Google salary negotiation
Company Guide
March 22, 2021

Google Salary Negotiation

The goal of this guide is to equip you with the essential pieces of information you need for your upcoming Google negotiation. Google is one of the most sought after companies to work for in the tech industry, but they are also one of the most difficult to negotiate with. 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.

Negotiate Your Offer
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Base Salary $150,000 $150,000 $150,000 $150,000
Signing Bonus $110,000 $85,000
Amazon RSU
% vesting (60 shares)
$10,000 $30,000 $80,000 $80,000
Performance Bonus N/A N/A N/A N/A
Stock Refreshers N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total Compensation $270,000 $265,000 $230,000 $230,000

Table of Contents

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

Google Offer Compensation Components

Before starting any negotiation, it is critical you fully understand the compensation components offered. A typical job offer for a tech role at Google (e.g. Software Engineer) should contain the following monetary components:

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

This is what an example Google L6 offer looks like over a 4-year period:

The high-level overview of compensation is certainly helpful, but there is a lot of important nuance for each of these components that is quite different at Google vs other FAANG companies.

Base Salary

Google's base salary component is fairly standard. There is 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. It is certainly possible to negotiate this component, but the increase will typically be smaller than what is possible for the equity component.

Signing Bonus

Not all Google offers include a signing bonus by default. It's a common recruiter trick to leave it out of the initial offer. For most technical roles at Google, it is possible to negotiate a higher signing bonus even if it's not in your initial offer. The two most helpful pieces of leverage are 1) competing offers 2) retention bonuses at your current company. Google's signing bonuses aren't as significant as other peers in the industry (e.g. Facebook). Many L5 software engineers we've worked with at Moonchaser have been able to negotiate a $100K signing bonus with Facebook, whereas at Google it is rare to get above $50K (though $75K is possible) for the L5 level.

Google will pay your signing bonus in your first month of employment - unlike Amazon which is prorated. However, they do require you to repay a portion of your signing bonus if you leave before the 1-year mark. Below is the wording from a Google offer Moonchaser recently negotiated (note: $30K is a high signing bonus for L3).

"Sign-On Bonus: Google will pay you a one-time Sign-On Bonus of $30,000.00, less applicable deductions and tax withholding, within thirty (30) days following your start date at Google, subject to your continued Google employment on the payment date of the Sign-On Bonus (the "Sign-On Bonus Payment Date"). Should your Google employment end on or before the 12 month anniversary of the Sign-On Bonus Payment Date, you agree to repay the Sign-On Bonus on a prorated basis."

Equity (RSUs)

Recently, Google has changed their equity vesting schedule to the 33/33/22/12 structure. This means if you are granted $700K RSUs, you will receive the following:

  • Year 1: 33% ($231K)
  • Year 2: 33% ($231K)
  • Year 3: 22% ($154K)
  • Year 4: 12% ($84K)

In combination with this change to the equity structure, Google is now attempting to only match cross offers in years 1 and 2. They will make the claim that years 3 and 4 are matched via stock refreshers. This frequently false, but they are even willing to use it against offers from Facebook and Apple, both of which are known to have better stock refresher packages. When countering with Google, make sure you're asking for a specific offer breakdown, or 4 year value, depending on the company you have a competing offer from. If you ask for a yearly value, they'll only match that in the first two years.

Google has a number of different vesting schedules depending on role and seniority, but it is fairly common to have vest dates every 3 months or even every month, which is the highest frequency in FAANG.

Equity is the most negotiable component of a Google offer. Not only is the equity band larger than for other components like base salary or signing bonus, but it is also easier to go "above band" if you are a particularly strong candidate with competitive cross offers. That said, there are some key tactics to be aware of when negotiating equity with Google, which are covered in negotiation tips below.

Performance Bonus

Performance bonuses at Google are very stable. While it is true that they are technically based on both your performance and the company's performance, ~80% of engineers receive their target bonus or higher.

Google is quite transparent about target bonuses for each role/level. For example, an L6 software engineer will be given a 20% target bonus. Here is the wording from a Google offer letter:

"You are eligible to participate in the company discretionary bonus plan; your annual bonus target will be 20.0% of your base salary. The actual bonus amount could be larger or smaller than this amount, based on your performance, and the performance of the company. The exact bonus amount is at the sole discretion of Google. The components of your bonus are subject to periodic review."

While it's true this component is not negotiable, 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.

Stock Refreshers

Targets for Stock Refreshers are not publicly discussed and therefore are more difficult to evaluate when comparing total compensation between multiple offers. However, as a general rule, Google provides medium-sized refreshers - lower than Facebook and Apple, but higher than Amazon and Microsoft. It is worth asking your recruiter for the range for your role/level, as some are willing to disclose that information.

One unfortunate detail is that Google does not give refreshers your first year after joining.

Google Negotiation Process

Candidates often find it helpful to have a high-level overview of the negotiation process. However, this does vary by candidate, with one key vector being seniority. It's helpful to split into junior (L3 and L4) and senior levels (L5+). Here is a quick overview of Google levels:

  • L3 - Entry Level Software Engineer (often new grads with Bachelor or Masters degree)
  • L4 – Software Engineer (incl. new grad PHDs)
  • L5 - Senior Software Engineer
  • L6 - Staff Software Engineer
  • L7 - Senior Staff Software Engineer
  • L8 - Principal Software Engineer
  • L9 - Distinguished Engineer

If you have not yet received an offer from Google there are a few critical mistakes to avoid:

  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. Google recruiters will sometimes frame this as "seeing if you are a fit for the role". However, it is in your best interest to deflect this question until Google has extended an offer. One possible response is "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 Google L3/L4 tech employees.

  1. After completing your onsite interview, you will often hear back from your recruiter within ~1 week. They will give you the good news that you are moving on to the team matching stage
  2. Team matching can vary significantly for each individual. Some people wrap up team matching in a week, whereas for others, team matching can stretch out for months. We typically don't recommend negotiating with your recruiter during team matching, but it is reasonable to ask specific compensation related questions, which can help you negotiate other offers (this is helpful because Google is typically the slowest company you are interviewing with)
  3. After you have found a mutual fit with a team, the recruiter will submit your package to the hiring committee. Unfortunately, it is possible to get rejected at this stage. Note: you can sometimes push your recruiter to go to hiring committee and comp committee before team match, but that a) has higher chance of down level b) if you don't eventually team match your offer will be pulled
  4. Once the hiring committee has approved your package and confirmed your level, the recruiter will come back an initial number. This is the offer call
  5. During the offer call the recruiter will ask you how you feel about the offer and discuss timelines. Google is not typically aggressive on timelines and can often be pushed to extend
  6. We recommend you take time to digest the initial offer and consider the best point of leverage for your counter offer discussion
  7. You will 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 and 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 compensation committee
  8. Typically you will hear back in a few days with their "final" offer. It is possible to continue the negotiation at this point, but it often requires new information (e.g. you just received a higher Facebook offer)

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

  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, 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.

Google-Specific Negotiation Advice

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

Cross offers in writing: Google is known for pushing to see cross offers in writing. This can be difficult in a negotiation for two reasons: 1) some other companies avoid putting your offer in writing until you confirm you are ready to sign 2) your cross offer in writing lays all the cards on the table.  Some people claim that Google will refuse to negotiate without an offer in writing. That is the default but the truth is that it's situation dependent, and we've negotiated many increases without providing an offer in writing.

Google discounts cross offers: All big tech companies do this to some extent, but Google more than any other company. For starters, Google will discount private-company equity by ~25%. The craziest example we've seen is when negotiating between Waymo (which Google owns) and Google, where the Google compensation committee insisted that the Waymo stock was worth 25% less than what the Waymo offer letter stated. This is also true for bonuses. Google refused to match a major hedge fund's offer because they said bonus payments are tied to performance. This doesn't mean it's impossible to negotiate. It just means you need to be very strategic about what information you share.

Slow processes: Google typically has the slowest processes. This can make negotiations tricky especially if you are balancing other offers. It is possible to speed up the Google process if you disclose early that you have competing offers. There are also techniques to get Google recruiters to disclose ranges that you can leverage in other negotiations while you are still waiting on final numbers.

Google will rely on their brand: Often candidates bring competing offers expecting Google to match or beat those offers. However, in many cases Google will come in with a counter offer lower than the competitor. In these scenarios they are relying on their brand to win the cross offer. This is why it is critical to negotiate your competing offer as high as possible before bringing it to Google.

Negotiate Your Offer

1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

We've negotiated more than $25M in Google offers in 2021. Our largest Google increase was $720K.

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.