Art of recruitment: Finding the right person for the job

The region’s recruitment agencies try to keep pace with staffing demands from the construction industry

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  April 30, 2005

Art of recruitment: Finding the right person for the job |~|MIL-SOL-200.jpg|~|Simon Hobart|~|The growth of the UAE’s construction industry has meant that demand for recruitment agencies has never been so high. No one wants to risk hiring the wrong employee, as it could prove to be the difference between success and failure in the rapidly developing Emirates. To find out more about the hiring business, Construction Week spoke with Simon
Hobart, managing director of the Dubai-based recruitment agency Millennium Solutions.

What is the background of you and your company? And what do you have in store for the future?

I previously worked for Skanska in Dubai as one of their construction managers in the late 1990s up until 2000. I’d always dreamt of opening up my own company and it was then that I realised that I could fulfil this dream, so in 2001 I set up Millennium Solutions.
By the year 2003 we were fully exposed to the market.

What type of job positions do you recruit for, and how many companies and countries are you currently recruiting staff for?

We look at supplying the market with high-end staff like project managers and people that fall into the managerial category mainly. We hire people from the junior engineer level to the project director level. As far as possible we try and hire complete teams for companies.
At the moment we have more than 30 blue chip companies
on our books that use us to supply one or many employees
for them.
We’re supplying staff to most of the Gulf countries. If I was to speak in terms of percentage, I’d have to say that 70% of our recruitment is for the UAE, while 30% is for other Gulf countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.
We’re hiring for British, Far East and American companies as well. Some of the projects that we previously hired people for were Al Hamid medical centre in Doha; a project manager for the high- rise building in Doha; the Financial Harbour in Bahrain; and the Jeddah Shopping centre development. At the moment, we’re hiring around 300 people for a Hong Kong-British contracting company.

What is the remuneration structure for the construction industry here?

It’s pretty relative really, but I’d say that salaries are not great in the market when it comes to Europeans, as one can get a similar or equivalent amount back home.
Then again, salaries are very diverse here. It all depends
on what you’re offered and what you settle for. For example, on one hand an individual can command ten thousand dirhams per month in a certain position; and on the other hand, a different person in the same position can get as much as thirty thousand dirhams per month. So it is very diverse.

What sort of people are companies looking for? And what are the main skills?

One can’t really generalise here but from what I’ve seen, companies are looking for fresh blood. They want young, enthusiastic people who don’t have rigid ideas and are more open-minded. The old-school way of working doesn’t work here anymore; the country is too fast paced now to have space for people like that.
As far as experience goes, no one who is not experienced will come here to work.
I think project control is the most important segment at the moment and the most sought after. Many of the systems that have been incorporated into the construction industry, like the project management system, are American made. So for systems like these we’re trying to hire Americans, as they probably have a better understanding of the projects. We’re promoting Dubai to the American market in a big way.

When you begin the recruitment process, how do you know if a person fits a certain job profile better than the next person?

There are numerous factors that go into selecting the right candidate for a job, but from my experience, I’ve seen that the Europeans have very good managerial skills in general, while South Asians are technically very sound. Malaysian workers, for example, are sought after for their technical skills, but then on the other hand their management skills aren’t always as good as those of the British, South Africans
or Australians.

Who are the easiest people to hire and is poaching an issue for you?

The easiest people to hire are those already working here in the UAE or those who have at least been here before. The reason for this is when a person has been here before, they know about the standard of living and are aware of how developed the country is. They don’t harbour any strange notions about the place.
Also, at the end of the day, it’s common knowledge that most people are here for the money, so it’s easy to hire from South Asia and from Europe as well.
As for poaching, we try not to do too much of moving around in the market as it will eventually effect us. But yes, poaching is something that can’t really be controlled vis-a-vis the workforce. If someone gets a better offer, why would they not take it up? After all, like I said earlier, most people are here for the money.

How important is local experience?
Local experience is not really a major issue. In fact in some cases, employers prefer to have someone who isn’t from here or who doesn’t have any local experience.
The market corrupts most of the people here that have
local experience, so it’s only logical for an employer to want to hire someone who is without local experience.
Also, since a lot of experienced people come here, they don’t really need that local experience to back them up. They will survive without it.

What is the most sought after qualification within the industry? And how much does experience count?

It’s definitely an engineering degree. Of course it has to be from an accredited university.
Then again, an MBA or MSc are also really sought after qualifications, but only if they’re backed up by experience. For certain top-end positions, experience carries more weight than mere qualifications.

How long does it usually take to recruit a candidate?

There isn’t really a set time allocated by us. But we try and get the right people as soon as possible to start.
Of course there is always the usual one-month notice period that an employee has to give to the organisation they are planning to leave, so procedure also plays a big part in the time taken for recruitment.
But with regards to companies, different companies give us different times — it all depends on the company’s situation and requirement at the time. But when a company contacts us to recruit someone, we get back to them with a list of CVs within 24 hours.
In some cases where the position that is advertised is very high up, we will even fly out to interview the person if the need arises.||**||

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