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Recruiters keep trying to up-level me. Should I push back?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [E4] at Metaa year ago

I'm in the initial stages of a job hunt right now and recruiters seem to have the perception that I'm more qualified than I actually am (especially at non-FAANG companies). I'm E4 at Meta (mid-level) and not performing exceptionally well at this level, but recruiters are trying to push me for 'Senior' roles. Should I just go along or push back?

I know this is a bit of an unorthodox question since most people have problems with downleveling, not the other way around. I'm somewhat confident of passing the coding/systems design rounds for Senior/E5 positions at these companies, but I really want to avoid a situation where I join and immediately start getting overwhelmed by the actual job responsibilities.

Context: ~2.5 YoE



  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    I don't think you should care until you start getting offers.

    Here's why:

    1. Strong companies (i.e. those with high expectations) will have an interview process that properly levels you.
    2. Senior offers are going to be stronger than mid-level offers (obviously) - This means you can use them as a negotiating chip. Let's say you have a senior offer and a pretty compelling mid-level offer: You can use the senior offer to negotiate the mid-level offer up (maybe even up to the senior offer) and then take the mid-level offer, having senior pay with mid-level expectations (living the dream, haha).
    3. If a company is willing to level an L4 with 2.5 YOE at senior, its expectations probably aren't as competitive as FAANG/FAANG-equivalent companies.

    Zooming out to the broader problem of knowing whether or not you'll succeed in some new environment at some newer level, that's a really tricky problem to solve. Here's my thoughts on "tools" there:

    • Anecdotal evidence
    • Asking the hiring manager what the expectations are (take E5 responsibilities and ask them if they're required)
    • Seeing if you can talk to an engineer at that level and understand their day-to-day

    None of those are super great to be honest, and I think at the end of the day, just go in and do your best. Lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling doomsday prophecy.

  • 2
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    Meta, Robinhood, Baidu
    a year ago

    Are you up for some challenges and willing to take some risk? If yes, go for it and take an up-leveled offer (if everything else about this offer looks good).

    It’s more often to see people stuck at E4 and don’t have enough opportunities to demonstrate that they can perform as an E5 at Meta nowadays. That’s why taking a senior offer has more upside and limited downside.

    Refer to my post Job Promotion: Scaling-bound or Opportunity-bound? for why E5 promotion is harder than E4 promotion. They are not the same thing. You need opportunities to practice and demonstrate E5 skills while you are E4, which is hard because those opportunities don’t always come naturally. If someone is handing you those opportunities you should take it (after considering the downside and how it’s going to impact you).

    The exception I can think of is when the downside impacts you more. For example, if you are on visa and you can’t risk being let go in case you really couldn’t ramp up to a senior role fast enough.