What are your salary expectations? SMART answer required for a TRICKY question!!

“What are your salary expectations?” is a typical question asked in any interview or “Please include your salary expectations in the Cover letter” is another statement which can be seen quite often in many job advertisements in Germany. You cannot blindly answer these questions without researching about them.

WHY do you need to research?

Recruiters ask for your salary expectations because of several reasons:
1. To understand if a company can afford you
2. To make sure they make a fair offer
3. To understand the salary range in the industry better

If you ask way too high without proper justification, there is a high chance to get rejected since your salary expectations are far above budget and it will not make any sense to run a further discussion. At the same time if you ask too low compared to the market standard then it shows that you have not researched properly or you sound very desperate to take up any job. This could also increase your chances of getting rejected. Hence, the need for research about salaries is very important.

HOW can you research?

You need to do your research online and at the same time talk to your friends, alumni, seniors or us at Reflections if it’s about a specific role in an industry.

The following resources will help you to research & prepare well to answer these questions:

If you apply for a job which falls under a standardized tariff agreement (e.g. in public institutions or professions with active labor unions). In this case, the salary levels are usually transparent and only negotiable to a very limited extent. For example if you work in the “Metall & Elektro Industrie” in Germany then your salary is regulated by IG Metall and you can find salary information on their website: https://www.igmetall.de/tarif/tariftabellen/wie-viel-gibt-es

Factors to be considered while researching your salary expectations: 

  • Your qualifications (Bachelors, Masters, PhD, certificate courses, MBA etc.)
  • Your previous work experience (relevant to the position)
  • Company size – Salaries in start-ups are usually lower than what you can expect when you work for a large company
  • Location – Salaries in bigger cities like Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt etc. are higher compared to smaller cities like Karlsruhe, Kassel, Schwerin etc. because of cost of living  

Other Tips:

  • During our recent personal sessions, there was a question if a Gross salary of 45-65k EUR/year (range of 20k EUR) can be quoted in an interview? In general, your answer should be in a range of 5k EUR e.g. 50-55k EUR/year
  • From your Gross salary there are mandatory pension, health insurance, unemployment insurance, income tax contributions etc. So, you need to understand the difference between Gross (Brutto) and Net salary (Netto). Use this calculator to get a general idea: https://www.brutto-netto-rechner.info/
  • Negotiate “other components” too & not only “Salary” (valid for full time jobs)
    • Performance or Christmas Bonus
    • Reduced working hours or flexibility to work from anywhere
    • Relocation expenses
    • German language classes
    • Online courses or part time studies
    • Gym or public transport subscriptions
    • Private pension contributions etc.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any further tips or resources that can be useful to answer the questions about salaries.

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