5 minutes with...Aws Ismail from Peek

In a new regular series, our Community Manager Saffron interviews new arrivals at Sussex Innovation Croydon about their business, why they joined, and their plans for growth. Today she chats with Aws Ismail of Peek Recruitment App.

So Aws, is it Peek? Is it Peek App? What do we call it?

It's Peek in short but we’re calling it Peek Job Search [on the app store] because it’s for job searchers.

And what is the ambition for Peek Job Search?

Peek wants to replace recruiters. We want to create an application which is clever enough to do what a traditional recruiter does but without the need of a human being. We're using technology that's available at the moment to understand users, both employers and candidates, then match them to each other…That's our 'core' let's say, our main focus.

When people come on board they go through some sort of psychometric testing?

No, it's a form which asks questions. As traditional recruiter[s] we understand what we look for when we look at a CV…so we took out the information that we usually think about and we put it into the application... Nobody looks at CVs anymore, CVs are [considered] quite boring now.

Text?

Text, yeah. People don't read through a whole long one or two page CV. What we wanted to do is say "OK, CVs are useless, they waste our time looking through them, they waste [the candidate's] time…let’s take away all the irrelevant stuff and focus on the relevant stuff".

OK, interesting. So why did you choose Sussex Innovation and how are you planning to grow your business with us?

One of the main reasons we chose you guys is because we wanted to be part of a community where we could share ideas and [get] different opinions… We were on our own [before] so when we had an idea or we wanted to get someone's opinion we had to go out and do it. Here it's local, I've already popped in a couple of times to our neighbours and asked them a few questions…I believe that the support system that you guys give is quite good as well. With everybody that's part of your team that we have at our disposal when we need them, it's really good.

Have you ever thought about how you could engage with the University? Has that ever been a consideration for you?

With Sussex? Yes, definitely. Before even we knew about Sussex Innovation Centre, we always had the idea of engaging with universities in general. Our app is meant for the millennial generation, the younger generation, so perhaps if we can prove our theory works with the University of Sussex…perhaps we can roll that out further.

Are your customers in any particular sector?

Yes, retail, sales and hospitality, that's what we've honed in on at the moment [but] hopefully in the future it will expand more… One of our biggest users is The Body Shop… Although they know that [the app is] still sort of developing and it’s not 100% they've committed to using it because they like what we're doing and what we want to do.

How did you make that happen?

LinkedIn. I just approached the HR director at the time and told her about what we're doing and she loved it. She had lots of issues with recruitment and she hated recruitment agencies so she was really happy to support us and give us feedback.

So what were the challenges you faced getting your business up and running?

Um the challenges we faced… We're very different to any other [new] business because we were lucky enough to have an existing business which meant that things like salaries were supported already so we could just focus on developing the brand. We're not relying on finances coming in from Peek to survive so that’s one of the benefits I would say. A challenge…I guess for me personally the hardest thing was picking the right technology partner to use. We actually travelled all the way to India to meet loads of companies and we went to Ukraine, loads of different countries, to find the best company we could who don't charge [a lot] but at the same time produce quality work.

I've actually just got back from India..but let's get back on track! Why did you want to start your business?

The biggest factor was that we wanted to be part of something which is going to be quite big in the future. Personally, I don't want to grow old, have kids and so on, and then my son turn around be like: "How could you be so stupid not to think of something so clever when you were younger and everything was booming?" That's a personal drive, but then from a business perspective, the world is changing, the industry we're in is broken, it's not what it used to be like. [Recruitment is] disliked by employers and candidates, the element of trust is missing, and so we feel that there's a need for something different. There's a need for change and with the technology available we can start it now and can keep improving it until hopefully it's something amazing.

And what was the most important thing you learned when starting your business?

Don't trust anybody!

Oh really?!

You see, where we were in the previous business we understood it really well…so nobody could come in and say I can do this or you should do this or that. With [Peek], because it's technology and things like social media and marketing, things that we haven't really focussed on before, we've had a lot of people come in and we've spent a lot of money regrettably on people who've said that they can [deliver when they can't]… Going forward it's [important to do] due diligence, making sure that people are what they say they are because it hasn't happened to us once or twice, it's happened a few times now.

You're jaded because of the experience, I understand. What has been your biggest success so far?

The Body Shop…we've got Costa as well…

This is all from courting through LinkedIn is it?

Yes, and we might be joining up with Gumtree so we'll be displaying their jobs on our app and they'll be promoting it, so candidates can apply for a job via our platform, but the jobs will come from them.

And what does the future hold?

Hopefully Peek will be a household name... We're not after financial success or anything like that, we're more after success itself, creating something that really does work, that really does change the current industry and seeing where it goes.

I think I’m going to have to have a little look at this app!

Please do and make sure you give us any feedback, anything you see that you like or that you don't like because we’re always developing and evolving.

Read more '5 minutes with...' interviews here.