Netflix Encourages Hiring Managers to Be Recruiters

The company’s innovative culture extends to its hiring practices

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Netflix’s hiring process is just as innovative as its famously intense “freedom and responsibility” culture—one without performance reviews, expense approvals or many guidelines at all, according to Nellie Peshkov, vice president of global talent acquisition at the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company.

“We think about innovation in talent acquisition at Netflix very differently,” Peshkov told attendees May 17 at Lever’s inaugural Talent Innovation Summit, held in San Francisco. Lever is one of the new generation of applicant tracking systems, which aims to improve on the relationship experience between recruiters and both hiring managers and candidates.

“It’s not about the coolest tools and programs for us. Innovation is about creating an environment where every employee can work with people they respect and can learn from.”

Peshkov said that foundational elements from the company’s storied culture have been adapted into its talent acquisition practices, including the focus on collaboration, transparency and feedback.

She discounts the typical consultant-client relationship between recruiters and hiring managers.

“That’s not a partnership. If the goal is to hire great talent, the most critical key to success for the talent acquisition team is partnership with the business,” she said.

She explained that hiring managers are ultimately responsible for hiring and are expected to “put as much energy and effort” into recruiting as recruiters do.

“We love when hiring managers go onto LinkedIn and source, or crash recruiters’ meetups and network with candidates.”

The talent acquisition training given to hiring managers is not focused on interviewing techniques, but instead on how to work well with the company’s recruiters.

“Another key value adopted in the talent acquisition philosophy is transparency,” Peshkov said. Netflix gives hiring managers full access to the company’s applicant tracking system in order to increase understanding between managers and recruiting staff.

“Talent acquisition initially had some anxiety about losing control,” she said. “But we didn’t lose control. Our hiring managers are not going to mess around with candidates in the system. And the partnership with managers has improved significantly.”

Hiring managers are able to see the many candidates who apply to open jobs, the candidates recruiters choose to talk to and those they pass on, and the reasons for why they pass on certain candidates. “The debate and dialogue builds trust and gets both parties on the same page,” she said.

Peshkov added that the candidate experience is also thought about—and delivered—differently at Netflix than at most other companies.

“We don’t roll out a red carpet or go out of our way to make the candidate feel special. We don’t want to mislead them about what it is like to work at our company. We’re not about perks or overly rich benefits.”

She said that the “biggest promise” to anyone joining Netflix is working with top talent.

“So we mirror that philosophy in the candidate experience. We keep it simple and focus on what the candidate can learn about us and how we can deeply assess the candidate to see if they will be successful.”

The interview process also reflects the company’s cultural values, according to Peshkov. She said that recruiters at Netflix are like psychologists, listening and paying attention to signals in the responses that candidates give. “We train our recruiters and hiring managers to be thorough in matching candidates to our culture. Because we have to find someone who will be amazing in an environment without any process or rules, we take it very seriously to provide as many different perspectives as possible,” she said.

Feedback is another key value adopted by talent acquisition from the overall company culture.

“This one is not easy. It’s not in our human nature to be courageous with honesty. But hiring managers value the input and feedback our recruiters offer about candidates,” Peshkov said.

Candidates also must be prepared for honest feedback to make it through the hiring process.

“As we interview them, we are candid with them about what we love about them and what we’re concerned about. It’s also a test to see how they respond. Do they get defensive, or do they accept the feedback and seek to engage in a healthy and productive dialogue? That’s a clue to see if they will be successful or not.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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