Q&A with Sergey Kalnish, one of Northwood University’s 2020 Outstanding Business Leader recipients

Each year, Northwood University recognizes exceptional alumni for achievement and leadership in their field with the Outstanding Business Leader award. The award honors recipients who not only have made a difference in their business and community, but also serve as role models to Northwood University students.

The 2020 Class of honorees includes:

  • Jason R. Brickl, Chairman & CEO of Brickl Companies
  • Sergey Kalnish, Founder & CEO of SmartHire
  • Dave Kepler, Owner & President of TCP Investments, and Former Executive Vice President at the Dow Chemical Company
  • Sharon L. Lechter, Founder & CEO of Pay Your Family First
  • Andy Palmer, President & Group CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd.
  • Sandy Pierce, Senior Executive of Huntington Bank
  • Marc A. Schupan, CEO of Schupan & Sons, Inc.


In honor of the recipients of the Outstanding Business Leader Award, Northwood University is hosting a multi-day celebration ending with a formal gala and awards ceremony at The Breakers, in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 7, 2020.

We caught up with award recipient Sergey Kalnish to chat about days since university and his passion for creation, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Since leaving Northwood University as a 2007 graduate, Kalnish has had his hand in several business endeavors. Now based in Toronto and working as the founder and CEO of SmartHire, Kalnish is working to change the recruiting process to be faster, smarter and more efficient.


Q: What does SmartHire do?

A: Fundamentally, we are trying to change the way recruiting is done with the help of technology.Sergey Kalnish, 2020 Outstanding Business Leader Award recipient.

We are now partnered with GuruLink, a recruitment agency specifically focused on tech recruiting and the talent driving some of the most successful technology companies across Canada. We’re on an exponential curve in regards to the pace of how fast technology is evolving. If you want to innovate, if you want to build a technology product and company, you need good talent. You need people that know how to build software, deploy, market and sell it. 

We’re headed into year four in the company and now with GuruLink, I am a Senior Talent Strategy Consultant. I help them to deliver talent acquisition strategy. And at the same time, we’re also partnering on a couple of projects where we’re basically incubating companies within GuruLink: starting new companies here based on the resources, experience and people we have.

One of these companies is HireLogics. Here we’re using machine learning technology to create a matching algorithm, a matching engine, that can take a job description and look through millions of profiles on databases like LinkedIn. With today’s technology, the sky's the limit when it comes to how machine learning and how big of an impact it can make.

Q:  What was the inspiration for this effort?

A: The focus of SmarHire when I started in 2016 was to build software. At that time, things like Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency were on the tip of everyone's tongue. I started looking into different technologies and trying to understand them. There are things here that fundamentally, I believe, are going to be very disruptive to our industry. So, that started a process of trying to find a solution to the many constraints that exist in the recruitment space.

Q: How did your time at Northwood University prepare you for your career?

A: The whole Northwood philosophy, the spirit of free enterprise, of change and innovation, that’s what I wanted too.

I went to the U.S. on a basketball scholarship. Basketball is my passion. Northwood had a Sports and Entertainment Management program. I had internships at the Georgia Convention Center where I got to experience the NCAA Final Four and see Florida win the National Title. I saw Kevin Durant dunk right in front of me! Northwood offered me so many incredible opportunities.

Q: What have you learned from starting your own business? What are the biggest challenges?

A: In starting out, I didn’t take money from investors, but mainly friends, family, bank loans and credit cards. It’s was lot of hard work upfront and it’s rare to make a lot of money initially. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, but people often don't realize how difficult it really is, the sacrifice you have to make. Another important thing I’ve learned is that in starting a company, you have to have the right support system around you. 

I have a website and a podcast that I use as a platform to discuss some of the challenges that entrepreneurs face in starting, growing and running a business.

Q: What's your goal for the next five years?

A: Recruiting is a multibillion-dollar industry and the software piece is just a tiny little segment of HR and Technology Solutions. The software component of that is growing and we are at the forefront.

There aren’t too many recruitment agencies of GuruLink’s size that are putting this much time, energy, effort and resources into innovation.

There’s approximately 4,000 tech recruiting agencies in Canada, and hundreds of thousands of them all over the world. They’re all looking for solutions, so I want to make an impact in the industry.

To learn more about Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leader Award and other information see https://www.northwood.edu/obl/awards.



Signup for Email Alerts