. It was a great change. Something that none of the other stands have been able to give me.
MohammedSephora, Palladium

And here’s what our clients had to say about Talent Hunt and the job seekers:

We're very focused on diversity and inclusion, which globally means finding a very diverse range of employees to join us. Talent Hunt, for us, met that expectation because for the region and with its focus being Emiratis and bringing them into the private sector was a big draw… We had candidates who met and exceeded our expectations.- Palladium Group
We've met different candidates, from finance, HR, and quite interestingly, engineering backgrounds. Being a technical and consultancy company, we were excited and happy to meet mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, engineering graduates who were interested to join us. I really enjoyed being here all these days and I'll definitely be joining next year! There were people with great attitude that could really fit into our company, and we've seen that there's a match!- DNV GL
The passion, knowledge of the brand and culture from the candidates was really impressive.- Sephora

Once the (Talent) Hunt was over…

At the end of Talent Hunt, we spoke to all of our Emirati interviewees about their experience with the clients and whether Talent Hunt had aligned with their goals. We also continued our follow-up process with our employers to make sure the hiring process kept rolling. We sent our clients a dedicated list of all the candidates who had interviewed with them, which included their name, contact information, academic background, and field of interest. We also encouraged our clients to reach out to candidates directly and continue their conversation from Talent Hunt.

This is how we were able to provide 475 Emirati graduates with the opportunity to interview with some of the UAE’s best companies in just 12 hours!

Want to talk about your emiratisation objectives? Get in touch with us!

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