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SWEETEN THE POT

A Google engineer explains why salary isn’t the most important part of a job offer

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This question originally appeared on Quora: Is salary the most important consideration when choosing a job? Answer by Paul K. Young, software engineer at Google.

Compensation is important. It says a lot about the job and the company. Employers that pay well are likely going to value their employees’ time more than those that don’t.

Salary is only one part of compensation. For some positions, it’s not even the largest component. For instance, senior positions at big tech companies often have an equity component that equals or exceeds the salary component. Equity can be tricky to understand. A $200,000 equity package might sound like a lot, but if it vests over five years, that’s $40,000 annually. Moreover because of price fluctuations, it’s not always clear how it will affect one’s overall financial situation.

Commissions and bonuses should also be figured into total compensation. As with equity, these figures can be tough to predict. I’ve known a few recruiters who like to focus on the high end rather than median values. While it may be possible to get $100,000 or more in bonuses at Google, the typical developer gets a much more modest 15% of his or her base salary.

Benefits can also play a significant role in the larger financial picture. Google’s free breakfast, lunch, and dinner can add up to more than $10,000 of after-tax dollars a year. 401(k) matching can be another significant advantage. For Google the match is 50%, so for those who max out their contributions, the benefit comes to an extra $9,000 a year.

Benefits can also be tricky to evaluate. Some benefits are valued differently by different employees. When I was in my 20s I didn’t think health insurance was particularly important. Now that I have a daughter I’m much more concerned about it. Plus our combined health care costs are higher than when I was single.

Some benefits have intrinsic value. It’s hard to put a monetary value on the ability to do one’s laundry at work or to take a nap in a nap pod.

Location, at least for some, is just as important as compensation. Not many would be willing to tack on an extra hour or two to their commutes. And while some may consider moving to a different area for a better job, there are many who are tied to a particular location due to family or other obligations.

Related to location are the amount of travel involved and the ability to work from home. Some people love not having to put on pants to go to work. Conversely, who wants to spend half their life in airports?

Hours and schedule flexibility can also be important factors. Time shifting to accommodate a long commute, or being able to leave early to pick up the kids can make a big difference in accommodating other aspects of a person’s life. Also, whether a job expects 40 hours or 60 hours a week can have a substantial impact on quality of life.

Company size and stability are also considerations. Working for a startup comes with the risk that the employee will have to look for another job in a year or two. Large corporations tend to offer more stability, but they come with administrative and organizational challenges that can detract from the primary work.

Other factors like corporate culture, knowing other people at the company, or wanting to work with particular individuals in a field may also play a role.

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