In recent years, the Middle East's construction market – like many other industries in the GCC – has felt the direct impact of the gradual decline of oil prices. This familiar cyclical effect has meant countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have to re-structure their fiscal strategies in order to achieve their long-term ambitions.

This period of necessary transition has therefore brought fundamental challenges to the core of the construction market, such as cash flow, contractual disputes, and a general level of uncertainty. Continuous political unrest in the region has also hindered growth.

Our obligation is to educate and consult our clients of the trends within the local recruitment market. In challenging periods, there is a definitive switch from an employee- to employer-driven market place, which leads to an obvious knock-on effect with hiring capabilities and salaries. In a buoyant market where there is steady growth through newly awarded contracts and steady cash flow, we have found that candidates previously had the luxury of leveraging competitive salaries and being a lot more selective with their company of choice and projects.

READ: Cayan anticipates recruitment challenges in Saudi

However, immediate shifts in the market mean that we have had to educate candidates on adjusting their expectations to coincide with what prospective employers are able to offer. We find that once candidates are aware of the market conditions, their motivators soon become long-term security, on-time payments, career growth, and a healthy work-life balance, whilst keeping the best interests also for our clients at the forefront of what we do.

A major trend we’ve noticed over the last financial year are the changes in clients' expectations of candidature. Contractors are identifying a different type of candidate that they would like to hire. There seems to be a preference for our candidates' commercial know-how and interpersonal skills, with less onus on their technical expertise – this is consistent with the overall shifts in the current economic climate.

READ: Expert says technology not a threat to construction jobs

This change in focus of candidature is a deliberate way for companies to manage their profit-and-loss margins as budgets are squeezed. This means that, as a recruitment company, we must be a lot more diligent with our candidate shortlisting, because the key qualities which our customers are looking for are not necessarily presented on a resumé. Therefore more face-to-face interaction with our candidates and in-depth referral strategies have allowed us to meet the demands of our customers

The second change we’ve witnessed is the need for candidates that are experienced in the digital field. The implementation of building information modelling (BIM) has been a big part of the digital revolution, due to its obvious benefits of life cycle insights into the complex nature of the projects in this region. We have also seen an increase in the implementation of Construction Industry Solutions (COINS), SAP, Oracle, Epicor, and CCS Candy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for both internal and site reporting.

Finally, there are opportunities for recruiters to provide a more consultative service to customers, and appreciate the immediate challenges that customers face. A good recruitment consultant will be an expert in their field and have the ability to work with their client or candidate, advising them on their approach to recruitment. At Randstad MENA, we take pride in our ability to act as consultants, and hope that our clients and candidates will benefit from our advice on salary surveys, market trends, references, and recommendations. 

READ: Expert points to recruitment challenges in UAE's MEP sector

NEXT PAGE: The impact of VAT on regional recruitment patterns and salaries