Top 10 Tech Talent Recruitment Challenges in Saudi Arabia in 2024

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Recruitment continues to be a long and tiresome process for recruiters and candidates alike. Globally, hiring technical talents is challenging. But when you try hiring locally, new, singular challenges emerge.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long attracted talents from other countries in the Middle East and Asia. However, over the past few years, the kingdom has focused on hiring local talents across fields and industries.

These movements have transformed hiring in the kingdom, both positively and negatively.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the top challenges for tech talent recruitment in Saudi Arabia.

 

Employment statistics in Saudi Arabia

Before we dive into the challenges of hiring tech talents in the kingdom, let’s first take a look at some employment data.

As of March 2024, the kingdom has a population of 34.175 million. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate reached 4.4% (for Saudis and non-Saudis), down 0.7% from the previous quarter. (The General Authority for Statistics)

For Saudis, the unemployment rate reached 7.7%, a 0.9% decrease from the previous quarter. This indicates that Saudization efforts continue to have a positive impact on hiring of Saudi nationals.

In 2016, when the kingdom unveiled its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia laid out the blueprint for its transformative and ambitious plan. The Vision 2030 aims to “unlock the potential of its people and create a diversified, innovative, and world-leading nation.” 

Since its unveiling, the Kingdom has improved the business climate, attracted investments, and created jobs. 

The Saudi Vision 2030 has resulted in a “strategic overhaul of HR and recruitment practices within Saudi organizations.” Because of this strategy, “companies are prioritizing the development of talent acquisition strategies that focus on attracting and retaining Saudi nationals.”

According to a whitepaper by the Leoron Institute, this development comes in the form of 

  • Creating more inclusive job descriptions
  • Offering competitive packages that appeal to the local workforce
  • Investing in employer branding to attract Saudi talent
  • Increasing emphasis on training and development programs for Saudi employees
  • Ensuring Saudi talents have the skills required to perform their roles

 

Data about the Saudi startup scene

  • In 2023, the kingdom nabbed the highest value in venture debt with $400 million, up 602% from $57 million in 2022.
  • In March 2024, Saudi startups raised $198 million in funding, making it the highest-funded country in the MENA region. It also logged the largest number of deals.
  • In Q1 2024, Saudi Arabia saw $240 million in startup investments.
  • E-commerce platform Salla marked the highest investment in March with a $130 million funding round.
  • The top fields that secured funding were SaaS, fintech, and e-commerce.

 

Challenges of tech talent recruitment in Saudi Arabia in 2024

The kingdom’s drive to become a hub for business and technology in the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has increased demand for tech talents.

Despite progress in recruitment, some challenges persist, especially when it comes to recruiting tech talents in the kingdom. Here are the top ones.

  • Increased demand with not enough Saudi grads 

The rise of e-commerce platforms along with tech, including fintech, firms has further bolstered demand for skilled techies.

From junior and senior developers to team leads to IT and engineering managers, there’s ripe demand for tech roles in the kingdom.

However, as more companies establish locations in the kingdom, this higher demand strains company budgets and offerings.

For companies to compete and attract skilled tech talents, they need to improve their offerings and compensation and benefits.

Despite the kingdom’s efforts to establish tech-focused universities, the demand for tech talents is much bigger than the number of techies graduating from these universities. 

 

  • The impact of Saudization

Although the kingdom has consistently tried to increase the percentage of Saudi workers in Saudi companies, it was more common to find expatriates working in the Saudi private sectors.

Expatriates from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, along with Egypt and Lebanon dominated the private sector. However, in 2018, the kingdom intensified its Saudization drive, implementing penalties for companies that don’t comply.

This has resulted in an exodus of expatriates from the country and an increase in Saudi nationals joining the workforce.

While this has positively impacted unemployment rates, it has also strained the talent pool.

As more Saudis join the workforce, demand for better salaries and working conditions has increased. A common practice had been for expats to accept significantly lower salaries than their Saudi counterparts.

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  • Focus on in-person work

Globally, many companies are investing in a full-time back-to-the-office experience. However, research by Accenture has found that 83% of employees prefer a hybrid work model.

In Saudi Arabia, many companies offer on-site jobs. However, with tech talent recruitment, it’s common for developers to work remotely, whether they’re based in Saudi or not.

With tech and development roles, many expect a hybrid or fully-remote work model.

 

  • Varying salary ranges based on locations

It’s no surprise that salaries vary based on location in the kingdom. Like other countries around the world, both junior and senior developer roles have varying salary ranges depending on the city where the company or caliber is located.

For example, companies based in Riyadh offer higher salary ranges compared to Makkah and Dammam regions. This applies to all roles but is quite clear in tech talent recruitment.

 

  • Need for Arabic-speaking techies

In Saudi Arabia, Arabic is the mother tongue. And although many Saudis speak English quite well, Arabic remains an important language for employee and employer conversations.

This is particularly true for client-facing and user-facing tech roles. These roles include UI & UX designers, project managers, and chief technical officer (CTO) roles. 

 

  • CV overload on hiring platforms

Despite Saudization efforts, many employees and expatriates still want to work in the country.

When companies try to hire skilled techies, they often begin their recruitment process by sharing a job post on hiring platforms like LinkedIn, Bayt.com, and Wuzzuf.

But the result is these companies are bombarded with hundreds and sometimes thousands of resumes, making it quite hard to find the talents they need from the never-ending piles.

While this applies to tech and non-tech talents, tech talent recruitment is considered harder. For one thing, the process and tests involved in tech recruitment are different from general talent recruitment.

 

  • Non-tech business owners aren’t aware of their needs

One of the global and local problems of hiring technical talents is the abundance of technical roles, duties, responsibilities.

This makes it harder for non-tech CEOs and employers to determine their needs and find the right tech talents to fulfill those needs.

Often, employers will create a job description that’s more fitted to hiring three different people than a single role.

At TechieMatter, we work with tech and non-tech employers and recruiters to create job descriptions that are specific. We also help businesses by handling the entire recruitment process from creating the job description to sourcing, assessing, and interviewing tech talents.

 

  • Shortage of skilled candidates

Coinciding with higher demand for tech talents, there’s a shortage of skilled techies. Skilled tech talents could be techies with suitable creative thinking and soft skills or those in mid-level to senior tech roles.

This shortage is both local and global. However, with the impact of Saudization, finding skilled Saudi tech talents can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

 

  • Slow hiring process

One of the top challenges in tech talent recruitment is the slow hiring process. While this is a global dilemma, it’s also a trait in the kingdom. 

Especially as companies seek skilled, managerial-role talents like tech team leads, engineering managers, IT managers, and even CTOs.

 

  • Weak employer branding

There’s no doubt the Saudi labor market is fast growing. With more companies opening branches and HQs in the country, there’s higher demand for recruitment.

However, many Saudi companies, especially non-tech or e-commerce companies, have little-to-no presence online and, accordingly, minimal employer branding.

Skilled tech talents who are searching for their next big role cannot determine if the company they’re applying at offers a healthy work culture, stable environment, alongside the salary perks.

Employer branding increases tech and non-tech talents’ desire to join a company. It also contributes to increasing employee retention and reduces turnover.

 

  • Faster switching to entrepreneurship 

One challenge to hiring technical talent in Saudi Arabia is that many talents work in the field for a few years before taking the leap into entrepreneurship. They move from being employees to building and running their own businesses or agencies.

At the same time, few Saudis who leave the country to get an education in countries like the US, UK, or Europe, return. This further strains the tech talent recruitment scene in the kingdom. 

 

Top tech roles in Saudi Arabia in 2024

We’ve tackled the challenges of hiring tech talents in Saudi Arabia. Now, let’s look at the most in-demand tech roles across the kingdom. 

The following insights are based on hiring requests TechieMatter has received since the start of 2024 from companies in the kingdom.

  • Tech lead
  • Product manager
  • Chief technical officer (CTO)

For non-managerial roles, these were the top tech talent roles requested this year.

  • Oracle BI consultant
  • UI/UX designer
  • Backend developer

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How TechieMatter can help you overcome these challenges

At TechieMatter, we try to help businesses overcome as many of these challenges as possible.

For example, TechieMatter isn’t your standard hiring platform. You don’t submit a job and wait for an influx of resumes. We have Tech Verifiers who are responsible for sourcing candidates based on your job requirements and who then deliver a handful of candidates for you.

Then, you can decide if you want to continue the recruitment process through our assessment and interview products via TechieMatter.

In terms of the long hiring process, at TechieMatter, we strive to help our clients find their candidates faster. We do this through our large pool of Tech Verifiers who have access to skilled calibers from around the world.

We also offer global employer of record (EOR) services to help companies hire in different countries in regions, while ensuring compliance for the company and employees.

One major perk of working with TechieMatter is that we support non-tech CEOs and employers. As tech people, we understand the different needs and the duties required in each role. We also help our clients find candidates within their budgets.

 

Need help finding Saudi tech talents? Get in touch with the TechieMatter team and we’ll deliver a handful of carefully sourced candidates. Then, you can decide if you want to continue the tech recruitment process via our platform.   

TechieMatter Team

TechieMatter Team