shutterstock_336872039Dubai-based airline Emirates Group, is the most popular employer for fresh university graduates in the UAE, followed by international consumer goods company Unilever, according to the latest research by online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

The findings are based on GulfTalent’s survey of over 300 recent graduates and final-year students at UAE’s prestigious American University of Sharjah (AUS), which hosts a mix of both expatriate and local students from all Emirates.


Top 20 Most Popular Employers for Graduates in UAE

1 Emirates Group 11 Schlumberger
2 Unilever 12 AECOM
3 Chalhoub Group 13 Emaar
4 General Electric 14 Leo Burnett
5 Nestlé 15 MBC Group
6 ADNOC 16 Deloitte
7 Petrofac 17 IBM
8 PwC 18 Atkins
9 Procter & Gamble 19 L’Oreal
10 Etihad 20 Bee’ah


Source: GulfTalent Survey

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According to the survey results, construction and finance are the most popular sectors for graduates, followed by consumer goods.

The survey found a sharp divide in preferences by nationality. Among expatriate graduates an overwhelming 91% majority favour working for multinationals. By contrast, 63% of Emirati graduates opt for government-owned organisations.

Local UAE private sector firms appear to be the least desired option for both nationals and expatriates, the survey found.

ADNOC, Mubadala and Etisalat were voted the most popular employers among UAE national graduates.


Top 10 Most Popular Employers for Emirati Graduates


2 Mubadala
3 Etisalat
4 Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)
5 Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA)
6 Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA)
7 Emaar
8 Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC)
9 United Nations
10 Masdar

Source: GulfTalent Survey


Key Attraction Factors


GulfTalent’s survey asked graduates about the factors that drove them to choose their preferred employer. The top three factors mentioned were the opportunity to do interesting and challenging work, the quality of the training and development programme, and the company’s brand and reputation.

Starting salary expectations of expatriate graduates AED 9,000 per month, compared with AED 27,000 for Emirati graduates from the same university


AXIR Consulting

Interestingly, salary and benefits only ranked 4th in the key attraction factors.


However, the survey did find a significant gap in the expectations of graduates for their starting salary – with salary expectations of Emirati graduate averaging AED 27,000 per month, compared with AED 9,000 for expatriate graduates.


Overseas experience is also highly valued by graduates. One in two graduates expressed interest in gaining experience working outside the UAE and were drawn to the employers that offered this opportunity. According to the survey, the most popular country overall for graduates in the UAE to live and work in is the USA, followed by the UK and Canada – among both local and expatriate graduates.



Employment Success


33% of Emirati graduates surveyed reported already having a job offer prior to graduation, compared with 18% of expats.


When asked what they thought were the key factors for employers selecting graduates, the most important factor cited was work experience. Expatriate graduates, in particular, reported finding it very challenging to land an entry-level job without already holding 1-2 years of experience.


In relative terms, Emirati graduates considered command of English language to contribute far more to their chances of finding employment, compared with expatriates who did not consider it a big factor for employers.


When asked about their ideal next steps after graduation, 67% of respondents said they wished to start a job, followed by 27% who wanted to continue further study, 2% who planned to join their family business and 4% who aim to start up on their own.


Employer Reactions


Commenting on GulfTalent’s survey findings, several of the country’s leading employers pointed to similar factors as key to their success. Unilever’s Vice President of Human Resources for the MENA region, Assaf Al-Quraishi, attributed his company’s popularity to having a “fulfilling, inclusive and dynamic work environment” which young graduates find supportive of their development and progress.


Wassim Eid, Chief Human Resources Officer of the Chalhoub Group, which also ranked in the top-10, cited his firm’s extensive investment in nurturing young talent, including development of retail academies, university partnerships and active interaction with graduates through job fairs.


Explaining Etisalat’s popularity among Emirati graduates, Younis Abdul Aziz Al Nimr, Etisalat UAE’s Chief Human Resources Officer, attributed the company’s success in attracting young nationals to offering them “a platform for developing their talent and building their future careers” including training them with the latest technology, tools and processes that help them grow into future leaders.


None of the employers cited salary and benefits as their key differentiator in attracting top graduate talent, consistent with the findings of the survey.


Survey Methodology

GulfTalent’s study was based on a survey of 303 recent graduates and final-year students from American University of Sharjah (AUS). The survey was conducted during June 2016. For ranking employers, each survey participant was asked to name their top 3 choices, without being presented with a pre-compiled list of choices. Employers were ranked based on the number of votes they received. The full survey report, including further breakdown of rankings by study subject and gender, is available for download free of charge from


About GulfTalent

GulfTalent is the leading online recruitment portal in the Middle East, covering 9 countries across the region. It is a key provider of both national and expatriate talent to over 8,000 of the largest employers. GulfTalent is used by over 6 million professionals and managers for finding top career opportunities in their field.