Compass salary negotiation
Company Guide
July 16, 2021

Compass Salary Negotiation

Compass' stock has struggled since it was listed in early 2021. However, the business fundamentals are solid, and the company has made some great hires recently. Compensation is also quite attractive, with many software engineering roles paying just below top of market.

The objective of this guide is to share the information we've learned from many of our recent negotiations with Compass. 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

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

Compass Offer Compensation Components

To start, here is a quick overview of how Compass structures compensation.

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

This is what a Compass IC4 offer looks like over a 4-year period:

Note: stock refreshers will not be listed in the official offer letter but are a standard part of compensation at Compass

In addition to the high-level overview, it's important to understand Compass' unique approach to compensation. While the components are the same, there are some key differences vs FAANG offers.

Base Salary

Compass pays base salary in a standard way similar to other tech companies like Google and Facebook. The biggest difference is the size of the salary band. For a Compass Software Engineering IC3 role in the Bay Area the band is $140K-$200K. Whereas Facebook E4 in the Bay Area is $150K-$175K.

The base salary for one of these roles at Compass is on average slightly higher vs comparable FAANG offers. However, this is in part because Compass does not have a performance bonus, which is typically a percentage of base salary paid in cash. More on that later.

Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

Compass has a traditional vesting structure with an initial equity grant that vests in equal installments over a 4-year period. If you are granted $700K in RSUs, you will receive:

  • Year 1: 25% ($175K)
  • Year 2: 25% ($175K)
  • Year 3: 25% ($175K)
  • Year 4: 25% ($175K)

The number of shares you actually receive is calculated by dividing your initial grant by the share price 30-days prior to your start date. Compass equity vests yearly unlike Google and Facebook that have monthly and quarterly vesting schedules respectively.

The good news is that Compass is quite willing to negotiate equity. The bands are wide - an IC3 Compass Software Engineer role in the Bay Area the band is $300K-$500K. For comparison, Facebook E4 in the Bay Area is $200K-$400K.

We have also seen Compass go above band for equity when a candidate does very well on interviews and conducts a great negotiation with strong leverage.

Signing Bonus

Compass will often leave signing bonuses out of initial offers. Sometimes recruiters will use this as a tactic to push you to share expectations. It's fine to ignore that and continue requesting a first offer. If they don't include a signing bonus in the initial offer, you can setup your leverage and request one as part of your counter offer.

Compass has one of the highest signing bonuses in the industry. We recently helped an IC3 engineer negotiate a $120K signing bonus, which tops even Facebook's $100K cap at that level. The difference is that Compass is less willing to give out its top number vs Facebook. This is why it's critical to use the strongest leverage possible. Ideally, you should frame a competing opportunity in a way that illustrates the need for a signing bonus. If that's not possible you can use retention bonuses and promotion opportunities from your current company to justify a large signing bonus.

For large signing bonuses over $100K, the sum is often distributed over a two-year period. Compass will require you to repay a portion of your signing bonus if you leave before the specified term (typically 1 year).

Performance Bonus

As of writing this article, Compass does not offer a cash performance bonus. Instead, they compensate employees with higher-than-average base salaries and performance-based stock refreshers.

Stock Refreshers

Stock refreshers are a key component of Compass' compensation package, but they are not explicitly included in the offer letter. Recruiters will typically mention them during a call and it's important to clarify what target number is expected for an average performance rating for your level. Sometimes the recruiter will quote the maximum possible number, which is only given if you significantly outperform expectations.

As a quick background on stock refreshers, these are granted at the end of your first year and you will be given a specific grant value. For example, at IC4 the target is $90K. This value vests over 4 years, like the initial grant, which means you would be getting an additional $22.5K at the end of year 2 (the first vest date). These refreshers "stack" and in year 3 you would receive $45K, and in year 4 ~$70K.

If you are negotiating with Compass and another company that doesn't provide stock refreshers (e.g. Amazon), you should certainly use Compass' refreshers to negotiate a higher Amazon offer.

Compass Negotiation Process

Before diving into the negotiation process at Compass, it's helpful to have an overview of the Compass leveling system. For comparison, we will use Google levels.

  • Software Engineer - IC2 at Compass is equivalent to L3 at Google
  • Senior 1 - IC3 at Compass is equivalent to L4 at Google
  • Senior 2 - IC4 at Compass is equivalent to L5 at Google
  • Staff - IC5 at Compass is equivalent to L6 at Google

*Note this use of Senior for the L4-equivalent role does not map to the industry standard where L5 is a senior position. However, IC3 at Compass straddles the line between L4 and L5, leaning more towards L4.

If you are still waiting to receive an offer from Compass, there are a few key mistakes to avoid.

  1. Do not share your current compensation. There are rare situations where it is advantageous, but never before you receive the first offer. In many states (e.g. California) it is illegal for companies to ask this. If you are asked, you can simply reply "sorry but I don't feel comfortable sharing that information"
  2. You should also avoid sharing your compensation expectations. This is a common request now that recruiters are not able to ask about your current compensation. 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"

Once you get the news that Compass will be extending an offer, it's time to prepare for the negotiation process. Outlined below is the process we typically see at Compass, though it does vary a bit from recruiter to recruiter.

  1. After the onsite interview you will get an email from the recruiter asking to setup a call
  2. On the first call, the recruiter will tell you that you passed the interviews, and they are extending you an offer to join Compass. In some cases, they will share the initial offer, but it's more common for the recruiter to ask you for your compensation expectations. We would recommend pushing back with something along the lines of "I'm still figuring out my market value, I'd appreciate it if you go back to the team and see what is the best you can offer given how well the interviews went"
  3. Recruiters at Compass typically need to go back to the compensation team to get approval for any offer, so you will likely have to schedule a follow up call to hear the initial offer. During this time, the recruiter will often reach out to setup calls with potential hiring managers, if you have not matched to a specific team yet. You do not need to match with a specific team before negotiating, but strong hiring manager support can help during the negotiation
  4. The compensation team at Compass moves quickly and the recruiter will likely reach back out within a day or two. On this next call, they will share the first offer, which often leaves out the signing bonus. The recruiter will then ask you to get back to them with your thoughts on the offer within a few days. This is rarely a firm deadline
  5. Now that you have the offer, it's time to formulate a strategy for your counter offer. There are many potential points of leverage you can use depending on your situation. As a general rule, Compass recruiters are receptive to negotiation and do not push aggressively for offers in writing (unlike recruiters at Google for example)
  6. On the counter offer call, the recruiter will ask some follow up questions on your leverage so they can bring that back to the comp team for approval. This is not something to worry about if you come prepared with the correct responses. At Rora, 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 back to the compensation committee
  7. Again, you can typically expect an update within 1-2 days at which point you will need to decide whether to push back a final time or accept the new offer. Compass is generally willing to do another round of negotiation, but it depends on the recruiter and what new information you can bring to the table

For reference, senior roles typically get more pressure to provide a first number. It is still possible to push back on this and hold your ground, and in these cases, we see Compass provide competitive starting offers.

Compass-Specific Negotiation Advice

Competing offers: Compass almost never requires offers in writing. The one exception to this rule is if you quote a number that is clearly outside of the band (e.g. $1M in equity for E5 at Facebook). They also don't typically require an offer breakdown though it certainly adds credibility to the ask if you are able to share the breakdown of a competing offer.

Willing to share ranges: Many companies avoid sharing the range for your role (despite it being the law in California). However, in our experience Compass is willing to provide this information, and most importantly, they rarely lie about the range for the role.

Team matching: Compass often hires for general positions and then team matches post-interview. As mentioned above, it is possible to negotiate before team matching is finished (much harder to do this at Google for example), but it's sometimes better to wait. If you connect well with a hiring manager, they can often push the recruiter to pull together a very competitive offer.

Willing to extend timelines: We've seen some recruiters at Compass provide lots of timeline flexibility for negotiations, while others regularly set deadlines. However, even in the cases where they are setting deadlines, it's possible to extend these. Hiring manager conversations are a great tool to get this extension approved.

Remote compensation: The good news is that Compass offers remote positions. The bad news is that like most companies they pay lower for remote roles. It's possible to get around this in some cases if you have competing offers in other locations, but you need to play your cards right.

Above band offers: Unlike many companies (e.g. Facebook), Compass is actually willing to go above band for very strong candidates with excellent leverage. This is very rare for base salary, but we have negotiated above band offers for signing bonus and equity.

Negotiate Your Offer

1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

We've negotiated more than $4M in Compass offers this year. Our largest Compass increase was $350K.

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.