How to Negotiate an RSU Package During a Job Interview‍

How to Negotiate an RSU Package During a Job Interview‍

August 30, 2023

How to Negotiate an RSU Package During a Job Interview‍

Imagine this: Jenna sits across from the hiring manager of a rapidly growing tech company, her heart racing. They’ve discussed roles, expectations, and even the base salary. As the conversation begins to wind down, Jenna takes a deep breath and broaches a topic not yet covered, “Could we discuss the RSU package?” The hiring manager nods, appreciating Jenna's proactive approach. Just last week, another candidate missed the chance to negotiate their RSUs, leaving significant value on the table. Jenna had no intention of making the same mistake.

Such moments underscore the importance of addressing Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) during job interviews. RSUs aren’t merely an addition to your compensation; they can be a game-changer in your financial trajectory and a testament to your vested interest in the company's future. 

For those unfamiliar with this vital component or unsure of how to approach it, this guide serves as a beacon, shedding light on how to navigate and successfully negotiate your RSU compensation.

Why Jobseekers Are Hesitant to Ask About Equity Compensation?

The world of equity compensation, with RSUs as one of its primary components, can be as promising as it is perplexing. Many job seekers step into interviews with many questions about RSUs but are often hesitant to voice them. Several reasons underscore this reticence:

1. Fear of Appearing Greedy or Presumptuous

Some candidates worry that asking about equity might project an image of being more interested in the financial rewards than the role itself or the company's mission.

2. Lack of Knowledge

Equity compensation can be complex, and not everyone is familiar with its intricacies. This lack of understanding can make job seekers apprehensive about initiating a conversation they feel ill-equipped to navigate.

3. The Delicacy of Negotiations

Salary negotiations alone can be tense. Introducing another element, especially one as valuable as RSUs, can make the process seem even more daunting.

4. Company Culture and Industry Norms

Not all companies or industries prioritize equity as part of their compensation packages. Job seekers might fear that bringing it up could position them as out-of-touch with company or industry standards.

5. Concerns About Overstepping

Especially for those early in their careers, there's a fear of overstepping or asking "too much" in an interview. This can deter candidates from discussing or negotiating RSUs proactively.

Understanding these hesitations is crucial because it allows job seekers to confront and counteract them. Equity compensation, including RSUs, is an integral aspect of a holistic compensation package, especially in sectors where it's commonplace. 

By approaching the topic with confidence and the right knowledge, as this guide aims to impart, candidates can ensure they're not leaving value unclaimed and are setting themselves up for a fruitful partnership with their prospective employers.

What Types of Companies Might Offer Me RSUs?

Typically, it’s the publicly listed or private tech companies, and startups, that offer RSUs as part of their compensation package. These companies utilize RSUs to attract top-tier talent, incentivizing long-term commitment and performance. By understanding the kinds of companies that may offer RSUs, you’re better equipped to target your job search and prepare for negotiations effectively.

Should I Ask About RSUs During My Job Interview?

Absolutely! It’s your right to inquire about all aspects of your compensation package, which includes RSUs. Being proactive about discussing RSUs can demonstrate your interest in long-term commitment to potential employers and help you understand the full value of the offer.

Why Should I Ask About RSUs?

The prospect of diving into equity compensation discussions might feel intimidating, but it’s crucial to understand the significance of RSUs in the broader scheme of your potential employment package. Here's why:

1. Financial Implications

RSUs represent a critical component of your overall compensation. As the company thrives, the stock price can potentially rise, leading to a substantial increase in the value of your RSUs over time. Ignoring RSUs in your compensation discussion could mean forgoing a significant part of your potential earnings.

2. Alignment with Company Success

RSUs inherently tie your success to that of the company. When you hold a stake in the company, it fosters a deeper connection and commitment to your role, as your financial well-being is directly linked to the company's performance.

3. Future Financial Planning

As RSUs vest over time, they can serve as a predictable source of income, aiding in long-term financial planning. By understanding when and how many RSUs will vest, you can make informed decisions about investments, major purchases, or even retirement.

4. Negotiation Leverage

By discussing RSUs, you might uncover flexibility in the compensation package. If the company can’t meet your salary expectations, they might be willing to offer more RSUs as a compensatory measure.

Understanding Company’s Health and Potential: The offering of RSUs, combined with insights about the company's future prospects, can give you a clearer picture of its health and growth potential. A company confident in its future trajectory might be more generous with RSUs, signaling a robust outlook.

5. Competitive Edge

By being informed and proactive about RSU discussions, you distinguish yourself as a candidate who understands the comprehensive nature of compensation. This can give you an edge in negotiations, displaying your commitment to a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with the company.

RSUs aren't merely a side note in your compensation discussion; they're central to understanding the full scope of what a company is offering. By making RSUs a focal point of your employment discussions, you ensure that you're evaluating the complete value of the package, optimizing your financial and professional trajectory.

How to Ask and Negotiate RSU Compensation During My Interview

Initiating a conversation about RSUs might feel tricky, but with preparation and strategy, you can navigate this aspect confidently. Here's how:

“Can you clarify if RSUs are part of the compensation package?”

Start with a foundational question. This direct approach not only uncovers whether RSUs are on the table but also sets the stage for more detailed inquiries.

If the interviewer confirms the inclusion of RSUs, delve deeper into the specifics. If not, it provides an opportunity to discuss why it might be a valuable addition.

“How are RSUs vested, and what is the vesting schedule?”

The vesting schedule provides clarity on the timeline when RSUs become available to you. This knowledge aids in future financial planning.

Take notes during this explanation, especially if the vesting schedule involves multiple stages or conditions. Understanding this timeline is key to valuing the RSU component of the offer.

“What is the current value of the company’s stock?”

This question not only helps in determining the worth of RSUs but also indirectly probes the company's financial health.

Reflect on the current stock value in relation to the overall market and industry. Is the stock on an upward trajectory? A stable or growing stock value can increase the potential value of RSUs in the future.

“How does the company foresee its growth, and how might this impact the stock value?”

Gaining insights into the company's projected growth can help assess the potential appreciation of the RSUs.

Listen for indicators of confidence and concrete plans for growth. Companies with a clear vision and strategy are more likely to see stock appreciation, enhancing the value of your RSUs.

“Can the RSU offering be negotiated?”

This question gives you a direct line to understand the flexibility in the RSU offering.

Be prepared with data on industry standards or prior offers to bolster your negotiation. Remember, even if the number of RSUs isn’t negotiable, other aspects, like the vesting schedule, might be.

Bonus: While discussing RSUs, also ask about any performance milestones or other criteria that might influence the RSU grant or vesting. This can provide clarity on expectations and potential enhancements to the RSU package based on performance.

Navigating the intricacies of RSU negotiations requires a mix of research, strategy, and self-assurance. By familiarizing yourself with industry norms and equipping yourself with the right set of questions, you can ensure you’re not just settling for an offer, but optimizing it.

What If I Get All Positive Answers?

Congratulations! If you’ve received positive responses to all your RSU-related queries, you’re in a promising position. But positive replies don't mean the conversation ends there. Instead, this favorable scenario offers an avenue for further discussion and evaluation. Here’s what to do next:

  • Quantify the Value: Take the number of RSUs being offered and multiply by the current stock price. This gives you a tangible figure to factor into your total compensation package. Remember, however, that stock prices can fluctuate.

  • Consider Future Growth: A company’s past and present are important, but its future growth potential is crucial when it comes to RSUs. Seek out forward-looking statements, company reports, and industry analysis. This helps you gauge the potential value of the RSUs in the long run.

  • Look at the Broader Package: While RSUs are a significant perk, they shouldn’t overshadow other essential components of your job offer. Health benefits, bonuses, professional development opportunities, and workplace culture are equally critical. Ensure that you're considering the entire package and not just the RSUs.

  • Clarify Vesting Scenarios: Even with a favorable vesting schedule, it’s essential to understand the conditions under which vesting might accelerate (e.g., in a change-of-control scenario) or scenarios where you might forfeit your RSUs.

  • Seek External Advice: Positive answers are encouraging, but if you’re new to RSUs or equity compensation, it might be worthwhile to consult with a financial planner or compensation specialist. They can offer guidance on the actual value of the offer and potential tax implications.

  • Express Gratitude and Enthusiasm: Acknowledge the positive offer and express your appreciation. Positive reinforcement can further cement your relationship with potential employers and indicate your keen interest in joining the team.

Receiving positive answers around RSUs is indeed a favorable sign, indicating the company’s willingness to invest in you for the long haul. Still, it's essential to approach this information with both excitement and due diligence, ensuring that you’re making the best decision for your career and financial future.

Tips When Negotiating Your RSUs During Job Interviews

Successfully negotiating your RSUs requires a combination of tact, knowledge, and confidence. As you gear up for this crucial conversation, keep these insightful tips in mind:

1. Research and Benchmarking

Understanding the industry standard for RSUs in your position and location can provide a solid foundation for your negotiations.

Utilize platforms like Glassdoor, PayScale, or industry-specific forums to gather intel on typical RSU packages. Align your expectations and negotiations based on these benchmarks.

2. Highlight Your Value and Potential Contribution

Companies reward employees with RSUs as they anticipate long-term contributions that will elevate the company's worth.

Present your achievements, experiences, and vision for the role. By highlighting your potential impact, you strengthen your position for a better RSU package.

3. Consider Your Current Equity

If you're transitioning from a role where you had equity, it's crucial to bring this to the table. Provide details of your existing equity compensation, explaining its value and your reasons for considering a switch. This could incentivize the new company to match or even surpass your current package to woo you.

4. Understand the Complete Picture

RSUs are just a part of your complete compensation package. It's important to understand how they fit with other elements like salary, bonuses, and benefits.

Evaluate the holistic value of the offer. If there’s a constraint on base salary, there might be wiggle room with RSUs, and vice versa.

5. Open Dialogue and Flexibility

Negotiations can sometimes hit roadblocks. Instead of being rigid, show a willingness to discuss and be flexible.

If you face resistance to the number of RSUs, consider discussing aspects like vesting schedules, performance milestones, or even other forms of equity such as stock options.

6. Stay Informed About Tax Implications

RSUs come with tax obligations once they vest. Being aware of these implications can influence your negotiations.

Consult with a tax professional or do your research to understand how RSUs are taxed in your jurisdiction. Armed with this knowledge, you can better gauge the net benefit of your RSUs.

7. Seek Clarity on Dilution and Future Offerings

As companies grow and raise more capital, there's a possibility of stock dilution, which can impact the value of your RSUs.

Ask about the company's plans for future fundraising or stock issuance. The clearer the picture you have, the better you can assess the long-term value of your RSUs.

Remember, negotiation is as much about listening as it is about asking. Be attentive to the company's feedback, ensuring you strike a balance that aligns with both your aspirations and the company’s vision and constraints.

Ready to Onboard?

Navigating RSU negotiations can seem daunting, but with a clear understanding and strategic approach, you can secure a compensation package that reflects your worth and fosters your professional and financial growth. Always remember to consider RSUs as an integral part of your overall compensation, research thoroughly, approach negotiations with clarity and confidence, and align your interests with those of your prospective employer. By doing so, you not only secure your financial future but also lay the foundation for a successful and mutually beneficial relationship with your employer.

Want more tips? Feel free to explore articles on RSUs at Upstock’s blog here or see a summary of equity compensation models to see how RSUs fare against stock options and Restricted Stock Awards (RSAs) at the learning materials page.

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