How to impress at your first job interview in the Middle East

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first 4 hours sharpening the ax.” The same rule applies to leaving a good impression during an interview. Never go in unprepared. Let us quickly review some of the most important parts of your interview that would help increase your chances of securing the job:

Personal grooming

In the Middle East, just like anywhere else, the way you look plays a big part of your first impression at a job interview. In fact, looking the part has a major impact on the success of a job interview. 76.4% of respondents in’s ‘Influence of Personal Appearance on Hiring Decisions’ poll, March 2013, said that employers in the Middle East make a decision based on a candidate’s physical appearance. Good personal grooming and style shows an interest in the position (as stated by 27.5%), as well as being demonstrative of good character (as stated by 24.8%).
You do not necessarily need to defy the norms. Keep the company’s overall corporate structure in perspective while also considering the weather conditions. You wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable in your interview because of the way you dress.

Being on time

Punctuality is one way of showing your seriousness in getting the job. Therefore, you need to sort out the modalities of reaching your interview destination in time. Make sure to choose a faster means of transportation if you have to travel for more than 15 minutes on road. Ideally, you should have an idea of the location. Google Maps can definitely help you reach your destination. Make sure to have 15 to 25 minutes extra provision for traffic jams. Make sure you have the company’s phone number to call them in case you need to come late or postpone the interview. According to 13.8% of employers who took part in’s ‘Hiring Practices in the MENA Region’ poll, February 2012, one of the most common mistakes that jobseekers make in an interview is arriving late.

Researching the company

You need to spend reasonable amount of time understanding the organization in which you are going for an interview. Most big companies have comprehensive websites with complete information about their founders, products and services, mission, vision, and values. The ‘About us’ page of a company specifically tells you what the company’s philosophy is. Make sure you go through all these details.
For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, you must know the company’s flagship products or services. A quick overview of competitors would give you an edge over other candidates. Similarly, you must also prepare for questions regarding the challenges faced by the company in developing its market and ways in which they can be overcome.
Another example would be a human resources position. Here, you would need to research labor laws, along with recruitment, training, and development issues. You should also have a detailed overview of the company’s workforce and the role you can play, as an HR manager, in leveraging the available talent pool to give the company a competitive edge.


You may land in an altogether different interview situation. Therefore, do not presume any set of conditions or expectations beforehand. Some companies conduct one-on-one interviews while others prefer panel interviews. Therefore, be mentally prepared for any change in interviewing style. Interviewers have different personalities. Make sure you adjust yourself to the interviewer’s personality type.


Be assertive in what you say. Do not argue with the interviewer. Make sure to remain polite at all times. Avoid indulging in long arguments. Give valid examples to prove your point. Ask questions, and try to remain short and to the point.

EQ (Emotional Quotient)

Job roles that require handling high pressure situations need people with high EQ. If you are applying for that kind of position, you must demonstrate your ability to handle pressure situations. The interviewer will ask you questions about how you handled a difficult situation. You need to give an example of a situation where you were under pressure and how you handled it. Make sure you are well-prepared for these types of questions.
Making the right impression at a job interview in the Middle East isn’t hard if you keep in mind three basic rules: First, presentation does count. Second, research the company and arrive on time. Finally, stay confident, be assertive in what you say, and don’t be afraid to ask meaningful questions.

Posted by Muhammad Farrukh Iqba