The key question to ask about a Google job offer is “How much can this offer be improved through negotiation?” In my experience coaching software developers through Google salary negotiations, the answer varies from “somewhat” to “a whole lot”.
The main driver for the difference seems to be how narrow the engineer’s specialty is, and how well that specialty aligns with Google’s core competencies.
For example, Google needs lots and lots of experienced software developers, and the supply of generalist software developers available to hire is pretty strong. So Google will offer competitive salaries with some room to negotiate to get quality software developers in the door.
By contrast, machine learning experts and data scientists are key to Google’s ability to dominate search and other aspects of its business and there are fewer of those experts available. So Google makes very, very strong offers to machine learning experts and data scientists and has lots of room to negotiate those offers to get the right candidates.
The bottom line is that if you have a job offer from Google in a technical role, you likely have room to negotiate, and may have substantial negotiation leverage depending on your specialty.
What a typical Google job offer package looks like
Google’s offers are pretty standard:
- Base salary
- New-Hire Equity
They may also include other components like a Target Bonus, and they may even share an estimated value of other perks that Google employees get.
They will often roll all these numbers together to describe the offer in terms of “Total Compensation”, which may seem like a big number.
Here’s an example taken from a modified version of a real Google job offer from one of my clients (all numbers are $1,000s):
Let’s look a little closer at the main components of a Google job offer.
As with most job offers, this is the stable, predictable component that you can use to pay your mortgage or car payment. You can’t know what company performance might look like in the future, so it’s hard to estimate how much of a bonus you’ll get or what your RSUs will be worth when they vest.
Google’s base salary offers tend to be pretty competitive, with other big tech firms. If you’re wondering whether the salary you’re offered is competitive, paysa.com is a good place to start.
How flexible is Google on Base Salary?
In my experience, Google will move on base salary, but not very much. And they’re more flexible when you have not disclosed salary history or expectations.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more base salary, but it means that request may result a smaller move in base salary coupled with other more aggressive moves that are not related to salary.
Bonuses are usually pretty standard among employees and are probably based on things that are out of your control like “company performance”.
So your Target Bonus is nice to know, but not very useful for negotiation purposes. It helps make the Total Compensation number larger and does give you a sense of a nice annual windfall that may come your way if things go well at Google.
How flexible is Google on Target Bonus?
They’re generally not.
New-Hire Equity (RSUs)
The Equity component of a Google job offer can range from “not very much” (as with the example above) to “wowzers, that’s a lot of equity!” depending on the role.
For Google (and most of the other big public tech companies) I tend to model Equity as more or less fungible with Base Salary since the value of that equity is public and the company fundamentals appear to be pretty strong.
The difference, of course, is that there’s a vesting schedule and you’re taking some level of market risk by counting on equity.
But for a company like Google, the market risk for Equity is very similar to the market risk for your Base Salary. (If things suddenly get very bad for Google, their stock would probably drop, but the bigger problem could be that your job might be in jeopardy).
How flexible is Google on New-Hire Equity (RSUs)?
Potentially very flexible. This is their most used bargaining chip. Depending on the candidate, position, and other factors, they may be willing to improve the equity component of the offer significantly during the negotiation.
Some of my clients have more than doubled their equity during their negotiation. Sometimes the Equity component of the offer will be larger than the Base Salary component when we finish negotiating.
This is one reason the Base Salary component of their offers tends to be merely “competitive”—they have more flexibility on Equity and will often use this as their carrot to entice exceptional candidates to join the company.
Even if there’s not a Sign-on bonus included with your initial offer, there may be one available. Sign-on bonuses, like equity, can range from a nice little amount into six figures.
I like to think of the Sign-on bonus as a way to help bridge the gap between your first paycheck and your first RSU vesting date.
How flexible is Google on Sign-on Bonus?
Moderately flexible. They will often use this as a sweetener to close the deal. Five-figure improvements in Sign-on bonus are pretty common. I recommend focusing on Base Salary and Equity before negotiating Sign-on bonus.
How to approach your Google salary negotiation
The salary negotiation with Google will begin earlier than you might expect.
Before you get a job offer
Your Google recruiter will ask for your salary history, or at least your current salary if it’s legal where they are. Do not tell them your current salary. If you do, the Base Salary component of your job offer will probably be slightly above your current salary and it will be challenging to negotiate a substantial increase once they make your job offer.
They will also usually ask for your salary expectations. That request will sound something like this:
So what were you hoping for in terms of compensation if you come aboard here at Google?
Do not tell them your salary expectations because you will essentially be guessing what they might pay someone with your skillset and experience to do the job they need done.
While they might have a good idea of the value of that job to Google’s business, you would only be guessing. You will practically always guess wrong and cost yourself money later on. So just don’t guess.
Google will hold on tight to these numbers and it can be very, very challenging to get them to move once they know what they are aiming for. So avoid sharing that information if at all possible.
As a final note on this, I’ve worked with clients whose Google recruiter told them they could not move forward with the interview process until my client shared their salary expectations. Eventually, they did move on despite my clients’ refusal to share this information. So, in my experience, this is a bluff.
Once you receive your job offer from Google
Although Google isn’t typically very flexible on base salary, I prefer to begin by negotiating base salary to see how flexible they are in the other components. By pushing on base salary—even knowing they aren’t very flexible—we give them an opportunity to show where they are the most flexible.
They will often respond to a request for a higher base salary by moving slightly or not at all on base salary, while suggesting a significantly better equity or sign-on bonus component.
Once they reveal where they’re flexible and how flexible they are, you can use that information to focus the negotiation on the most flexible components to maximize your offer.
What to look out for when negotiating a Google job offer package
- Google is very sticky once they know their target. If you tell them your salary history (especially current salary) or salary expectations, their offer will likely be very close to either of those numbers and they will not move very much from that starting point.
- Google will often respond to a request for higher base salary by slightly improving base salary and significantly improving the equity component.
- Google is often rigid with respect to the “level” offered. Because they use equity as a primary negotiating lever, they have lots of flexibility within pay bands and therefore rarely change pay bands—or levels—as part of the negotiation.
This article was originally published on The Fearless Salary Negotiation. Reprinted with permission.