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The Importance of Qualifications for Quantity Surveyors in the Middle East: A ‘Tick Box Culture’?

I have been recruiting construction professionals for companies in the Middle East for almost 6 years now, and qualifications have often been a big talking point when discussing job descriptions with potential employers. Do candidates really need them? Do candidates with letters after their name really make better employees?

An Increasing Trend – Qualifications DO Matter in the Selection Process
One thing I  can see that is becoming more certain whilst recruiting Quantity Surveyors in the Middle East, is that having relevant construction industry qualifications does, without doubt, make it easier to be offered work in the Middle East.

The ‘Tick Box Culture’ of Today’s Market
There is an evident ‘tick box’ culture when it comes to recruiting in the Middle East. This is essentially what employers see as a no nonsense approach when it comes to assessing potential CV’s for suitability. If candidates don’t fulfill the exact requirements (or tick the all of the boxes), they are not considered.  Clearly this can at times defy common sense and eliminate perfectly capable candidates clearly defeating the objective of the recruitment exercise.  This can be explained in terms of immigration rules, or at times the use of insufficiently trained HR & recruitment departments who look for exact matches only rather than using their judgment in looking at candidates' competence to do the required task. It could also be because there are still more candidates on the market in the Middle East than there are jobs - for the time being at least.

You may be thinking, ‘tick box recruiting is nothing new’?
In some ways, you’re right. The aim for construction recruitment agencies and construction employers has always been to find candidates as close to the exact job description as possible. However, the degree of flexibility is becoming almost non-existent now.

Why are Requirements Becoming so Rigid?
My understanding is that the clients/end users on projects in Middle East locations such as Qatar, Dubai & Abu Dhabi are setting these stringent person description requirements.  This leaves the PQS, PM and contractor companies having to tow the line to be successfully awarded the work and have the staff they propose approved by the client to work on projects. With tendering becoming more and more competitive, the promise of having 'perfect' employees to work on the project is becoming more and more important.  Also, when confronted with the issue of more people seeking work than jobs available, employers sometimes think they can impose arbitrary criteria to reduce the size of the shortlist.

So What Qualifications are Ticking Boxes?
There seem to be 2 main requirements relating to qualifications that you will see regularly on job descriptions in the Middle East currently. The first is

'Degree Qualified' - The most desirable qualification for a job seeker to have when looking for work in the Middle East is a directly relevant degree. I very rarely see a job description these days without the need for the candidate to be degree qualified. Degrees are becoming one of the only qualifications accepted by employers.  They are definitely valued considerably more than HNC and HND qualifications (or similar equivalents) in today’s market.  Qatar in particular is noticeably stringent in this area.  Clearly this can be discriminatory to older candidates who are less likely to have been to university.  Maxim will of course try to find employers and overseas locations for such candidates if rejected by employers on these grounds. We believe in finding people jobs where their experience, competence and capabilities will be fully appreciated.

'Membership of a Professional Body' - This is the second requirement which seems to be becoming more important especially with the PQS/cost consultancy firms and the client side developers. Membership of the RICS, CIOB, CIArb, HKIS etc was typically an advantage rather than a necessity until recently. This is now becoming more and more common in the ‘essential’ column of a job description rather than the ‘desired’ column. 

My advice to any Quantity Surveyors considering a career working internationally, or going overseas for a few years would be as follows: If you are currently weighing up which qualification route to follow, choose a degree in a relevant construction subject and follow it up as soon as possible by gaining membership to a professional body such as the RICS. It is clear that there are more doors open to candidates with these qualifications at present and this trend is set to continue. As the next article on part time study & professional development states- there are not many people who say they wished they had studied less!  We certainly recommend that you get fully prepared and suitably qualified to give yourself the best chance of finding your dream job. Today, we are certainly living in a competitive world market for construction skills!


If you are a degree and MRICS qualified Quantity Surveyor, or have extensive experience and are interested in working overseas, Maxim would be interested in hearing from you. You can send your CV to us via the Maxim Recruitment website.

Stuart Hackett
Recruitment Consultant
Maxim Recruitment

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