Finding the right job can be challenging these days. So how do you prepare yourself to compete with other candidates and to really stand out? From your job search to the point you start going for interviews – make yourself more attractive to potential employers.

[Related: Finding a job and getting your visa in UAE | Working in Dubai and the UAE: What are my visa options?]

I’m stuck. How can I improve my skills?

If you are currently out of a job or feel that it is time for a career change, you may want to consider training and courses, mentoring programs and internships to improve your chances of being employed.

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Courses, certifications and general skills training

Several institutions offer professional certifications and specialised courses as well as general skill building programs. The right courses can really help you stand out from other job applicants especially if they equip you with skills that are in short supply. Look at job advertisements for clues on what certifications and qualifications are in high demand within your field.  Remember, there are technical skills (specific to your industry), general skills (including languages, computer literacy) and soft skills (people skills, communication skills). A combination of these are usually required by employers so focus on developing all of them.

Mentor programs and internships

Mentoring programs give you guidance from more experienced professionals in your field. These are particularly useful if you are at the early stages of your career as you can learn about how to improve your skills as well as how to choose your career direction. Many fresh graduates may not have a clear idea of where they would like to be in 10 or even 5 years and this is where mentors can help.

Internships could be a good way to gain some job experience while you look for a full time position. Several companies offer unpaid internships so don’t rule them out. If you prove to be an asset to the company, it may even lead to a permanent position there.

Match your background with the right job openings

Before you even apply for jobs, make sure you understand what the role requirements are and that your background fits or at least partially addresses the needs of the hiring company. In some cases, there could be certain skills that you could gain on the job, but only if your profile shows potential based on the company’s needs. A mistake that applicants often make is to apply for a lot of job openings that are not relevant to their past experience or field of education.

So how do I look for a job?

There are lots of places where you can look for jobs. Job fairs and online job portals are good starting points. Keep a diary of all the major job fairs taking place in your city and attend as many of them as you can. Make sure you register your details on the biggest job sites and sign up for their job alerts. This is a quick way to get your profile in front of employers. Additionally, several recruitment agencies now search for suitable candidates on job portals. Just make sure that your profile is regularly updated. Networking is another great way to find opportunities – especially for roles that are not widely advertised. You may find that the right contact could refer you for a job opening if you satisfy the requirements. You can build your contacts through career fairs and industry events. LinkedIn is another great networking online tool. Spend some time polishing your profile and ensure your job history and skills are clearly set out.

Selected job portals in the Gulf:  [ | |]

Major career fairs in Saudi Arabia for Saudi nationals 

Job fair City Date
A Step Ahead Career Fair for women Riyadh To Be Announced
6th Saudi Employment and Rehabilitation Exhibition Riyadh 2 – 3 May 2016
Hire me Fair Riyadh 15 – 16 March 2016

If you are looking for jobs in Saudi Arabia, you can also check Saudi Employment’s social media pages for job alerts

Major career fairs in the UAE for Emiratis

Job fair City Date
The Dubai Job Show Dubai 28-30 April 2016
Najah Al Ain 25-27 April 2016
Careers UAE Dubai 16-18 May 2016
Najah Abu Dhabi 26-27 October 2016

When applying: present yourself well to stand out

Once you have identified openings that you could be suitable for, it is time to apply. Make sure that you curriculum vitae (CV) is brief, well written and to the point. Employers will often overlook CVs that are too lengthy and boring to read. Similarly, the key things employers look at are your past experience and education. Remember to place your most recent experience at the top. Don’t just list your day to day tasks. Describe all the ways in which you have made positive contributions in past roles. You should also add any internships that could help improve your profile.

I have been invited for an interview. What should I do to prepare?

Before your job interview, do your homework about the company, understand what they do and how you can make an impact based on your experience, education and skills. It has become so easy to find information about practically anything on the web nowadays. So if you go to an interview without knowing the basics about the company, you really have no excuse! Make sure that your thoughts are well structured and that you are able to answer all of the commonly asked questions. You could even have your friends or family conduct practice interviews and give you feedback afterwards. Ask them to be very frank with you! Some questions frequently asked at interviews are:

1) Why would you be an asset to our company?

2) What are your long-term career goals?

3) What are your greatest achievements at your previous jobs?

4) What are your strengths and weaknesses?

5) Why did you leave/are you leaving your job?

If you have gaps in your CV where you have not been in employment, be prepared to explain why and always make sure you provide an honest response. And finally, be well dressed and on time for interviews – first impressions are key!

Editor’s tip:

There are many details that can make a great first impression on employers. Some may not occur to you. For example, some employers really appreciate honesty about how a potential candidate can improve things at the company. Ambareen, CEO of says: “when I interviewed my head of technology a year and a half ago, I knew straight away that he was the right person for the job. At our first meeting, he had already analysed our site and application and could immediately list improvements that he thought were important for the growth of the business. Today, our business is growing largely due to those changes” So the next time you are being interviewed, give your potential employer a solid reason why they have to choose you over anyone else – by showing how you can make an impact!