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This happens to me a lot. I get a recruiter who calls, tells me they are looking for someone who can do what I do, and they are competitive compensation wise. Except the way that they get to be competitive from a compensation perspective is to offer a "huge" stock grant that will be worth "at least a few million" going forward. Oh but the base pay is kind of what you get for being on your second or third position (say 5 years of experience).

People buy that line of reasoning. It is sad but they do, and I have colleagues who have worked in several such positions and failed to increase their 401k savings by much (given the low base pay) and after 10 years of work and haven't seen a dime from the so-called "valuable" equity. Worse they are now considered 'old' so they are pushing headwinds when they even get to an interview (much like the original author).

When I talk with newly minted engineers today about compensation I will often recommend that they "do the math" which is to say they compute their living expenses and assume they are going to save the maximum allowable 401k and they are going to pay taxes at what ever the current rate is. To take those numbers, try to plot them out with inflation and the stock market return, take a million off the top for each kid they expect to have if their future spouse isn't working, a half million if they are working. And then see if they exit 20 - 25 years with enough to live on or not.

Once you have the basic model you are in a much better position to understand how the base salary you are being offered helps or hinders your future self.

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