New recruitment strategies in Saudi Arabia

Written by
Changeboard Team

05 May 2017

05 May 2017 • by Changeboard Team

At Abunayyan Holding, we made the decision a couple of years ago to stop using recruitment agencies. We only use social and employer branding in our recruitment strategies, with our main hiring channels being LinkedIn,

Facebook and our own careers website (Mostaqbaly. Cutting our use of agencies has saved us almost USD$700,000 a year. When I joined the company, we had just 500 followers on LinkedIn. Now, through a combination of customer engagement, employer branding and headhunting, we have more than 35,000 followers. This allows us to leverage our brand when looking for new recruits, which we do through posting jobs and allowing users to send CVs to us directly. We have even managed to headhunt a CEO (Abunayyan Holding has 14 CEOs throughout the group) for one of our companies through social media.

Using LinkedIn allows us to build our talent database, by continuously adding potential hires we find through their profiles. We also receive thousands of applications each month through Mostaqbaly, which is mobile friendly and offers a seamless applicant experience.

The software that powers it automates the hiring process and tracks every applicant, providing us with reporting and data analysis. All this means we can be proactive rather than reactive when positions arise within our organisation.

The first thing we look for once we spot a good profile is attitude. The behaviour of a candidate is more important than his or her experience. You can teach someone, but it’s very hard to change someone’s attitude. So, after we screen CVs, the first thing we’ll do is invite them for interview to check whether they’ll fit our culture. If we like what we see, we’ll invite them for a psychometric assessment, before sending successful applicants for a technical interview with a hiring manager.


We treat everyone equally, so we have just one scheme, one policy and one salary grade, regardless of whether we hire a Saudi national or an expat. This goes for our expat recruitment too. My recruitment team and I travel to the destinations we’re hiring from ourselves to place adverts and do interviews. We hire directly, even for expats.

Nevertheless, we would like to hire more Saudi nationals. However, the market is challenging and there is a war for talent. When I see the CVs of many Saudis, I often see that they don’t stay for more than a year or two in a role, which makes them a risky hire for us. At the same time, the new generation is very demanding: they want a nice office, in a company with a good reputation and particular working hours. Those graduating from local universities generally prefer to work in government jobs, which offer a more relaxed environment but a slightly lower salary. We prefer to hire nationals who graduate from foreign universities, but even then, retention is an issue. 

The future

Vision 2030 will be a huge issue for us. Most of our projects are with the Government, but funding cuts mean more opportunities are going to foreign investors.

We’re trying to take action now, such as restructuring the company and making new hires. Changes to the nitaqat system made in 2016 will also have an impact.
Instead of just numbers, nitaqat is now based on:

  • the overall Saudisation percentage
  • the average salary of Saudi employees
  • the percentage of Saudi female employees
  • the length of service of Saudi employees
  • the percentage of Saudi salaries.

This will make it harder to hire good nationals, as competition will grow. I think talent professionals in the region will need to focus more on long-term strategies and hire talented nationals for senior positions, not just blue-collar jobs. We must focus more on succession planning – it’s something that is absolutely not present in Saudi Arabia.

Finally, we must work together to improve the education system. Local schools offer very low-quality education, which makes it difficult to find graduates with both the right education and right mentality. We must improve our skills base.

To download the full report, click here

To find out more about City & Guilds Group, click here