Table of Contents
- How are interviews in Saudi Arabia different from other countries?
- Interview Preparation: Step-by-Step Guide
- 1) Research the country
- 2) Research the job and the company
- 3) Research the industry
- 4) Prepare answers to common interview questions
- a) How do you think working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is different from other countries, and do you believe you have the ability to successfully adapt to this country?
- b) What countries have you worked in?
- c) Why do you want to work in the KSA?
- d) Are you open to working in other Emirates?
- Other Common Interview Questions:
- 5) Collate questions to ask the interviewer
- 6) Practice responses
- Etiquette & Conduct for a KSA Interview
Congratulations on receiving an interview invitation for a job in Saudi Arabia! You’ve made it past the initial stages of hiring, but now the real work begins. Job interviews are crucial in determining whether or not you will land the job you’re seeking.
Though the core principles of interviews remain consistent across all geographies, each country has its own set of interview etiquette, expectations, and customs. Thus, to maximize your chances of landing that dream job in Saudi Arabia, it’s essential for you to become well-versed in its cultural, social, and professional landscape. To help you ace your interview in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have drafted this guide for you.
How are interviews in Saudi Arabia different from other countries?
If you’re a foreigner applying for a job in Saudi Arabia, it is highly likely that your interview process will be held online via a video conferencing platform like Skype or Zoom, or over a phone call. In some cases, you may be asked to attend an in-person interview held by representatives or agents of the company in your country. It is unlikely that you’d be invited to Saudi Arabia for an interview due to various factors, such as stringent visa requirements, travel restrictions, and high costs.
During the interview process, it is important that you keep in mind the country’s professional, cultural, and religious expectations. Here are some key differences you should be aware of:
i) Cultural Customs: Cultural customs are highly valued in Saudi Arabia. The interview process may involve greetings and small talk that reflect traditional Saudi Arabian etiquette, such as asking about family, health, and general wellbeing. It’s essential to be respectful and considerate of cultural sensitivities during the interview process.
ii) Dress Code: Saudi Arabian employers may expect the candidates to dress conservatively and modestly during job interviews. It is typically acceptable to wear Western business attire, but remember to not show too much skin.
iii) Titles: Saudi Arabian culture emphasizes respect for hierarchy and authority. When addressing others, use formal titles such as Mr. or Mrs. followed by their last name.
iv) Company Values: Companies in Saudi Arabia may have specific values and expectations that reflect the local culture and business practices. Researching a company’s values, vision, and mission statement as well as its presence in the Saudi Arabian market will enable you to tailor your responses during an interview and demonstrate your familiarity with their corporate culture.
v) Indirect Communication: Communication in Saudi Arabia tends to be more indirect and context-sensitive than in many Western countries. Pay attention to non-verbal cues and avoid being overly direct or confrontational during the interview.
vi) Time Management: Saudi Arabian culture tends to be more flexible with time than many Western countries, so be prepared for potential delays or changes during the interview process.
vii) Religious Considerations: Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, and religious customs and practices play a prominent role in daily life. Be mindful of prayer times which may interrupt workdays, and respect local customs and beliefs.
Interview Preparation: Step-by-Step Guide
1) Research the country
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers lucrative employment opportunities across multiple sectors such as oil and gas, healthcare, financial services, and construction. To successfully start a career in Saudi, it is essential that you have an in-depth understanding of the country’s socio-cultural and economic landscape. This includes the lifestyle, general laws, labor and VISA process, cultural norms, and more.
We strongly recommend devoting some time to learning about Saudi Arabia’s primary economic sectors, employment opportunities, regional differences, and cultures. Your chances of getting a job offer increase when you demonstrate awareness about their society’s standards and willingness to adapt. For example, if you’re seeking a job in the healthcare sector in Saudi, you should read about KSA’s healthcare ecosystem, including the government’s rules, regulations, policies, and the most common diseases and health issues prevalent in the region. Also, understanding the sociocultural elements that influence the country’s healthcare system is also crucial, such as, in some cases, male doctors may not be allowed to examine female patients and vice versa.
2) Research the job and the company
Before you applied for a job role, you would have researched the scope of work, the duties and responsibilities, and the opportunities for advancement. Before your interview day, it is a good idea to review your research and consider what motivated you to apply for the specific job in the first place. Understanding the job role will enable you to tailor your interview answers accordingly, and showcase to your potential employer that you could add value to the company.
Also, we suggest doing thorough research about the company, its core values, its vision and mission, and any recent news or development. While answering the interview questions, align your answers to match the company’s expectations. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are well-prepared and will be a good fit for the organization.
3) Research the industry
Besides understanding the country, the job role, and the company, it is also important that you have strong knowledge about the industry you’re seeking a job in. Secondly, you should be aware of the prospects of the particular industry in the context of Saudi Arabia. You should research the scope of the industry, market size, major players, opportunities for growth, challenges, recent trends, and average salary among other factors. This research will enable you to tackle any questions that may come your way during the interview process.
As an example, let’s suppose you’re an applicant interested in the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia. To start your research, you could read reports from local research firms, like Alpen Capital’s “GCC Healthcare Industry Report” and local industry publications like Healthcare MiddleEast to gain an understanding of the key developments and trends in the region. It’s also a good idea to keep track of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health to keep up with the latest government rules and policies. Additionally, you can consider reaching out to professionals within the industry to gain a first-hand perspective of the workings of the sector.
4) Prepare answers to common interview questions
Once you have conducted thorough research on the job, employer, and country, it’s important to reflect on your own skills and experiences to understand how they align with the job you’re applying for in Saudi Arabia. Take into consideration your past experiences that highlight your ability to adapt well to the work environment in Saudi Arabia. In addition, as part of your interview preparation, it’s essential to review and prepare for common interview questions that are typically asked in Saudi Arabia. Here are some examples of questions to consider:
a) How do you think working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is different from other countries, and do you believe you have the ability to successfully adapt to this country?
The interviewer asks this question to assess your knowledge and understanding of the professional and social culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Your answer should showcase to your potential employer that you have done your research, are well-prepared to work in the country, and will adapt well to its unique culture.
To answer this question effectively, remember to do thorough research on the culture in Saudi Arabia and the professional expectations in the country. Also, in your answer emphasize your ability to adapt quickly to changes. You can also mention any unique opportunities available in the KSA.
Sample answer: Working in Saudi Arabia differs from other countries in several important ways. For one thing, the workweek generally starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. This contrasts with many other countries’ Monday-to-Friday workweeks. Additionally, Saudi Arabian workplace culture places great emphasis on hierarchy, respect for authority figures, as well as adherence to local customs and traditions.
I am especially attracted to Saudi Arabia’s strong focus on hard work. I know hard work is greatly appreciated, recognized, and rewarded in the country. While there are stark differences in the work culture and the culture in general, I am of the opinion that I will be able to adapt to it quickly.
b) What countries have you worked in?
Saudi Arabia attracts professionals from all over the world. It is likely you’ll interact with people from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds at your workplace. By asking the question, the interviewer seeks to gauge your ability to work well in a cross-cultural team. Also, they want to assess your ability to adapt to a foreign land.
Thus, if you have previously worked in a foreign country it can be a big bonus for your potential employer. However, if you don’t have such an experience, don’t fret! Focus on reassuring your interviewer that you are flexible and willing to learn. To support your answer, you could mention positive experiences of working with diverse teams in your previous roles.
Sample answer: I have had the chance to work in various countries, including [name countries where you have worked]. These experiences have fostered both my professional and personal growth, instilling in me a deep appreciation for diverse cultures and backgrounds. I am excited to work in a new country like Saudi Arabia, which has a rich culture and history. c) Why do you want to work in KSA?
c) Why do you want to work in the KSA?
The question “Why do you want to work in KSA?” is asked by the interviewer to understand your motivation for seeking employment in Saudi Arabia. This question allows you to express your genuine interest in the country. It’s also important to tailor your response to the specific company and job you are applying for and to highlight how your skills and experience align with their needs. Show enthusiasm and genuine interest in working at KSA and focus on the potential value you can bring to the company.
Sample answer: I am thrilled by the prospect of working in Saudi Arabia for several reasons. Firstly, I am attracted to its rich cultural heritage and the unique experiences that the beautiful country offers. Additionally, I’m eager to immerse myself in its customs, language, and traditions – I believe this will be a life-changing experience for me, both personally and professionally”
Secondly, I am drawn to Saudi Arabia’s strong economic growth and development, which provides ample opportunities for career advancement and learning. Working here will give me access to various industries and projects, honing my skills and expanding my knowledge.
Finally, I am eager to join a dynamic and diverse environment, working alongside individuals from various cultural backgrounds, religions, and perspectives. My skill set, experience, and eagerness to learn will make me an invaluable addition to the company, and I look forward to making significant contributions in this role.
d) Are you open to working in other Emirates?
When the interviewer asks if you are open to working in other Emirates in Saudi Arabia, they seek to assess your flexibility and willingness to relocate or travel for work. There are multiple emirates in KSA, such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, among others. Each emirate has its own business and cultural nuances. By asking this question the interviewer hopes to assess your adaptability, willingness to embrace change, and level of commitment towards the company.
We suggest giving a thoughtful and positive reply to the question, demonstrating your interest in working in other Emirates while also showing genuine interest in the target position. Remember to focus on your ability to adapt to different business environments and your willingness to grow.
Sample answer: Yes, I am open and eager to work in other Emirates. While currently, I am strongly inclined towards this specific position, I am open to exploring opportunities in other Emirates if it aligns with my professional goals and provides me with an opportunity to grow. I have worked in different regions in the country (mention the country you have worked in), and have adapted well to different business environments.
Other Common Interview Questions:
- Why should we hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What is an outstanding achievement you’ve had?
- How do you approach challenges in the workplace?
- How do you handle criticism or direction from superiors?
5) Collate questions to ask the interviewer
Another key part of your interview is asking questions to your interviewer. This is often overlooked, however, it can significantly alter the impression you leave behind. Prepare questions that you will ask the employer and this will demonstrate your interest in the job, and your willingness to learn.
Some questions you can ask are:
- What would my day-to-day responsibilities entail in this role?
- Will I receive any opportunities for training or advancement within this role or organization?
- What is the company looking to achieve in the next 5 years?
- Can you let me know of some examples of projects I’d be working on?
- What are some of the challenges that someone in this role faces?
6) Practice responses
Since you will already have a fair idea of what the questions put forth to you could be, do not take a casual approach. Instead, prepare your answers and practice them adequately. You will emanate confidence and a sense of readiness to your employer.
Frame your responses in a proper, formal manner so as to ensure that you leave a lasting impression. Although there will be instances where you might be caught off guard, the majority of responses can be practiced beforehand.
Etiquette & Conduct for a KSA Interview
Good etiquette is crucial during interviews in Saudi Arabia, as it shows respect for local culture and customs. By being mindful of the etiquette differences that apply to different interview formats, you can demonstrate professionalism and appreciation of Saudi Arabian culture during your job interview. Here are some points to consider when conducting phone, video or face-to-face interviews:
Tips for KSA telephone interviews
i) Formality: Refer to the interviewer by their formal title and last name. Use polite language, avoiding slang or informal expressions.
ii) Interruptions: Avoid interrupting the interviewer while they are speaking; wait for them to finish before responding.
iii) Patience: Be patient and understanding if the interviewer requests prayer breaks during the call.
iv) Choose a quiet location: Select an area free from distractions for the interview, and make sure that your landline or phone line has good reception so there won’t be any connectivity problems.
v) Speak clearly and slowly: Accentuate your words accurately, speaking at a moderate pace so the interviewer can understand you clearly.
vi) Take notes: Have a pen and paper handy to jot down any important information or questions during the interview. This way, you won’t forget anything important!
Tips for KSA video interviews
i) Dress code: Dress appropriately and modestly, just as if you were attending a face-to-face interview. Make sure your background is clean and uncluttered – such as with a plain wall or simple office setting.
ii) Camera Angle and Lighting: Place your camera at eye level, making sure that your face is well-lit to avoid shadows.
iii) Maintain Eye Contact: Look into the camera to demonstrate attentiveness and engagement with the interviewer.
iv) Test Your Technology Before the Interview: Before starting the interview, test your internet connection, microphone, and camera to avoid technical difficulties during the conversation.
Tips for KSA face-to-face interviews
i) Punctuality is Key: Though Saudi Arabian culture may be more relaxed about timekeeping, it is still essential to arrive on time or slightly early for your interview.
ii) Carry Job Documents: Make sure to bring along any pertinent documents necessary for your application (resume/CV, cover letter, portfolio). We suggest organizing and storing these documents in a professional-looking folder.
iii) Greetings: Handshakes may be appropriate when meeting someone of the same gender, but avoid initiating physical contact with those of the opposite gender unless they extend their hand first. A polite nod or verbal greeting will do just as well in such cases.
iv) Body Language: Strive for good posture and avoid excessive hand gestures or fidgeting. Maintain appropriate eye contact without staring.
v) Personal Space: Be mindful of personal space when interacting with someone of the opposite gender.
vi) Small Talk: Be ready for some casual conversation at the start of an interview, as relationship building is important in Saudi Arabian culture.
vii) Business Cards: When exchanging business cards, do so with either your right hand or both hands.
Preparing for a job interview in Saudi Arabia may seem challenging, especially if you don’t have too much knowledge about their customs, traditions, and expectations. But with the right research, preparation, and practice you can impress your potential employer. While preparing for your interview, remember to not only research about the job role and the company, but also keep the nuances of Saudi Arabian culture in mind. Still anxious about your interview preparation? Reach out to our interview specialists for help!
*This article is co-authored by Anupama N.