Big Tech negotiation

Got a job offer from Nvidia? Here's how to negotiate it!

by Josh Doody

The key question to ask about an Nvidia job offer is “How much flexibility do they have to negotiate my specific offer?” In my experience coaching engineers and leaders through Nvidia salary negotiations, the answer varies from “not much” to “a whole lot”.

In-demand engineers with specialties in areas that are crucial to Nvidia’s business and skills that other firms need can often push harder than generalist engineers, but as they continue to grow, they need engineers from many disciplines to help them succeed.

For example, Nvidia needs lots engineers with experience in processor design, software engineering, machine learning, and AI, and the supply of experienced engineers in those areas of expertise is relatively tight among the big tech companies. So Nvidia will offer competitive salaries with some room to negotiate to get quality engineers with that expertise to join their team.

By contrast, many junior generalists are eager to join Nvidia and there is an increasingly large supply of those engineers. So Nvidia’s offers for more junior engineers are often pretty close to their best offer right out of the gate. That doesn’t mean there’s no room to negotiate, but their offers are tuned to a competitive baseline, so smaller improvements are more typical than larger ones.

The bottom line is that if you have a job offer from Nvidia, whether in a technical role or a leadership role, you likely have room to negotiate, and may have substantial negotiation leverage depending on your specialty and background.

What a typical Nvidia job offer package looks like

Once you finally get through the Nvidia interview process, you may receive a job offer. Let’s look at an example to see what you can expect.

Nvidia’s offers are pretty standard big tech job offers:

  • Base salary
  • Sign-on
  • New-Hire Equity

They may also include other components, but these are typically the components with the most flexibility.

Here’s an example taken from a modified version of a real Nvidia job offer from one of my clients (all numbers are $1,000s). This client was an experienced hardware engineer with substantial background in processor design. This offer is for $200,000 base salary, $300,000 total equity (vesting over four years), and a $40,000 sign-on bonus:

ComponentYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Total
Base Salary200200200200800
Total Cash240200200200840
New-Hire Equity175175175175300
Total 4153753753751,540

Let’s look a little closer at the main components of an Nvidia job offer.

Base Salary

Base salary is the most stable component of your job offer, and the one you can budget around for the coming year. My clients often focus here first because it’s the most predictable component, and because it impacts their bank account immediately and indefinitely.

Nvidia’s base salary offers tend to be very competitive with other big tech firms. If you’re wondering whether the salary you’re offered is competitive, blind and are good places to start.

How flexible is Nvidia on Base Salary?

In my experience, Nvidia will move on base salary a moderate amount, meaning that they’re not totally rigid on base salary, but that they typically don’t make big moves on base salary. They’re generally more flexible when you have not disclosed salary history or expectations, or when you have a competing offer with a higher base salary (more on this below).

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more base salary, but it means that request may result a modest move in base salary coupled with other more aggressive moves in the other components of the offer.

New-Hire Equity (RSUs)

The equity component of an Nvidia job offer can range from “not very much” to “Whoa, I had no idea that was possible!” depending on the role and the candidate.

For Nvidia (and most of the other big public tech companies) I tend to model equity as more or less fungible with base salary since the value of that equity is public and the company fundamentals appear to be pretty strong. In other words, a dollar of Nvidia equity is pretty close in value to a dollar of base salary.

The difference, of course, is that there’s a vesting schedule and you’re taking some level of market risk by counting on equity.

But for a company like Nvidia, the market risk for equity is very similar to the market risk for your base salary. (If things suddenly get very bad for Nvidia, their stock would probably drop, but the bigger problem could be that your job might be in jeopardy).

How flexible is Nvidia on New-Hire Equity (RSUs)?

Potentially extremely flexible. They will sometimes make very big moves with equity to attract the right candidate with the right skillset to a particular role. In general, they’re moderately flexible on equity for most candidates, often improving that component by half or more.

As with most big tech companies, equity is a lever that Nvidia will use to persuade well-aligned candidates to join their team.

Sign-on bonus

Even if there’s not a sign-on bonus included with your initial offer, there may be one available through negotiation. Sign-on bonuses, like equity, can range from a low five figures into six figures.

I like to think of the sign-on bonus as a way to help bridge the gap between your first paycheck and your first RSU vesting date.

How flexible is Nvidia on Sign-on Bonus?

Moderately flexible. They will often use this as a sweetener to close the deal. Five-figure improvements in sign-on bonus are fairly common. I recommend focusing on base salary and equity before negotiating sign-on bonus, but asking for a sign-on bonus to finalize your negotiation will often be a nice later addition to your compensation.

How to approach your Nvidia salary negotiation

The salary negotiation with Nvidia will begin earlier than you might expect.

Before you get a job offer

Your Nvidia recruiter will likely ask for your salary expectations. That request will sound something like this:

So what were you hoping for in terms of compensation if you come aboard here at Nvidia?

Do not tell them your salary expectations because you will essentially be guessing what they might pay someone with your skillset and experience to do the job they need done.

While they might have a good idea of the value of that job to Nvidia’s business, you would only be guessing. You will practically always guess wrong and cost yourself money later on. So just don’t guess.

Nvidia will hold on tight to these numbers and it can be very, very challenging to get them to move once they know what they are aiming for. So avoid sharing that information if at all possible.

They may also ask you to tell them about any competing offers you have because they “need more data”. In cases where my clients do have competing offers, I generally recommend that they confirm that they have one or more competing offers while being vague about the details of those offers. It’s ok to mention that other big tech companies are interested, but sharing the specific companies or details of the offers could work against you in the early stages of the negotiation.

Once you receive your job offer from Nvidia

Although Nvidia is typically only moderately flexible on base salary, I prefer to begin by negotiating base salary to see how flexible they are in the other components. By pushing on base salary—even knowing they aren’t very flexible—you give them an opportunity to show where they are the most flexible.

They will often respond to a request for a higher base salary by moving moderately or not at all on base salary, while suggesting a significantly better equity or sign-on bonus component.

Once they reveal where they’re flexible and how flexible they are, you can use that information to focus the negotiation on the most flexible components to maximize your offer.

What to look out for when negotiating an Nvidia job offer package

  • Nvidia will often ask for competing offers—sharing those offers may be beneficial in the later stages of your negotiation. Many companies ask for competing offers to gather data on competitors or to dissuade the “I have lots of offers” bluff that many candidates use. But when Nvidia is competing with companies like Google and Facebook for candidates, they will often match competing offers if they’re superior.
  • Nvidia will often respond to a request for higher base salary by slightly improving base salary and significantly improving the equity component or sign-on bonus. This will give you good insight into where they are flexible so you can focus there during the later stages of your negotiation.
  • For more junior engineers, Nvidia tends to make competitive offers with less room to negotiate. So many junior engineers want to work at Nvidia that they don’t need to negotiate very much to get good candidates at these levels. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate, just expect them to be pretty stubborn when you do.

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Negotiating a job offer from Nvidia? I'll help!

I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps High Earners negotiate their job offers. On average, High Earners improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.

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