Airbnb is known in the industry as a top tier product-oriented company that typically hires candidates at the senior level and above. After a rough start to 2020 with heavy travel restrictions and an unfortunate number of layoffs, the company quickly recovered by capitalizing on the significant uptick in domestic travel. Airbnb rode that wave all the way to its long-planned IPO, which finally happened in December 2020. It's had a volatile first year as a public company, but the stock is up 35% since the IPO.
The goal of this guide is to equip you with the information you need for your upcoming Airbnb negotiation. 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 expert negotiators.
Before starting any negotiation, it is important to understand the compensation structure offered by each company you're speaking with. Airbnb offers the following compensation components for Software Engineers:
Below is a G8 Software Engineering offer at Airbnb.
Note: stock refreshers likely won't be listed in the offer letter, but they are expected at Airbnb. Ask your recruiter about this for more information on ranges.
Depending on where you're located, the base salary offered by Airbnb will differ, along with the rest of the compensation components. Airbnb compensates people according to the cost of living in their respective location, as well as the going market rate for engineers in the area, so it's important to be mindful of how your location will affect what you're paid. If you are not in the Bay Area, NYC or Seattle, your comp will likely be lower than the numbers you find online.
With that being out of the way, base salary at Airbnb, unsurprisingly, is the component that moves the least when negotiating. Airbnb has a small band for base salary within each level, so you'll likely only see your base move by a maximum of $30k.
Stock Options or Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)
Like many companies at this size, Airbnb's most negotiable compensation component is RSUs. We've seen the stock grants for G9 Software Engineers in the Bay Area range from $600k over 4 years, to $800k over 4 years. That range for equity continues to increase as the levels increase.
At Airbnb, RSUs are subject to a 4-year vesting schedule: 25% vests at the end of the 1st year cliff, then 25% in each of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years (6.25% every 3 months). For example, if you were given a stock grant of 400k over 4 years, the equity would vest as follows:
Airbnb is more reluctant to pay out signing bonuses, but they will do so if sufficient leverage via competing offer or retention bonus is presented. The signing bonuses offered are not as competitive as some other companies. For example, Facebook will offer up to $100k signing bonuses for E5 software engineers, while at Airbnb signing bonuses for G9 will max out at around $50k.
Airbnb will pay out the full signing bonus in year 1 - we have not seen them split it over 2 years, which Microsoft and Snap are known for doing. One important thing to be aware of is when presenting competing opportunities, Airbnb may say "we've matched your requested yearly compensation in year 1 with the signing bonus". This is a common trap recruiters set for candidates, to encourage them to sign despite the fact that their compensation decreases from year 2 onwards. To mitigate this, make sure to present compensation either as a 4-year value, or divide the signing bonus over the 4 years and factor that into the yearly compensation requested.
Airbnb does offer performance bonuses, which is a very important thing to be aware of when negotiating, especially when other companies you are talking to don't offer a comparable bonus structure. One interesting aspect is that Airbnb does not apply a company multiplier to performance bonuses, which they do for stock refreshers (more on the below). Here are the target bonus numbers for Airbnb:
Of course, performance bonuses are non-negotiable, but if negotiating with a company like DoorDash that doesn't offer these bonuses, you can always factor it into your counter offer's base salary as your "yearly cash amount".
Airbnb issues stock refreshers annually, which stack on top of the initial equity grant you receive. However, detailed information about the range for these refreshers and when they'll be given out is not mentioned in the offer letter. Your recruiter will be the best source of information about current targets (which vary by role/level/location) especially as the company continues to grow.
Stock refreshers at Airbnb have a multiplier based on your job performance and the company's performance as well. Airbnb refresher multipliers aren't officially communicated but generally are as follows:
Meets Expectations = 1 x refresher grant total
Exceeds Expectations = 1.25 x refresher grant total
Greatly Exceeds Expectations = 2 x refresher grant total
Redefines Expectations = 3 x refresher grant total
Target numbers are potentially changing in 2022 as the company moves to a more stable post-IPO structure, but for now, we've seen the following:
These refreshers will begin after year 1, and vest evenly over 4 years. You will continue to accrue refresher grants on a yearly basis.
Candidates often find it helpful to have a high-level overview of the negotiation process. But before diving into that, it's important to understand how Airbnb's levels compare to other tech companies.
One key point to be aware of is that Airbnb has recently changed the verbiage around their leveling system, which will be addressed below. The old leveling verbiage tracks closely to Google's leveling system (i.e. L5 is equivalent to senior software engineer).
This leveling change is still fairly new, so don't worry if you accidentally use the wrong terms with your recruiter. One other thing to note is that they'll frequently drop the "G", just calling the levels by their numbers instead. This change is another reason why a lot of the data online can be misleading, since there is a big difference between G7 and the old L7.
If you have not yet received an offer from Airbnb, here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
With that out of the way, let's discuss the negotiation process at Airbnb:
Not always able to match offers: Airbnb is often competing with FAANG companies for top tier engineers. Airbnb will usually match Google, Amazon and Apple offers. In those scenarios, the goal is to get them to beat your competing offer by the largest margin possible. With Facebook and Netflix cross offers, Airbnb is typically unable to match and different negotiation tactics are required.
Willing to give time: Despite their eagerness to close the negotiation process and lock-in the best engineers, Airbnb knows that pushing hard deadlines on offers will scare candidates off, so they tend to be more willing to give additional time for candidates to respond as needed. We rarely run into hard deadlines when negotiating with Airbnb.
Rarely uplevels: Some companies, like Facebook and Amazon, may be more willing to negotiate level placement if the candidate pushes back. At Airbnb, they will only reconsider your leveling placement if you have a hiring manager backing you throughout the process. Having a strong manager relationship is key if you feel that you've been downleveled. As a note, the hiring committee determines leveling placement exclusively, hence the difficulty in changing leveling placement once decided.
Willing to negotiate: Despite their reluctance to move on level, compensation is a different story. Airbnb is always fighting for strong engineers and is willing to pay what they can to get folks to sign on the dotted line. They may not be able to match your Facebook or Netflix offer 1 to 1, but they will work to get you an offer that's more competitive, and with their strong stock refresher package, the offer may end up being higher than initially expected.
Unique perks: One of the unique benefits of working at Airbnb is the paid company holidays they offer. Along with the standard bank holidays, they also declare December 20 - January 1 a company holiday, allowing families to take extended time off without having to schedule vacation. They also offer competitive relocation bonuses, often providing up to $20k, depending on the move and the amount of people relocating with you.
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).
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.
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.