Identifying If a Future Employee Can Thrive in an Environment of Uncertainties

Oli Petry

Director Partner Experience Lifecycle at Netflix



"The role that I am in right now and the team I am building here at Netflix doesn't exist in other companies. For that reason, I haven't been able to find somebody with experience in what I need them to do."

Actions taken

Before hiring full time, I try to get a sense of their motivation and hard skills in the following ways:

  1. Look for indicators of future success. For me, this means people who have the structured thinking that I require. This also means finding people who thrive to do the things I am passionate about and that I, in turn, think my team should also be passionate about. Those who have successfully changed careers in the past, which is something I consider to be a great indicator of realizing whether they can learn or not. I also seek out people who have changed industries or areas of work because it indicates that they can quickly come up to speed.

  2. Evaluate written articulation skills. The type of person I am looking for should be able to distill problems down to a distinct description. An example of this would be someone you could throw into a meeting of five to seven different people and tailor their communication style and/or way of thinking to target the audience. This requires being more tactical with a developer, while at the same time, being at a super high level with an executive in order to get the message across.

  3. Pose relevant theoretical problems in the interview. I like to build problems for the interviewees that are close to what I am trying to solve every day, but in a way that they are very likely to go down the wrong path. I let them do that so they are committed to the path and then I give them very small pointed feedback that shows they are probably going in the wrong direction. Then, I try to see how long it takes them to take that feedback, consider it, and pivot somewhere else.

Lessons learned

  • Experience with the company is a plus, but what I would look for is if that person demonstrates the skills that are necessary to become a product manager. It doesn't need to be project management necessarily, but the base skills that you need to be a successful project manager. I think that is more important than someone boasting 15 years of product management who might also come with unwanted baggage. I would be wary of just having company experience. There is a big advantage in having context and connections that would likely make them more successful, but if they lack core skills, ideas, and concepts of what you want them to have, then it gets tricky. Those are not easy things to learn.

  • Identifying how future employees receive, internalize, and apply feedback is a highly needed skill for my team. We are very often chartered with investigating issues that happen on large amounts of devices, and therefore, are constantly pivoting. For me, this is one of the biggest indicators of success. The first time you give this type of advice, it might get lost, and that is normal. However, as your feedback gets more pointed and they still aren't picking up on it, then it may be a sign that they might not be the right choice.

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Oli Petry

Director Partner Experience Lifecycle at Netflix

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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