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17/09/2021

An interview with Alexander Paterson, CEO of Tech Startup WhatJobs.com

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As we make our transition to encompass a wider audience we will now be interviewing a leading figure in tech, employment or business and find out what drives them to do what they do. Throughout a series of questions our aim is to get some insight into the secret of their success. This week we are speaking Alexander Paterson of job search portal WHATJOBS?

Alexander you seem pretty relaxed for a man that has 4 time zone clocks on the wall. What is your morning routine and why do you need those clocks?

I have 4 children, a dog and a wife who starts running on a super squeaky running machine at 0600 everyday, so my morning routine is simple, I stick my head under a pillow and wish for just 30 more minutes. Unfortunately, that never happens so I bounce out of bed, take breakfast with the family and prepare for my journey to the office. Preparation in the UK is always decided by weather (rain or not) so it is usually 50/50 on walk or drive. Saying that, I bought an e-scooter recently and tend to take that most days now, even in the rain. I like to get to my desk by 0900 which may sound late, but I know I won’t leave again until 2100. The clocks on the wall are there to help me gain an understanding of when I should be making calls and to whom based on their location and/or time of the day.

What does a CEO do exactly?

Personally I am 100% focused on strategy and global recruitment. We have grown from being a UK business in March 2020 to trading in 40 countries by December 2020, all the while battling Corona lockdowns, Brexit, and countless other challenges you would expect with having such a huge spurt of growth in such a short time. We recently opened a technical innovation centre in Bangalore and a sales office Dublin. In 2021 we are hoping to employ around 100 new staff globally.

What is your background?

My background was recruitment sales. I was born just outside Glasgow in Scotland and went on to read History. After full time education I decided I liked Caesar’s approach and decided to move away from my hometown to conquer new lands. Not making it as far as Gaul, I ended up in Slough selling pet food whilst living in a hostel, so things weren’t going according to plan. Still, the hostel had a pool table.Whilst engaged in face to face sales to mostly wealthy middle class types from Windsor & Ascot, I thought ‘ I must be half clever’ as I was promoted twice in 6 months, so i started to think about earning more money via commision sales. With this in mind I successfully applied to become a Trainee Recruitment Consultant where I was promised riches beyond my wildest dreams.


What happened next?

After being used to earning minimum wage and then being told how commission sales worked I set about hammering the phones for my employer Prime Time Recruitment. Some of the readers in the UK may know Bill Boorman. Bill was a sales trainer then and even though he thought I was the worst person in the class (he sent a report to my manager saying I won’t cut it) I went onto become the youngest ever Branch Manager of Prime Time at the ripe old age of 22. That might not sound much, but I was running 150 temps a day, 7 days a week across 3 shift patterns. As the new generation of management, Prime Time spoiled me, and armed with a Nokia 3310 and a flashy black Golf, the world was my oyster! There was a problem though, I was knackered and once again my light bulb flashed ‘I should be earning more for the hours I am doing’‘.

How long did you stay in that role?

I hung around Prime Time for 2 years and moved over to Coyles Plc as a senior manager and repeated my process, this time in North and West London, a huge territory covering Harrow, Wembley, Greenford, Hayes and Heathrow. I noticed fairly quickly that Coyles were located in a large office block and not on the high street like all the other recruiters. Even more impressively their sales were pushing £100 million a year. That was it for me, I set about learning everything I could about the founder Kevin Coyle and started to read about property, economics, finance and strategy. I was always a half decent self taught coder and during my time at Coyles I started building my own online recruitment website called Check4Jobs.com.

What is Check4Jobs?

Check4Jobs was originally designed to show jobseekers job ads and to help recruitment consultants source candidates for their vacancies. I had the right idea but no clue about marketing so it took me many years to get it off the ground. In 2016 I met Shane McGourty who was a sales rep for Monster. At first he used to drive me mad by calling the office every day looking for new deals, then the penny dropped “this guy does not give up, he would make a brilliant business partner“. I offered Shane a 50/50 partnership and we set about building WhatJobs.com.

What would your Plan B have been if you had failed?

I was born in a town called Newmains, Scotland. Plan A was to become a criminal, Plan B a drunk. So since you are asking about Plan B, I guess I would have become drunk!

Surely it wasn’t that bad?

Newmains was a mining village with no mine. Google it is all I am saying on that. I may be Scottish born but I relate to being British, plus, my children and wife are English born, I am hardly going to start playing Nicola Sturgeon at home.

What advice would you give to new start-ups?

Look, I honestly don’t give advice, not deliberately anyway. What I would say though, if you are someone who looks at your house when it needs a tidy, your grass when it needs cut and say to yourself “I can’t be bothered” you probably won’t make a very good small business owner.

Where do you see the business going over the next few 5 years?

WHATJOBS has the slogan ‘jobs near me‘ and our target is to display job listings in 110 countries by the end of 2022. Beyond that, I want the brand to be known globally and to achieve my dreams of creating the world’s only Hybrid job marketplace. I want to be able to work with everyone, even those that think they are my competitors. Why create enemies when you can be friends? 

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