Middle East Recruitment - internal referral or continue to work with headhunter?

New answer on Sep 22, 2023
5 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Sep 17, 2023

Hi all, would like to seek your advice regarding the application to Middle East offices (Dubai / Doha / Riyadh). I have a top MBA from Europe and have worked in tier-2 consulting firm in another region. 

I don't have any experience related to the ME region. I became interested in this region after a hunter approached me. As he mentioned that he would be able to help me apply to all tier 2 & tier 3 firms, I have not networked aggressively to try to find internal referrals. My initial thought is that I do not have a strong network in this region, so probably relying on an experienced hunter would be worthwile.

The problem is that it has already been 2 months and there is still no response from any of the firms applied through him (around 8 firms). I am not sure whether it is because my background is not strong/relevant enough, or is it because headhunters are usually deprioritized vs. internal referrals?

 What should I do next? Should I stop working with this hunter, and switch to find internal referrals instead? Or, could I actually utilize both channels (hunter & referral) - would it cause a channel conflict?


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Best answer
replied on Sep 19, 2023
Senior Consultant and All-star Interviewer at OW | Ex-S& | 5+ years Consulting in the Middle East |300+ Interviews

Hello there,

It is possible that your headhunter is not following up with the firms on your behalf, or that your background is not as strong as you think it is for the roles you are applying for. It is also possible that the Middle East market is simply very competitive, and that it is taking longer than usual to hear back from firms especially if your preferred office is Dubai and not Riyadh.

Whatever the reason, I would recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Speak to your headhunter and find out where your applications stand. Ask them if they have followed up with the firms yet, and if so, what the response has been. If they have not followed up yet, ask them to do so immediately.
  2. Start networking aggressively with consultants in the Middle East. Reach out to people on LinkedIn, attend industry events, and ask your friends and colleagues if they know anyone who works in the region. The more people you know, the more likely you are to hear about job openings and get internal referrals.
  3. Consider working with multiple headhunters. If you are not happy with the performance of your current headhunter, you can try working with other headhunters. This will give you more exposure to potential employers.

I would advise you to start networking aggressively with consultants in the Middle East as this is the best and cheapest way to get your foot in the door at a firm that you would not have been able to apply to on your own.

I hope this advice is helpful. 

Feel free to reach out privately for more tips on Middle East recruiting!


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Content Creator
replied on Sep 18, 2023
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Q: What should I do next? Should I stop working with this hunter, and switch to find internal referrals instead? Or, could I actually utilize both channels (hunter & referral) - would it cause a channel conflict?

First of all, I would check with the headhunter and have an open conversation with him. You can ask the reason for the issue and try to understand if he is really working on your profile.

If you feel that he is not supporting you, you can find a referral yourself. You can find some tops below:

▶ How to Get an MBB Invitation

▶ The Exact Steps to Get a Referral

Good luck!


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Content Creator
replied on Sep 18, 2023
#1 McKinsey Coach by rating & recommendation rate

Hi there!

Complex situation. 

Basically, if you are keen on the region now, I would start by having a call with the headhunter to diagnose the problem. Try to understand from him why there are no answers yet. If they don't have a response, most likely it also reflects on their ability. 

So the next step then would be to start networking on your own with people in the region within your target firm and role. They could help not only with a referral, but also building a solid understanding of what to expect from the recruitment process. Sharing with you two article that will help with generating these discussions and then leading them:



Practicing for interviews? Check out my latest case based on a first-round MBB interview >>> SoyTechnologies  

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Content Creator
replied on Sep 18, 2023
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Headhunter is the correct term :)

I would recommend also networking with the firm and pursuing a referrla. Headhunters are out there reaching out to tons of candidates - they're casting the net very wide and won't necessarily carry weight (some do, some don't).

Ultiamtely, I advise you to pursue both channels!

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replied on Sep 22, 2023
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger |Former Head Recruiter | Market Sizing

Not all headhunters are good professionals (I've had more than my share…). 

In this case he doesn't have a mandate from any firm. He's just presenting them profiles and hoping they'll pick one so that he can collect his commission. While in some cases it works and some candidates will get interviews, the chances of success are low.

In my opinion, you already tried it out, and the reply you had was silence. So basically it didn't work. So time to move on.

This was not necessarily negative… by applying through this alternative method you are unlikely to be in the ban period of any firm. 

And you received useful information: your profile was reviewed by a significant number of firms and none decided to interview you. While getting a referral is clearly important, you should also review and improve your CV.

To answer your question: there's not channel conflict. But headhunters don't want to be presenting your profile to companies you've already been introduced to (because they won't be able to collect their fee). So my suggestion would be to define to which firms you want to keep using the headhunter, if any.

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Hani gave the best answer


Senior Consultant and All-star Interviewer at OW | Ex-S& | 5+ years Consulting in the Middle East |300+ Interviews
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