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How will hiring efforts change in the Middle East because of the pandemic and budget cuts by the Saudi government?

covid19 MBB Middle East
Recent activity on May 26, 2020
3 Answers
1.7 k Views
Anonymous A asked on May 21, 2020

Hi everyone,

I am a Masters (non-MBA) student in Europe in one of the top European B-schools. I want to move to Dubai for a consulting role (for multiple reasons) and would appreciate any advice on the following:

1. Is there a chance that consulting firms in the Middle East will freeze hiring for the 2021 intake? If not, will the class size reduce significantly? (MBB, S&, RB, Kearney)

2. I heard sometime back that McKinsey in the Middle East has stopped hiring non-nationals for its Dubai office. Could this be a possible scenario for other firms too, because of the KSA budget cuts and Covid-19?

3. Would it be a better option for me to work for 1-2 years in a Western European country and then re-apply as an experienced hire? Currently, I am looking at Tier-2 consulting (specialist consulting like Financial Services, Life Sciences etc.), fast growing startups or high finance (banking, PE etc.) in some W.European countries

4. Because of the excessive reliance on Oil and the Saudi Government for projects, as well as the possible impact of Covid, can Dubai continue to generate business for consulting firms, or is it on the decline? There was some recent speculation that clients are running out of money to pay the firms, even before Covid-19 hit.

Thanks a ton!


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Content Creator
updated an answer on May 26, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

It's really complicated to be honest: There are a lot of companies, a lot of offices, with a lot of different timelines. I recommend you reach out to the recruiters of the offices + companies in which you are interested! This had the added benefit of you potentially being put in touch with a potential referee!

To summarize the below: We don't know, and no-one does. Take the initiative, reach out to the offices/companies you want, hustle hard, and find the jobs that are available and fight for them. Don't the cards TODAY and operate as such, until something changes, then adapt.

1. There is a chance, like with any business currently - no-one can say what will happen in the coming months

2. Could be. Others may hire more. Again, we don't know. Some companies in some regions are spending more on strategy consultancies to help them navigate these waters.

3. Why don't you apply for both? Pursue both routes, hustle hard, and then maybe your choice will be made for you (or you'll have a choice to make!)

4. Again, it's possible. What I can tell you is the top-tier firms are very nimble. They are notoriously "immune" to economic cycles. This is because:

  • When the economy does well, MBB are hired to help companies do even better
  • When the economy does poorly, MBB are hired to help companies survive (cost costs, adapt, plan for the new world)

I can tell you that MBB are hustling hard and that when companies are in trouble, they look to MBB first for guidance. Strategy consultants help firms navigate uncharted territory...these times are when they're most needed

Some other Q&As you may find useful:

Additionally, if you're interested in trying out cases that deal with other impacts of COVID-19, check out these two cases:


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Content Creator
replied on May 21, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


  1. None knows honestly
  2. Never heard about this in Mck honestly
  3. Not really, applying when finish your degree is a very good moment
  4. Most likely it will decline, as in the rest of the world we are expecting a decrease in GDP

Hope it helps!



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Anonymous replied on May 21, 2020

Hi there,

You raise good points, but there are some inaccuracies in your hypotheses. Here are my two cents on the topic

1) No - Consulting firms are mainly considering freezing new hires for 2020 - but 2021 is still open. Now, regarding whether the number of new joiners will reduce, I think regardless of COVID, it has to reduce vs. the numbers of the past 2-3 years when the growth was at double digits. Still I wouldn't expect it to dry-up, it just won't be 30-50 new consultants each month.

2) Mck did not stop hiring for its Dubai office - It is still recruiting, however, there is a stronger focus in expanding the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Qatari hubs. (most companies are doing the same, for multiple reasons, mainly to get larger governmental projects, reduce taxes and to cut down on flight expenses)

3) Not a bad idea - however, in MBB, you can grow faster if you start early with them. How about you try applying now and see if you can get in. In case it doesn't work, then follow your current plan, work in Europe for 1-2 years, and re-apply then. It all depends on what you prefer.

4) It's tough to speculate - however, Vision 2030 isn't going anywhere and consultants are a core enabler to make it happen (consulting fees are minimal vs. the CAPEX being invested on the ground) ... so maybe the scale of the projects might have to be toned down , but to ensure success, consultants would still be needed. And on the private sector side, yes, there will be a negative impact on the size of business, however the number of restructuring, digitization and strategy review projects will surely be on the rise. Whenever a door closes, another one opens up.

I hope this helps.


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