How do the internal levels of Google work?

Updated on : January 20, 2022 by Isaac May



How do the internal levels of Google work?

The Google Levels are an attempt to characterize career development in a way that is consistent across a variety of different career paths.

L1 jobs, for example, appear to be positions that require limited prior education and experience.

  • L1–3 jobs are characterized as entry level.
  • L4–5 are characterized as mid-race.
  • L6–7 are characterized as career ends.

Levels exceed L9 for unofficials. Google Fellows (T10 and T11) are actually vice presidents and senior vice presidents (that is, officers of the corporation).

For managers:

  • L4-L6 generally handles small groups.
  • L6-L7 often have other managers reporting
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The Google Levels are an attempt to characterize career development in a way that is consistent across a variety of different career paths.

L1 jobs, for example, appear to be positions that require limited prior education and experience.

  • L1–3 jobs are characterized as entry level.
  • L4–5 are characterized as mid-race.
  • L6–7 are characterized as career ends.

Levels exceed L9 for unofficials. Google Fellows (T10 and T11) are actually vice presidents and senior vice presidents (that is, officers of the corporation).

For managers:

  • L4-L6 generally handles small groups.
  • L6-L7 often have other managers reporting to them.
  • L8 is a director (manages a group expected to grow to 50 people or more) and
  • L9 is a senior director (often managing several hundred people).

In software engineering:

  • L3 is entry level unless you have a PhD.
  • L4 is the entry level for experienced doctors and engineers.
  • L5 is senior engineer and the lowest level where there are engineering managers.
  • L6 is a plant engineer. Only about 15% of Google engineers are at this level or higher, and the majority of engineers are expected to never make it to staff. The most common managers of software engineers are L6.

Above L6, the number of engineers at each level is approximately 20-25% of the next lower level:

  • L7 top floor engineer;
  • Principal Engineer L8;
  • L9 Distinguished Engineer;
  • L10 partner (actually a vice president);
  • Senior L11 Member (actually an SVP).

Managers are more common at higher levels than non-managers:

  • L7 engineering managers mostly manage other engineering managers or have very large teams.
  • L8 is Director of Engineering and
  • L9 is Senior Director of Engineering.

Google's internal levels go from L3 upwards (for software engineers), I think other rolls may have lower levels.

Google does what is called "lagging promotion", which means that you need to exemplify that you can work at the next level for about six months before they promote you. This is to combat the Peter Principle, which is a phenomenon where you keep getting promoted because you are performing well at your current level, until you are eventually promoted too high a level and you cannot perform at that higher level, and you will be fired. .

So basically to increase and

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Google's internal levels go from L3 upwards (for software engineers), I think other rolls may have lower levels.

Google does what is called "lagging promotion", which means that you need to exemplify that you can work at the next level for about six months before they promote you. This is to combat the Peter Principle, which is a phenomenon where you keep getting promoted because you are performing well at your current level, until you are eventually promoted too high a level and you cannot perform at that higher level, and you will be fired. .

So basically, to raise your level on Google, have a conversation with your manager and tell him that you are going to go for a promotion, show that you can trade at the next level for six months, then come review time, you will need to write a promotion pack and you and your manager will explain why you should promote, and if other people within the company think you have been working to the next level, you will promote it. Google's terminal level is somewhere between L3 and L5 (my different friends at Google have given me different numbers). When you are at a level lower than the "terminal level", that means that you must be promoted within a certain period of time or you will be fired.

Google levels range from L3 to L10, as you'll notice in the image below. You can view more information, including location, compensation, years of experience, and more in detail at level.fyi. As a comparison example, you can see how the Google and Facebook tiers line up below.

I hope that helps!

Some thoughts for your consideration.

  • A big part of the difference once you start going from L4 to L5, and definitely from L5 to L6, L6 to L7, etc., is much more about technical leadership and your design skills, and not necessarily about being able to excel. that kind of stack or graphical algorithm question. Since he did not say how "he did well" in his interview and what abilities he was confident in, I cannot say whether or not he is certain in his belief that he is ready for L5.
  • The promotion process from L4 to L5 has been simplified in the last 2 years or so. Prom L5-> L6 and above
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Some thoughts for your consideration.

  • A big part of the difference once you start going from L4 to L5, and definitely from L5 to L6, L6 to L7, etc., is much more about technical leadership and your design skills, and not necessarily about being able to excel. that kind of stack or graphical algorithm question. Since he did not say how "he did well" in his interview and what abilities he was confident in, I cannot say whether or not he is certain in his belief that he is ready for L5.
  • The promotion process from L4 to L5 has been simplified in the last 2 years or so. Promotion processes L5-> L6 and above still use the heavyweight process which is a bit more like an academic tenure tracking process, where promotion committees are drawn from across the company, and you have to demonstrate to an engineer level N + 2 from, say Ads, that your work on some internal YouTube system had enough complexity and impact to get promoted from L {N} to L {N + 1}. The L3-> L4 and L4-> L5 promotion processes now use a much more streamlined process that does not require as much involvement from peers and senior engineers, and the promotion committee is made up of senior engineers from your Product Area. This means that if you worked on any subsystem within GMail, the engineers who will be reviewing your promo package are much more likely to be familiar with it, so you won't need to tell anyone from Android PA why your Gmail frobotz ML system is compliant. the promo bar. So when some people talk about the complex promotion process that Google has, they are probably talking about this process L5-> L6, L6-> L7, etc.
  • There is quite a bit of overlap between the salary ranges for Levels N and N + 1. So while there may be some difference between what your compensation could be if you incorporate it as L4 vs L5, depending on what your current industry salary is that you have and how good you are at negotiating your salary when logging into Google, it may not be as much as you think. What * happens * is that if you get hired near the top of the salary range, assuming Google really wants you, your annual salary increases may not be that great simply because you're near the top of your band.
  • Unlike the L4-> L5 promotion step, which is relatively routine, moving up from L5 to L6 is * difficult *, and each level beyond that is progressively more difficult. There are many, many engineers who never climb beyond L5, and that's fine.
  • Just to give a personal example, I was at IBM as STSM (Senior Technical Staff Member, also known as band 10), for which the next step is Distinguished Engineer. I was a senior contributor to the Linux kernel, and had served on the Security Advisory Group at the IETF, the standards body for the Internet, and had served as one of the working group chairs for IPSEC. When I moved to Google, I entered as a Plant Engineer (L6), which is three bands below DE. And yet (a) I remember feeling a bad case of imposter syndrome when I went to an internal storage meeting early in my career, and (b) my total compensation at Google was better than my "just below DE ”Compensation at IBM.
  • So it is quite possible that you are better off entering Google as L4 and seeing where things take you. If you're not getting a pay cut when you transition from your current job to Google, why not? If you're going to stay on Google for a long time, it probably won't make as much of a difference as you think. IBM was much more status conscious, where sometimes someone on Band N could win a technical disagreement with someone on Band M simply because N> M. At Google, my experience is that this happens much less often than at IBM. (When I was at IBM, people used to put their band level in their email signature file - I rarely see that on Google.)
  • Finally, YMMV. Google is a great company. When I started at Google, people were complaining that Google was a big company, having 30,000 employees (oh what a horror!) And they were pining for the days when Google "only" had 10,000 people. Now, I had just come from IBM, where there were 300,000 employees, so I could tell people that they had no idea what it was like to work in a big company (I could tell stories about spending freezes to try to do quarterly numbers, which meant that four layers of approvals down to the VP level was required to get IBM business cards ...). Of course, today Google has more than 100,000 employees! So how could things be in Technical Infrastructure / Cloud PA, which is where I work,

Good luck in your career, no matter what you choose. I hope you find something that keeps you interested and passionate, which as far as I'm concerned is much more important than what degree you have or how much money you make. Since I have been at Google for ten years, it has been a good place for me. Hope you can find a place that meets your needs!

I've never worked anywhere other than Google, so I can't make a comparison, but this is what I think.

Pros:

  • I get to work with a group of people who always make me feel like shit about myself and make me realize that I know very little. When I joined Google, I was suffering from Imposter syndrome. I'm always out of my comfort zone here. I always know how I can improve. It helps me grow and learn faster.
  • The degree of freedom I have regarding what I want to work on is spectacular. Switching project / team is relatively easier here. I can choose to dedicate 20% of my time to whatever I want.
  • Food and others
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I've never worked anywhere other than Google, so I can't make a comparison, but this is what I think.

Pros:

  • I get to work with a group of people who always make me feel like shit about myself and make me realize that I know very little. When I joined Google, I was suffering from Imposter syndrome. I'm always out of my comfort zone here. I always know how I can improve. It helps me grow and learn faster.
  • The degree of freedom I have regarding what I want to work on is spectacular. Switching project / team is relatively easier here. I can choose to dedicate 20% of my time to whatever I want.
  • Food and other much-talked-about Google perks actually help me improve my productivity. I feel like my employer cares about me and I would like to return the favor. There's even an internal employee website that talks about wasting time on Google in a good way.
  • The company invests in the growth of its employees. There are tons of learning resources. People volunteer to guide others. I have unlimited access to most of the code written in Google. There are various voluntary trainings and technical talks. The bottleneck of my learning here is myself.
  • The culture of being "Googley" is amazing. Most of the people I have worked with at Google have high ethical and moral standards. There is a continuous feedback system. The people here are not trying to bring you down. People are often rewarded and recognized through peer bonuses and public thanks.
  • There are enough channels to bubble up my ideas and concerns. There is a suitable mailing list for almost everything from game of thrones to microaggressions.

Cons:

  • The company is too big. The reorganizations keep happening. And personal connections aren't of much use here. What is not documented never happened here.
  • With each passing day, I feel like Google is becoming a less desirable place to work. The advantages of many other companies have caught up with those of Google. * The exclusive benefits of Google * are a thing of the past. Things like memos against diversity make me sad.
  • To work on good things, you need to be good and to improve yourself you need to work on good things. That is a deadlock that I often face at Google. There is no easy way around it. It's hard to convince people here that something can be done mainly because everyone is so smart.
  • Much of the knowledge and experience acquired at Google is non-transferable. There is always an internal version (and in most cases better) of the most popular technologies available. I hardly ever use any tool / technology that was not invented at Google. If I ever get out of Google, I'll probably have to learn a lot of popular standard tools outside of Google.

On his 10th job anniversary, my manager at Google was asked how he felt about being 10 years old. He said something similar to:

“If you wake up one morning and don't feel like going to work, that's fine. However, I would be concerned if that happened often. For the past 10 years, every day when I wake up in the morning, I have a new challenge waiting for me. I am always excited to come to work. I never feel like not going to work "

I think that's what drives a lot of people at Google, including me.

E6 on Facebook and L6 on Google are at the same level, so you are talking about 2 different levels. In my mind, you should think about:

  1. What will you be doing? Especially with an E6 deal on Facebook, the company likely has 1 or 2 features in mind for you. Yes, you can * sorta, kinda * pick the team you want from the bootcamp, but they'll likely guide you to the recruiting team with the domain expertise you have. E5 on Google probably means you are a cog in the wheel and need to do a 6+ month evaluation on a computer of your choice before you are even considered a standard engineer in a game.
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E6 on Facebook and L6 on Google are at the same level, so you are talking about 2 different levels. In my mind, you should think about:

  1. What will you be doing? Especially with an E6 deal on Facebook, the company likely has 1 or 2 features in mind for you. Yes, you can * sorta, kinda * pick the team you want from the bootcamp, but they'll likely guide you to the recruiting team with the domain expertise you have. E5 on Google probably means that you are a cog in the wheel and need to do a 6+ month evaluation on a team of their choice before they even consider you as a standard engineer on a juicy project.
  2. How much do you want technical responsibility? E5 to E6 is a huge leap in responsibility. You range from being an independent engineer to a recognized leader on the team. As a result, your manager will treat you differently. Your manager will push you to make sure you have a juicy “E6 scope” problem to work on after the team picks up speed. This eventually involves leading a project for the team that contains some combination of: business critical, long-lasting, technically complex, cross-stack, multi-person, multi-team. This is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your career goals. You probably won't be doing 9–5 on Facebook the first review cycle or two until you understand the scope of the system. In Google,
  3. How much do you want mobility? If you do a good job on your E5 project on Google, some interesting teams might talk to you. In general, a well-performing E6 on Facebook has tons of career options internally and your boss is investing a significant amount of time to make sure you're happy to stay on the team. It is often quite easy to go from E6-> M1 if you are interested in trying management because many of the skills required to go from E5-> E6 overlap significantly with the basic skills of M-track. At Google, this will likely require significant paperwork and a manager who truly believes in you.
  4. What's in a paycheck? Depending on where you got the job offer, Facebook or Google might have a higher salary band. Overall, Facebook has rated its stock as more growth-oriented than Google, so I wouldn't be surprised if FB's offering was lower. I would mainly focus on the paycheck if there is a large variance (20% +). Anything less than that can be offset by the slightly higher performance bonuses that come naturally from a job you like. Of course, feel free to trade numbers, as there is always room for maneuver at the higher end of the hiring spectrum.

I don't know what the numbers are now, but 10 years ago the average (median) startup pay was ~ $ 8,000. (According to an IEEE study). The average time it took to get that payment was 12 years. (Which is exactly the same as the payoff time for CVs. Follow up to see what your likely payoff time is.) That's not much for all those years of 80-hour workweeks. The median (median) payment was a bit higher, something like $ 32,000. What that tells you is that the bias is extreme towards the low to zero pay side. And that a very small number receive very large payments. I do not have it in front of

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I don't know what the numbers are now, but 10 years ago the average (median) startup pay was ~ $ 8,000. (According to an IEEE study). The average time it took to get that payment was 12 years. (Which is exactly the same as the payoff time for CVs. Follow up to see what your payoff time will be.) That's not much for all those years of 80-hour workweeks. The median (median) payment was a bit higher, something like $ 32,000. What that tells you is that the bias is extreme towards the low to zero pay side. And that a very small number receive very large payments. I don't have it in front of me, but my memory is that much less than 1% receive $ 1MM or more.

Having run a startup, one of the problems I had was that people were spending too much time. Among real humans (as opposed to fictional ones), working more than 50 hours per week for more than a few weeks without a break impairs your ability to function. It seems like they're working really hard, but what's really going on is a lot of negative work, by which I mean people come to work fried and screw things up because they can't think clearly even if they want to. . I was able to document a tripling of the productivity of the team that had a time restriction placed on the job. This is not popular in Silicon Valley startup culture, but it is very real. One of the reasons startups fail is that people work so hard that they can no longer think clearly.

I have some old friends from startups that I joined. Several I have kept in touch with now live in trailer parks more than 100 miles outside of the Bay Area, and they find it difficult to get a job because they are too old. They have next to nothing and make a living working in retail positions or once every 2-3 years landing a contract programming position. (It's interesting to hang out with someone in a bar, see them after they collapsed, remember the hotshot they once were.) Recently, one of them told me what it was like: He was making $ 12K / month as a contractor for a few months, but was "treated like a contagious disease" by the permanent full-time staff of a large employer in the valley.

Two of the people I used to work with in the startup world committed suicide when their startups failed, lost everything, and couldn't get a job. One of those who committed suicide had been through 5 startups, all of which collapsed. He was 48 years old. I've had two others who died of heart attacks between the ages of 30 and 40 while working hard at startups.

Some others I kept up with saw the writing on the wall and left the software. You are an enrolled agent doing taxes and doing well. Another works in money management. A third was dedicated to the sale of insurance. Another entered into mortgage proceedings. Two others went back to school and became scientists in various fields.

Of all those I worked with, one got paid more than $ 1MM. I hardly knew that guy.

It is not a huge sample. I have 11 people that I have kept up with since the inception game. Suicide: 2. Caravan parking and not leaving: 3 Careers changed: 5 (2 of those who changed careers were in science). Charging with $ 4MM: 1
For those who are concerned, 1 of the 11 was a woman. The rest were men. All of them were ambitious and very good. The woman was the fastest and best programmer I have ever met, truly extraordinary. A phenomenon. She was one of those who changed fields and is doing well.

You can add to that number the 2 young people who died of heart attacks on the job. Cola and fast food diets combined with sitting all day and night are not good for you.

So be very careful what you decide to do. The industry press loves winners. You don't know about the other 95%. It's no fun living in an RV park, unable to afford anything you don't buy at Goodwill. Women don't stay for that. Each of these people (except those who suffered heart attacks) was left with their spouse. (The woman also.) The boys in the trailer park are alone.

(I generally don't like to reply anonymously. But some of those connected to me rely on me as a gateway so they can get back to at least one more contract position to earn some decent money. It's not fair to people connected with me to feel that I am inadvertently embarrassing them, or exposing them to ridicule or worse. If they want to go out and share their stories, that's what they decide. I say this even though I think this shame and stigma is attached to the many failures in the startup game are a serious problem. I don't think it's ethical to "take them out" in the culture of the Valley, any more than it is ethical to take out someone who is gay and is in the closet. That is their business) .

The folks at Google generally don't pay much attention to titles. In the management chain, people will refer to vice presidents and vice presidents, but it is usually just "manager" or "second line manager", which are descriptive roles more than anything else. There are formal levels with numbers and formal titles attached to the technical and management tracks (e.g. Senior Software Engineer, Plant Engineer, Senior Plant Engineer, etc. on the technical side) but the only time people actually pay pay attention to those rankings are during the promotion time, when you could be writing comments about why you think that

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The folks at Google generally don't pay much attention to titles. In the management chain, people will refer to vice presidents and vice presidents, but it is usually just "manager" or "second line manager", which are descriptive roles more than anything else. There are formal levels with numbers and formal titles attached to the technical and management tracks (eg, Senior Software Engineer, Plant Engineer, Senior Plant Engineer, etc. on the technical side) but the only time people really pay attention to those rankings are during promotion time, when you might be writing comments about why you think someone should be promoted to plant engineer, and what usually happens is that it refers to the description of the leadership responsibilities and skills of a particular level, and ideally, you could say something like "Alice has done X and Y, and has been leading a team to do Z. where she has <quote from level description> and therefore has already been doing the plant engineering job, and Google should acknowledge it by giving it a promotion. " Or better yet, you could say, "Until I was asked to write this recommendation, I had always assumed that Alice was already a plant engineer because she had done XXX, YYY, and ZZZ."

The bottom line is that there may be something like "Group Administrator", but it is not a term you have ever heard in use. It can be used by HR or at the time of promotion for the manager in question, but it doesn't really matter.

The title "Leader" simply means that you are responsible for a particular role, most commonly "Technology Leader", and has no bearing on your level of human resources. A TL may not have any management experience. In some cases, someone who is on a technical track, but needs to supervise multiple engineers, may become a TLM (lead technology manager) and still be on the technical track.

When it comes to "Head," keep in mind that people can choose whatever title they want from the company directory. Some people have used creative titles like "Bit Wrangler" or "Chief Bottle Washer." So something like "Head Boo-Bah" can be that kind of ironic thing.

At Google, the story behind it goes like this (or so I've been told; I've had two stints at the company, so obviously I don't have the full historical picture):

  • First (before 2003, I think), there were no levels; The hierarchies were meant to be very flat. A single manager may have had more than 50 direct reports. The problem was that people thought the pay was becoming arbitrary; Engineer X would be paid twice to Engineer Y, but in theory they were even.
  • To fix this, Google introduced technology tiers. But they were strictly intended for salary and performance. So the problem became that people
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At Google, the story behind it goes like this (or so I've been told; I've had two stints at the company, so obviously I don't have the full historical picture):

  • First (before 2003, I think), there were no levels; The hierarchies were meant to be very flat. A single manager may have had more than 50 direct reports. The problem was that people thought the pay was becoming arbitrary; Engineer X would be paid twice to Engineer Y, but in theory they were even.
  • To fix this, Google introduced technology tiers. But they were strictly intended for salary and performance. So the problem became that people started to see promotions as a secret boy's club; if engineer X was in the good graces of the powers that be, they could be promoted multiple times without anyone knowing. Engineer Y, outside of the club, would have no idea what it takes to get promoted to the next level, or could refer himself against people who had actually been promoted without going through multiple hoops (the list of promotions was made public) .
  • To solve this problem, Google decided to expand the availability of tiers. There was a lot of controversy as to whether this was creating a less flat organization, so the solution reached was that people could search for a level in a separate system, but you could choose not to have your level made public. Also, in the performance management tool, the level was made visible to anyone involved in performance management, including reviewers, etc. Note: As Christian Bee commented, this was done in at least two phases; Before this tool, there was an internal website where you could search for anyone who was Staff +.
  • Being Google, someone decided to develop a Chrome extension that accesses the level search tool and adds a level in parentheses next to the person's name in all our company directories. The theory goes, "Hey, the search tool is accessible to everyone in the company, and we are Google, we organize the world's information, so how the heck can HR complain about a Chrome extension that simply automates a search that the user I could have done it manually. ”Pretty much everyone I know has the extension installed - so the long answer is YES, you can see most people's levels when you search for them in Teams (our internal directory).

Note: Some people say that on Google you can tell someone's level by their title in Teams. Although each level has a different title, Teams does not change automatically and most people put a very generic title like "Software Engineer". You can also change it to whatever you want; Your manager gets CC, but within reason, no manager cares what you put in it.

L5 stands for Senior Software Developer. At Google, most employees will never exceed L5 simply because that is the highest level you can achieve without leading a big and complicated project. At other companies, senior just indicates that you've been there longer than some people.

Google has an internal document aptly titled "Eng Ladder" that details the responsibilities and expectations at each level. This is often used to assess whether someone should be promoted.

If you are curious about the rest:
L6 - Staff Software Developer
L7 - Senior Staff
SD L8 - Lead SD (This is a

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L5 stands for Senior Software Developer. At Google, most employees will never exceed L5 simply because that is the highest level you can achieve without leading a big and complicated project. At other companies, senior just indicates that you've been there longer than some people.

Google has an internal document aptly titled "Eng Ladder" that details the responsibilities and expectations at each level. This is often used to assess whether someone should be promoted.

If you're curious about the rest:
L6 - Staff Software Developer
L7 - SD Senior Staff
L8 - SD Director (This is another title that means something very different on Google)
L9 - Distinguished SD
L10 - Fellow
L11 - Senior Fellow

It can go up to L8 if your group grows big enough. However, L9 and above is reserved for people who become industry experts in certain areas.

Yes.

But have you ever wondered why you never see them published?

Director at Google, or higher, are very prestigious titles. In my experience, there are 3 ways to get those kinds of positions, and none of them come from applying on a website.

  1. Be a key player in a company that Google acquires for ~ $ 100 million or more, where Google wants to retain you. For example, Seth Sternberg was a director of Google, after they acquired Meebo.
  2. His way of working. Many PMs, especially those who have been essential parts of strategically important products, over time, and are perceived as stars, earn the title of Director and / or VP
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Yes.

But have you ever wondered why you never see them published?

Director at Google, or higher, are very prestigious titles. In my experience, there are 3 ways to get those kinds of positions, and none of them come from applying on a website.

  1. Be a key player in a company that Google acquires for ~ $ 100 million or more, where Google wants to retain you. For example, Seth Sternberg was a director of Google, after they acquired Meebo.
  2. His way of working. Many PMs, especially those who have been essential parts of strategically important products, over time, and are perceived as stars, earn Director and / or VP titles.
  3. Be a recognized superstar in the industry. I haven't seen this on the PM side, but it happened on the Infrastructure / Engineering side. However, your and Google's definition of a superstar may vary. For example, Eric Brewer is vice president of infrastructure.

If Google is looking to hire an outside director or higher, they will find you or find your company and give you the title to keep you close.

Google doesn't really care what "level" you were at at a previous company, any more than it does your education or years of experience; what matters to them is what you show your interviewers that you are capable. Your resume is important in determining whether or not we will interview you, but after that, people don't pay much attention to your past history because people can (and do) say anything on their resumes.

It is not accurate to say that someone is "downgraded" because their previous "tiers" and titles are not part of the bid decision process. However, if you expect a job offer based on your

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Google doesn't really care what "level" you were at at a previous company, any more than it does your education or years of experience; what matters to them is what you show your interviewers that you are capable. Your resume is important in determining whether or not we will interview you, but after that, people don't pay much attention to your past history because people can (and do) say anything on their resumes.

It is not accurate to say that someone is "downgraded" because their previous "tiers" and titles are not part of the bid decision process. However, if you are expecting a job offer based on your title, level, education, or years of experience, rather than based on what you can actually do ... then yes, it may seem like a downgrade.

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