tldr: Join for the present and not the glorious future promised.

Company offers X title with Y pay and Z stocks (Z might be 0 initially) to a promising candidate.

Candidate is not happy with X, Y or Z. Feels they can find better options. Company verbally commits to improve on them based on performance after XYZ months. XYZ is not clear and never agreed upon. Performance criteria is also not defined.

The promised pay hike or promotion almost never happens.

The candidate (now an employee) grows disgruntled. Leaves the company. Badmouths to everyone they know how they were wronged. Company culture gets affected.

No one is acting on bad faith here.

The candidate believes that they are above the level they are getting hired for, but they have not yet seen the internal competition. Also promotion/compensation policies change over time as a company grows.

The company likes the candidate. So instead of losing them, they decide to show the best case scenario.

The above story has played out with so many friends of mine. Also me in the past. I now advice people to join the company keeping the current X, Y, Z in mind and hope that these will get better over time, but don’t assume that there is a guaranty from the company.

Let me tell you about my last switch.

A company was trying their level to convince me that I could join as a PM and become SPM inside 6 months. Their argument was that they have people from IIMs and similar experience (total, not PM experience) as mine join as APMs. So a PM role and title was only fair. They were willing to discuss pay but not title.

I opened LinkedIn and did my own research. Saw how many people were APMs, PMs, SPMs and above. I also asked the hiring manager to show examples of people with 4 years product experience that he managed to hire as a PM in their org.

I also asked him this question: if your org is so bottom heavy, it is perhaps by design, I can see so many people at APM and PM levels, and not enough SPMs. Why will you change it for me?

He said that I was smart and my interviews went good and hence it was different for me. I declined the offer and continued negotiating with the other companies.

Many years back I had joined another startup, and they told me that I would get stocks later based on performance.

The hiring manager left soon. Since this was only verbal, nothing happened later.

For me, at least it was just a discussion. There was no written commitment, but I know of people getting email about ESOPs pre joining and then never getting the actual document.

So what I am getting at is that join companies based on the current offer at hand and not assume the future.

This way you will remain sane and not feel like someone wronged you later when you don’t get the promotion or pay hike you think you were promised.