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3 Ways Netflix's Recruiting Researchers Make Sourcing Strategic

As two members of Netflix’s talent team took the stage at our Talent Innovation Summit, they immediately explained that while their roles entail sourcing, they aren’t “sourcers”. Instead, Tennyson Jones and Michael Orozco introduced themselves as Recruiting Researchers. Intrigued, we were eager to unpack the reason behind this differentiation. Why did Netflix build a team of recruiting researchers, and how does that role differ from that of sourcers?

Tennyson and Michael didn’t make us wait too long to find out. As they shared stories from their time as Recruiting Researchers, it became clear how their impact is both unique and wide-reaching. Below, we recap the three roles they play to amplify their team's sourcing success, and you’ll find their full Summit presentation at the very bottom of the post.

1) They become a "business expert"

When Michael first joined Netflix three months ago, he immediately sat down with their former VP of Talent to understand why she created the role of Recruiting Researcher in the first place. It was quite simple, he remembers - she wanted to build a team of people who could: 1. Understand the business, 2. Tell the difference between good and great talent, and 3. Influence the business. And today, every Recruiting Researcher sets out to master all three.

So what does it mean to play that role of business expert? “It means that if you ask me about a role I’m working on, you’ll be sorry you did, because I’ll probably talk your ear off about it,” explains Tennyson. “For every role that I’m working on, it’s my job to understand how that person will impact Netflix as a whole.” According to Tennyson, being a Business Expert goes beyond the surface level. When he speaks to hiring managers, he doesn’t stop at “Who do you want?”. He goes deeper, to ask: “Why are you looking for them?” and “How will they make an impact?”. Asking a few more probing questions is essential to set up a strong foundation for searches, have richer conversations with candidates, and ultimately identify the best fit for his hiring manager’s needs.

2) They redefine the term "researcher"

Now, how does the team put “research” in Recruiting Researcher? If you ask Michael, it’s about knowing what goes on outside Netflix’s walls, and how this will affect their talent pool. To explain his view further, he walked us through a search he recently jumped into - one in which all hiring stakeholders were beginning to lose faith because they weren't filling the role. Coming in with a fresh perspective, however, he was able to see that the hiring managers kept targeting the same five or six well-known companies in the space. Yet here was the catch: much of their current team actually came from smaller companies, and some members came from outside their space altogether. As Michael began tapping into talent pools from those lesser known brands, he found great candidates just like the ones at Netflix.

“As researchers, we have to be curious and creative as we dodge the dreaded 'sourcer’s block', explains Michael. “That’s where we’re revisiting the same profiles over and over again, hoping one of the 'perfect' engineers we’ve found has suddenly changed his or her mind.” Instead, suggests Michael, challenge your hiring managers and recruiting partners to expand their scope when their talent pools are dry. In this scenario, Michael and his fellow stakeholders ultimately worked together to find 30 total under-the-radar companies. “That was the breath of fresh air we needed,” he reflects.

3) They play the role of "partner"

One of Netflix’s core ingredients for success is the strong partnership between recruiting and the business. Tennyson likes to use the metaphor of a “recruiter as a chauffeur” to explain what that looks like. Too often, organizations view recruiters as chauffeurs. The hiring manager calls the recruiter, tells them where they want to go and at what time, and the recruiter shows up in a shiny limo to take them there. “But here at Netflix, our hiring managers are the ones driving the car, and our recruiting teams are co-piloting from the passenger side,” remarks Tennyson. “We’re in the search together, we’re navigating through bumps together, and we’re giving each other lots of feedback along the way.”

Tennyson went on to share the story of his search with a frustrated hiring manager who’d just joined Netflix. Though the manager was brand new, he instantly inherited the hiring for an open role on his team, and felt a lot of pressure to fill it quickly. Stressed out, the hiring manager was considering settling for a candidate that had done “okay” in her interviews and was just “good enough”. As his hiring manager’s partner, Tennyson knew he had to schedule a check-in and help him choose reality. He brought the conversation back to the Netflix Recruiting philosophy, grounded in finding the absolute best talent and ensuring that candidates could be successful in their roles. Tennyson reminded his hiring manager that they couldn’t settle for “good enough.” Ultimately, they didn’t.

A few months later, they hired someone for the team, but it was someone the hiring manager was actually excited about. For both of them, it was a lesson about not settling for average talent, and the importance of partnership.

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Tennyson and Michael, thank you for sharing such fresh sourcing insights at our Summit! You'll find the slides and video of their session below. 

Last year, Netflix VP of Talent Nellie Peshkov revealed the three ways Netflix builds a workplace of stunning colleagues. Read our recap of her session here.

Oh, and want to learn from other remarkable teams just like Netflix? Watch Cirque du Soleil, VEON, and Medallia on this year’s Summit recording here.

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