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Interview with Alexander Paterson, CEO WhatJobs

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Each month we like to find a leading figure in tech, employment, or business and find out what drives them, and hopefully get some insight into the secret of their success. This week we are speaking to the man whose sun never sets.


Name: Alexander Paterson

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Birthplace: United Kingdom

Alma Mater: The University of Stirling


Profile: WhatDigital/AlexP


Alexander, as you sit in your office here in London, you seem pretty relaxed. What is your morning routine like?

Preparation in the UK is always decided by weather (rain or not), so it is usually 50/50 to either walk or drive. I also own an e-scooter recently and tend to take that most days, rain permitting. I like to get to my desk by 0900 GMT, and I try to leave by 1800. 


What do you do exactly?

WhatJobs is a job search engine listing around 20 million current vacancies covering more than 60 countries. I am 100% focused on innovation and strategy. We have grown from being a UK business to trading globally in just two years. In August 2022, the business processed five million job applications, something we are very proud of.


What is your background?

I was trained as a salesperson in the recruitment industry, although computing was my passion. I was born in Scotland and went on to read History at Stirling University. After full-time education, I decided I liked Julius Caesar’s approach and decided to move away from my hometown to conquer new lands. I ended up in London selling pet food while living in a hostel. Still, it had a pool table. In this job, I thought, ‘ I must be half clever’ as I was promoted twice in 6 months, so I started to think about earning more money. 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 worked, I set about hammering the phones for 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 on to become the youngest ever Branch Manager of Prime Time at the ripe old age of 22. That might now sound much, but I ran 150 contractors daily, seven days a week. As the new generation of management Prime Time spoiled me and armed me with a Nokia 3310 and a flashy black Golf, the world was my oyster.


How long did you stay in that role?

I hung around Prime Time for two years and moved over to Coyles Plc as a senior manager, and repeated the success of Prime Time. I quickly noticed that Coyles were located in a large office and not on the high street, yet they were turning over 100 million a year. That impressed me, so I learned everything I could about how the founder did this and started to read about economics, finance, and strategy. I was always a half-decent self-taught coder, and during my time at Coyles, I started writing my own online recruitment agency website, which spawned


What is

Adview was initially designed to show recruitment agencies job ads (AD & View) to help recruitment consultants source candidates for their jobs. Unfortunately, I had the right idea but no clue about marketing, and it took me eight years to get it off the ground. In 2016 I met Shane McGourty, a sales rep for Monster. At first, he used to drive me mad by ringing me every day looking for new deals, but then the penny dropped. I offered Shane a partnership, and we set about building


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 would have become a drunken criminal as I don’t do things by half.


Was it that bad?

Newmains was a mining village with no mines. Google, it is all I am saying on that. I may be Scottish-born,, but I happily class myself as British out of respect to England, which made me the person I am today.


Erm, ok. Where do you see the business being in 5 years?

What Digital has a live country target of 110 locations by the end of 2025. Beyond that, I want the brand WHATJOBS? to be known globally and to achieve my dreams of creating a low-cost recruitment solution on a subscription basis.


Lastly, what advice would you give to new start-ups?

Avoid private equity, angel investors, and debt. There seems to be a culture where young entrepreneurs think piling debt on their business is more important than making money. I have yet to see one end well. Look around the ‘job board cemetery’; it is a busy place with many a fine idea buried under the weight of debt.

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