Salary negotiations rising as UAE job market heats up

HR directors are becoming more willing to negotiate on salaries with leading job candidates according to new research

  • Over half (56%) of HR directors are more willing to negotiate salaries with leading job candidates than 12 months ago
  • Upfront negotiation – a quarter (24%) of HR directors think it is appropriate for candidates to initiate remuneration discussions during the application process or first interview
  • 6% wage increases for existing UAE employees expected in the next 12 months

Dubai 19 May 2015 – As the war for talent continues, the UAE is entering a heated jobs market where skilled professionals can negotiate salaries. New research1 from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half UAE reveals companies are increasingly willing to enter into salary negotiations to secure skilled professionals. Over half (56%) of HR directors are more willing to negotiate salary rates with top candidates than a year ago, signaling to applicants that they are now in a strong position to push for higher salaries and benefits packages.

The study also reveals the changing attitude of hiring managers to discussing remuneration packages with would-be employees.  Historically, candidates have been dissuaded from proactively discussing their potential salary, especially early in the recruitment process.  However, recent research reveals that only 7% of HR directors feel the company should always be the first to initiate remuneration discussions.

Being upfront about the prospective salary for a post is increasingly welcomed by HR professionals with 24% believing it is appropriate for candidates to initiate remuneration discussions when they apply for a role or during the first interview.  A further 45% of HR directors believe it is appropriate to raise questions about salary levels in a second or subsequent interview.  Only 24% of HR directors feel candidates should wait to the final interview or offer stage before raising the issue of remuneration.

The research comes at a time when HR directors are witnessing a return of salary inflation, for existing employees and when seeking to recruit new candidates.  Two in five (40%) HR directors say they are operating in a job market where salaries are increasing, with no HR directors surveyed reporting a deflationary wage environment.   On average HR directors predict salaries for existing employees will increase by 6.17% in the next 12 months, with 43% of companies anticipating an average wage increase of over 5%. 

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director of Robert Half, commented: “The tables have turned in the job market and top performing candidates are now in a position to negotiate and command higher salaries.  Companies need to be aware that the best candidates are actively job seeking and that there is an increase in counter offers in the UAE. We are witnessing an increasingly inflationary wage environment locally and internationally in the US and UK markets to secure skilled professionals.  Companies will need to pay higher salaries to attract top talent and offering localised benefits such as housing allowances as well as increasing salaries for current staff in a bid to retain them.”

HR directors highlighted that employees demonstrating technical competency and measurable output (43%) would be most likely to secure a pay rise. Other reasons influencing the decision to offer existing employees a pay rise include the time period since their last raise (41%), their professional conduct/collaboration/teamwork skills (33%) followed equally by tenure in the organisation and willingness to learn and advance (31%).

Top five factors that would make companies inclined to offer a pay rise to an existing employee

  1. Technical competency/measurable results
  2. Time period since last pay rise
  3. Professional conduct/collaboration/teamwork
  4. Tenure/company loyalty
  5. Willingness to learn and advance

To keep their best employees, companies should ensure they are paying their staff a competitive salary, benefits and bonus structure. The best way to do this is to consult industry publications, like the Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide.


Notes to editors

1 The bi-annual study was developed by Robert Half UAE and is conducted by an independent research firm.  The study is based on 75 interviews with senior HR executives from companies across the UAE, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location. 

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy; a member of the S&P 500 and #1 in our industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s “World's Most Admired Companies” list (2015). Founded in 1948, the company has over 340 offices worldwide, including the UAE, providing recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal, human resources and administration professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at