BEIRUT: While Lebanon’s economy is still struggling to recover from a 3-year-old crisis tied to regional instability, employers are cautiously optimistic and willing to invest in young talent, recruiters told The Daily Star at Notre Dame’s job fair.
“The banking sector in Lebanon has been very solid,” said Nadine Nawar, a recruiter for BLOM Bank.
“We’re opening new branches, we’re recruiting more people,” she said. “Basically, we’re looking for fresh graduates who can start in a teller position, which does not really require previous experience.”
BLOM Bank, she said, carefully tracks the progress of new staff, and facilitates their opportunities to rise in company ranks.
While the economic situation slowed recruiting at ITG Holding, an information and technology company, recruiter Cynthia Hermes said she was now trying to fill 40 vacancies per month.
“You have some fields that will never stop, even if there is a difficult situation in the country,” she said.
ITG, Hermes said, is looking for high quality candidates who are willing to make sacrifices for their career.
“It’s difficult to find good caliber candidates because they often cannot handle too much stress or big workloads. They are not even willing to do things like work overtime,” she said.
“First of all, we’re looking for people with good communication skills,” she said.
“The most important thing is to have good communication ... and a sense of entrepreneurship,” agreed Marina Sokhn, a senior trainer at the German financial services company Allianz.
“As a bank, our candidates should be good communicators,” echoed Nay Harfouche, a recruitment specialist at Bank Audi. Language skills are also valuable in today’s job market, she said.
“English is very important for us,” she said. “It’s really important for candidates to know the language, and to know how to speak to people.”
Kristel Mhanna, a senior analyst at supply chain management company Acetos, said that the company was mostly interested in hiring graduates with experience in computer programming, while bilingualism is a must.
“There are a lot of computer programmers in Lebanon, but we’re mainly looking for programmers who speak a little bit of French. ... It’s a little bit difficult,” she admitted.
Gone are the days where the ideal employee worked quietly in a cubicle. Today, recruiters explained, companies are seeking dynamic young people who can contribute positively to the business and the workplace environment.
“All companies are searching for a new generation with a creative side, especially in terms of the marketing and advertising sectors,” explained Rana Mnemneh, who works at the Masterminds Corporation, a management and consulting company.
But Lebanese graduates are facing exceptional levels of competition, Mnemneh said.
“What’s happening in Syria has definitely had an effect on the Lebanese market,” she told The Daily Star. “In construction engineering, for example, Syrians with a background in the field are coming to Lebanon and they are taking lower salaries. Instead of paying a Lebanese graduate $1,000 [per month] companies are paying Syrians $300 or $400,” she said.
“We’re trying to get these opportunities back again, and convince our clients to provide these opportunities at least to fresh graduates here in Lebanon,” she said.
Some companies have resisted this push, while others have acknowledged the benefit of hiring young, Lebanese talent, she said.
“Some of the clients have been convinced to have this new type of recruitment,” she added.
While business and accounting degrees were particularly in demand at the fair, Reem Jammal, who works in the Human Resources department at the Four Seasons, said that enthusiasm was the most important quality in the hospitality sector.
“We hire attitudes,” she said. “We can teach anyone the skills.”