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Discussion on: β€œWhat is your current salary?” is a red flag that you don’t want to work here

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alexmartelli profile image
Alex Martelli

At or near the peak of my career, I come to this in a diametrically opposed approach: I FRONT by explaining the minimum range of total comp I will even consider. If they want to know what I make now, fine -- though "salary" is totally absurd, what matters is of course the total of:
salary +
bonus [if usually large enough -- in some niches, e.g. in finance, it can be larger than salary!] +
stock-based compensation [based on current stock prices of course] +
quantifiable benefits if any, such as:

  • 401k matching
  • partial/total reimbursement and/or time off for e.g. college/specialization courses/conferences
  • HSA employer contribution if I choose a high-deductible health plan (here in the US)
  • employer-paid professional memberships and/or journal subscriptions... you may think these are trifles, but in total they can come to tens of thousands of $$/year, TAX-FREE, at the high end -- not quite negligible even if your total comp, pre-tax, comes to the 7-digits threshold!-)

Whatever I'm making now, since I love my job and my employer, I won't even bother going through the interviewing process without a realistic prospect of at least a 20% increase -- just not worth it!

Ever since adopting this policy I've drastically reduced the number of interview rounds I've gone through, acing them, just to be offered a total comp less-than-or-equal than I'm already making -- after all, few companies can easily beat my current employer (Google) when it comes to spoiling a long-tenured, very senior, outperforming engineer...

...especially, with substantial parts of the comp packet being stock-based, now that stock price has more than doubled since Jan 2020 -- every month I vest some more restricted shares from grants made as far back as 2017, based on stock prices about 1/4th as big as they are today, which of course "bloats up" my total comp... new yearly stock grants, being based on current stock prices, will be smaller even if my perf ratings keep exceeding expectations--but, old grants keep vesting for 48 months since they started...:-)

Before I adopted this policy, I tried interviewing with many local (Silicon Valley) firms of good repute, just for the fun of it (I love taking interviews -- just as I used to love taking exams back in college >40 years ago -- I always WAY outperform my actual, real-life skills in such settings... what can I say, some of us are weird!-) and to calibrate and ensure I was being compensated at-least-fairly at my current beloved job -- this is pretty expected in the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Sometimes I didn't quite make it, more often I obviously aced things... and got miserly offers... except once where I did get offered enough total comp to sway me, BUT, it was (to the credit of that firm's recruiting system!) made it totally clear what was expected on me -- basically, within about a year, to turn around the software development/testing/CI/CD/&c mindset and culture of the whole company (a few thousand engineers and key stakeholders) without any formal authority (as a very senior IC, not a manager), but strictly by "leading by example", exhorting, etc.

Even my admitted hubris was not high enough to take THIS challenge -- I regretfully declined and stuck with Google. (Incidentally, that company's stock since they extended me that offer 5 years ago is +20% -- GOOG is about +300%... maybe I just got lucky declining that offer, would be far from the first time in my long career that Lady Fortuna favored me:-).

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ Author

Thanks for sharing!