Here is How Netflix Recruiters Find Stunning Colleagues

June 9, 2016

You might know Neflix as the home of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. But among recruiters and employers, the video streaming giant is synonymous with “high performance.”

Netflix’s PowerPoint deck about its winning-is-everything company culture is a viral hit, racking up more than 14 million views. And Netflix is known throughout Silicon Valley as a leader in recruiting and retaining top-caliber talent.

What’s the secret to Netflix's recruiting success? The answer lies in two words: "stunning colleagues."

"For us at Netflix, it's really about creating an environment where every employee can work with people they respect and that they learn from — about creating a workplace of stunning colleagues," Nellie Peshkov, Netflix's Vice President of Talent Acquisition, said at the Lever Talent Innovation Summit in San Francisco.

Are you a recruiter interested in snagging stunning colleagues for your organization? Nellie provided six tips for recruiters who are seeking them out and are open to learning from Netflix’s experience:

1. Make sure the hiring managers are fully invested in the hiring process

More than one recruiter has referred to the relationship between talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers as a "consultant-client" relationship. To say that Nellie disagrees with that notion is as big an understatement as saying Frank Underwood from House of Cards isn’t a nice guy.

"You can't create amazing outcomes when there's only one party doing all the work," she said of the TA-as-consultant philosophy. "The most critical aspect for any success for any talent acquisition team is about partnership with the business."

That means Netflix hiring managers don't just sit back and wait for their TA colleagues to funnel candidates to them. They are expected to devote just as much time and energy into finding stunning colleagues as the recruiters do.

"We love it when our hiring managers go on LinkedIn and source, when they crash all our meet-ups and network with candidates," Nellie said. "We love it, we respect it, we encourage it, we support it."

Not that talent acquisition doesn't play a critical role in the process. "Our value in talent acquisition is really about coaching, guiding, providing creative thinking and strategies for that hiring manager," she said. "It's really one-on-one coaching between the recruiting partner and the hiring manager — whatever it's going to take to find that stunning colleague."

2. Focus the candidate experience on learning about the company, not free swag and flashy gifts

“I know a lot of companies that roll out red carpets and go out of their way to make the candidates feel special," Nellie said. But potential Netflix employees who walk into an interview shouldn't expect to get wined and dined. 

"We're very thoughtful about our candidates' experience, because we don't want to mislead them from what it's going to feel like when they actually come to our company," she said. "We keep it really simple and only focused on 'Can the candidate learn about us?' Can they experience what a stunning colleague would look like from the interviewers that they meet with? And can we deeply assess the candidate to make sure they're going to be successful?"

So that means the interview is very swag-free. Nellie said candidates will get a small goody bag, a bottle of water, an interview schedule and a gift code for their Uber ride home. "That's pretty much it," she said. "We want our candidate experience to be completely reflective of who we are as a company." 

She added: "We are not about perks. We are not about overly rich benefits. We're certainly pretty competitive, but our biggest promise to anyone joining Netflix is that they're going to be in a workplace with stunning colleagues."

3. Ask about candidates’ past work environments to see if they’ll be a fit in yours

Nellie said when she first joined Netflix almost two years ago, she was “in awe” of how effectively the recruiters used interviews to unearth stunning colleagues.

“The recruiters on our team are like psychologists,” she says. “They were so deeply and accurately assessing the candidate. Not drilling the candidate with questions. We actually do more by listening and paying attention to the signals that the candidates provide and how they answer our questions."

One of the key questions that Netflix recruiters do ask is what candidates like about their current or former company’s work environment.

"[If] they share with us that they loved the structure, they loved the process, we immediately know they're going to hate our environment because we have no process, we have no structure," she said. "We are training ourselves, we are training our hiring managers, to be very thorough in paying attention to these types of signals and the feeling that you walk away with if it's someone who's going to be stunning or not."

4. Apply the “The Keeper Test” to screen candidates

The Keeper Test isn’t a written test given to candidates, or the name of a special coding test given to engineers. In its famous PowerPoint deck, Netflix refers to The Keeper Test as a question managers ask themselves when evaluating their employees: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?”

Nellie said she and her recruiting team apply The Keeper Test to candidates as well.

"When we walk out of the interviews, we ask ourselves: 'How hard will I fight to get this individual if they came to me and said they have four other offers?’” she said. “’How hard will I fight for this individual if half of my interview team was thumbs-down and rating them 1's and 2's?' If the answer is 'very hard,' then it's probably a stunning colleague. I'm willing to fight for this individual because I think they're going to be amazing."

Nellie said she knows a candidate would be worth fighting for if he/she genuinely piques her interest in the interview. "When I work hard on interviewing a candidate, I ask myself a question: 'Did I just learn something? Was I feeling engaged? Did I not want that interview to stop because it was just an amazing conversation and I want more of this?'" said Nellie. "If the answer is 'yes,' then it might be that this candidate is a stunning colleague."

And a stunning colleague is one worth fighting to get — and to keep.

5. Don’t over-rely on the hiring manager and her team to interview candidates – bring in interviewing experts from the talent acquisition team instead

Some organizations like to have everyone from the candidate’s prospective team participate in interviews. Not Netflix. 

"We don't include stakeholders [in interviews]," Nellie said. "We only include interviewers who are amazing at evaluating what a stunning colleague looks like." 

Of the five or six people who typically make up Netflix interview teams, Nellie said two of the individuals are from the talent side.

"We have a recruiter and an HR business partner interview every candidate who comes inside to interview with Netflix," she said. "You may think, 'Whoa, that's way too many HR people!' I definitely used to think that in the past.”

But, Nellie said, she learned it’s all part of the desire for stunning colleagues. “Because we need to do such a deep assessment, to find someone who's going to be amazing operating in an environment with no processes and no rules, we...provide as many different perspectives on the candidate to the hiring manager as possible."

And she said the HR business partner and the recruiter can provide those perspectives because they can tell, probably better than anyone, what a potential stunning colleague looks during an interview.

“They bring very different perspectives and very different feedback to the hiring manager and evaluate intensely,” she said. “They're able to provide a 360 view of a [candidate] that the hiring manager wasn't able to recognize because they're so excited that the person has the skills and the experience to do the job.” 

6. Give candidates honest feedback, and see how they react

Nellie said everyone at Netflix, right up to the CEO, can expect constant feedback from their colleagues. And so can the candidates.

"We provide a lot of honesty and feedback to our candidates," she said. "As they interview with us, we're very candid with them about the things that we are loving about them and the things we're concerned about. If we have yellow flags, orange flags, or red flags, we share those with the candidates."

She said providing candidate feedback is just another way of revealing a candidate's "stunning colleague" potential.

"It's sort of a test for us to see how those candidates respond," she said. "Do they get defensive? Do they disagree with the feedback? Do they become argumentative? If the answer is yes, they're not going to be successful in our environment. Because they'll get a ton of feedback so it's going to be a lot of arguing, a lot of defensiveness, and they're not going to learn.”

In contrast, candidates who respond well to feedback make for stunning colleague potential. Said Nellie: “If the feedback is received by the candidate and they're seeking to understand — 'What is this based on? What is the perception? What is it I said that came across this way?' — and engage in a really healthy, productive dialogue with us, then we're probably that step closer to identifying that this is a stunning colleague for us."

This may seem like an arduous talent acquisition process. But remember: “It's for one, and one goal only,” Nellie said, “to find amazing people who are going to be stunning colleagues.” 

*Image from Netflix

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