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Excerpted from the United Arab Emirates Guide.

The United Arab Emirates, established in 1971, has grown rapidly from a desolate desert to a cosmopolitan, multicultural city booming with business and tourism, especially the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Because it looks so modern, it is easy for newcomers to assume they understand the culture and the context. In reality, even Arabs and Arabic speakers of North Africa often underestimate the cultural differences in the Gulf States.

Pre-Interview Preparation 

Regardless of the type of job being sought, preparing for an interview is extremely important.

  • Research the company thoroughly before the interview — its vision, mission, goals, products and services.
  • Be prepared to discuss the industry, including major players and competitors.
  • Gain a clear idea of the job description and the expectations of the role.
  • Be able to cite specific examples and anecdotes from previous jobs to demonstrate relevant experience.
  • Prepare a few thoughtful and well-researched questions for the employer in advance.

Interview Conduct 

Punctuality is very important in any interview setting, and being on time is essential to a successful interview. Allow plenty of time to get to the office; it is best to plan on arriving a little early.

Patience is of paramount importance in the Arab world. Gulf Arab culture moves at its own pace, and patience and flexibility are essential. Phrases such as Insha’Allah (‘God willing’), Ma’alish (‘don’t worry’) or maafi mooshkila (‘no problem’) are commonly used. (If work does not get done, it was God’s will.) The quality of sabur, meaning patience and steadfastness in the face of adversity, is much admired. It is important to be aware of these concepts. If the interviewee is kept waiting for a long time before he/she is interviewed, it should be regarded as an opportunity to demonstrate patience.

The  Interview 

People in the UAE prefer to conduct business face to face, though in some instances the interview may be handled on the phone or through video conference. The interview process may necessitate several sittings with multiple people.

Face–to-Face Interview

In most Arab-related offices, Ghawah, a traditional cardamom-flavored coffee is served either by the host or a coffee server. One should always accept the cup with the right hand, and once finished, the cup should remain in the right hand. The coffee server will return and pour a second, and then a third, cup. While it is impolite to refuse the first cup, especially if it is one’s first visit, it is acceptable to decline an offer for a refill. To politely decline, hold the cup up with the right hand and tilt it from side to side, to communicate that no more coffee is required.

This is just a sample of what you'll find in the complete United Arab Emirates Guide.

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