According to True Search’s latest Talent Partner survey, talent partners at VC and PE firms spend about 10% of their time advising portfolio companies on executive compensation matters. This advising is usually reactive in nature and requires having quick access to trust information.

But there’s not a lot of guidance out there for talent partners on how to do this effectively. Just like no two talent partners operate similarly from firm to firm, no two executive compensation data sources are similarly helpful all of the time, and no two executive compensation strategies look the same either. In typical fashion, with no predetermined roadmap, talent partners have to figure out for themselves how to:  

  • Identify the right data sources for their firm
  • Hire top talent with competitive offers
  • Build a compensation philosophy that helps with future hiring

We rounded up our favorite creative strategies talent partners can use to maximize the impact on executive compensation with limited time. 

1. Leverage Your Peer Network to Find the Best Data Sources For You

Understanding the most popular datasets for executive compensation and how they compare across stage, size, and sector is the first step to efficiently answering compensation requests that come in from investors, hiring managers, and founders. Some talent partners research this themselves, but the faster route is to rely on your peer network.

Find talent partners who operate at similar-sized firms, with funds investing in similar sectors, and ask which sources they work with most often. Thrive’s executive talent community helps with this–once you sign up, you gain access to a directory of other VC and PE talent leaders and can see which tools they use for executive compensation and more (It’s 100% free, so sign up now). You’ll also be able to ask questions to other talent partners in our Slack channel, so you can share data you’re finding and validate the results. 

From our directory data alone, we can see that VC and PE talent partners at tech-focused firms leverage Option Impact, Pave, and Carta at the highest rates regardless of whether they run searches directly or not. Mercer and Radford rank next and are mostly employed by firms investing in healthcare, biopharma, and business services companies.

2. Triangulate Multiple Datasets to Circumvent Incomplete Data

In a survey of 50 talent partners, 47% use two or more datasets when setting compensation benchmarks. The reason is that everyone encounters untrustworthy or incomplete data from time to time and looks to validate their findings with another source to work through this uncertainty. This strategy is also useful when investigating hourly roles or niche industries, such as consumer goods, manufacturing, or healthcare. You could, for example, cross-reference a tech-heavy data set like Pave or Carta with a more generic database like to zero in on an appropriate hourly rate for fractional hires.

Secondary data sources include Payscale, Thrive, Ravio, and Comp Analyst, along with survey data from Sequoia, PCECS, and proprietary internal networks.

​​Which data sources are most commonly used together? Join Thrive’s Talent Partner Community to find out. 

Some talent partners will also validate tricky compensation requests with search partners or firms they’ve worked with closely in the past, as proprietary records from recent placements may reflect the market more accurately compared to data collected only once or twice per year. Not every talent partner will opt to go this route if there isn’t enough trust established, which makes the community all that more attractive to get consensus on benchmarks quickly.

3. Leverage Data Effectively to Secure the Best Talent

Once talent partners feel confident they have the right data and know how to analyze it against multiple sources, they can start to wield it effectively to hire the best leaders for portfolio companies. 

For instance, talent partners hiring for early-stage VCs who are building out professional teams for the first time can bring on an experienced CEO from a later-stage company with a more competitive offer. In this specific example, it’s not just about having an accurate read of what the base, bonus, and benefit structure looks like in their current role from benchmark data, but also about building a package that will be attractive enough for that experienced CEO to move from the perceived stability of a more established company into an early-stage venture.

When needed, talent partners can also advocate internally to go above the top end of a salary band to get the right candidate hired–or get more creative with incentive structures to bring someone over the line if there is a budgetary limit. This of course depends on your particular compensation philosophy, as you may intentionally prohibit exceeding the top-end salary band to ensure pay parity and long-term stability. Knowing how to speak to the data can be your best weapon in accomplishing value creation through leadership hiring. 


Executive compensation work exemplifies the delicate balance talent partners strike when building out new processes for the first time while simultaneously acting as the go-to for every talent-related question. Relying on other talent partners to collectively build best practices over time is a great way to ease the pressure, starting with the strategies above.