With Sl8z, a former AOL executive aims to shake-up the executive recruitment process


Glenn Fox, founder of Sl8z, a start-up that he hopes will become the “Nordstrom Rack of recruiting.” (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post)
November 17, 2013

Glenn Fox has worked on every side of the job placement business. He was an executive recruiter at Microsoft and served as AOL’s vice president of talent acquisition. He worked at executive search giant Korn/Ferry International, and he’s run his own boutique talent firm.

After seeing the field from so many different angles, Fox said he came to believe it was in need of a major refresh.

“The challenge that you have is dealing with an industry that really has not evolved since it started in the 1960s,” Fox said. “It’s a very manual model. It doesn’t leverage technology.”

With his Reston-based start-up, Sl8z, Fox is hoping to change that.

The online platform works like this: Companies can post a job opening for free. In that posting, they must name the fee that they will pay a recruiter who finds a candidate that gets hired. The minimum fee they can offer is $20,000. Given that the minimum fee in the recruiting industry tends to be around 20 percent of the salary of the position being filled, that means jobs on Sl8z would typically pay $100,000 or more.

Recruiters in the Sl8z network then serve up candidates they think are qualified for that position. The only recruiter who gets paid is the one who offers a candidate that the company hires. Sl8z takes 30 percent of the fee the company offered up, and the rest goes to the recruiter.

Fox says this model solves problems on both sides of the job placement equation.

For the recruiter, it provides a way to deal with what Fox calls an “inventory problem.” Say, for example, a recruiter has lined up five excellent candidates for a chief financial officer position. The company that commissioned the search will end up hiring one of those people, but then the recruiter is left with four highly qualified individuals who they spent ample time finding and cultivating.

“You really don’t have a way to monetize those folks,” Fox said.

With Sl8z, Fox said, recruiters have a place to put forward those talented also-rans.

“What I want Sl8z to be is the Nordstrom Rack of recruiting,” Fox said.

In other words, just as shoppers at Nordstrom’s discount arm can get the same quality merchandise as at the department store, Fox hopes companies that use Sl8z will be able to get high-quality candidates at reasonable prices.

For employers, Fox says Sl8z’s model offers the advantage of a broader pool of candidates. With traditional search firms, employers typically would pay for access to a single recruiter’s time and network. With Sl8z, the crowdsourced model means that multiple recruiters are competing to offer up the best candidate, thereby offering a wider selection.

One of the key challenges for Sl8z will be to make sure that recruiters consistently deliver strong enough candidates that the service is indispensable to employers. After all, if recruiters simply spam employers with a slew of only somewhat-qualified candidates in hope of making a buck, then the platform isn’t especially valuable.

To combat that, Fox is currently taking the time to screen every recruiter in the network himself to make sure it will be used properly. Sl8z also has a rating system in which employers can award one to five stars to a recruiter, a scheme that should make it easy to weed out less helpful recruiters.

Fox and his team started working on Sl8z about a year ago. The name, Fox said, was derived from the idea that a recruiter’s chief goal is to build a slate of desirable job candidates.

Now that the platform has launched, Fox says he is focused on building customers in the Washington region. In particular, he’s pursuing technology and life sciences companies, because he is especially familiar with those sectors. Sl8z is targeting small- to mid-size businesses, which are likely to have small human resources departments and might not have a budget to work with a headhunter.

Over the years, Fox has started two other human resources-related businesses that he said “crashed and burned miserably.” This time, though, he is optimistic the story might end differently: In October, the company closed its first round of venture funding with an investment from Northern Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology. To date, it has lined up 50 recruiters and six employers to use the network.

Sarah Halzack is a reporter and Web editor for Capital Business. She covers the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. Previously, she was a Web producer for the Post's daily business and economic news section. She occasionally writes for other sections at the Post, most frequently in the form of dance reviews, dance features, book reviews and obituaries.
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