Looking for advice on ‘Salary Expectations’

I did a phone interview last week, and now the company wants to fly me out for an onsite interview. First, though, they want to discuss ‘salary expectations’. The job is in another country so I’m guessing they want to know we’re in the same ballpark before they pay for what would be a somewhat costly trip. I’ve never really been comfortable with the salary question. Has anyone negotiated salaries from the other side of the table or have any advice on how to approach this? A few questions:

  1. Should I tell them what I’m making now as a starting point?
  2. Is there a protocol for salary requests, like: Current Salary + (10% - 20%)
  3. Is it better to ask for what I want, or to ask for something higher assuming they’ll want to negotiate down?
  4. If I ask for something at the bottom of their range, I’m obviously missing an opportunity, but if I ask for something too high do I look unreasonable or greedy and hurt my chances of getting an offer?
  5. Are moving expenses and/or a signing bonus reasonable requests since the job is in another country? Should I ask for them, or will it be (or not be) a standard part of their compensation package.

The place I’m interviewing is a great company (at least in terms of their work), and money has little to do with why I sent them a resume in the first place. Whether it’s also a great place to work remains to be seen, but I think there’s a good chance I’ll want the job even if it involves a cut in pay. Of course, I’d like to avoid that if possible. I’m not sure how to go about letting them know that money isn’t my primary concern without getting taken advantage of in the process.

Are you planning to stay at the new location and buy a house? Then figure what a place there would cost you, and the salary it would take to qualify for a mortgage on that house. At minimum, when it comes to salary discussion, you’ll show that your figure isn’t arbitrary, and that you’re serious about staying with the job.

Otherwise, get good info on what rents in the new location would be and ask for salary so that rent is no more than 30% of your salary.

There are websites that will show salaries for various jobs. Last time I got a job I was offered what the website ballparked. Since it was a job above what I was doing before I took the offer (it had plenty of room for growth).

What you should be asking about is the premium for relocating to another country. That’s outside my area of knowledge. Make sure you value the cost of living at the destination because it wouldn’t make sense to earn X dollars American and have to spend 1.5X in Euroland to live.

ack, isn’t it always a bad idea to be the first one to throw out a number?

I thought the game was always, politely insist that they must have a salary range for someone with your experience, and, once they’ve provided that, then you can discuss, on top of that, what sort of relocation package they’d be willing to consider.

If you are a young single guy/gal, just make sure the cash in hand is good, relocation and accomodation (should be cheap for you) is paid for and have fun. If life involves others then the the obligations are little deeper

Really you have to negotiate this from what you need not what others in a similar grade/position get. Salaries, benefits etc in another country are not eaisly equated with your situation now, and they probably should not be, base everything on your best alternative to a negotiation, which is what you have now and what is available where you are.

If a company is inviting you to go overseas they are doing it because you have skills and a cultural work ethics etc they need. Nobody negotiates unless they have to.

So figure out what your future housing needs will be. Do you need to maintain a housing prescence in your home country. If so a housing allowance or company paid apartment in the future country is fine, but the cost of maintaining (including tax etc) a residence in your home country needs to be considered. Remember when this gig ends, you will have to reenter the home country housing market. Be very careful of housing allowances rather than company paid for, depending where you are expat housing is freeking expensive.

Figure out where you plan to retire, what are the tax implications, what does the company offer as a pension and how can that be repatriated and how will it be taxed. Is the overseas tax assed pension compensating for waht you need t be putting away in your home country.

Figure out what your housing and living requirements will be, schooling for kids, size of house, trips home (don´t underestimate this, working in a cuturally alien environment can put a strain on the family, long sumer trips home for the spuse and kids can help, assuming thre is along term net gain goal to offset the pain )

*1. Should I tell them what I’m making now as a starting point? *
You could, but it is irrelevent at best
2. Is there a protocol for salary requests, like: Current Salary + (10% - 20%)
Not relevent, figure out what you need, explain how much and why.
3. Is it better to ask for what I want, or to ask for something higher assuming they’ll want to negotiate down?
Ask for what you need, remeber they are needing something from you as well , so you have some power,but never ever drop below what you have now, jsut walk from the offer, unless you can quantify the possible future gains somehow.
4. If I ask for something at the bottom of their range, I’m obviously missing an opportunity, but if I ask for something too high do I look unreasonable or greedy and hurt my chances of getting an offer?
You will probably not have any real meaningful knowledge of what their high and low ranges are, and those ranges are not relevent. Figure out what you need to maintain your future and your current life style, factor in the potential for the new opportunity as a plus.

  1. Are moving expenses and/or a signing bonus reasonable requests since the job is in another country? Should I ask for them, or will it be (or not be) a standard part of their compensation package.
    I have no idea if it would be a standard part of the package, but this is a huge freeking expense and neds to be factored into the deal. Absolutely ask what they do, and then go get some quotes from some of the big international mover (Crown relocaton springs to mind) What it will cost you? Ball pack we were paying 15,000 to move a 20 ft container out of central Asia to South America, and you should consider a 40ft container for a full house load. Even if they provide a relocation allowance don´t forget the interim for the 6 months it will take for your shipment to turn up, or the customs import value, or the cost of buying 220v appliances etc.

In my experience it is common for the company to pay for a 40ft container of personal stuff, X,000 dllars relocation bonus (for sundry items), X months accomodation and expenses for the interim, car allowance (cars and associated cost can be outrageuos depending where you are), full medical and emergency repatriation, family vacation allowance, pension based on country of origin, full housing and utilities, residual cash payment based on what residual cash pople of a similar experience would have in their home country, uplift for country cost
of living, uplift for living in a dung hole, plus additional dung hole living vacation allowance.

Remember a lot of the above is stuff you already have or dont need where ever you are right no but needs to be compensated for when you move.
Hope that was of some help, there are quite a few expat dopers around, if you let peple know where and what industry they may be able to provide some more information

Think package, not just salary. Pension, relocation allowances, perks like health insurance, holiday, flights home, etc.

Salary package is right. It would be helpful if you could let us know what country (or region) the job is in - this affects what sort of perks you may be entitled to or should ask for.

Generally, you should consider initial moving and set-up expenses, annual flights home (for you, if single, or you and your family, if you have one), health insurance (ask for global coverage, including coverage of drugs and dressings, as well as repatriation and evacuation expenses, e.g. if you need medical care that isn’t available in the country in which you reside), company-covered travel insurance for any business travel, housing allowance, provision of company car or transportation allowance, payment of school fees for any children.

Thanks for the replies.

The job’s in Germany. I probably should look into health insurance more. I assumed health care wouldn’t be much of an issue. Years ago I broke my foot in France and everything from ER admission to MRI’s to casting my foot was free, even as a non-citizen. Of course, Germany isn’t France. I’m doing some research now on rent/real estate prices, and I’ll look into health care too.

The HR director at the company I’m talking to says they have a bunch of documentation about living in Germany that they’ll send me along with an NDA after I give them initial salary expectations. Maybe I should ask to see the info first.

Hasn’t Future Londonite just returned from Germany?

I’m just about ready to say that any company that insists on playing this salary game with me is not a company I want to work for. They always know what they are prepared to offer; this is just a game of who blinks first, with a side order of trying to get me to lowball myself. If you have an idea what salaries are like for the job you’re interviewing for, take the high end of that number and add 20% or so if they insist on you giving a number first instead of just saying you expect a salary in line with industry standards. Some day I’m going to answer this question in my best Dr. Evil voice; “One MILLION dollars!”

By the way, I think healthcare in Germany is much more expensive than France. Definitely look into that.

I can tell you a bit about health insurance in Germany.

It sounds like you are applying for a highly-qualified and potentially well-paid position. You don’t have to give us numbers but note that everything changes if you earn more than EUR 3600 per month (gross.) Above that the system that I describe becomes optional and if you choose to participate anyway, your premiums are capped at the amount that you would pay if you earned EUR 3600.

You will need health insurance. It will cost a certain percentage (currently about 12-16%) of your gross income. About half of that will be paid by you and half by your employer. There are many insurances to choose from but they are regulated in such a way that the actual differences aren’t all that significant. By law all of them cover the same things (there are separate commercial insurances for certain upgrades.) and every insurance has to take you. Age or preexisting conditions are irrelevant. Your insurance would also cover a non-working spouse and children at no additional cost.

I went and saw my mother this morning- we were talking about wages and how I imagine people are probably doing very well. I said when I started work I was on $90 per Fortnight (two weeks- that is $45 per week).

Mum said when she started work- as a domestic- she worked 6 days a week cleaning and polishing in another house and she earned two and sixpence (25 cents). She had to pay board (rent) out of that.

  1. Should I tell them what I’m making now as a starting point?

Not necessarily, but be prepared to tell them and explain how your request relates to that salary. After all, they may ask. (In some cases, is IS relevant - for example, USAID will not pay you more than your highest previous salary for the same work plus 5%. This applies even if you are working for a private company in a foreign country, as long as they foot the bill.)

  1. Is there a protocol for salary requests, like: Current Salary + (10% - 20%)

No but I do like this kind of approach, assuming it yields you a salary you are happy with. I have successfully negotiated satisfactory salaries based on that type of reasoning - but the specifics are up to you.

  1. Is it better to ask for what I want, or to ask for something higher assuming they’ll want to negotiate down.

Tough question, and some people will persuasively argue you should go a lot higher. I generally don’t ask for more than 10 -15% more than I am actually willing to settle for.

  1. If I ask for something at the bottom of their range, I’m obviously missing an opportunity, but if I ask for something too high do I look unreasonable or greedy and hurt my chances of getting an offer

They gave you a range? Then ask for something near the top - you’re so good you deserve top pay, but you do want to leave a little bit of room for a salary review/increase after you’ve proven yourself in 6 months.

  1. Are moving expenses and/or a signing bonus reasonable requests since the job is in another country? Should I ask for them, or will it be (or not be) a standard part of their compensation package.

Oh heck YES!!! You should request moving expenses both TO and (assuming you fulfill certain criteria, such as 18 months employment) FROM your home. You should get “home leave” too – i.e., roundtrip airfare for each family member periodically (once every 1-2 years is typical). Your vacation package should reflect that should you choose to visit people back in the US, your travel time is lengthy - don’t take 1 week vacation, try to get at least 3 (although European countries are usually pretty good about this anyway). If you have a spouse who wants to work, ask if there is job placement assistance for him/her. (If they say no, fine, but at least you asked). If you have kids, their schooling should be paid for (since one assumes they can’t attend German public schools, unless they speak fluent German). Health insurance - absolutely.

If you are still paying a mortgage back in the US while having to pay rent in Germany as well, you should ask for a housing subsidy too.

Anything below 24 workdays is illegal and often contracts specify more than that.

If the OP is required to have “public” health insurance or decides to do so voluntarily, then there is nothing to negotiate. If he is above the limit he can choose a private insurance (or none at all) but but its certainly possible but unlikely that a company would pay for that directly. We don’t really have this concept of employers providing your health insurance.

On a mostly-related note, if all of your moving expenses aren’t covered by your employer, definitely keep all the receipts for income tax purposes. Your laws may be different of course, but moving for work is a work-related expense and usually deductible from income.

I cannot answer all your questions. However, I went from meek/mild in this area to someone with experience…my observations:

I am loathe to give out my current salary. It can only hurt you. If you make too little, they may doubt your competence and so jepardize your getting the job. This was a problem for me because when I left teaching I took a job at a small company and was literally making less and less of marketable wage as time passed. When market wage went to near double my salary, I decided that I needed to move on even though I absolutely loved the company. However having the title of ‘X’ and actually doing it but making so little will put doubts into their mind as to you really have experience as position ‘x’.

If your salary is in the ballpark, they will use your current salary to feel comfortable offering a lower amount…knowing it will still be attractive to you. However, if they don’t know what you make, they probably would have offered more.

If your current salary is too high, they may drop you out of consideration before they realize they really could afford the value you would bring. Don’t laugh, this has happened to me where they said that they realized I was too high level for the position they were trying to fill but realized that it would be good to have me there so changed the position.

That being said, there are legitimate reasons they want to know your salary. One is they want to be sure you REALLY have experience at a certain level. If you say you are X but are paid like levels below that then you probably REALLY aren’t X…but are a good BS artist. Yes, you may be like what I said above…but those people are not overly common.

Another reason is that they have a limited budget and they want to be sure they aren’t wasting their time and yours. If your current salary is more than they can offer, it IS a waste of time.

So…should you offer your salary when asked? If you can get away with not doing it, it is best. However, refusing to give it up can be difficult. So, DO YOUR RESEARCH and have a proper, reality grounded salary range in mind that you can defend. If asked and you have to give…always add on that you do not understand what use this information is and that you expect the salary to be based on the position, not what you have done before. If you reach negotiation then you can quote the range you have researched.

In my experience, the earlier they bring up salary…the more likely the company is on a limited budget and/or is miserly. They bring it up early because what they offer is usually too low for many people - so they don’t want to waste their time. Companies that don’t even hint at salary until well into the interview process when they make an offer are usually used to getting who they want and are very competitive. These companies want who they want and pay what they need to pay.

Companies that call you and ask about pay expectations before they even schedule an interview? Pssshhhaaww…you might as well hang up on em…they are a joke.

I’m sure you know…NEVER bring up salary first. That is a huge no-no.

When negotiations come up and the salary is too low from your researched range (like they used your old salary +10%)? Tell them your research. They can try to refute it…but bring up friends/colleagues who are in that range…that your research should be reliable etc. Say that you are hesitant to take a position for a salary below that position because you would feel that you are a very good X and want to be compensated accordingly - at least at market wage. You can say that you will look into your research more carefully to make sure you weren’t mistaken and take some time to think. You aren’t going to take it - but it gives THEM an opportunity to raise the offer when you don’t call back and they call you to find your answer.

If they offer a salary that is almost, but not quite up to your minimum…then dont forget to negotiate other items. More vacation time? Car allowance? Anything to get the offer up to what you would accept. Some companies can really roll with this, though the majority, IME, do not.

Also, while it is best not to give the first figure…in reality you most likely will have to. If you do your research, then this isn’t so bad. If your research says that the market wage is $55,000 with 1 std dev of $5000…then use a range of $50,000-$60,000. When they ask you your expectations, say $55K-$60K. If they are close (say $52K) they will come back and say $52K + (some special perk). You can then judge as to take it or not.

Remember…there is much crap out there. You want a job, yes…but assuming you are not desperate (best situation is you HAVE a job but are looking) then you can use the salary negotiation as a filter to clear out the crap. You actually look forward to it and find it useful to your needs (just like you will find yourself using interviews to interview THEM even more than they interview you).

Hope this is useful.

That was great, BlinkingDuck. I might have to print it out and put it away for my next job search. It really confirms what I have started to suspect about companies that insist on playing the salary expectations game.