May 16, 2012

Netflix: Another stupid employer

Filed under: For Managers, Heads up, Job scams, Stuff I worry about, Stupid HR Tricks

Netflix bungled its business last year and ticked off lots of its customers, who quickly cancelled the service. It was a case study of a business and public relations disaster.

Now Netflix is at it again — this time by advertising for “recent college graduates” to fill jobs anyone could do. Age discrimination anyone? The ad on craigslist is titled, “Netflix – Recruiting Researcher  (los gatos)” and it says:

“We treat you like an adult and expect you to act like one.”

(For a PDF of the full ad on craigslist, click here. For the “live” ad on craigslist — which will not be there forever — click here. For the ad on Netflix.com, click here.)


***UPDATE 5/18/12: Netflix has removed the job posting from its own website. For a PDF of the original, click here.

Netflix has not responded to a request for comment.


Netflix would do well to act like an adult and recruit people who can do the job — and that includes college grads from quite a while ago. Consider the Netflix job ad below. What’s in this job description that an older worker couldn’t deliver?

We’ve found that recent college grads have been most successful in this position because we need some who is:
- Self-motivated and directed; hungry to get started with a great, well-known company.
- Proactive; taking initiative and follow-through is a must
- Accustomed to multi-tasking and meeting multiple, tight deadlines
- A leader and will offer innovative and constructive ideas to continue our team’s success

I know a lot of hungry 40+ year olds who are out of work — they’re self-motivated, proactive, can multitask, and lead others.

Netflix goes on to say that:

“We don’t have rules.”

That’s clear. They could add, “We don’t have any common sense.”

I’m a big fan of hiring kids out of college — as a cohort, they’re suffering mightily in the job market. They need help. Perhaps Netflix can hire a new grad who can show the company how to recruit properly. Or maybe it needs someone a lot more experienced than the clown in HR who’s producing these job descriptions and ads.

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19 Comments on “Netflix: Another stupid employer”
By Dave
May 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I agree that this is a stupid practice.

My guess is that they want cheap drones to do their work.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

The reader who tipped me off to this is a seasoned headhunter. I don’t like to call anyone stupid, but in this case it fits. I just can’t believe a company like Netflix has someone putting together these job postings — or a manager running a department who believes an employee has to be a new grad (or a 50-year-old for that matter) to do this job.

Maybe they’re just trying to lower those membership fees by cutting costs…

By Nick Corcodilos
May 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Needless to say… (or maybe I need to)… The “recent college grads” Netflix is trolling for might actually BE 40, or 50, or 60…

Maybe Netflix should have left it at “college grads.”

By RicardoRI
May 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Pardon my ignorance, but isn’t discriminating by age (with very few, well defined exceptions) point blank illegal?

Obviously there is a lot of difficult-to-document age discrimination, but isn’t Netflix liable to every non-recent grad who applies. Isn’t the penalty something like a year’s salary?

By marybeth
May 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm

@Nick: Sigh. This one ranks up there with the companies that posted “the unemployed need not apply” on their ads on their websites. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

My first thought when I read your article and post was that Netflix is being stupid and CHEAP. They’re thinking that with half of college grads not having a job, they’ll take anything (meaning low wage, no benefits, no overtime, crazy hours) and be grateful for it. Netflix gets cheap labor and if the kids burn out and quit, well there’s plenty more where they came from. Management and owners benefit when wages are kept low.

But you’re right–there’s nothing in the job description that leads me to think that the job is one that can ONLY be done by a 21-year old college grad. It could probably be done by a high school grad if s/he got adequate training. And it could be done by a 30 year old, a 40 year, a 50 year old too. There’s nothing that indicates youth is the key to success or that only young people can do the job. Netflix might get a recent college grad apply who is older–many college students today are older, but I’m assuming that they’re assuming a recent college grad will be in his early 20′s (assuming he went straight to college after high school and didn’t take any time off to work, to serve in the military, to travel, etc.).

Yes, technically age discrimination is illegal, but good luck trying to prove it in court. An employer can always find another reason why the younger person was hired (he was more qualified, we wanted someone we could mold, the job is entry-level–implies you have too much experience meaning you’ll want more money, or just the generic “he was a better fit for the job and company culture”. In this case, Netflix can always say no age discrimination because they didn’t specifically state an age (recent college grads are varying ages).

Maybe Netflix needs to post another job announcement and should consider hiring law school grads to screen and write their ads, preferably law school grads who have taken at least one class in employment discrimination.

By Greg
May 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm

We need someone who is cheap, desperate, too insecure to stand up for themselves that we can treat like crap.

It would be interesting to see who they attract, and who stays as the economy thaws.

By Dave
May 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

@RicardoRI and @marybeth

Playing devils advocate for a second… While NetFlix may have worded their ads too strongly, how is this different from advertising an Entry Level/Jr. Level position? (especially ones where they expect expect Sr. Level Knowledge for Jr. Level Pay). I wouldn’t expect an experienced person to apply and can use the “overqualified” card when they. I don’t think you can prove overt age discrimination.

IANAL, of course and think this type of leveling is stupid. Either you can do the job (or have the smarts and motivation to figure it out) or you can’t.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm

@Dave: Just like a “new grad” might be 45 years old, an entry-level position might be held by the same 45-year-old.

Do you think Netflix’s use of “recent college grad” is intended to attract only young candidates? I do. I think the evidence lies in the semantics throughout the ad:

“hungry to get started”
“You are not an intern or a paper pusher”
“We treat you like an adult”

I don’t think there’s any doubt what they mean. But if I were their lawyer and I had to avoid a million-dollar decision against me, I could probably argue the points I did above — that none of these terms actually exclude older applicants.

What do you think? Could this be defended?

By Dave
May 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

@Nick:

I don’t really think it can be defended.

As I said, if I was a hiring authority, I want people who are smart and motivated. I don’t care if you’re a recent grad or a 20 year vet. At least in a perfect world….

By Scott
May 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

They also get bonus points for being illiterate:

“You are given the resources and freedom you need to do your work, excepting that we will get high performance in return.”

I don’t know if that’s “accepting” or “expecting” – and I don’t think pleading portmanteau will work there.

Taken literally, it might be taken to mean that you’ll be given all kinds of good stuff and not be held to any high performance standard.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

@Scott: Good catch. I dunno, could be a sign of an inexperienced new grad’s work… ;-) After all, they say, “We don’t have rules.”

By NYTEacher
May 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

Besides the recent graduate remark. What about the overinflated language! A lot of words to describe nothing.

Self-motivated and directed.
- Proactive; taking initiative and follow-through is a must
- Accustomed to multi-tasking and meeting multiple, tight deadlines

By Nick Corcodilos
May 19, 2012 at 11:50 am

@NYTEacher: BTW, “proactive” is not a word.

I sent a note to Netflix asking for comment — still nothing.

By DW
May 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Good grief! I’m a fairly recent college graduate by four years, and even I find it stupid that a hiring department would focus on degrees over experience when it comes to recruitment positions. The only rational explanation I can think of is that new grads would be too desperate to question unethical policies and deceptive job propositions, for both themselves and their candidates.

By Lisa
May 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm

As a fan of the ‘original’ Netflix set-up as both a consumer and a “wouldn’t it be cool to work there” fan, NF’s strategies over the last 18 months have resulted in a 180 degree change from both perspectives. I’ve watched videos and read articles of Patricia McCord speaking to Netflix employee benefits, like unlimited vacation time and read how Reed Hastings deliberately leaked NF’s culture manifesto. I’m trying to figure out where (and how) they missed the bus on the basics.

Thanks, Nick, and everyone. This will go down as one of my classics.

By Ross H
June 5, 2012 at 8:12 am

I have had this conversation with a few people…you don’t hire a person in his or her fifties because they are going to retire in ten or so years! But in my experience, including 20 years in IT, you hire a new grad, the kid takes advantage of training and getting some experience, then flips it within two or three years to go to a better paying job elsewhere.

By Ms. A
June 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm

There’s been a surge of companies in my area with job ads that look a lot like Netflix’s approach. Like Nick said, the red flags I’ve seen are phrases like, “we want an account executive with a student mentality but a professional approach,” or “fearless rockstar developer wanted – you must be hungry, young, and [no, seriously!] have a dangerous hobby.”

My husband returned to college to earn his degree in his 30s, and he’s a perfect example of a recent grad with little experience in his new field. But he’s not who they want – that much is clear by looking at the language in these ads. I’m also seeing a rash of “manager” and even “director” jobs paying either hourly rates or “work for stipend/credit.” Clearly, these are also for the very young with few financial commitments.

By Matt K.
July 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

The multi-tasking, initiative, and proactive buzz words are a joke. Anyone who has worked in Silicon Valley since 1992 – 20 years (mind you) could be 40 or 45 years old. This person, if she or he has worked in this snake pit, has only survived because they function in that manner. For Netflix or any other company to believe that today’s distracted, undisciplined/irregular, whining 20-something can give them what a 40+ year old, experienced high-tech worker cannot is severely disillusioned. I believe their business will suffer in the long run. The company is not thinking clearly when it makes decisions to hire young people just because they are young. They need to hire the best person for the job and not simply pay lip service to this principle.

By John A Gasbarre
August 22, 2012 at 2:29 am

Nick:

I’m guessing the “reader who tipped you off” was particularly flattered by your compliment:

By Nick Corcodilos
May 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

The reader who tipped me off to this is a seasoned headhunter. I don’t like to call anyone stupid, but in this case it fits.

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