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About #AskOla

#AskOla is’s blog and video series for employers and hiring managers. In this series, we dive into the world of HR with Ola Haddad, a seasoned HR expert with decades of experience. Ola is the General Manager at In this series, Ola will tackle the complexities recruiters in MENA face in recruitment and offer practical solutions and strategies honed over years of hard work and overcoming obstacles. From innovative hiring techniques to navigating the dynamics of the MENA talent pool, #AskOla aims to directly address the recruitment challenges that matter to you.

In the previous episode, we talked about women breaking barriers in the MENA region and in this part, we’ll talk about the recruitment landscape in MENA and what that means for employers and job seekers in the region.

Series episodes:


Q1. Host: So happy to have you Ola. Before we start, tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Ola Haddad, and I’ve spent over 17 years diving deep into the world of Human Resources and Operations. I have a master’s degree in Marketing Management and my areas of focus are Strategic Planning, Project Management, and Human Resources Management.

Currently, I’m proudly serving as the General Manager at, where I’ve been shaping talent strategies and driving organizational growth for nearly two decades now.

That’s the professional side of me. On a personal level, I am someone who enjoys traveling a lot and exploring new countries and cultures. So you will always find me planning my next adventure. 


Q2. Host: Interesting! So, as you know, Ola, the job landscape is evolving. What are the top soft skills that MENA recruiters are on the lookout for in 2024?

Ola: That’s a great question. So, in recruiting for talent, companies are evening to drive innovation productivity and growth. Now with the recruitment process changing over time we see that recruiters in MENA are more concerned about finding top talent that have a blend of soft skills, hard skills and qualities that align with their organizational goals and values. 

Among the most in-demand soft skills is number 1, adaptability.

Adaptability is to what extent can someone adapt or change quickly to changes in the environment and technology. This is important because recruiters are looking for people who can thrive within a fast-paced business environment. On top of adaptability is also the ability of that person to learn continuously and add new skills on an ongoing basis.

Second, let’s talk about communication. Effective communication, both verbal and written are important, in order to foster a culture of collaboration and building strong relationships with colleagues and customers.

Third skill is problem-solving. Companies and recruiters in MENA are looking for people who do not fear any challenges, but rather, face them head-on. They take each challenge as an opportunity to thrive. These are the people who have a critical mindset, who can always come up with solutions that are viable for the business. 

And let’s not forget about leadership. Problem-solvers are natural leaders. In order to be a problem-solver you have to have this leadership mindset. Companies are looking for people who have the ability to influence others, who can take initiatives, who can start projects from within their teams and grow into a bigger project within the organization. Having people who take initiatives, who inspire others to achieve a common goal is what leadership is all about. 

Last, but not least, I want to mention resilience. When you think of workplace dynamics, it’s very challenging. You’re working in fast-paced, high-pressure environments and there are times you need to bounce back. Employers want people who can face challenges, who can learn from mistakes and experiences and show resilience and positivity in the face of setbacks. 


Q3. Host: Thank you for these remarkable insights! Now I want to shift the focus on the hard or technical skills. What do you think are the top technical skills that shouldn’t be overlooked in candidates these days?

Ola: This is a very tough question to answer because technical/ hard skills are linked to a specific role. For example, software engineers have to have coding skills and that’s not needed in a marketing position.

But I think if you look at how our business dynamics are changing and how the workplace is  evolving, there are 3 hard skills that I believe are important for every role. 

Data Analysis, Project Management, and Financial Analysis

These skills are highly required for all positions to drive informed decision-making & the execution of tasks & projects.



Q4. Host: Absolutely, data and financial analysis is now a must-have. When it comes to different stages of the hiring process e.g. pre-screening, interviewing, shortlisting, and even after hiring, what exactly do employers look for in candidates?

Ola: Before I answer your question, I just wanted to share that whoever is not in HR or has never been in recruiting before, they always feel that recruitment is an easy job to do. Believe me that’s absolutely not true! And you’re gonna know why in a few minutes (laughs).

So, recruitment is not easy. Throughout the various stages of the hiring process, employers look for different qualities and attributes in candidates and they would like to hire the top talent in the market. It’s not that they’re picky, but they have the right to analyze candidates and see who’s the best fit.

So, let’s dig deep into the recruitment process, starting with the pre-screening process: At this stage, the employers should look at the candidate’s application or CV, recruiters actually read what’s written in the CV and whether that’s true or not. In the era of AI and ChatGPT, anybody can build a wow CV using these tools. So, it’s really important for recruiters in MENA to look at the education and experience levels of the candidate and whether these qualifications meet the requirements of the role they are hiring for. They should also look at any achievements that stand-out to them.

At, we didn’t just stop at reading the CV. We have incorporated video assessments that help you listen to candidates telling you about themselves. You can ask a variety of questions to understand the value system of the candidate, their achievements and their communication skills which is not possible with the CV alone. 

Let’s get to the interview stage. Here, potential employers should evaluate:
    1. Communication skills 
    2. Cultural fitness with your company
    3. Problem-solving skills
    4. Role-specific assessments 

It’s the moment of truth for the employers to see whether the candidate is actually how they seem on paper. 

After the interview stage comes the shortlisting & hiring stage. Here, the employer should know the following:

  1. The candidate’s alignment with the company values, and culture, which is commonly known as the culturally fit
  2. The candidate’s potential to contribute positively to the team dynamics fills a gap in terms of skill, knowledge, or experience – which we call teamwork.


Q5. Host: Interesting! So employers are looking at different things in all 3 stages of the hiring process. This brings me to the next question. What do you believe recruiters in MENA should do beyond the hiring process to ensure long-term success and employee satisfaction?

Ola: Beautiful question. For the HR department, our job doesn’t stop at the hiring stage. Our job is not just hiring talent. It’s hiring talent and then retaining them. So the evaluation and the support part doesn’t stop after a hire is made.

After hiring, recruiters continue to evaluate the candidate. For example, they evaluate the candidate’s:

  • Onboarding and integration: where we get someone new into the organization, train them, educate them about our culture. At this stage, you need to assess to what extent the candidate has become one with your culture and their team.
  • Performance and results: Employers evaluate candidates based on their KPIs. To what extent was the candidate able to achieve the key objectives they were hired for.
  • Continued learning and development of the candidate: We also look to what extent are the candidates investing in themselves? Are they learning continuously? Are they adding (their knowledge) to the team?


Q6. Host: That’s a good learning point. Employers want to retain employees for the long term. One more question before we wrap up. Do you have any advice for employers who are watching?

Ola: Let me take this opportunity to share a message to all recruiters in MENA. Do not underestimate the values and the soft skills of candidates. Most of the time recruiters and companies end up hiring talent because they have the experience/ knowledge in their specific field. We tend to reject e.g. a fresh graduate or someone with lesser experience. But at this point in time, having the potential is more important than having the experience.

If you have the right soft skills, if you have the right values, if you have the right culture fit (with organization), then the potential for you joining the organization and growing with them is much higher. So, soft skills and values should be a really important decision factor when we’re hiring people.

Second important thing is to stay ahead of the technologies. These new advancements in technology are helping us 

  1. Reach top talent 
  2. Evaluate them
  3. Take the right hiring decision

Be an early adopter of those technologies and you’ll save a lot of time, effort and money on your recruitment process and make it more efficient.

I want to close this with a quick remark. 

Don’t forget to invest in nurturing your team and building a culture of learning and development. It’s important because we’re hiring to retain those talents. A lot of job seekers are attracted to such companies that foster this learning culture. Your training and development program can bring your team from this level (gesture), all the way up to that level (gesture).

Host: Thank you so much Ola for your remarkable insights.

That’s a wrap for today’s episode of AskOla. Stay tuned for our next episode and if you have a question for Ola, send us here!

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