Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Head-hunting talent for growing Middle East executive market

Assigned to find a general manager for a new office in Doha, Dubliner Dwyer recruited himself

Fri, May 31, 2013, 00:00


Vanessa Conneely

“Qatar is the world’s best kept secret.” That’s according to recruitment specialist Patrick Dwyer, who moved to the tiny Middle Eastern country last summer. But it’s a secret he’s willing to share. “Shout it from the rooftops, it’s great out here! There’s so much energy and potential and, unlike Dubai or Abu Dhabi, it’s managed to keep its fishing village-like feel.”

Dwyer (55), from Rathfarnham, Dublin, has decades of experience working in headhunting and recruitment, but even he could not escape the recession which almost ruined his business,

“I spent the Nineties and Noughties going from strength to strength, but once the downturn happened, I was surviving from bill to bill. My business was about five years old and well established, but I was just about managing to keep things afloat. Clients started cutting back on their workforce and there were just no positions out there to recruit for. My office, which used to be my haven, turned into my prison cell.”

Timing and luck
It was mix of timing and good luck that pulled him out to the sunny Middle East, he says.

“I was approached by a larger, international recruitment agency called Executives Online. They asked if my business would become the Irish leg of their company, so we merged.” Dwyer soon became a valued member of the team, so much so that when Executives Online began headhunting for its newest branch in Doha last June, he was asked to fly to the Middle East and help search for fresh talent.

“They wanted me to pick a new general manager for their office here but, after only three days, I liked the place so much I decided to take the job myself. It was a very easy decision, especially considering that I had to look Qatar up on a map before flying here.”

So, as well as the endless sunshine and tax-free living, what else attracts him to Doha? “Obviously, you have to be able to adapt to the small cultural differences but, overall, the positives far outweigh any negatives. The Qataris have a real ‘can do’ attitude, which is a welcome relief after the doom and gloom I faced in Ireland during my last few years there. They are friendly and love talking, just like the Irish. They are very interested in where you come from and what your father and grandfather did. They have no airs or graces, despite the vast amount of wealth they have. Like us, they are still people of the land.”

What kind of employees would he include on his books? “There is a huge demand for CEOs and CFOs as well as civil engineers and media. Ideally, I’m looking for people with at least 10-15 years experience at management level. There are loads of jobs and there will be even more next year.”

The sheer volume of demand outweighs the supply of workers to the Middle East and means 2014 will be busy for Executives Online. “We have 26 offices worldwide, most are in Europe and Africa, but we are hoping to expand to Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi next year. ”

Given his background, is Dwyer more partial to recruiting Irish people? “I think Ireland has a well-educated and talented workforce. We are well thought of abroad and are not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

“I also like the idea of helping someone who is struggling in the Irish job market. Before I left I interviewed a lot of people who were very down about not being able to find work. I would love to help someone pay their mortgage and turn their lives around financially.”

What advice would he give someone considering a move to Qatar? “Just do it. It’s such a new country and there’s just so much potential here. It’s safe for everyone, from a single woman travelling on her own, to a young family with kids.”

He even recommends it to more mature people who fancy a change of pace.

“Age and experience are very much welcomed in the Middle East. During the Celtic Tiger, I worked alongside guys in their 20s, who were not as qualified as they should have been. But in the Middle East they appreciate and respect people with more knowledge. After 30 years in the business I feel like an overnight sensation.”

Wild Geese is a weekly interview in the Business supplement with Irish business leaders abroad. This article appears in the newspaper today, and in the Business section of the website here.