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Should you negotiate when you get a job offer in Germany?

published2 months ago
3 min read

Guten tag Reader -

Greetings from a snowy Berlin! 🇩🇪 Hope you're all enjoying your Sunday.

This past week, I came across some terrible advice about finding work in Germany, and frankly, it shocked me. The person doling out the advice said that when you‘re given a job offer, you shouldn’t negotiate and just accept what a company gives you because "That’s how it is in Germany, as Germans don't like it when you present a counter offer".

Aside from the fact that this reinforces negative stereotypes about German working culture, this is absolutely not true. Negotiation is typically expected and often, it's more than welcome.

Let me tell you about some of my personal experiences:

1) I tried to negotiate and failed

I once attempted to negotiate a better salary for a job with an exciting Berlin startup and was told that it wasn't possible at that time but would be after one year. While their response was a big let-down, I took the job and did end up getting that promised raise one year later.

2) I was asked to negotiate and I chose not to

When I received the offer from my current company, my soon-to-be boss called me up on the phone. After giving me the news that I'd gotten the job, he went through what the offer included, mentioning things like salary, holidays, and other benefits. When he got to the salary part, he advised that we could talk more about the number if I wasn't happy with it, as well as other things they could do. The offer was fantastic and I happily accepted it without any changes, but his openness to having the discussion was reassuring.

3) I negotiated and succeeded

I've also negotiated for a better salary, and I'm not very experienced, or even comfortable, negotiating. Shortly before the pandemic, I was offered a Head of Coaching role at a Berlin-based company. Considering what the role demanded, their salary was almost the same as what I was already making (in a position where I was not leading a team). So obviously I countered and while at first, they resisted, I was able to secure a higher level of compensation and guarantee another raise once I passed probation. While I ultimately turned down this particular job offer, I felt proud of my being able to get out of my comfort zone and ask for a reasonable increase through sensible negotiation.

The experiences outlined here are only from an employee perspective. Working as a hiring manager, I've been on the other side as well. My company's recruiting team always expected a certain level of negotiation.

My main point here is that it's commonplace to negotiate when you receive a job offer in Germany. You're not going to surprise or offend anyone. I am not sure where the person who was telling people to never negotiate got this false impression. 🤷‍♀️

So should you negotiate when you receive a job offer in Germany?

Hell, yes. Even if you're happy with the offer, why not explore your options and see how open they are to bettering the offer? While good companies will often exceed your expectations, bad companies (which is unfortunately most companies) will lowball and that first offer is just them seeing if they can get away with paying you less than what you deserve.

Personally, I keep going back to all the times throughout my career when I didn't advocate for myself and found out I made significantly less than my peers with equal skills, experience, and education. As a result of these situations, I always strive to start a dialogue and explore how open the company is to negotiate.

What you need to think about when negotiating:

If you're trying to negotiate compensation, I would advise not straying too far from your previously stated salary expectations. Say that communicated that you were looking for an annual salary of €50 - €55k and you suddenly ask for €65k. You may find that your potential employer soon rescinds the offer for you acting in bad faith.

Salary isn't the only thing there is to negotiate. You can ask for assurances of a promotion by a certain date, a secured training budget, additional holidays, and other perks.

Whatever you do, make sure what you're asking for is reasonable. Be prepared to confidently explain why you feel your requests are justified by providing data about average salaries for your position or explaining in more detail about your past experiences.

Is it cool to simply accept a job offer and not negotiate?

If a job offer does in fact exceed your expectations - this is the best-case scenario and you should definitely accept. There are companies who will go above and beyond to snap you up.

What happens when the company refuses to negotiate?

Worse come to worse, the company may not be flexible on their offer, but at least you'll know you asked. You can either take the job or turn them down. 💛

That's all for this week. As it takes a lot of time and energy to run our little community, write blog posts, and put together newsletter blasts, it would be super sweet of you to donate and buy me a 🍺 and help keep The Berlin Life going.

Until next time,

Founder - The Berlin Life