WHY KNOWING SALARY RANGES IN GERMANY IS ESSENTIAL
When you’re searching for work in Germany, it’s a good idea to know the salary range (Gehaltsband) for your chosen profession. Your desired salary range is actually one of the very first things a German company will ask you about during an interview.
SALARY RANGES IN GERMANY
If you’re like me, coming from somewhere like Canada, salary isn’t usually discussed until the time of offer. So it feels pretty strange to be asked about it so directly and so early on in the recruitment process. Some job descriptions in Germany will even request that you include your preferred salary in the cover letter or it may also appear as a field on the job application.
In the past, I’ve purposely avoided adding that information to my job application. Recruiters have since told me that when they see that potential candidates haven’t specified a salary range when it was explicitly requested, they often discard the applications completely. They’ll see you as someone who misses attention to detail, is being disrespectful by not following their instructions, and/or that you’re being duplicitous.
When I managed to get to the next stage of the recruitment process, expected salary expectations would always come up during the first introductory call. Nervously, I’d fumble my way through the conversation saying something like “Whatever market rate is paying for someone with my profile.” This was never accepted as an answer and the recruiter would always press on, asking me to provide a range. I’d usually throw something out there, never knowing if I undersold myself or priced myself too high – and even worse, out of a job.
German companies ask for this information up front, as they want to know if your salary expectations come close to what they’re able to offer. It’s actually better for both parties to find out how close they align at the beginning of the recruitment process. For example, I remember talking with a candidate who wanted way more than we’d budgeted for that position. Finding out high expectations on salary right away allowed us to mutually decide not to continue.
As uncomfortable as it can be, there’s no getting away from it. You need to be ready to talk about salary, speak about it with confidence, and able to justify why you should get what you’re asking for.
Where To Research Salary Ranges In GermanyThe best places to research salary ranges for your profession are: 1) GEHALT.de 2) LinkedIn 3) Glassdoor 4) kununu 5) Berliners can refer to this homegrown spreadsheet where locals have been entering their salary ranges for a while now. The data in the spreadsheet is likely not totally accurate, so don’t get stressed out by anything you see there. Simply use it as an additional frame of reference that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. 6) A simple search may land you on other specialized websites not mentioned here. Search for “<profession> salaries <location>” and see what information that yields. Since I work as an Agile Coach, I’d search for “Agile coach salaries Berlin”. 7) If you want to know what Germans earn on average and what are the highest paid positions, check paylab and ru-geld.de. 8) To figure out what your salary would be after taxes, use this calculator.
What Affects Where You Land Within A German Salary RangeThere are a number of things to think about to determine where you land within a salary range: 1) The company profile – Bigger, established, well-funded, and/or profitable companies usually have more money to throw around in terms of salaries and bonuses. Young startups tend to be cash-strapped, especially before getting their first investment or becoming profitable. 2) The city where you’re applying – Berlin tends to pay less than what you’d make in Munich, Frankfurt, or Hamburg due to a lower cost of living. So be sure to make your research location specific. 3) Your personal profile – Accomplishments, education, training, experience, all factor into where you land on the scale. As you’re researching salary ranges, take all of the above things into account. What’s more, try to realistically assess where you land on the scale. Talk with others to verify if your proposed range is solid, perhaps a mentor, or other colleagues you’ve worked with in the past. You can even post in local Facebook groups, like Berlin Boss Babes, as there are many recruiters, hiring managers, and coaches in the group who’d be only too happy to help. (Note, this specific group is for women only.) In an effort to combat pay disparity between genders, Germany actually passed a law where you can request your company to disclose anonymized salary information for others in a similar position.
Tips When Providing Salary Ranges to German Employers
1) Provide a range and not a specific figure – Don’t provide a specific amount like €50,000. Always go with a range like €45,000 – €55,000.
2) Be strategic about the range you provide – Companies often don’t play fairly and when you provide a salary range, they could lowball you. Building on the above salary range example, they may only offer you €45,000 if you provide a range of €45,000 – €55,000. So keep the low end of your quoted range to be something you’re comfortable with, your middle range what you really want to make, and the high end, more aspirational. This will give you room for negotiation when talking about offers.
3) Don’t tell them how much you make now – If a company asks you what you’re making in your current role, you’re not obligated to share it with them. Instead, keep the conversation focused on the range itself and what you’re looking to make. When negotiating, be prepared to justify your desired salary based on data. You should be very familiar with market rates for the position in general, what comparable companies are paying, and what others with a similar profile as you are making on average.
4) Adjust your expectations – Even if you made more money for that role in a previous job, which is really common for people moving to Germany from abroad, always provide a range that fits local market rates. A comparable salary to what you made in London, San Francisco, or New York salary isn’t likely to be found in Berlin for example. Although the salary may feel lower, permanent positions in Germany come with perks not always found elsewhere, like extensive healthcare coverage, six weeks of vacation, and long notice periods. The cost of living in Berlin (although rising) is still relatively cheaper than many other major cities.
So when you’re interviewing for jobs in Germany, be strategic with your expected salary range to help ensure that you get the very best job offer.
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Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life
Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.
A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech.
My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.
The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.