Behind every great product is an even greater team. So when it comes to a product like Netflix, you imagine that team must be pretty spectacular, right? Last year the company was valued at over $61 billion and considering how it’s revolutionised the entertainment industry, it’s not too hard to believe.
But what kind of people thrive at Netflix? According to a slideshow created by their CEO Reed Hastings back in 2009, it’s a place where brilliant jerks are not tolerated nor employees who get an A for effort but a B for performance.
We spoke to Marta Munk de Alba, EMEA Recruiter at Netflix, to find out what qualities she looks for when hiring and what constitutes an A for performance in this competitive environment.
How would you describe the culture at Netflix?
It’s really all about freedom and responsibility. We give people the freedom to do whatever they feel they need to be effective in their job but that comes with a very high level of responsibility. We tend to hire quite senior people, candidates who are professionally mature, in order to be able to work with that level of freedom.
What traits do you need to work at Netflix?
You need to understand the culture as the freedom we have impacts everything. There’s no micromanagement, no approval processes but instead a real openness to give feedback and opinions on anything we see or hear. This open communication is something that’s very beneficial.
We are very transparent internally, there’s no confidentiality around data, documents or decisions. Transparency also applies to how openly we speak about letting go of people – I don’t think that we do anything different to other companies in terms of attrition but we are very transparent when we talk about average performances.
It doesn’t mean that we fire too fast or that we fire the 10% of people who are average performers, it just means that we are very open about our expectations. When we let someone go it’s done in a very human way and we explain it internally. Not to the whole company but to the teams directly dealing with the person who has been let go. They will be given context around why that has happened.
What’s the one question candidates should always ask in an interview?
Curiosity at all levels is essential for our business to keep innovating and moving forward; without it, we will become complacent so we look for that spark in the candidates who want to join our team. If candidates don’t ask questions and don’t display that curiosity and willingness to learn then it’s really difficult for us to move forward with them.
From my end I vary my questions a lot, I believe in freestyle interviewing but one thing I will always ask is their understanding of the adjustment they will have to make when they join Netflix.
I always ask what are the adjustments they will need to do during the first 90 days of their onboarding at Netflix? If they say none they probably have an unrealistic view of what joining the company means. The extent of freedom we offer to candidates is rare, they’ve likely never dealt with open and direct feedback the way we deliver it here or worked without KPIs, OKRs, etc.
How quickly do you determine if someone won’t be a fit?
We give people enough time to action on the feedback they’ve been given so unless there has been a behavioural issue I haven’t seen anyone being let go before 2-3 months. We do take the time to give people the feedback and the tools to improve.
We’re not as cold as we might seem. On Glassdoor many of the reviews reference a cut-throat reputation of hire and fire; it’s totally understandable coming from people who were let go but we really try to give people every opportunity to improve and approach each stage of the situation with humanity and candour.
What is the career trajectory at Netflix like?
We understand the term growth to be within your role so we don’t commit to people growing vertically or having promotions after a certain period of time. If it’s in the best interests of the company than of course there’s opportunities – lateral moves, international assignments, vertical moves but it has to make sense for the business.
We keep people challenged in their job and they should be constantly learning and facing new difficulties – but in a positive way. That has nothing to do with compensation, we review your salary each year and if your market value increases (say, through expanding your role to encompass new responsibilities) we might increase your compensation to reflect your new standing within the market. You don’t need to be promoted to increase your compensation at Netflix.
We want to pay top of market and that’s not just people coming in to the company but through their lifecycle at Netflix too. How we encourage transparency is by suggesting to our employees to discuss with headhunters or other companies that might be trying to hire them how much they might be offered.
We don’t encourage them to leave but we do encourage them to look into what they might be offered from competitors. It’s not always easy to get that data but if they do they can input it in an internal tool we have that’s real time data about what competitive salaries are. It’s part of my role to decide on the compensation of new hires with hiring managers so I’m doing a lot of research into what great companies pay great people.
Once a year we put all this data together and look at what a person at the top of the market means for each people in the team. We are pretty unique and Netflix is not for everyone but in terms of compensation we are very open and honest.
How do you see the future of the team? How will it evolve?
The evolution I see in our team is that in order to continue growing, we need to first invest time in properly onboarding all of our new employees. I see us becoming experts in the regions we’re working for, everyday we’re understanding more and more about countries like Poland, Turkey and the Middle East where there is a very high potential for growth for us.
The same way the business innovates in its technology and algorithms – we need to look at how we can innovate the way we source and the way we research markets, companies and compensation.