Netflix, which announced price hikes for US subscribers earlier this week, likes to do a few things differently. The company’s cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings is a genius in his own right, but he’s also pretty old school when it comes to a few things regarding hiring and company culture.
From big salaries, to reference checks, and a war against work-from-home, here are a few things you should know before thinking of making a jolt to Netflix.
What Reed Hastings and Netflix want to see from a candidate
Working for Netflix is likely to attract some of the best minds and talent in tech, but the secret behind Netflix’s hiring practices relies on reference checks.
In an interview with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr in 2015, Hastings revealed that Netflix’s hiring managers rely on reference checks, Business Insider reported, saying Hastings finds that reference checks are underutilized when it comes to hiring.
Here’s a rundown, via Business Insider:
Hasting said every manager should realize that there are plenty of people who can make themselves sound much more impressive than they really are if you spend enough time with them in an interview setting. He recommends using interviews as a “narrowing round” to whittle down a pool of people who caught your interest.
Then take the time to check their references. Hastings said it’s worth checking the references listed on the candidate’s résumé, as long as you keep in mind that those people are aware they’re listed and may have done it as a favor, so they may not be completely forthcoming with you.
It’s why he prioritizes “blind references,” those you have to dig up yourself, above all else in the hiring process. He noted that for both kinds, he pushes for a Skype interview, because he’s found someone is more likely to be honest when you can look at them (or there’s a better chance they’ll at least reveal their dishonesty through their body language).
Operational vs. creative roles
Hastings did a media tour at a few places to promote his new book, “NO RULES RULES: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention,” in September where he penned a column for CNBC’s Make It discussing the value of sky-high salaries.
Hastings explains it as separating the average from the exceptional.
“Over the years, I’ve come to see that the best programmer doesn’t add 10 times the value. He or she adds more like a 100 times,” Hastings wrote.
Drawing upon a method used by Bill Gates and the software industry, Hastings said Netflix dived jobs into operational and creative roles.
“If you’re hiring someone for an operational position, say an ice-cream scooper, the best employee might deliver double the value of the average,” he said. “A really good scooper can probably fill two or three times the number of cones an average one could. But there’s a cap on how much value one ice-cream scooper can deliver. For operational roles, you can pay an average salary and your company will do very well.
“At Netflix, we don’t have a lot of jobs like that. Most of our posts rely on the employee’s ability to innovate and execute creatively. In all creative roles, the best is easily 10 times better than average. The best publicity expert can dream up a stunt that attracts millions more customers than the average one.”
For operational roles, Hastings said Netflix decided long ago to pay “middle of market rate” because there is a cap on how well someone can perform in such a role, but creative jobs is a different story.
“We would pay one incredible employee at the top of her personal market, instead of using that same money to hire a dozen or more adequate performers,” he said. “This would result in a lean workforce. We’d be relying on one tremendous person to do the work of many. But we’d pay them tremendously.”
Work from home a no-go
Despite the coronavirus pandemic changing the way we live and work, Hastings isn’t one to expect the remote working lifestyle to extend beyond the pandemic, especially at Netflix.
While companies have allowed workers to stay at home throughout the pandemic (and even in some cases permanently), Hastings said employees will return to the office once the majority are vaccinated.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Hastings called the whole remote working experience a “pure negative” despite workers’ ability to adapt to the situation.
“I don’t see any positives,” Hastings said when asked if he’s seen benefits of remote working. “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative. I’ve been super impressed at people’s sacrifices.”
Hastings said that the five-day workweek will become four days in the office and one day at home, which he anticipates many companies adopting. He also said he expects his workers to be back in the office six months after a vaccine is released.
“Once we can get a majority of people vaccinated, then it’s probably back in the office,” he said.