Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says this is the most important step in hiring

Reed hastings netflixKen Ishii/GettyNetflix cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings.

Netflix cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings established his video-streaming company as a leader in corporate culture when his 2009 culture manifesto went viral in the business world. As Netflix became increasingly successful, Hastings grew into a confident and effective chief executive.

He spoke about this maturation with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr earlier this month at the investment firm’s CEO workshop. When Doerr asked Hastings about how he hires at Netflix, Hastings said his company’s hiring managers rely on reference checks. It’s an element of the hiring process that he finds shockingly underutilized.

Hasting said every manager should realise 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 favour, so they may not be completely forthcoming with you.

It’s why he prioritises “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 will at least reveal their dishonesty through their body language).

Hastings said at Netflix, the only job candidates he spends time with are the ones who will report directly to him. In those cases, he will spend hours researching candidates to find out who they’re connected with. The process is very much like the job of a reporter or detective. When he finds a potentially valuable blind reference, he’ll contact them and make an effort to gain their trust so that “whatever they’re going to say is just with you, and then if it doesn’t work out you’ve got to find a way that it doesn’t get traced back to you.”

“I’m amazed when I know of people,” Hastings said, who hire someone and “didn’t even try to make a call. I think that the reference checking thing is not as thorough as you would think.”

You can watch the full interview below:


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