Quite a few applicants already include their salary expectations in the cover letter of their application. For many job ads that is even expected of them. However, not every candidate is able to correctly asses their own market value. This leads to anxiety about whether a too high demand might get the application trashed before the recruiter so much as skimmed the list of qualifications. Hence, many try to postpone the matter until the job interview.

The interview, especially the first one, is not the best timing for touch negotiations. The main focus should be to leave a good and competent impression. Researching in advance to get a general idea of one’s market value is essential.

A search on the internet reveals a great number of reports comparing salaries in different industries, jobs, or hierarchy levels. Some are available for free, others, usually the more in-depth reports can be accessed for a couple of Euros. This is an investment which might well pay off. There are also more individual offers, which allow candidates to anonymously enter their data and receive a salary report based on region, industry, education and work experience. Those reports are usually based on statistical data gathered through polls. There are several large such studies done every year, many with a very specific focus, like upper management, the chemical industry or expat employees.

Much also depends on the size of the potential employer, although big corporations in no way always pay more than smaller companies. Like everywhere in HR, it depends on the individual job, its specific requirements, and of course on the candidates themselves. Still, the salary reports offer a good general overview and should help to find a good starting point for the negotiations.

In general, the candidates are well advised to wait until the employer side – usually represented by a recruiter, breaches the subject. No matter how important, it is better to not get pushy about this. For some positions it is customary to not talk about salaries and benefits until the second or even the closing interview. Most of the time that is the case with high-level jobs or positions in sales and marketing, when there are a number of variable elements to consider, like a company car, laptop, or mobile phone.

 

Experience, past successes and a good network increase you market value.

Whether a candidate is offered the job, and given the expected compensation depends first and foremost on hard data. The education, degrees and continued education while working have a huge impact, of course, as do work experience and quantifiable achievements. An example for those would be increased sales or cost savings, or maybe the opening of a new branch. Should those not have been listed in the initial application, the candidate should be able to tell about those successes during the interview to point out that they really offer some value to the company. Specific knowledge or industry knowledge can also make a candidate stand out, and translate into a higher salary.

Of course, someone who is currently unemployed and therefore und some pressure to find a job fast, as well as people just starting out will have a harder time making their cv shine. Additional skills can play a huge role here. In an increasingly global environment, things like second language skills, internships abroad and some advanced training have become important. Employees with these skills can take over a wider range of responsibilities and therefore are of a high value for the company. For graduates just starting out that means that after the first year with a fairly low starters’ salary, they are in a good position to re-negotiate.

 

Be willing to compromise

Some flexibility is advisable, even when the employer is a bit stingy on the fixed salary. Here it is possible to offer a lower starting salary for the first few months, or a larger flexible salary. Should that not be possible, talk about extras like additional allowances for child care and commute costs, or restaurant vouchers. A lot of companies are open for this kind of compensation, especially as some of those extras are even tax-free, which is an advantage for both sides.

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