Detailed, specific guidance on the Netflix Engineering Manager interview process - with a breakdown of different stages and interview questions asked at each stage
Netflix is on the lookout for Engineering Managers who are deeply committed to driving productivity and excellence in their engineering teams. In this role, you'll have the responsibility of taking charge of significant projects, steering overarching abstractions, and crafting APIs that transform the way Netflix developers engage with the products developed by the organisation. Your influence extends to owning the vision, strategy, and end-to-end outcomes of your projects.
Netflix values proactive individuals who not only understand the technical intricacies but also contribute to the larger goals of the company. While the specifics may vary based on the team, this role generally involves dynamic leadership, a keen understanding of software principles, and a relentless drive for innovation.
The average total compensation for a Netflix EM is $697,692, with a base salary of $697,692.
The Netflix EM interview comprises three main rounds:
- Phone Screen with Recruiter
- Phone Screen with Hiring Manager
The initial phone screen at Netflix is a 45-minute non-technical interview, mainly aimed at assessing culture fit.
Here are three key tips for this round:
- Expect the conversation to kick off with the classic "Tell me about yourself" prompt. Ensure you have a concise and compelling overview of yourself ready. Highlight key experiences, skills, and achievements that align with the culture and values of Netflix.
- Have a solid reason for why you're applying to Netflix and why you believe you would thrive in their environment. This is a chance to demonstrate your understanding of Netflix's culture and values.
- Think ahead and pinpoint specific projects from your experience that align with Netflix's mission and goals. Be ready to provide details about your contributions, the outcome of the projects, and the key learnings. This helps to illustrate how your past experiences align with what Netflix values.
Next in the loop is a phone interview with the hiring manager or a Netflix Director, where your management experience and culture fit is evaluated. This round lasts roughly 45 minutes.
Here are three tips for this round:
- This phone screen is primarily about demonstrating your people management and leadership skills. Make sure you share compelling narratives that dive into instances where you've led, mentored, or guided teams to achieve impactful outcomes. Don't just focus on technical details; connect the dots between your decisions and broader project goals, emphasising contributions to overall business success.
- While it's more of a managerial role, a fraction of the interview will touch on technical aspects. Brush up on data structures (like strings and arrays) and algorithms. You won't face the depth of technical scrutiny that software engineering roles might, but be ready to write pseudo-code and explain your thought process. The goal is to demonstrate basic technical know-how to drive meaningful technical discussions.
- Mock interviews practice is a game-changer here; it will help you not only with the content but also with getting into the right mindset since interviewers can throw unexpected curveballs at you, and practising with coaches can help you adapt to the unpredictability of the interview. Prepfully has amazing Netflix Engineering Managers offering 1-1 interview coaching. Book a slot with them directly here.
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Now, diving into the Netflix onsite interview, there are five rounds in total, each lasting 45 minutes. We're looking at two main categories:
- Technical Interviews: Typically, you'll face two technical interviews led by senior engineers or Engineering Managers. This includes a system design round, where you get to showcase your ability to architect large-scale systems. If the feedback from the technical interviews is positive, you'll proceed to the second part of the onsite.
- Behavioural and People Rounds: This segment involves up to 3 interviews. The focus here is on behavioural aspects, people management skills, and assessing your cultural and team fit. You'll likely be interacting with EMs and directors in these rounds.
The system design round is where the real challenge lies, and it's unique and tough. You’re basically being evaluated for your ability to design a system which solves for a specific problem – always eventually at scale.
Netflix takes this as seriously as Google takes coding interviews. You'll be thrown into the deep end with bespoke questions that are, let's say, Netflix-level hard. This is where they take most pride, asking one-of-a-kind questions. The themes typically revolve around scaling (as we mentioned), security, and availability. Often times, they even slip system design question into coding rounds. They might ask you to solve a LeetCode-style problem, and then ask you to apply it to a real-world Netflix use case.
Here are 4 tips for the system design round:
- Understand the Problem: Before solving anything, make sure you really get what the problem is. Talk about what you're trying to achieve and how you plan to do it. Make sure you clarify stuff, define a scope and articulate it, explain what your goals are and how you’re going to attack the problem. This helps the interviewer guide you in the right direction.
- Listen very carefully for feedback from your interviewer: They know the scope of this interview is infinite. They've got a list of themes they'd really like to cover in the interview, so they can assess you across a range of topics. You'll regularly get hints such as “alright, let’s assume xyz isn’t a constraint” -> this is your cue to move on to the next theme since they’re not interested in whatever direction you were about to take. For instance, you might be asked specifically, “how about if this is going to be accessed multiple times daily, by our global pool of users” -> this is then your cue to go into the tangent of how you might scale your product up geographically, maybe through CDNs - these are just examples.
- Share Ideas and Decide: You’ll he expected to constantly come up with multiple ideas, for the constraints you’re presented with. That’s a good thing. Make sure you succinctly mention them, explain the tradeoffs, but then make a deliberate decision and pick one. As usual, practice is key here, ask friends for help, or go to a professional platform like Prepfully to get practice with any one of the Netflix EMs who have been mentoring 100s of candidates.
- Be prepared for curvevalls: There will also be times where you get stuck, or don’t know what the interviewer wants from you. That’s alright and it happens to everyone. The only right action here is to admit that you don’t know. Offer the interviewer if they want you to spend time exploring through guesswork, but don’t try to bluff your way through.
- Design a system for globally distributing videos. Consider factors like scalability, availability, and efficient content delivery across different regions.
- Create a chat application for Meta.
- Design the backend system for a ride-sharing service.
- Outline the architecture for a video conferencing system. Consider aspects like real-time communication, handling multiple participants, and ensuring a smooth user experience.
- Outline the design of a mobile image search client
- Develop an API to support a crowd-sourced address book.
- Design the architecture for a music streaming service like Spotify.
- Architect an API for listing restaurants on Uber Eats.
In behavioural rounds, they're checking if you're a good fit culturally – can you work well in a team, are you curious, and do you have a product mindset? Basically, they're looking for folks who are super motivated and can drive products forward.
Here's what you need to know about this round:
- Questions typically revolve around your previous experiences—your biggest or favourite or most challenging project, as well as open-ended questions about your motivations to join Netflix.
- Remember, at Netflix, behavioural questions hold significant weight, almost on par with system design. Failing the behavioural screen can lead to rejection. It's a bit intense, so practice is key. You can prepare for this round playing out scenarios where you talk about challenges, figure out how to handle risks, weigh potential wins, etc. Make sure you read Netflix's culture deck to get a grip on what their culture is like, how teams work together, etc. This will help you promote yourself as the “star” candidate Netflix is looking for.
- They've also got this unique segment called the "Dream Team" interview where you interact with a Netflix director for 45 to 60 minutes. This one cranks up the volume on everything you'd encounter in a regular behavioural round – we're talking scale, accountability, concerns which Netflix faces, high risk, reward, etc. Make sure you use metrics and figures to highlight your impact in previous roles—it will accurately demonstrate the scale and complexity of your contributions.
- Also, don't stress yourself too much about talking to someone senior —focus on highlighting measurable outcomes with solid metrics and impact statements. You can always practise with a Netflix EM on Prepfully to tweak and perfect your responses. The more you dive into Netflix's culture, values, and those unique interview twists, the more you'll be on point for these rounds.
- What are you currently working on at your current company? Could you provide insights into your role and responsibilities?
- Can you share your experience in building and maintaining a diverse candidate pool for open roles?
- Tell me about a time when you were wrong. How did you handle the situation, and what did you learn from it?
- Can you share an example from your career where you had to make a significant decision autonomously, and what was the outcome?
- you discuss an instance where you had to quickly adapt to changes or acquire new skills to meet a challenge?
- How can you contribute to helping us work effectively with our partners?
Finally, there is the People Management/Leadership interview which every EM candidate will encounter. Your interviewers will ask you questions like “Tell me about a time where you collaborate cross-functionally to eliminate a major barrier for your team” OR “Discuss an instance where you maximised your team's productivity”
Make sure you have a couple of impactful stories up your sleeve that highlight your people management skills, coaching, team-building, and talent acquisition prowess. This means real-life stuff – successes, failures, challenges where you've navigated the complexities of growing, developing, and supporting individuals in your team or organisation.
- What qualities do you look for in candidates? How do you distinguish between strong candidates and weak candidates?
- How do you ensure that biases don't impact your hiring decisions, and what steps do you take to prevent them?
- How do you collaborate with your recruiting team? Can you share a successful partnership and a challenging one?
- How do you decide when to hire someone on your team? How do you decide whether to hire externally or fill the role with an internal candidate?
- Tell me about a time where you collaborate cross-functionally to eliminate a major barrier for your team
- How do you go about finding the right candidates for your role? What techniques do you use to close candidates in this competitive landscape?
- What steps have you personally taken to enhance diversity on your team?
- Discuss an instance where you maximised your team's productivity.
Following are the roles and responsibilities of a Netflix Engineering Manager:
- As an EM at Netflix, you're not merely a manager; you're a key player in ushering in the next wave of Netflix's end-to-end experiences. Your influence extends to owning the vision, strategy, and end-to-end outcomes of your projects.
- Expect to work closely with diverse partner teams, keeping the user experience front and centre. The ability to prioritise effectively, ruthlessly focus on delivering results, and execute on your strategic vision are paramount.
- Yoy will foster the growth and professional development of an exceptional team, ensuring they remain challenged and motivated.
- You will actively utilize data to inform decision-making, take calculated risks, embrace learning from setbacks, navigate situations with no clear answers, and cultivate an environment that prioritizes rapid iteration.
Here are the skills and qualifications that a Netflix Engineering Manager must have:
- They're looking for at least 3 years in management, a solid educational background, and over 10 years of overall software engineering experience.
- They want someone who's not just a manager but really passionate about platform development, especially in the infrastructure or developer productivity space. They are looking for a track record in problem-solving and thriving in challenging constraints.
- Netflix values both technical maturity and emotional intelligence. You need to approach challenges strategically and think from the first principles.
- Building diverse and inclusive teams is crucial. They want an EM who ensures every voice is heard and values talent from all walks of life.
- You should know your way around AWS, Azure, or GCP, and be comfy with Java. If you've got experience building ML infrastructure, that's a big plus.