Saudi Arabia: What do Saudi Employers Look for on a CV?


With economic downslides taking place in other parts of the world, employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia continue to rise.  Therefore a common question received today is what does a Saudi employer look for on a CV?  First and foremost the applicant should meet or exceed the requirements and responsibilities of the position.  The CV should be tailored for the specific position applied.


The CV’s which circulate in the Arab world are generally more formal than one would necessarily see in the West.  The CV may contain the photo of a particular male applicant.  A woman applying for a position in Saudi should not volunteer a photo as that would go against cultural norms.  The CV generally states if an applicant is married and what religion is practiced.  Marital status is a factor in Saudi employment agreements as many expatriates are hired either on a single or a married contract.  Religion applies too since it will impact on the visa.  If a muslim accepts employment in Saudi Arabia, faith is cited on the visa so there is no prohibition for travel to the cities of Makkah or Medinah.


My advice is to keep your CV clean, clear, crisp and concise.  Add any attributes which can enhance one’s ability to fulfill a position but don’t clutter it up with experiences or data that is outdated.


Perhaps more importantly than the CV is the cover letter of introduction which should accompany any CV where one is applying for a specific job.  The cover letter should indicate knowledge and familiarity with the position and company as well as the understanding of the position with the ability to fulfill requirements.  The cover letter should be like an appetizer which grabs the reader’s attention and make them want to know more.


An employment opportunity in Saudi Arabia can be a rewarding experience.  Working in Saudi Arabia provides opportunities of growth and exposure to one of the most closed Arab societies.


In closing this post, I encourage expatriates who have or are working in Saudi Arabia to share their experiences.  How did they find their job?  How long did the employment process take?  What was the most beneficial experience encountered working in Saudi Arabia?

12 Responses

  1. I like this topic! Looking forward to see the answers.

  2. How does one go about finding a job in Saudi? I live in Canada and we have the Canadian Job Bank website, employers can post and you can search down to the exact city you are looking to relocate to. Does Saudi have a site like this or do you have to look up individual employers?
    Thank you

  3. The same for me,i’m waiting for the answers because i dont know if i could work and live in saudia arabia when i get marry with my arab boy! and btw…i’m from argentina!

  4. Here is my description of my experience as a professional expat. Please excuse typos/grammer etc

    a quick bio:
    arab heritage with extensive western experience in London and NYC for leading bulge bracket bank)

    Recruitment process:
    I was head hunted from London by a headhunter to join a leading saudi bank’s investment banking team.

    The recruiting process was very quick and the interviews where more discussion oriented and where pretty standard and unchallenging.

    Contract negotiations:
    Typical in many local institutions especially in Saudi, they tried to give me a lower than I expected offer. A few back and forth negotiation resulted in my desired target

    Getting to the kingdom
    This proved to be the sticky and very disorganized process. The bank refused to provide with a visit visa till my work permit was issued so instead of starting immediately as planned, I waited approximately 5 months till my work permit came through. This was probably due to the disorganized HR at the bank and some of the difficulty in obtaining certain a work visa (in my case it was for financial role)

    Once in the kingdom:
    Again, this where I realized HR is poorly organized and unqualified. They were pleasant people and tried to help when they could but they were obviously untrained and did not know the proper role of HR. This is a recurring theme in Saudi where HR is mostly staffed by Saudis who where not trained in what it means to be an HR manager (many think it’s just tracking employee hours and interviewing candidates). This is not the fault of the Saudi employee but the fault of the organization that doesn’t provide the training, skills and tools to be better HR managers.

    Also, due to this issue, I waited approximately 6 weeks before I got my iqama (residence visa). Without it, I can not issue an exit/entry visa to leave the kingdom, cannot open a bank account or rent a house, etc… But once I got this, i immediately got my accounts sorted and also my company got me a multiple exit entry 6 month visa so that I can freely travel out of the kingdom.

    Work experience:
    The work was rewording on a personal level as there are plenty of opportunities for investment banking transactions in the kingdom. It had it’s frustrating moments due to lack of sophistication in the market (Having spent my professional career up to that point in London and NYC, it was a big adjustment). However, you do meet some interesting people.

    My co-workers where mostly saudi and they never made me feel uncomfortable. Very warm and welcoming people. I made effort to go out with them for lunches/dinner and shishas and they regularly invited me to hangout with them.

    With that said, again, having come from a very cut throat driven environment, it took me a while to adjust to a much slower pace of work and learned to be patient (i.e. expect work to be delivered a little later and not up to the highest standards)

    after 2 year, I recently left to pursue other opportunities as I never felt that my employer was a place for me in the longer term but I dont regret it as I learned quiet a bit.

    My advice for those coming from much more professional western markets is to be patient and accept that this place will not deliver the experience of a fast paced high quality work environment but it can be rewarding as it will expose you to a different work culture. You will be frustrated, angry, and disappointed but other days, you will appreciate the better work/life balance especially for those who have families. Also, while it’s difficult to build a strong team of high caliber people in the Saudi market, there is plenty of hope for the new generation as I came across some fantastic young saudis who show extreme drive, professional work ethic, and desire to succeed and deliver high quality work.

    Hope this was helpful

    Ex-saudi expat

  5. If anyone reading is looking at employment at King Saud University right now (or in the near future) I would like to warn that they are currently doing some rather questionable things with people’s contracts at the moment. Over 150 researchers have just resigned because their salaries and benefits have been cut by 50% for the new academic year. There are some strange things going on in the minds of the management right now.

    As for resumes, I have seen some atrocious versions come through our lab. Some advice for those interested in research positions is that the faculty are obsessed with published articles so highlighting achievements in that area is a must.

    The visa application takes FOREVER. That’s no overstatement. Expect at least 6 months for the process to be complete once you have accepted a position. Don’t be too concerned that it is taking a very long time because they are prepared for that and will wait for you to complete whatever tasks you need to do.

  6. What a pandora’s box you have opened.
    I was a local hire meaning I was in kingdom when hired. I just went on line and looked for jobs in KSA. The Womens’ Skill Center was helpful too. Having experience in dental helped since women can work in these types of positions. There are only a few areas where women can.

    My husband worked for Al Salam an aircraft company and it didn’t take that long for him. They are well established and can get things done rather quickly. This is not the norm.

    What I have seen with my work and with my husbands I would totally agree with (ex-saudi expat) hr departments are not very good. When it came to iqama’s and travel it was done by 20 something saudi’s who didn’t have a clue.

  7. I found my job through a recruitment agency that hires nurses and doctors from Europe to work in Saudi-Arabia, it’s called Professional Connections.
    The employment process as a whole took about 6 months.

    First they interviewed people on the phone, mainly to check english language skills. Then they ask you to send your CV and they start checking recommendations and work experience. A minimum of 2 years after graduation is needed for nurses to apply.
    The company then has interviewing days when they invite candidates to be interviewed by personnel from Saudi. The interviewers might be head nurses or recruitment personnel. They ask many questions about your personal life situation to ensure you will stay for the entire contract.
    Lots of western nurses leave in the middle of their contracts, they go on their holidays but never return to the Kingdom. So they want to make sure there are no jealous boyfriends or husbands back home endangering the their recruitment fees..

    I think for non native english speakers the language skills are important factor and preferably experience from abroad is what they are looking for. I was also asked what I know about the country, I guess this way they assess your level of interest in the position and if the candidate knows what they are getting themselves into..

    Other traits they look for in candidates is how they work under pressure, the first 6 months of employment are extremely tough emotionally and physically. They want to make sure people will be able to handle the culture shock.

    The workplace is a multicultural environment and that adds stress to the very busy hospitals, so nerves of steel and patience are also beneficial.
    Most western nurses have excellent knowledge and skills compared to the Asian nurses but most of the workforce in hospitals are from asian countires.

    The visa process was supposed to take 2 months but it ended up taking 4. Problem was of course on the Saudi end. But when in the country the iqama process went smoothly.
    Most employers have a 3 month “probation period” during which the employee is not allowed to leave the country and the hospital confiscates passports. Actually some nurses do leave already during the probation period, its not like they actually keep them prisoners 😀 Around 30% of western nurses leave before they finish their contracts, so it’s definitely not for everyone!

  8. totally agree with ex-saudi expat, no more comments, he said everything, think twice is my advice, and the girl from argentina : CmD, no pierdas tu tiempo nena por favor, quedate donde estas, si aun no te has casado te aconsejo lo hagas con un argentino mejor, pero si estas muy enmorada ok, acepta tu arab boy pero no te vengas a este pais, piensalo por favor, argetina es hermosa y en general toda nuestra america, quedae alla, escucha consejo :S , aqui no hay trabajo ara la mujer, y los que hay son mal pagos, te lo digo por experiencia tengo amigas libanesas y de otros paises y pese que hasta hablan arabe no encuentran buenos empleos. Si quieres vivir en ME vee para Qatar, o Emiratos, otros NO! OJO! ya yo pase por eso linda. Cuidate!

  9. In my opinion where hospitals and medical professionals are concerned ,both me and my spouse have noticed that western med.professionals are more articulate and quite proficient in their subject,however their asian counterparts may be lacking a bit in initial skills but they learn muc quicker after that, Saudi med professionals during our time there were not many, the doctiors acted like they were gods and the nurses ( not many) were disinterested.
    My husband has lately been there for a quick visit and tells me things have changed drastically, the younger crop of saudi doctors are dynamic, willingly to learn adn work hard and can match their western and asian counterparts in every aspect. However he didn’t have many nice things to say about the saudi nursing staff.
    If the youngsters are taking such a good role then i only see good things for the profession there 🙂

    During our time, Hiring was easier, iqama came in about 2 weeks and our toughest job was finding appropriate housing. we wanted to stay outside a compund ,yet among people of mixed nationalities and in those days apart from DQ there wasn’t much of that.

    It is a culture shock. especailly if you go from the west but if you are there to work and learn i don’t think their culture matters much . make sure you have your friends circle/adequate support and like someone said, get used ot the slower lazier pace. v v slow pace 🙂

  10. radha I agree with you to some extent.
    There is still a difference in the Saudi and western doctors the latter are far easier to deal with. Saudi drs think they are gods is still the norm, and nursing staff are treated as mere maids or servants. Problem is (for the western nurses not used to this attitude)that the Asian nursing staff is totally fine with this and have been trained just to obey drs orders and not to use their own brains. Creates lots of misunderstandings and conflicts.

    With the western drs there’s more respect and the feeling of being a team.

    I have to say I worked with some really dutiful, compassionate and skillful saudi nurses (male and female) so there is definitely improvement. maybe your husband had bad luck.
    Not saying there are lazy Saudi drs and nurses out there too 🙂

  11. And to answer Carol’s last question, the most beneficial thing from working in Saudi..
    For me it has been learning about the Saudi culture and meeting so many lovely Saudi families and making new friends from around the world.

  12. Sadly, I’ve noticed that most if not all the job offers are pretty much targeting NATIVE english speakers and people with degrees in engineering and or business and management, i see little chances for people like me giving that i dont fit in any of the above cathegories even if my english is decent.

    Just researching on the internet, you can see that all the job offers for the educational field are for native english speakers, the rest are in the medical field and the others in companies related to oil and banking, so not a lot of room for diversity there. Where are all the designers, social scientists and artists in saudi?

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