Image Credit: Jenny Nilsson.
Netflix is one of the world’s most coveted employers. The entertainment empire has evolved from a simple mail-order DVD service to a full blown streaming conglomerate — it now accounts for 15% of the entire world’s internet bandwidth.
Headquartered in sunny Los Gatos, California with 25 more offices all over the world, Netflix employs nearly 10,000 full time workers and thousands of contractors. Its unique dual CEO organizational structure breaks the company into two units: its content studio and business operations.
But how does the interview process work at a company as massive and influential as Netflix? Here are the tips and tricks that will increase your chances of securing a job at the company.
Knowing as much of Netflix’s company’s history as possible is a sure way to get a leg up in the interview process.
Netflix was started by serial entrepreneurs Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in 1997 as a subscription DVD service (remember those?). Customers would order movies on Netflix’s website and receive DVDs in the mail. When they were done, they would simply return them in envelopes that Netflix provided. The idea was to reach customers that didn’t have easy access to a video rental store, but it quickly grew into a much bigger phenomenon of convenience.
The company went public on the NASDAQ on May 23, 2002. It had a market capitalization at the time of $300 million and had grown to more than 600,000 subscribers. Randolph, who was the founding CEO, retired from the company and the board a year later.
It wasn’t until 2013 that the streaming giant started to produce its own content in-house with the release of “House of Cards.” Its content studio has wildly expanded in the years since, ramping up its presence in international markets and boosting original programming to over 40% of its available streaming content. The streamer has been nominated for over 741 Emmy awards and has won 156 as of 2021. Its studio has become so vital to the company’s success that in July 2020, Netflix announced that studio head and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos would join Hastings to become its co-CEO.
Today, its streaming service has more than 209 million subscribers, the leading number for the industry and its market cap has grown to over $300 billion. By comparison, Disney has 107 million subscribers across three platforms (Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+).
Know the company culture
One of the best ways to get a leg up at Netflix during the interview process is to show off an understanding of the company’s deeply-embedded work culture.
In 2009, Reed Hastings published a massive slide deck of Netflix’s core values and company culture. In the deck, Netflix’s core philosophy of people over process repeatedly comes up in every approach to culture that the company takes, and teamwork and collaboration are arguably the two biggest principles the company looks at in its employees to date. It was seen as provocative and daring at the time to be that transparent about management policy, but ever since companies have been using the document as its cultural north star.
Netflix is looking for employees who understand and embody this type of culture through and through. Freedom and responsibility are words that come up over and over again in the company’s lengthy 4,000-word manifesto that you can find on their website, so use the language in Netflix’s culture memo in your resume and cover letter, and pay attention to how you tell your story during the application process.
Even better, be prepared to relate your skills and experiences back to the company’s core culture, says Netflix’s VP of Talent Acquisition Valerie Toda. “The number one thing is to read the culture memo,” she said in an interview with Business Insider. Another tip Toda gives is to bring feedback for them to the interview. “Come with questions, challenge our thinking," Toda says.
Netflix wants people who will come with questions and challenge the company’s way of thinking. Keep in mind that Netflix is known for its “hire slow, fire fast” mentality. The company takes its time searching for the best talent to bring on, and they have no issue letting go of underperforming workers. It has its very own “keeper test,” a measurement to let go or retain staff. The test asks managers to consider if a member of their team was considering leaving for another job, would they try hard to keep them from leaving? If the answer is no, the employee could be fired on the grounds of not being a cultural fit. Even the longest-tenured employees can face the scrutiny of the keeper test, which is something to keep in mind going into your application.
Netflix is constantly iterating. In 2020, the company had a huge push on scaling its original content—both domestically and abroad—and as a result, is also changing to be more transparent about its content metrics. Employees can expect to spearhead initiatives that will help the company scale its content, data collection and teams.
"We're really looking for people who can help us with that scale and who want to live in a culture of freedom and responsibility and take risks and really push what we're trying to accomplish," Toda told Business Insider.
Check out any of the companies social media platforms for pages called WeAreNetflix or listen to the WeAreNetflix podcast for a better idea about employee benefits, feedback culture and career paths inside the company to best prepare you for an interview.
Getting on Netflix’s radar
Netflix is ultimately a storytelling company, and crafting your own narrative is essential for getting recruiters to notice you.
This means paying extra attention to your resume, social media profiles or portfolio to reflect key skills in the job descriptions you are looking for. But you won’t find every skill Netflix is looking for on a JD. Transferable skills and personality traits that work well with team dynamics are also large components of what recruiters are looking for.
Toda tells Business Insider that when hiring for a role on the globalization team, a candidate’s past experience scaling a team proved to be a really important part of that candidate’s “story” as they were looking to fill the role.
As with any job, working your network to your advantage to make connections at the company will definitely help get your name in front of a recruiter. However, a referral at Netflix might not carry the same weight as it would at other tech companies. It doesn’t have a formal referral program that offers current employees bonuses or perks.
Instead, show enthusiasm and interest by applying for roles through Netflix’s online portal, which the company consistently checks for candidates. If you end up landing a referral, the recruiting team will make a note of that alongside your expressed interest by applying to several positions already.
What’s the interview process like?
1. Recruiter phone call
Netflix’s hiring process will always begin with a recruiter phone call that lasts around 30 to 45 minutes. Before the call, you’ll be sent a copy of Netflix’s core values and company culture. Read this thoroughly and familiarize yourself with the language and culture before your interview.
During this call, you’ll be asked why you are interested in a role with Netflix and discuss where you currently are in your career. They’ll inquire about your experience and briefly ask about your skill set. According to one employee review from November 2021 on Glassdoor, a recruiter might ask questions about Netflix’s culture and other technical questions such as:
- “What do you think of Netflix’s culture memo?”
- “What is your own management style?”
- “What vulnerabilities exist at Netflix?”
Many previous interviewees also said that in this first interview, you might be asked how to solve a hypothetical situation.
2. Hiring manager phone screen
This second phone call will take place a few days or a week after your initial phone call. You will speak to a hiring or engineering manager who will ask you technical questions about your background and experience. You may also be asked some questions about your resume and further behavioral questions relating to the Netflix culture.
An alternative to this phone call is a take-home project. You must complete this project within six to eight hours. A sample project would be to build a microservice to calculate and edit the pricing of subscriptions based on rules given to you.
3. On-site interview panel
Netflix's on-site interview is broken into two parts. The first will consist of four technical interviews where you’ll meet with members of the team. The second half is less technical. You will meet with members of human resources and other directors.
Applicants undergo four interviews lasting approximately 45 minutes. These interviews will vary — some will be one-on-one meetings, and others will involve two interviewers.
Be prepared to take on whiteboard challenges and questions that hone in on your talents and technologies. Expect to answer questions about algorithms, cultural fit, and data structures.
Even if the role you interview for isn’t technical, don’t be surprised if you’re asked for brain teasers. While there is no right answer to these questions, hiring managers are curious about the way you think and problem solve.
Note: It’s important to keep in mind that if you don’t perform well in the first half, you won’t move on to the second half.
The second half of the interview process consists of three 45-minute sessions. You will speak to human resources, the hiring manager, and the engineering manager. You can expect more behavior and culture focused questions from HR and the hiring manager, and technical questions from the engineering manager.
Expect to hear culture-focused questions such as:
- “You have an idea for improving a product, but you’re nervous about stepping on a coworker’s toes. What do you do?”
- “How would you work with a team on a hypothetical project?”
- “Give us one instance where you were able to give feedback to your higher ups?”
- “Tell us about a time when you had to deal with difficult feedback and how you moved forward.”
Expect to be asked technical questions along the lines of the following:
- “If Netflix is trying to expand its reach in Europe, what steps should be taken to evaluate the size of the European market and what should Netflix do to capture this market?”
- “Who do you think is Netflix’s biggest competitor? Why?”
- “How would you get metrics to measure the performance of the whole team?”
4. Joining the team
After your on-site interview, if Netflix decides to move forward, you should receive an offer from Netflix within 1 to 2 weeks. This gives them enough time to interview other candidates and draft up an offer letter. When this offer is sent, the hiring manager will call you to discuss things including your compensation package (which consists of salary and stock options), as well as your start date. Before your start date, you can check out Netflix’s org chart to see who your team members are and how you’ll fit into the company. You should hear back within six to 12 months if you didn’t end up getting a position.
If you don’t end up landing a job with Netflix, don’t give up on finding the right position for yourself. Netflix encourages interviewees to apply again once their experience and skills have increased.
If you’d like to go in another direction, there are hundreds of online job listings you can choose from. A little effort and perseverance on your part will have you finding a job sooner than you think.