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How to negotiate my offer with TikTok?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community8 months ago

I made it through 3 technical rounds at TikTok (2 Coding, 1 System Design) and had my HR round recently. The HR round was a negotiation round. I don't know if I handled it well. I am hoping that Taro can give me some insights or advice. For leveling, I have a little under 2 YOE at Amazon but I got laid off in April.

Here is a summary of the HR meeting:

Question: What level are you expecting?

Answer: I am expecting mid-level because I have good experience at Amazon and I did well in the interviews. HR made some comments about why I am not a good fit for mid-level said but said that the leveling will be set after this meeting.

Question: What other interviews do you have?

Answer: I have 2 early stage interviews lined up next week at Big Tech. I declined to reveal the companies. I said that I would cancel the other interviews if I got a strong offer from TikTok. I mentioned one of the reasons that I want to work at TikTok was the scale. HR said that if the other companies are Big Tech they would have similar scale. I didn't know what to say to that. I have other reasons for wanting to join TikTok but I didn't mention them in the meeting.

Question: What compensation are you expecting?

Answer: I dodged the question and said "I will consider any strong offer from TikTok." The compensation discussion went on for a good 10 minutes and I kept dodging the question. HR got upset after a while because I didn't give any numbers. I said that maybe we can have the compensation discussion after the level is set and then we stopped talking about it.

Question: Asked about RTO, Visa status and when I can start.

HR said they will get back to me early next week.

Given the market conditions, I bet they have several other candidates lined up for this role. Maybe some of them made it to the HR round and they negotiated less than me (level, low-numbers) so maybe they will take them instead.

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Discussion

(3 comments)
  • 2
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    Congrats on passing the interview! But oof on the HR call, it looks like it didn't go too well. 😢

    Given the market conditions, I bet they have several other candidates lined up for this role. Maybe some of them made it to the HR round and they negotiated less than me (level, low-numbers) so maybe they will take them instead.

    There's a good chance this is true, and in general, it's important to be realistic in this economy:

    • There are probably some laid-off Amazon SDE 2s who are willing to take the down-level to junior at TikTok as it's a top-tier company that pays extremely well.
    • You don't have too much leverage as your other interviews are early stage, and I assume you don't have a competing off in hand.
    • Even in a good economy, a little less than 2 YOE is tricky to qualify for an L4 position, especially if you haven't formally gotten to SDE 2.
    • I looked at ByteDance entry-level, and the average is $200k, which is crazy high. So even an entry-level role isn't too bad (especially if you can get to the upper-end of the band). For reference, I made $90k when I started at PayPal as a new-grad working out of San Jose HQ.

    In terms of negotiation tactics:

    • If they keep pressing for a number, I would throw out something between $250k - $300k (and then expect it to come down). I think a realistic goal is to end up on the higher end of entry-level. $250k is what a lot of FAANG L4s make, so that's still very good.
    • In general, avoid calls for negotiation as they can pressure you more and get reads, particularly on whatever desperation and lack of leverage you have. Going through text-only lets you be cold and calculated.

    For more tactics, check out this playlist I just made as I was inspired by your question: [Taro Top 10] Pay Negotiation

  • 3
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    8 months ago

    Usually, the HR meeting is a formality and a way to get some data about competing offers or compensation expectations.

    The HR meeting rarely results in a change of outcome for an offer -- the technical interviews matter much more. This is especially true for larger companies like TikTok or Meta where they will be able to "slot you in" across multiple teams.

    Overall, you handled the call well, by dodging the question about compensation expectations. No need to do anything now -- just wait for them to get back to you with next steps! If they don't get back to you within a week, then you can send a follow-up indicating that you have some flexibility on comp + level.

  • 3
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    Tech Leadership Coach • Former Head of Engineering
    8 months ago

    In the grand scheme of things, I think you handled it pretty well.

    If you haven't already, I would send a recap email on everything that was discussed. Capture things that are beneficial for you in writing and put the onus on them to reciprocate. You'll find that people are much less likely to actually document "reasons why you're not a good fit for mid-level" when doing it through email.

    I would lay out all the components of the offer package that HR said they would get back to you early next week. Don't need to offer any specifics since it's still open-ended.

    If you have other job leads in the pipeline bring that up to drive urgency. Keep it abstract, but apply pressure if there is a particular date you need to make a decision by. Center it around them providing you a specific offer (i.e. all the components you laid out in your email) so you can make the most informed decision.

    Realize this was awhile ago, but happy to help if you still in the middle of the process. DM me on Slack or LinkedIn.

TikTok, known in China as Douyin, is a short-form video hosting service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It hosts a variety of short-form user videos with durations from 15 seconds to ten minutes
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