Adobe salary negotiation
Company Guide
September 30, 2021

Adobe Salary Negotiation

Adobe's been on a hiring spree as of late, and we've helped many clients negotiate their offers. The company is well respected in the industry. It's known for a great culture and work-life balance. Historically, Adobe's pay was below industry average, but in a bid to compete for top-tier engineering talent, they have increased their compensation bands in recent years.

The goal of this guide is to equip you with the essential pieces of information you need for your upcoming Adobe negotiation. These insights were distilled from the negotiations our team has done with Adobe. If your situation is unique or you want 1:1 support to ensure you maximize your compensation, please sign up for a free consultation with our negotiation team.

Negotiate Your Offer

Table of Contents

  • Adobe Offer Compensation Components
  • Adobe Negotiation Process
  • Adobe-Specific Negotiation Advice

Adobe Offer Compensation Components

Before starting the negotiation, make sure you understand the compensation components offered. A typical job offer for a software engineering role at Adobe should contain the following monetary components:

  • Base Salary
  • Equity (also known as Restricted Stock Units - RSUs)
  • Signing Bonus
  • Performance Bonus

This is what an example Adobe L4 offer looks like over a 4-year period.

Base Salary

Adobe's base salary component is competitive relative to peers. For example, Adobe L4 maps to the upper end of L4 at Google, and when comparing the top of band base salary at these two companies, Adobe's base is actually higher at 185k vs 175k.

As with most companies, Adobe has a base salary band associated with each role/level/location. The size of the band increases with seniority - at junior levels it is quite narrow.

Adobe is more willing to negotiate base salary vs industry peers. That said, the increase will typically be smaller than what is possible for the equity or signing bonus components. This of course does depend on the initial offer and how much room there is for each component. In our experience, Adobe is pretty transparent around the top of band for each component, and they are willing to come up to this top of band number if you use the right negotiation strategies.

Equity or Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

Your initial offer will include a dollar amount in equity. The dollar amount will be converted to a specific number of shares on the date the RSUs are granted. Typically, companies use the average stock price in the most recent month to determine how many shares you will be granted. These share units are your initial grant which then vests (is received) over the next four years.

Adobe, like many other big tech companies, vests equity evenly over 4 years. This means if you are granted $260K RSUs, you will receive the following:

  • Year 1: 25% ($65K)
  • Year 2: 25% ($65K)
  • Year 3: 25% ($65K)
  • Year 4: 25% ($65K)

The most common vesting schedule for software engineers at Adobe is to have vest dates every 3 months. However, for the first 25%, there is a 1-year cliff, meaning the first 25% fully vests at the end of your first year.

We have heard of recruiter's claiming that equity is non-negotiable, but from our experience, this is untrue. Adobe is willing to negotiate equity and compared to peers in the industry at the junior/mid-level, equity is competitive with the likes of Facebook and Google. To give you an idea, the top of band equity for Adobe L4 and Google L4 is the same.

"Restricted Stock Units: You will be recommended for an equity award with an initial target value of <redacted>. This award value will be converted into a number of restricted stock units (RSUs) that vest into Adobe common stock, using the average daily close price of the month in which your Adobe start date falls. This RSU award is subject to final approval by our Board of Directors. Generally, grants are approved on approximately the 15th day of the month following the month of your employment start date. The RSUs will be subject to a 4-year vesting with 1/4 being vested after the first year and then quarterly vesting thereafter over the remaining three-year period. Vesting is contingent upon your continued employment with Adobe, with certain limited exceptions as defined in the applicable award agreement."

Performance Bonus

Performance bonuses at Adobe are fairly predictable. While it is true that they are based on both your performance and the company's performance, the majority of engineers receive their target bonus each year, similar to Facebook and Google. One interesting aspect for Adobe is that your bonus is weighted 50% corporate objectives and 50% personal performance. For reference, at Facebook the company multiplier is typically 0.9-1.1x and then personal performance is 0.8-3x.

Adobe is quite transparent about target bonuses for each role. Like most companies, the target bonus increases as you become more senior. Below is the target bonus from L2 - L5 at Adobe.

  • Adobe L2 → 10%
  • Adobe L3 → 10%
  • Adobe L4 → 15%
  • Adobe L5 → 15%

Target bonuses used to be much lower. In 2019, Adobe offered 5-7% for junior to mid-level employees. This component was increased  to compete with other big tech companies.

Performance bonus targets are not negotiable, but it's important to include it in your total compensation when comparing to other offers, especially when comparing to companies like Amazon that are much less likely to pay performance bonuses.

Here is the exact wording from an Adobe offer letter:

"Annual Incentive Plan (AIP) Bonus: You will also be eligible to participate in Adobe’s Annual Incentive Plan (“AIP”). Your target bonus percentage under the AIP is 15% of your annual fixed salary per year, subject to the terms and conditions of the applicable AIP. Employees hired before October 1st will be eligible to participate in the AIP and earn a prorated bonus for the remainder of any ongoing AIP period, subject to the terms and conditions of the applicable Plan. Employees who join on or after October 1st will be eligible to participate in any AIP Plan beginning with the next fiscal year. A copy of the current year AIP is posted on the company intranet site."

Signing Bonus

Adobe typically pays below average signing bonuses. Though their top of band numbers for signing bonuses are pretty competitive. As a general rule, they try not to give out signing bonuses in initial offers and numbers are typically low when they do include it. After negotiation, a signing bonus of 25/30k would be considered great. We have seen cases where larger signing bonuses of 50k have been given out, but this is rare. For comparison, signing bonuses for relatively junior roles at Facebook (i.e. E4) can go as high as $75k.

One important note is that we have also been able to negotiate an additional "anniversary bonus" with Adobe in the past, but this does require a very well executed negotiation. This is effectively a larger signing bonus split over the first two years of your employment.

Adobe will clawback a portion of your signing bonus if you leave before the 1-year mark. However, this is normal for major tech companies, and they only require you to repay the pro rata amount. We've included the exact wording from an Adobe offer letter below:

"Sign-on Bonus: Should you accept this employment offer and join Adobe, you will receive a sign-on bonus of $25,000.00 (less appropriate withholding taxes), payable within 45 days after your start date. You must reimburse the company for this amount, prorated for each full month worked after your start date, should you voluntarily terminate your employment or if your employment is terminated for cause within the first year after your start date. You authorize Adobe to deduct any remaining sign-on bonus balance from your final paycheck."

Stock Refreshers

The expectation for most levels at Adobe is that you won't receive yearly stock refreshers. Unlike at Facebook and Apple where refreshers are given to almost everyone, at Adobe refreshers are primarily for retaining top performers. Not everyone gets them and it is very much based on the org and manager of the team. In the cases where refreshers are given, they are sizeable. To give you a rough idea, at the L4 level refreshers can range from 75-125k. Asking for the range of expected refreshers at your level and what % of engineers receive these amounts is a good idea for your negotiation.

You should factor in refreshers at other companies when comparing to your Adobe offer. This is a good additional point of leverage during a negotiation with Adobe. Many companies and recruiters don't voluntarily disclose target refreshers but will share numbers when asked, which you can then present to Adobe as justification for increasing your offer.

Adobe Negotiation Process

Candidates often find it helpful to have a high-level overview of the negotiation process, which we will cover below.

But before jumping into that, here is a quick overview of Adobe's software engineering levels. Adobe has had a number of format changes when it comes to leveling over the past couple of years, which does lead to some confusion. You may remember the old ESDEP# format used a while ago, but now they have a more straight forward SWE 1-7 system.

  • L1 (Software Engineer 1, AMTS) → Google L3
  • L2 (Software Engineer 2, MTS) → Google L3
  • L3 (Software Engineer 3, SMTS) → Google L4
  • L4 (Senior Software Engineer, CS 1) → Google L4 (on the edge of L5)
  • L5 (Staff Software Engineer, CS 2) → Google L5
  • L5.5 (Senior Staff Software Engineer, Senior CS) →  Google L5/L6
  • L6 (Director, Principle Scientist) → Google L6/L7
  • L7 (Senior Director, Senior Principle Scientist) → Google L7/L8

If you have not yet received an offer from Adobe, there are a few mistakes to avoid. These can significantly limit your upside during the negotiation.

  1. Do not share your current compensation. In many states (e.g. California) it is illegal for companies to ask this, so you are certainly within your rights to say "I do not feel comfortable sharing that information".
  2. Do not share your compensation expectations. It is in your best interest to deflect this question until Adobe has extended an offer. It is certainly harmful to share a low number but sharing a very high number can also be a bad start to the negotiation as this will increase the likelihood that you are asked for proof of a competing offer. Instead, reply with something along the lines of "Right now I'm focused on the interview process and don't have a number in mind, but I'm confident we will be able to get to a number that works for both of us".

With that out of the way, let's discuss the process for Adobe salary negotiations.

  1. After finishing up your onsite, you will typically hear back from a recruiter within ~1 week.
  2. The recruiter will reach out to setup a call. Often saying something along the lines of "I have some exciting news to share". This is the offer call. They may tell you beforehand if you can expect an offer or if they will be asking for your compensation expectations.
  3. On the offer call, the recruiter may push you for compensation expectations. But if properly deflected, at L5 and below they are often willing to give an initial offer.
  4. Adobe has been quite flexible with timelines across most of the negotiations we have done.
  5. We recommend you take time to digest the initial offer and consider the best point of leverage for your counter offer discussion.
  6. You should then setup your second call with the recruiter to discuss the offer. On that call you will disclose your counter offer. The recruiter will likely push back mentioning that there are set bands based on location and role.  Here at Moonchaser, we build a tree diagram unique to your situation with the most likely objections and the optimal responses to those objections. The goal is to get the recruiter to take your counter-offer number back to the team as needed. The recruiter will need to get approval from the compensation committee to issue a new offer.
  7. You will usually hear back in a few days with their "final" offer but in some cases it's even faster. We have had recruiters share numbers they will "try to get" on the counter offer call and come back with updated numbers in the same day, so be prepared to receive the updated offer and potentially counter again.

There are two primary differences between junior and senior negotiations at Adobe:

  1. Senior employees are likely to see fewer pressure tactics compared to junior employees. For example, requests for competing offers in writing can be more easily deflected. Generally speaking, recruiters working with these candidates provide more of a white glove service.
  2. Recruiters will push you more to give them an initial number if you are more senior, rather than providing an offer. Given the importance of senior leaders and the wide range of the salary bands, they are typically hesitant to risk losing a candidate. This means the first number you provide is hugely important for anchoring the negotiation.

Adobe-Specific Negotiation Advice

Here are some important pieces of information to keep in mind when negotiating your Adobe compensation.

Willing to negotiate early: If Adobe knows you are interviewing with other good companies like Amazon or Google, they typically won't require you to finish those interviews, and instead they are willing to start the negotiation process early. In some cases even without a competing offer you can get Adobe to increase numbers, but you must be a very strong candidate and play your cards right.  If you do start the process early, they may ask you to sign upon securing an increase. This can be a good approach when Adobe is the main company you wish to join. However, it's very important to word these "early negotiation" conversations carefully, as your leverage is less clearly established. This can make the difference between a nominal increase and a significant increase.

Comp committee: At Adobe, the compensation team is a group of analysts that increase offers based on market factors. As a result, competing opportunities are effective when presented to them and for highly-desired candidates they are more willing to go to the top of their band. This is a sharp contrast to companies like Google that are less influenced by competing offers.

Hiring Manager: Hiring managers can play an important role during these negotiations. As a smaller company compared to FAANG, hiring managers usually have more input when it comes to comp and leveling requests, so it is definitely worthwhile to build rapport with them throughout the process. The majority of the compensation negotiation will take place between you, the recruiter, and the compensation committee.

Above band offers: Adobe is almost never willing to go above band, even with strong leverage in the form of a competing offer or a promotion opportunity at your current workplace. The bands for each role are capped based on level and location. The recruiter has to take competing offers and numbers to the comp committee in order to get new numbers approved. If your request for above band numbers is denied, there are still some options (e.g. looping in hiring manager, pushing for up-level, etc.), so definitely don't give up hope if this happens early in the negotiation. From our experience, the recruiters have been pretty transparent with their top of bands once a competing opportunity is shared.

Don't need competing offers in writing: Typically, Adobe does not ask to see competing opportunities in writing, unlike Google which always requires it. This is helpful in situations where you don't have the official competing offer in writing. However, almost all companies will ask for numbers in writing if you make an outlandish request (e.g. $1M in equity for Facebook E5).

Negotiate Your Offer

1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

Negotiation strategy

Step 1 is defining the strategy, which often starts by helping you create leverage for your negotiation (e.g. setting up conversations with FAANG recruiters).

Negotiation anchor number

Step 2 we decide on anchor numbers and target numbers with the goal of securing a top of band offer, based on our internal verified data sets.

Negotiation execution plan

Step 3 we create custom scripts for each of your calls, practice multiple 1:1 mock negotiations, and join your recruiter calls to guide you via chat.