How Netflix Reimagined the Recruiter-Hiring Manager Relationship

August 24, 2017

Recruiters and hiring managers work together all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re really collaborating. Instead, it can often feel like a vendor-customer relationship: managers place orders, recruiters fill them by following predefined processes. Sure, there are discussions and adjustments, but it’s ultimately more about tactics than strategy.

But not at Netflix. Just like the streaming service reinvented the way we watch movies, they’ve totally reimagined the relationship between recruiters and managers as a real consultative partnership, rather than transactional order-taking.

This is the centerpiece of Netflix’s “culture of recruiting,” where finding and hiring talent is everyone’s responsibility. Watch the video below to see what this culture of recruiting looks like in practice.

Read on to learn more about three defining aspects of Netflix’s culture—freedom, candor, and empathy—and they can help you foster stronger partnerships between hiring managers and recruiters.

What makes Netflix’s culture different: everyone is responsible for recruiting

Netflix recruiter Chrissy Running notes that “the relationship between recruiter and hiring manager here, I think, is one of a kind.” Hiring manager Chris Saint-Amant agrees: “what’s really unique about the culture around recruiting at Netflix is the collaboration between the hiring manager and the recruiting team,” he says.

This unique partnership stems from an overarching culture of recruiting that extends beyond the talent acquisition team and hiring managers. Everyone knows that hiring is a top priority, and that directive inspires a different kind of collaboration.

“When there’s that mindset that hiring is top priority, you really value the partnership that you have with your recruiters,” says Chrissy. “I think recruiting at other companies can be very tactical or operational, and what I love here is that it’s very consultative and strategic.”

Rather than a removed, mechanical effort where recruiters follow prescribed processes—”sitting behind a desk and sending [hiring managers] resumes,” as Chrissy puts it—the two truly work together every step of the way. “When there’s more to the relationship than just tactical logistics going back and forth, it adds more value,” she says. This sort of relationship is way more dynamic, energizing both recruiters and hiring managers.

Here are three elements that make Netflix’s culture unique, with takeaways on how you can cultivate the same kind of relationships.

1. Freedom: Hiring managers have more freedom and ownership over hiring decisions

The hiring managers at Netflix enjoy a lot of autonomy and freedom when it comes to hiring someone to join their team—more than you typically see at other large companies.

Hiring manager Chris sees it as one of the most distinctive things about Netflix’s culture of recruiting. “I think that’s fairly unique compared to other places I’ve worked, where really the hiring manager is often in the backseat and they’re being fed candidates… the decision of who ultimate to hire may not fall directly with them,” he says. “At Netflix, I’m really empowered to own that decision every step of the way.”

Chrissy points out that this freedom reflects a lot of trust from the business as a whole. Most large companies take a more conservative, controlled approach. “A lot of times, as companies try and scale hiring, what they do is take the power away from the recruiter and the hiring manager,” she says.

At Netflix, the hiring manager and recruiter have the ultimate say over who they hire and what they pay them. “The business is just trusting that we’re making the best decisions for the company,” Chrissy says, “which I think is really rare.”

As a recruiter, you may not be able to banish hiring committees or completely reshape their company’s hiring processes, but you can extend more trust and ownership to your hiring manager. By giving them more power and freedom, you’re also giving them more responsibility and reasons to work closely with you.

2. Candor: Recruiters and hiring managers communicate directly and honestly

Another hallmark of Netflix’s culture is the insistence on being candid and direct—it’s enshrined in the company’s famous culture deck. Clear, consistent communication between recruiter and hiring manager is a key part of their dynamic, collaborative relationship.

They’re not just touching base with each other: both sides share frank feedback and even respectfully challenge each other. “We have a lot of back and forth and a lot of debate,” says Chris. “The recruiting team is really engaged with our teams so they can ask the right types of questions about, ‘Hey, I thought this is what your team was looking for’ or ‘this is the direction you’re heading in now, is this person really going to add to that?’”

The feedback flows in both directions. Hiring managers give constructive critiques of how recruiters pitch roles, describe the company, and source candidates, while recruiter's coach managers on how they’re communicating with candidates. “It’s really a give and take,” says Chrissy. “I think that’s what makes the relationship so rewarding—that we’re really invested in each other’s growth and also in the success of what we’re trying to do.”

It’s an approach that Netflix’s recruiters extend to candidates, too. “One thing that I’ve consistently heard from candidates is that they really appreciate how candid we were with feedback along the way, both positive and constructive,” says Chrissy.

Fortunately, this is something you can do to immediately shift your recruiting culture. Being direct with hiring managers and inviting candid criticism might sound uncomfortable, but it’s a great way to build trust and tackle problems more effectively.

3. Empathy: Hiring managers and recruiters genuinely care about each other’s success

Candor is great, but it can also be discouraging if it’s not combined with genuine care. “You have to have that empathy in order to get a direct message across that’s not going to leave someone feeling demotivated,” Chrissy says.

That’s why empathy becomes an essential ingredient in Netflix’s culture. Chrissy admits being very direct can often seem harsh to outsiders, but in practice, it has just the opposite effect because it’s clearly coming from a place of caring.

“It’s actually going to leave them feeling more inspired and more empowered in their role,” Chrissy says. “You’re having that conversation because you really do care about them and you’re invested in their personal success.”

As a recruiter, you already practice empathy with candidates—extending that same care and conscientiousness to hiring managers makes the relationship stronger and more successful.

From working to understand your hiring manager’s current team and their biggest priorities, to taking joy in watching that new hire thrive in their role, cultivating more empathy makes every part of your work more rich and rewarding.

Netflix’s culture of recruiting is one of a kind—but it’s not impossible to recreate. By embracing more freedom and communicating candidly with care, recruiters and hiring managers can mend fences and work together like never before.

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