Netflix Product Management Interview Guide
Imagine a world without movies and TV shows. It’s hard to picture right? The film industry is a big staple in today’s entertainment; shows are constantly spoken about in conversations and movies are displayed on 60 feet wide screens when released. Let’s look at how the industry evolved and what impact the subscription streaming service and production company Netflix has had on it.
To begin, the technology that helped expand the film industry to where it is today were video storage devices such as VHSs and DVDs. These devices were distributed across video rental stores and gave people access to watch films in the comfort of their homes. Nonetheless, there were two problems: not everyone had access to a video rental store nearby, and if they did, some were discouraged to rent films due to potential late fees from not returning them back on time. These apparent issues sparked the creation of Netflix.
Netflix was founded in August 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph. Originally, the company offered an online subscription service where subscribers chose any amount of movies and television shows on Netflix’s website. DVDs were then mailed to the subscriber’s location and the subscriber would ship them back when finished. There were no deadlines on when to return it, meaning no late fees. This subscription based model was a huge success.
In 2007 Netflix made a transition from shipping DVDs to streaming content directly to TVs and personal devices using the internet. The streaming service expanded to hundreds of countries around the world and continued Netflix’s success. Following this change, in 2013 Netflix started producing video content exclusively for their platform. The content was called Netflix Originals and further provided incentives for people to purchase Netflix’s subscription.
Today Netflix regularly creates Netflix Originals, adds popular TV shows and movies to their library, and enhances the platform with new and improved features. As a result, Netflix has grown to be the largest streaming service in the world.
Product Management at Netflix
The PM team at Netflix is small compared to other giant technology companies. It is less well known and has few openings on Netflix’s job site. Netflix puts more effort into hiring Engineers, and sometimes Engineers at Netflix will help lead the direction of the product team they are working on. That being said, there are still many teams at Netflix that have a dedicated PM leading the team’s area of focus to success.
On one hand, PMs at Netflix are responsible for anything a viewer touches when they come to the platform to watch a show or movie. On the other hand, PMs need to understand the content creator’s point of view since they are also a primary user group of Netflix. As a result an expectation of a PM here is being able to fluidly move amongst both user groups. Nonetheless, their main goal in both cases is to improve the experiences across the platform and please viewers by offering a smooth, personalized experience that will allow them to discover relevant content.
In regards to the tasks performed by Netflix PMs, they are similar to PMs at other companies. They are in charge of all the stages of the product cycle from discovering areas of improvement, developing the product roadmap, shipping features and enhancements, measuring success, and further iterations upon release. That being said, a huge focus as a PM at Netflix compared to other large tech companies is leadership.
As a PM here you will manage the team you work with. It is your responsibility to empower and motivate your team to continue working towards the set product vision. Leadership also includes being able to connect cross-functional teams together to discover and execute upon opportunities. This includes leading the Design, Engineering, and Data Science teams. You need to clearly communicate the product and its progress to each of the teams to ensure that they are on the right track.
There are no company standard levels to work your way up as a PM at Netflix. Some teams will use different job titles for the same position. Nevertheless, promotions still occur here. You can increase your salary substantially, however, your job title may not change. Check out the Salary Expectations section of this guide for more information.
To give an idea of the various levels found across Netflix teams, you start as a Junior PM and work your way up to a PM. After many years of experience and promotions as a PM you will be promoted to a Senior PM, and then a Product Lead thereafter. Following the Product Lead role you can become a Director of Product where you will have significant input on the company’s decisions. Do note, there are no entry level PM positions at Netflix. All roles will require years of experience as a PM.
Why be a Product Manager at Netflix?
Although PM can be a very demanding role at times, Netflix wants all employees at the company to have a great work-life balance. They value high productivity in their employees and they believe that increasing employee morale and work satisfaction increases productivity throughout the company. Increasing employee morale and work satisfaction comes through the many perks and benefits that are listed on Netflix’s Work Life Philosophy page.
Arguably the biggest perk is Netflix’s vacation policy. This policy was put into place as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings witnessed big innovations after employees returned from their vacations. Essentially the policy allows you to take as much time off as you like; unlimited vacation days. Days aren't tracked at Netflix so it's up to you to decide how much time you need or want off.
Another benefit specific to PMs at Netflix is the amount of autonomy that they have. Project initiation comes from ideas people at various levels in the company bring and less from executives. Product teams set the mission, vision and strategy for their area of focus, pitch new ideas, and prioritize amongst them. This allows PMs here to be the true leader of their product(s).
Netflix has offices across the globe and PMs must help serve and work in these various locations. With this, the salary of a PM varies based on location. It also varies based on your years of experience as a PM.
As mentioned in the Career Ladder section, job titles do not give a good representation of your PM level at Netflix. Consequently, PMs with different titles can be earning the same amount.
To give an estimate of PM salary in the US, the lowest level PM at Netflix has a base salary of around $112k where on the higher end of the ladder, it will be around $239k. This does not include the equity you get as a PM which will considerably increase your total compensation.
The Interview Process
Since the PM role is limited at Netflix, the interview process varies, especially between the product teams in the company. This makes PM interviews at Netflix challenging to examine and prepare for. As a result, the information given in this section is not definite or exhaustive. It can, however, be used to get a general idea of the process and understand what Netflix is looking for in a PM.
The Netflix PM interview process can have 4 rounds:
- Initial HR phone screen
- A phone or video interview
- An onsite presentation
- Onsite interviews
Let’s walk through the stages of the interview process and discuss what you can expect in each.
HR Phone Screen
The purpose of this call is to confirm that you are a candidate for the role and to get a better sense of whether you’re a good fit for the job. HR will ask questions about your experience and discuss what’s needed to succeed at Netflix. Only behavioural questions will be asked in this call and there will be no PM specific questions.
Phone or video Interview
Following the HR phone screen you will perform a remote interview with a current PM at Netflix, likely in the department that you have applied for. The interview will last around 45 minutes and will assess your PM skills and if you fit Netflix’s culture. To get an idea about the culture at Netflix refer to the Preparing for the Interview section of this guide. If you meet the interviewer’s expectations then you will receive information about the onsite interview. This includes a prompt you will need in order to prepare a presentation.
When you proceed to the onsite interview Netflix will invite you to one of their offices to further examine if you are the right fit for the role. The first test is a 1-hour panel presentation that you have to prepare before the onsite day. This presentation will be regarding your answer to the prompt given at the end of the phone or video interview. This prompt can be any PM question. Refer to the product design, product strategy, and metrics questions in the Potential Netflix PM Questions section for ideas on what the prompt may be.
On the same day following the panel presentation there will be multiple 45-minute interviews with your potential team members. The number of interviews vary between the different teams at Netflix. These interviews will further test your skills as a PM as well as if you fit Netflix’s culture which is a major area your interviewers will be evaluating you on in the process. Expect many behavioural questions and a mix of PM specific questions.
Potential Netflix PM Questions
As seen through the interview process sections, the majority of Netflix questions will be behavioural. There will also be PM specific questions such as product design, product strategy, and metrics. The amount of questions asked for each type of question will depend on the person interviewing you, as well as the role that you applied for. Expect to come across a few questions from each group.
- Why do you want to work at Netflix?
- What do you like the most about Netflix’s culture?
- Tell me about a time when you used data to influence people.
- Tell me about a time when you had conflict with someone you work with. How did you resolve the conflict?
- How do you make a good team?
- Tell me a piece of difficult feedback you received and how you handled it.
Product Design Questions
- Redesign the Netflix platform solely for seniors.
- How do you design a skip feature on video streaming services?
- How do you target a specific movie for a user?
- How would you improve a feature Netflix offers?
Product Strategy Questions
- What should be the next big thing on Netflix’s roadmap?
- What should be Netflix’s strategy for the next 5 years?
- Define a strategy for Netflix to compete with competitors such as Amazon Prime and Disney+ to adopt geographics with less availability of internet.
- Should Netflix provide a free subscription? Why? And if so, what would it look like?
- Evaluate the pros and cons of building a “super app”. An app having many B2C features such as entertainment, e-commerce, food delivery, hotel and plane ticket booking, messaging with other users, planning, gaming, etc.
- Pick a feature from a product you use and determine how you will measure the success of that feature assuming it is being launched now.
- What are the key metrics to be captured for a streaming service product?
- How would you measure the success of YouTube?
- How would you measure the success of the Netflix recommendation algorithm?
Preparing for the Interview
As mentioned in The Interview Process section, there is a huge focus on determining if the candidate is able to fit into Netflix’s culture. Understanding all of Netflix's values and linking them with past experiences is necessary to be successful in the interviews. It is also important to understand what expectations Netflix sets for their employees and teams working on various features. As a PM, you will need to keep their goals in mind when making decisions. Before going into the Netflix PM interview process, review Netflix’s culture page on their website which outlines the 9 core values as well as the goals Netflix sets for their employees and teams.
Netflix also puts a huge emphasis on whether you are knowledgeable about the platform and their business. There will be questions referring to features on the platform as well as questions regarding their business goals. Play around with Netflix on a personal device, or if you don’t have a Netflix subscription, ask a trusted friend to borrow theirs. By doing this, you will know what the interviewer is referring to when you are asked a Netflix specific product question. In regards to understanding the business, read through Netflix’s About page and recognize their recent initiatives and goals.
Lastly, the Netflix PM interview process is very broad and the interviewers will test you on a range of PM-related topics. You must be comfortable with product fundamentals and answering PM style interview questions. Using a consistent method for answering questions will ensure that you hit all of the key areas an interviewer is looking for. Learn a framework to answer PM questions and practice answering the potential questions mentioned in this guide.
Compared to other large tech companies, the PM role at Netflix is not as well known. PMs do not have a set career ladder across the different teams at the company. That being said, with the limited number of PM roles at Netflix, they have a lot of responsibility, are respected on their team, and are paid well.
On top of the many behavioural questions you will receive related to Netflix’s culture, you will be asked to share your past experience, as well as a broad set of product related questions ranging anywhere from how to improve a Netflix feature to the metrics that you would track. We recommend building a strong understanding of Netflix and their business goals to compliment your product knowledge.
Ultimately, the PMs here help deliver valuable features and improvements for the largest streaming service in the world. Since the role is extremely limited, it is a very important yet demanding role.
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