Zoom salary negotiation
Company Guide
September 2, 2021

Zoom Salary Negotiation

Almost no tech company benefited more from the COVID-19 pandemic than Zoom. The company saw sales spike nearly 400% in 2020 and growth has continued at a rapid pace in 2021. It's a great company to join but there are some drawbacks. Since Zoom's development team is primarily based in China, employees report that working there requires more collaboration with overseas teams and with that longer hours. Unfortunately, Zoom also pays below top of market in the US, but they are willing to negotiate offers.

The goal of this guide is to equip you with the essential pieces of information you need for your upcoming Zoom negotiation. These insights were distilled from the negotiations our team has done with Zoom.  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

Table of Contents

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

Zoom Offer Compensation Components

Before starting the negotiation, make sure you fully understand the compensation components offered. A typical job offer for a software engineering role at Zoom (e.g. ZP3) should contain the following monetary components:

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

This is what a Zoom ZP3 offer looks like over a 4-year period.

Base Salary

Zoom's base salary component is competitive relative to peers. For example, Zoom ZP3 maps to L4 at Google and when comparing the top of band base salary at these two companies, Zoom's base is actually slightly higher at 180k vs 175k.

As with most companies, Zoom 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. It is certainly possible to negotiate this component, but the increase will typically be smaller than what is possible for the equity or signing bonus component.

Zoom top of band numbers for base are discounted based on location like many other big tech companies, but for "tier 2" locations (such as Austin, Texas) the cut does not appear to be very significant.

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. Below is the exact verbiage from a Zoom offer.

"Subject to the approval of the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of Zoom, you will be granted a restricted stock unit award to be issued shares of Zoom’s Class A common stock (“RSUs”) with a value of <redacted>. The number of shares that may be issued under the RSUs will be determined by the Compensation Committee by reference to the trading price of Zoom’s Class A common stock in accordance with Zoom policy in place on the date of grant of the RSUs."

Zoom, like many other big tech companies, vests equity evenly over 4 years. This means if you are granted $240K RSUs, you will receive the following:

  • Year 1: 25% ($60K)
  • Year 2: 25% ($60K)
  • Year 3: 25% ($60K)
  • Year 4: 25% ($60K)

The most common vesting schedule for software engineers at Zoom 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.

Zoom is willing to negotiate equity and this is typically where we see the largest increase for offers we negotiate. However, compared to peers in the industry, equity bands cap out earlier and start much lower. To give you an idea, the top of band equity for ZP3 is about 100k less over four years compared to Google L4 top of band equity.

Performance Bonus

Performance bonuses at Zoom are fairly predictable. While they are based on both your performance and the company's performance, the majority of engineers receive their target bonus each year. This is very similar to companies like Facebook and Google.

Zoom is also quite transparent about target bonuses for each role. They are unique in that they have a set 8% target bonus across all levels (ZP2-ZP6). This is different compared to the rest of the industry where typically target bonuses increase with level. For example, Google L5 has a 15% target bonus which goes up to 25% for L7 engineers. Again, Zoom is unique with 8% across the board.  Here is the wording from a Zoom offer letter:

"You will be subject to the following bonus plan: a target annual bonus of 8% of salary that is based on meeting agreed-upon milestones established by a combination of your organization and/or the company's management, as reflected in the corporate incentive bonus program. The payout of any bonus is also subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors."

This component is 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.

Signing Bonus

Zoom typically pays below average signing bonuses. Its top of band numbers are well below Facebook's and Google's. 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. For example, signing bonuses for Facebook E4 can go as high as $75k compared to Zoom ZP3 where top of band is just $20k.

Despite this, it is still possible to negotiate a signing bonus for most tech roles. The two most helpful pieces of leverage are 1) competing offers 2) retention bonuses or unvested equity at your current company.

Zoom 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 a Zoom offer letter below:

"Although this one-time sign-on bonus is provided as a lump sum on your first payroll date following your start date, you understand and acknowledge below that it is expressly conditioned on your employment at Zoom for 12 months. Should you voluntarily choose to resign your employment at Zoom before the 12 months, you agree to re-pay a pro-rated amount of your sign-on bonus based on the time remaining of 12 months."

Stock Refreshers

The expectation for most levels at Zoom is that you won't receive yearly stock refreshers. However, Zoom does provide a stock refresher at the 4-year mark. This is meant to replace your initial equity grant which will finish vesting after 4 years. This is different than many other tech companies where "Meets All Expectations" is enough to guarantee refreshers after your first year and in subsequent years.

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

Zoom Negotiation Process

Candidates often find it helpful to have an overview of the Zoom leveling system. For comparison, we will use Google. Here is a quick overview of Zoom software engineering levels:

  • ZP2 (Software Engineer) → Google L3
  • ZP3 (Senior SWE) → Google L4
  • ZP4 (Staff SWE) → Google L5
  • ZP5 (Principle SWE) → Google L6
  • ZP6 (Director Level) → Google L7-8

If you have not yet received an offer from Zoom, there are a few mistakes to avoid. These can significantly limit your upside potential 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 Zoom 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 Zoom salary negotiations.

  1. After finishing up your onsite, you will typically hear back from a recruiter within ~1 week.
  2. A recruiter will reach out to setup a call. They will often say 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 ZP4 and below they are often willing to give an initial offer. They will also likely share interview feedback, which can be helpful later in the negotiation.
  4. Zoom 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. The recruiter will need to get approval from the compensation committee before providing an updated offer.
  7. You will usually hear back in a few days with their "final" offer. We have had recruiters 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 Zoom:

  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. That said, Zoom is pretty good about not using pressure tactics unlike Microsoft & Google.
  2. Recruiters will push you more to give them an initial number if you are being offered a senior position, 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.

Zoom-Specific Negotiation Advice

Here are some important pieces of information to keep in mind when negotiating your Zoom offer.

Willing to negotiate early: If Zoom knows you are interviewing with other good companies like Google or Amazon, they typically won't require you to finish those interviews and instead they are willing to start the negotiation process early. If you do start the process early though, they may ask you to sign upon securing an increase. This can be a good approach when Zoom 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 be the difference between a nominal increase and a significant increase.

Comp committee: At Zoom, 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.  Also, it's worth noting that recruiters are more likely to start giving timeline pressure once they bring a request for a higher offer to the comp team. As a general piece of advice, make sure you are close to finishing other processes you are interested in before initiating this to manage timelines.

Uplevel: Requests for upleveling can be made at Zoom. We have seen cases where candidates are able to successfully uplevel, however this requires a couple of things to be in place. To start, your experience and skills must be aligned with the level above. Your interview performance also needs to have been quite strong and head count available. Lastly, how you frame this request is critical. One great way to do this is if you have a competing opportunity with the scope you are trying to uplevel to, but there are a number of viable strategies.

Hiring Manager: Hiring managers can play an important role during these negotiations. As a smaller company compared to FAANG, Zoom hiring managers have some input when it comes to comp requests, so it is definitely worthwhile to build rapport with them throughout the process.

Above band offers: Zoom 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. However, 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.). From our experience, Zoom recruiters have been pretty transparent with their top of band numbers once a competing opportunity is shared.

Don't need competing offers in writing: Typically, Zoom does not ask to see competing opportunities in writing, unlike Google which almost always requires it. This is helpful in situations where you don't have the official competing offer in writing. That said, 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.