For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we’re pleased to feature Richie Wan, Founder and CEO of RefermyJobs.
Richie has 13 years of recruitment experience covering various sectors, including engineering, onshore maritime, and marketing, both within the UK and internationally.
During this time, he noticed various trends within recruitment agencies and job boards, which inspired him to create RefermyJobs. Their solution is a job board that makes recruitment more affordable for small businesses.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
My parents taught me to always respect my elders when I was growing up, so I never dared question this as I didn’t want to get in trouble. This respect extends to any other Chinese elder, and I know the wider Asian community has a similar mindset as young people refer to their elders as aunties and uncles.
Fast forward to the start of my recruitment days, I was trained to sell at all costs, meet targets, and repeat. The pace was relentless. My morals were sometimes pulled into question. I treated managers and directors as my “corporate elders”, so what they taught was gospel. I really wanted to question them. But something in me just couldn’t do it, and I’m so glad I didn’t.
My approach was always different. I focused on customer service rather than sales. I knew if I placed the right candidate with the right client (without forcing them), they would stay long-term. Ultimately, the recruitment fee looks after itself.
After 13 years in the industry, the same recruitment problems existed, and I couldn’t find any platforms that addressed them. I thought it was about time things were done differently.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
Our job board allows anyone from the general public to refer their network to companies who’d love to employ them. They don’t need any experience to use our platform; in return, they get paid for every successful hire.
We had to consider where the referral fee goes when a candidate applies directly for the job. It didn’t make sense for the existing parties (RefermyJobs and the hiring company) to keep the money, so the outcome was to build in a charity donation. This was unexpected but a really welcome and sustainable addition to our business model.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
Our original job board had a few bugs stopping people from using the platform. My consultancy mindset automatically kicked in, so I took over and began to input every job to get it live manually. The lightbulb moment did happen, but it took way longer than it should have. That’s the challenge – sometimes you don’t see the problem until it hits you in the face!
RefermyJobs is finally fit for purpose, and users can use all the job board functions. Our mindset has also changed as we continue our journey with a tech startup mindset, not a consultancy!
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
As a minority founder, I don’t want an investor to support us if it is only a tick-box exercise for them to meet diversity criteria. I want investors to see the experience our founding team brings and the potential our startup has based on the information and traction we supply.
RefermyJobs will always support diversity and inclusion. Everything we do will not discriminate based on age, race, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic.
If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
It’s been a few years since I worked for an agency, so this may have changed. I hope consultants, especially those new to the industry, have their wider work acknowledged by their corporate elders!
Of course, billings are important but having that axe hanging over you every month was a major contribution to numerous consultants dropping out of the industry. I was never recognised for having a higher level of repeat business, nor did it matter that, on average, I’d make 1 placement for every 2nd CV submitted. These metrics shouldn’t be ignored, as it all leads to billings.
I hope agencies help their consultants through those tough months instead of casting them out the door.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
I’d love to meet Graham Norton. From a recruitment perspective, he makes his guests so comfortable and relaxed that they are happy to share their deepest secrets!
The three questions:
- How do you make even the most guarded personality come out of their shell?
- Who makes your top 5 worst guests?
- Can you read some tweets for us?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
It’s more advice I was given when I started in the recruitment sector: “You could be the best consultant in your field, but if you don’t pick up that phone, then no one will know you are sitting there.”
It still gives me a kick up the backside to this day.
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?
Referrals play a big part for any niche recruiter as they give us access to a hidden level of candidates who will move for the right opportunity.
I was recruiting for director-level vacancies at the time, and I asked a candidate if they knew anyone. It just so happened that he referred me to one of his friends in the industry, and I ended up completing a 2-stage recruitment process within the space of 1 week. My fee was around £12,000, but the person who made the referral (for all of this to happen) only earned around £600 in high street vouchers, so it was a huge imbalance in my eyes. On top of this, my client was a small business and whilst fees were agreed upon prior to commencement, it was still a sore one for them, budget-wise.
I began to think about referrals, the issues I had spending money on repeat job adverts and how clients always complain about high recruitment fees.
I wanted to create a process that addresses all of these problems, and that’s how RefermyJobs was created. We are in beta testing, and if everything goes well, we will launch in early 2023.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
RefermyJobs has flipped the billing process on its head as we are the only job board (so far) that offers to pay on a successful hire model.
We are proud to do it our way because to freshen up the industry, we have to do something different. There is no point in us launching yet another job board with exactly the same business model as the hundreds already out there.
I’ve posted countless job adverts over my recruitment career, and my clients are also in the same boat. The amount of money being spent with no positive outcome is insane!
Of course, we have built-in measures to protect our startup, but the long-term growth potential and our unique offering will make us stand out in a busy sector.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
RefermyJobs is still pre-revenue, so I can only comment on my early stage. I had a “build it, and they will come” mentality which is not how it worked out.
I thought building a website, getting a few companies to post some jobs and making our first hire would be a matter of 3 months… 6 months max. This was the standard recruitment consultant timeline and something I thought would be mirrored.
In reality, creating our process took time then we had to build the tech around it. What followed was constant alpha testing, then beta, and then back to alpha. It really is a roller coaster of emotions which will certainly test you.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
Prior to RefermyJobs, I was a self-employed consultant, so my infrastructure was low, and any challenges were usually client or candidate objections. Over time and experience then, I was equipped to deal with these.
My startup journey has completely different challenges, and they often appear in front of me with no notice! You are constantly adapting, tweaking and learning. I’m not an expert in many fields but when problems arise, say in cyber security, I have to research, learn and ask industry experts how to resolve them. Finding trusted advisors became easier with more networking.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
- Passionate – You’ll be working on your startup daily, and it is usually on your mind 24/7. If you are going on this journey, then pick something you love.
- Resilient – Be ready to take a lot of knocks as they will come! Have that fire in your belly to overcome these and keep going.
- Balance – There are days when you question everything, and progress has been slow. Don’t feel guilty taking a few hours or a day off. Downtime is needed to recharge the batteries.
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
- Laziness – Don’t expect to be handed everything on a silver platter. If you aren’t constantly learning, then you are doing something wrong.
- Self-Centred – Build a startup that your customers will love, not what you think is right.
- Arrogance – Nobody likes an ass!
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
- Just start it – Everyone has a starting point, so stop putting it off.
- Network – You can’t do this alone, so join startup incubators/accelerators and immerse yourself in the community.
- Learn – There are plenty of TEDx talks, and you will always learn something from founders’ stories.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
RefermyJobs is Raising!
Click below for more information about them.