Hi, we're the team behind Levels.fyi, the most accurate resource for finding and negotiating tech salaries, ask us anything!

2021-07-01
Hi, we're Levels.fyi cofounders Zuhayeer and Zaheer, along with lead salary negotiator Sarah. We created Levels.fyi in 2017 as a simple visualization tool to compare titles across companies and it quickly grew it into tech's largest and most accurate salary database. Last year we launched our salary negotiation service through which we coach people to negotiate higher salaries with prospective employers. We're here to answer your questions on compensation, negotiation, and more, ask us anything!

Links: Website | Twitter

AMA Rules:
  • This AMA will be open for questions until midnight UTC on 2021-07-01.
  • All plain text links will automatically be turned into hyperlinks.
  • Please keep your questions specific and to the point.
  • Be chill, we're here to have fun!

57 Comments

This AMA has concluded.
anonymous   Jun 30
What would be your advice for negotiating a mid-level Tech offer from a private company whose TC only includes Base Salary and no bonus, stock options?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
If the company only provides base salary H1B data becomes much more useful (since it only includes salary) and I'd suggest checking out sites like https://h1bdata.info/ to determine the salary range. You can also ask the recruiter for what the salary band is for that level - in some states it's required for companies to answer this. More generally though, the tactics for negotiation remain the same: 1) Be confident to ask for more 2) Get competing offers if possible (highest form of leverage) 3) Ask for more (again)! It's a job-seekers market today. Employers are finding it incredibly difficult to hire good talent right now.
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sxc   Jun 30
Which sectors do you see have constantly decreasing salaries?

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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
I don’t think we’ve seen any sectors actively decrease salaries. More commonly, companies just don’t adjust their salaries for inflation or to keep up with the market effectively decreasing their salaries indirectly.
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tldrdan   Jun 30
Hi guys,

Thanks for being here. A few questions I had: 1) What is the most common mistake you see when engineers are negotiating compensation for new positions? 2) How do you think the rise of remote work will affect developer and tech worker compensation? 3) What career advice would you give to students or early career tech workers to maximize their lifetime earning potential?

Dan
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Hi!

1) The number 1 mistake that folks make when negotiating their salaries is revealing their current salary or compensation expectations too early. Instead, we encourage folks to deflect that question back and ask what the range is for the role, especially if it's early in the process.

2) It's still early days as to how a lot of companies are deciding to approach remote compensation. We'll likely see a mix of different ways companies evaluate compensation. Many larger companies currently bucket US locations into Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 locations, with Tier 1 being the highest paid (SF Bay Area, NY). Others provide a percentile scale for different metro cities across the US (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25966518). And even others still provide the same compensation regardless of location. It's hard to say what this might converge to longer term, but even for the compensation adjustments by location, most salaries will not ever go below 70% of the HQ location which is quite noteworthy. As you might expect, the highest leverage employees at higher levels and in specialized roles will likely have the most flexibility to be remote and still command a high salary.

3) Build things! It's fun to build stuff, and you learn way more by building something than reading a textbook. Especially as a student when you have a lot of time on your hands, you can use stretches of the week to really explore and create whatever you want. That's actually how Levels.fyi got started. I was in college working on it for fun with Zaheer as a way to compare leveling across companies. You never know where it can lead. And even if they lead nowhere, side projects are also great talking points and differentiators for you on paper when applying to a company you really want to work at. In fact, I even tell friends who want a job at a specific company to build something complementary to the product and send it to the team. Being on the other side of the table, it's always awesome to talk to a prospective candidate about what they've built for fun!

- Zuhayeer
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anonymous2   Jun 30
if I failed at negotiating a higher salary and accepted the offer anyway - how long should I wait before I broach the topic of a raise and how do you suggest I approach it (I'm currently 2 months in and I have recruiters offering me more senior roles but on a contract basis)?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Raises are much harder to negotiate. Your biggest form of leverage when you’re already within a company is walking away. That said, it takes some time to demonstrate your value to companies. I think 9+ months is reasonable to begin approaching it again. Within that time you’ll want to ensure you’ve demonstrated your value and show you’re more valuable than the expectation the company had when hiring you. If you’re demonstrating high performance you can begin having a conversation with your manager that you may have been down-leveled or actually should be at the top end of your level for compensation. Negotiating a new offer is making the case for your _potential value_ add to a company if you were to join. While you are at a company, negotiating for your existing role would be making the case for your _past performance_ (helpful to keep notes of milestones and significant projects you've worked on to bring up with your manager). It's always easier to make the case for future potential, which is why internal negotiations are a bit harder.
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CompMover   Jun 30
I have a question from the opposite side - how do you convince your company that the salaries we're paying need to be more competitive? I've been pulling together candidates who decline because of comp, other offers they're getting, and market data. Is there anything else I can do?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
The best thing to do is show them the data. Chat with the Total Rewards / Compensation / HR people at your company and make the case for why increasing salaries will help them attract the talent they want.

Keep in mind companies don't always want to pay the most. Each company decides where they want to fall on market rate (ex. paying 70th percentile or 90th percentile). Companies like FAANG target 90th+ percentile of pay largely because they can afford it. Not every company can though and makes a conscious choice to pay at a lower range.
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belmer   Jun 30
What would VPE compensation look like for a late stage startup? How would you evaluate that offer against a public company?
3♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Late stage startup compensation is comparable to public companies these days. First difference to note is your equity likely will not be liquid. As such, be sure to assess the company's growth trajectory and when the next liquidity event may happen. Base salaries these days at late stage startups are very competitive with public companies. If the company doesn't offer performance bonus, ask for higher than market rate base to cover for inflation as well. Equity will tend to be higher to compensate for fact that it's not liquid. Remember to also ask for sign-on bonuses & equity refreshers and be sure to negotiate for a no clawback policy.

In terms of public vs private it really depends on your risk-tolerance and how badly you need liquid cash. Base salary will typically be enough to cover your annual expenses. Recent IPO's have made late stage startup very tempting. That said, the market could turn at any point and it's more of a personal choice.
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Juan   Jun 30
Which sectors do you see have constantly increasing salaries?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Tech as a whole has consistently seen increasing salaries. The demand for engineers and adjacent fields has never been higher and continues to go up as Software becomes part of every industry.
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Cyberdood   Jun 30
Do you plan on adding cybersecurity roles in the future?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
We have that as a tag already! We're working on making this more clear and distinct. https://www.levels.fyi/Salaries/Software-Engineer/Security/
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dweekly   Jun 30
Feature request: turn it around to be directive & advisory for individuals. Be able to create a profile and specify current company, ladder, level and compensation - and then get advice on "here are the set of companies where you could transfer to at your current ladder & level and the change in total compensation you could expect" with options to sort by comp, location, benefits, etc.
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Not exactly what you requested but we are trying to connect people with each other to improve their careers with our new community: https://www.levels.fyi/waitlist/
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FAANGer   Jul 1
Not so interested in the social piece, but like the above poster said - aggregate the data for me and show me what I should be targeting for a solid increase.
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
Ah yeah makes sense, we're working on building profiles now and can explore something like this after
1♥   
andrew   Jun 30
what's next for Levels.fyi?

as a consumer, i love having more data. but i'm curious what you guys will do next after having collected this data
2♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Our mission is to help professionals build better careers. We've only started to scratch the surface in terms of data honestly. We're looking to grow the breadth (more roles/industries) and depth (more companies ex. startups) of data we cover. The next natural question people have after they've seen the data is, "great how can I get paid more?" - our negotiation service helps people turn that data into action: https://www.levels.fyi/services/

Beyond information and services, there's tons of unstructured questions that people have (similar to this AMA). We're working on giving people a place to chat with each other and grow their career: https://www.levels.fyi/waitlist/
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andrew   Jun 30
thanks! didn't know about waitlist. signed up!
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Sasefa   Jun 30
1. What are the usual salaries your seeing in the retail tech industry for UX researchers? 2. What advice do you have for getting a raise or promotion within your first year?
2♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
1. UX Researcher salaries are similar to Product Designer salaries. Would suggest taking a look here: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Product%20Designer 2. It depends on the company's performance review cycle. Typically, in order for you to get a promotion or raise, you would need a rating first to justify for a raise or promotion.
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Sasefa   Jun 30
Thank you!
1♥   
Quietus   Jun 30
Is "FAANG" a misnomer when it comes to top tech compensation? Especially when there are many other firms that also offer considerable pay?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
While FAANG does pay a lot, you're absolutely right that there's many other companies that pay just as competitively if not even more. For example, in our 2020 pay report (https://levels.fyi/2020), none of the FAANG even made it on the list for entry level. At much higher levels, FAANG gets a lot more representation, but data is also very sparse at the highest levels and I'm sure many late stage private (especially given growth) / other public companies are able offer comparable if not higher packages.
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anonymous2   Jun 30
can you share tips for negotiating salary/vacation?
2♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Happy to answer more specific questions on this. We've published some material and done some videos on general negotiation strategies: - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9BoG1n1948 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyn0CKPuPlA - https://www.levels.fyi/blog/startup-offer-negotiation.html - https://www.levels.fyi/blog/google-salary-negotiation.html
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caro   Jul 1
I'm a data scientist who's been in the field a couple years (with a bachelor's in math and computer sci), but have only moved up within my company (with some moderate pay increases). I love my job right now and will be moving onto a new team soon; any advice for advocating for a new salary/raise within the same company but on a new team? Data science is a bit newer to the company and salaries seem to be a bit lower than industry (but it's also hard to find relevant salary information since data science is such a broad title right now). Advice?
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JStone   Jul 1
When are you going to add the Tampa / St. Petersburg Area of Florida to Levels.fyi?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
While we don't have specific pages yet, you can still search for the location on our compensation page, for example, Tampa: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Software%20Engineer&search=Tampa
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Defanged   Jul 1
What's a decent way to figure out what companies pay for remote positions, knowing that they'll pay less depending on where you live, but only non-remote positions are shown on Levels.fyi? Especially FAANG companies...
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
We actually do have a remote tag (visible in the other details when you expand a salary). You can search for remote salary data points through our compensation page: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Software%20Engineer&search=Remote
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jackasmith   Jul 1
How much equity is reasonable for a chief of staff (or similar role) with c.3-5yrs prior work experience for a start-up which as received seed funding? (0.5%? 1%?)
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
Hard to tell – not a lot of data specifically for Chief of Staff role even anecdotally. A lot of it depends on the company headcount, how fast they're growing, as well as current valuation. Especially early stage, these equity figures can vary a lot. There are no hard rules, but this guide can generally give you a sense for equity distribution by mapping to the closest role and what number hire you may be: https://www.holloway.com/g/equity-compensation/sections/typical-employee-equity-levels
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anonymous300   Jun 30
How do you go about evaluating stock options? I know how many options I have but no idea of the total denominator. Even if I did, couldn't the company always issue more options, thus diluting what I own?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
Step 1: Figure out how many outstanding shares there are. Ideally you should have asked this before joining the company in fact. We actually wrote up some more tips and evaluation criteria here: https://www.levels.fyi/blog/startup-offer-negotiation.html
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anonymous3   Jun 30
Hi there, 1) What are some easy or common red flags (e.g. potentially under-compensating new employees)? 2) What are reasonable expectations when it comes to raises, bonuses, for tech startups? 3) How often do employees stay at their current company? E.g., is it easier to re-negotiate a salary or find a new position? Thank you!
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
1) One of the biggest red flags we've seen with startups is not disclosing your ownership percentage within a company. If you're given some number of shares, you should definitely also have an idea for what the outstanding share number is so that you can determine your ownership. Also after a round of financing, you should be able to inquire about valuation and share price. 2) We've answered some of this in other posts, but raises and bonuses are tough and different across different companies depending on their compensation philosophy. The best way to go about this is to have a conversation with your manager about your past work and potentially interview to get external data points. You have the highest leverage if you're willing to walk away. 3) It depends, churn is higher in the tech industry, and you do see people switch companies within 2 years. It's much easier to negotiate a new offer up, which is part of the draw to ping pong around. However, if you join a company with meaningful work and strong growth over time, re-negotiation will likely be less significant (definitely still do it!) as compared to your stock compensation (golden handcuffs) – you likely won't want to switch anyway. (This is actually part of how salaries increase over time. To draw folks away from a really high growth company, you have to pay much more within a certain level to account for their unvested stock, shifting the midpoint salary within a role or level higher)
1♥   
tldr   Jun 30
What would be your advice to tackle voluntary career breaks (with 2-3 yrs exp) ? How to not let it impact comp negotiation negatively ?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jul 1
Generally shouldn't impact comp too negatively. It may be slightly harder to get a job though in this market that may not even be the case. I would suggest just having a story ready to say for whatever the reason (volunteering, taking care of family, traveling, etc). Ideally have some side projects to show in the meantime just to show that you've kept active in the industry for the duration.
2♥   
Iris   Jun 30
I’m currently attempting to negotiate a raise with my company as they pay significantly less than market rate for devs and they are asking for benchmarks in the industry to compare to (specifically web developers working for ecommerce industry, but not retail). This information is difficult to come by, and often this will depend on the stack, the location of the company, and the size of the company, it seems to vary wildly. Any advice for how to provide adequate benchmarks or negotiate with a lack of benchmarks?
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
It might be worth it to interview externally for some data points. You can also triangulate some of this using the focus tag below the level name on our compensation page: https://levels.fyi/comp.html?showFilters coupled with asking on places like Reddit threads for some ballpark figures. You can also try looking through our company directory (we list some related companies on the sidebar on a company specific page): https://levels.fyi/company/

Copy / pasting from another reply we made regarding raises / internal negotiations: Raises are much harder to negotiate. Your biggest form of leverage when you’re already within a company is walking away. That said, it takes some time to demonstrate your value to companies. I think 9+ months is reasonable to begin approaching it again. Within that time you’ll want to ensure you’ve demonstrated your value and show you’re more valuable than the expectation the company had when hiring you. If you’re demonstrating high performance you can begin having a conversation with your manager that you may have been down-leveled or actually should be at the top end of your level for compensation. Negotiating a new offer is making the case for your _potential value_ add to a company if you were to join. While you are at a company, negotiating for your existing role would be making the case for your _past performance_ (helpful to keep notes of milestones and significant projects you've worked on to bring up with your manager). It's always easier to make the case for future potential, which is why internal negotiations are a bit harder.
1♥   
vic   Jun 30
I see some datapoints where a person with 5 years of work exp (forget about race being white for a second) getting an L6 offer at FB. This seems crazy and I'd love to learn more about how the individual worked to get to this point.
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Yeah thats something we've been thinking about publishing on: specific individual's career trajectories, and how they got to where they are. Did they ping pong across a number of companies to get here, or did they stick through a single company for a while etc. We're just adding user accounts to Levels.fyi, and a part of that functionality will allow you to map your trajectory and career history, which can be pretty cool.
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anon   Jun 30
How often are RSU refreshes competitive with the original offer? In my experience, the drop-off is always pretty high. Why aren't companies good at rebasing comp with new market rates?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
As we mentioned in some previous responses, raises and refreshes are much harder to negotiate and typically lower than new hire offers, the reason being a lot of this can index on past performance vs potential future outcome (ie new hires). When companies do compensation planning they are usually focused mainly on the future, and only partially to catch up existing employees.
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nj1   Jun 30
It feels like there are two classes of engineers in the US. One class of engineers makes 60k-120k and the other makes 150k-500k.

Is this just a really well kept secret? I don't really see many engineers trying to migrate from the first class to the second class. I'd expect most software engineers would jump through hoops at the prospect of doubling their salary.
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levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Yes and that's generally true for many professions. Pay tends to be bi-modal. The top companies (in any field) pay significantly more (ex. top lawyer / accountants at top firms vs the avg lawyer / accountant). Through our negotiation service we've actually seen many folks from the first class migrating to the second class. I've also had colleagues when I was at Amazon / LinkedIn that came from the 'first class' of companies. It can often feel as world's apart but I do think people try to move up to second class level of companies but may often be limited by access (location), skillset, etc.
3♥   
someone   Jun 30
How much do folks at levelsfyi make?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Hah! We're just starting to hire. Email us at [email protected] if you're interested. We're looking for full-stack engineers with experience with Node.js / Next.js. Fully-remote with Pacific time zone preferred. Compensation: $100-180K Base (depending on experience) + Equity.
1♥   
jordan   Jun 30
1) What is the highest increase in salary you have helped negotiate? 2) Have you found that women tend to be less aggressive in negotiating? 3) Do you have advice specific to women negotiating salaries?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
1) Still blows me away, but we were able to negotiate a $750k increase in first year total compensation (including base, equity, and bonus) for a manager role at a FAANG company. This was at a much higher level, but still incredible to get these outcomes for folks. 2) Yes, we have noticed that women (and minority groups) tend to be a bit more hesitant to ask for more. Many times people are afraid negotiating will ruin the relationship with their manager - this won't happen, always negotiate! 3) Much of the reason people don't negotiate is due to confidence. The most practical tip is to take the conversation to email. It's much easier (and way less stressful) to negotiate and ask for more over email rather than on a call.
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scalfan   Jun 30
All else being the same (skill level, seniority, resume, etc.), what type of company pays the most? If I am just optimizing for salary should I go to FAANG, a late stage startup, quant finance, or something else?
1♥   
levelsfyi ⭐  Jun 30
Generally: Quant finance > Late stage startups (with caveat your equity may not be liquid) > FAANG

Our end of the year report may be helpful. Note there isn't as many quant companies in the top rankings partly due to how little data we've collected for those companies. I expect that to change in this year's rankings. https://www.levels.fyi/2020/
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