Q4 Finance Recruitment review for UAE & KSA

10 Minutes

Leading on from my previous article, this article is all about giving any finance professional an insight into what has happened in Q4 2021 and what may happen in Q1 2022

 To give an overview of what I will cover in this review, you will find :

  • General overview of Q4 from a finance recruitment perspective
  • Junior level finance roles review in UAE
  • Mid-level finance roles review in UAE
  • Senior level finance roles review in UAE
  • Finance recruitment review in KSA
  • 2022 will be a "candidate driven" market = increase in salaries
  • The rise of 'counter offers' in Q4 2021
  • Why you should build good relationships with recruiters in 2022

General overview of Q4 from a finance recruitment perspective

Overall Q4 has been a good quarter for the team here at Alchemy Search. It hasn't been 'excellent' but it also hasn't been 'bad'. We are seeing a lot roles rolling forward into 2022 so I do think Q1 2022 will be the busiest quarter in recruitment that I will have seen since arriving in Dubai 4 years ago. So if you are looking for a new opportunity I think you may have luck in 2022.


  • There are very few companies that have dramatically increased their headcount in 2021. From speaking with a lot of Senior Financial professionals in the last few weeks post 'Budgeting season' the general consensus is that the boards, chairman’s, CEO's etc are giving budget for finance teams to up the headcount that was previously taken away from them due to Covid-19.
  • The vast majority of finance teams have been under resourced so now CFO's are looking to upskill their teams, In particular with a huge spike in hiring of FP&A professionals. FP&A professionals are usually only hired when outlook for a company is positive and they have the desire to bring 'value add' finance professionals on board. This is a positive reflection of the market. As when 'something' hits the fan...FP&A professionals are usually the first to been shown the gate.
  • There will be a 'war on talent' which will give candidates more opportunities, as if there is a candidate who is the preferred candidate in 4/5 opportunities, he/she can only take one job offer which means whatever candidate is next in line for the other opportunities will still be in play. I'll go into this in more detail in point 6 below '2022 will be a "candidate driven" market '

Junior level finance roles review in UAE

The junior end of the market has been fairly buoyant throughout the year not just Q4. The vast majority of recruitment at this level has been re-hiring candidates into positions that were let go during the pandemic.

I can't see this trend changing anytime soon, as a lot hiring managers I'm speaking with plan on hiring Senior Accountants, particularly in 2022. At this level it is all about being on the ground in UAE as there is still a significant oversupply of solid candidates versus jobs.

The hot jobs for the quarter from our side with salaries ranging from AED8k to AED18k per month:

  • Senior Accountant
  • Billings Specialist
  • Multiple AP/AR roles

If you are looking for your next role at this level please connect with my colleagues Kim Azzam and Surabhi Thakwani for a confidential discussion.

Mid-level finance roles review in UAE

This level of the market was without doubt the busiest space for the team and I at Alchemy Search. We had many roles at this level across multiple industries but the most common role we had was for FP&A professionals.

It's great to see the hiring of FP&A professionals as it's showing a shift in the mindset of companies who historically may have seen the finance team as a 'cost centre' and not a business partner.

The reality is in the UAE that there is a shortage of strong FP&A professionals and we have noticed a trend that companies will consider strong FP&A professionals from outside the region provided they are willing to relocate themselves at no expense to the hiring company. In particular in the Fintech and FMCG space there seems to be a huge demand for such finance professionals.  

The hot jobs for the quarter from our side with monthly salaries ranging from AED25k to AED35k :

  • Finance Manager
  • Senior Finance Analyst
  • FP&A Manager

If you are looking for your next role at this level please connect with my colleagues Pooja Bhatt and Weam Kamel for a confidential discussion.

Senior level finance roles in UAE

Disappointingly for us a business we weren't too busy in the Senior level finance roles. We had a couple of FD roles and one CFO role but being honest I was hoping we would have been more busier in that space. However in saying that we have a few Fintech FD roles which will become 'live' in mid-January.

Despite us not having too much on, I could see from LinkedIn a lot more senior level job postings and also from speaking to my network it was clear to see there was a lot more activity in that space.

I do feel Q1 2022 should be getting more and more busy at the senior end of market. Why is this?

  • UAE is a very transient place where people come and go. A lot of Senior Finance professionals usually choose Christmas as a good time to depart from the UAE to return to their home country
  • Therefore there will naturally be job openings in the new year for Senior Finance positions that may have not been filled before year end
  • The vast majority of Senior Finance Professionals have either secured a role or left UAE which means there isn't the same amount of oversupply of senior candidates. This makes the market more ''candidate driven'' which is much better from a job seekers perspective as it takes some power away from the hiring company who may have previously low balled senior candidates as they knew they were desperate for ANY job

The hot jobs for the quarter from our side with salaries ranging from AED60k to AED100k :

  • Finance Director
  • CFO

If you are looking for your next role at this level please connect with my colleagues Pooja Bhatt, Weam Kamel or myself.

Finance Recruitment in KSA

Recruitment in KSA has been fairly stagnant for us as a business in Q4 as we are trying to focus more in the Abu Dhabi market going forward. We have decided to work with a couple of reliable clients who will not put roles on hold after all the work is done and more importantly pay on time as opposed to in six months!

The elephant in the room with regards to KSA finance recruitment is given the ever changing entry issues into the country it's very hard to build meaningful relationships with new businesses there. Hopefully later this year we can really start building some momentum there but thankfully our plate is being kept full in UAE and in particular Abu Dhabi.

In saying the above, the roles we have had have all been for Saudi Nationals bar one. As outside of some of the massive Giga projects in KSA it's becoming increasingly tougher for EXPAT finance professionals to secure work there and also seems to be less attractive for EXPAT finance professionals to relocate there given the uncertainty of the border. However, hopefully this will change later in 2022 and we can share some good roles in KSA.

The hot jobs for the quarter from our side with salaries ranging from AED35k to AED80K:

  • Internal Audit Manager
  • Group Financial Controller
  • Finance Director

If you are looking for your next role in KSA please connect with my colleague Kim Azzam and Weam Kamel.

2022 will be a 'candidate driven' market

In my opinion this is the best bit of a news for jobs seekers and the worse bit of news for hiring companies that historically like to 'low ball' candidates!

I'll tell you why I feel 'The tables have finally turned:

  • 2021 was a year where for the most part there was an oversupply of candidates versus jobs. A lot of the candidates were immediately available which was a preference for a lot of hiring companies which meant if you were in a job your CV may not be considered as the hiring manger wanted 'the candidate to start yesterday'
  • Thankfully now most of my network are back in a job and there will be an increase in supply of jobs which now won't be matched by an increase in supply of candidates. As naturally, if a candidate has no job they will be a lot more active in their job search, whilst now with the majority of candidates in jobs they will be more passive in their job search. This ultimately means for hiring companies it’s going to be harder to attract talent and they will need to make strong offers to get candidates to move. Therefore the candidates will drive the market which, in my opinion, will result in salaries going up in 2022
  • As of now any strong candidate who is actively looking for his or her next role will most likely be in 3/4 other processes and if offered more than one role it will be the candidate who dictates which opportunity they want. While last year if a candidate only had one opportunity on the go they would be a lot more likely to accept the offer as they had no other choice
  • For certain roles, there will be a 'war on talent' which ultimately will mean some companies will be willing to pay over the market rate for a certain candidate as they can't afford to not have them on board. Without making strong offers and running a smooth recruitment process I can guarantee a lot of hiring mangers will be very disappointed in 2022

The rise in 'counter offers' in Q4 2021

This was a big growing trend we saw in Q4 and will continue in 2022 as the majority of candidates looking for new roles are currently employed in another role.  

As companies panic when good talent resigns they naturally do everything they can to retain them by throwing money at them and promising promotions down the line (which they may not have actually influence on!)  

As the recruiter we are caught in the middle of such situations and of course we will have a subconscious bias to a candidate turning down a counter offer but this is my honest view having seen what I have seen in the market:

  • It shouldn't take going through 3/4 rounds of interviews, waiting on feedback, sneaking out of work, getting an offer and accepting an offer to then go to your boss and let him or her only then realize your true value to the business and buy you back. My advice would be to do everyone a favor and raise your issue with your boss to see if it can resolved before going through a whole interview process
  • What I can say to a lot of candidates, who may have accepted a counter offer from their boss, is that the senior end of market will get busier in 2022 and there's always going to be a chance that the person who convinced you to stay in your role so they could keep the ship moving in the right direction could very well move to a new opportunity at some point in 2022. The big point I would make is - do you think you would be able to counter offer them to stay? The reality is you won't so just remember that when they counter offer you!

But the other of side of the above is hiring companies need to start making stronger offers to candidates as it's easy for a company to make a counter offer if the hiring company makes a weak offer.  

Example - a candidate is on AED20k a month and is looking for AED25k a month for their next role. The candidate goes through 3 rounds of interviews and receives an offer of AED22k from the hiring company despite the candidate being in a job and having shared their salary expectations from the outset. The candidate is naturally disappointed with the offer but goes to resign. Their boss sees the offer and automatically matches it and as the candidate feels so undervalued by the hiring company they accept the counter offer, declining the offer from the hiring company. As a result, hiring company are back to square one while if they had of offered what they had budgeted and not left anything to chance they would have most likely secured the candidate!  

Why you should build good relationships with recruiters in 2022

I would like to hope if you have read down this far into the article it's clear that I believe finance recruitment in 2022 will be good.

These are the reasons why I feel you should build good relationships with recruiters in 2022:

  • Naturally there will be a higher demand for recruiters in 2022 given the increase in job supply but for me, the biggest point to consider is that HR or In House recruiters will be left with little or no choice but to engage with their Preferred Supplier List (PSL) as of course it’s fairly easy to recruit 'directly' when the market is full of candidates without a job that need a job. But the market is changing and as recruiters we are constantly speaking/meeting with the strong candidates in the market who are passively looking for their next role. They will only leave their role if all the boxes are being ticked so they won't be paying much attention to roles advertised on LinkedIn or on HR teams meeting them directly as they are happy where they are
  • Further to this, with the increase in counter offers and processes that companies thought were over the line falling through at the last minute, companies will need outside assistance to see if there are candidates in the market they were previously not aware of. So for specialist recruitment agencies like ourselves they will have this information that the HR or In House team will not possess
  • I am personally looking forward to building good, solid and meaningful relationships with HR & In House teams. For the most part I have found that in this part of the world recruiters are seen as the “enemy” while back in the UK we are seen as business partners. So please god the latter will become the new trend in this part of the world as we are here to make HR & In House jobs easier!


I hope the above article provides some insight into how I see things currently in the region and of course should you want to have a confidential chat about your next role or next hire please do not hesitate to reach out to me on cmchugh@alchemysearch.ae


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