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I'm a recent graduate from a Masters in CS from Germany. I currently live in Germany and am looking for a job. However, since I'm new to job hunting, I don't have an experience with contracts and negotiating contract conditions and so on.

I'm interviewing with a small company next week and I need to be prepared if they offer me a position or ask questions related to the contract.

One thing I don't understand is the benefits I can ask for. I have heard about 'vacation,' 'bonus,' 'smart-phone' as benefits. Once, a recruiter asked me about benefits I want from companies. Since I didn't know what benefits were (I simply thought you get a salary and the 30 days vacation, and maybe if the company finds that you are doing well then they could give you an award or something) I told him "I don't know, well, it doesn't matter, what matters is the position if it's interesting for me or not".

My questions to you:

  1. What benefits can someone ask for in a contract from a German company? I'm specifying with German because I know that health insurance and retirement pensions are included by default in the social-security package for all people living in Germany.

  2. What is the bonus exactly? And if they offer me a lower salary but with a bonus, should I accept?

  3. Are there different vacation benefits other than 30 days vacation a year?!

  4. Should I always ask for benefits? Or is it bad since I'm a recent graduate and looking for junior positions?

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    You can ask for anything you want, might help, if you research is considered normal for your county and what is required by law – Donald May 2 '15 at 21:09
  • Putting quotation marks around words like vacation and bonus makes it seem as if you heard about it but don't even know what these words mean. – Johann Bauer Mar 4 '16 at 19:28
  • Have you asked your university - they presumably have a careers service – Neuromancer Jun 22 '18 at 9:36
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4 weeks is the legal minimum for paid vacation days in Germany (24 days for a 6 day week, 20 days for a 5 day week), everything more is a matter of negotiation (30 days is usual in Germany; even 20 paid days is a lot compared to other countries). There might be a trade-off involved (more vacation days but less salary or the other way round).

You can negotiate for perks like company cell phone, company car (won't happen for somebody who just gets started unless it's really required by the job), a laptop you might also use privately and other hardware.

The company might contribute to your private pension fund (talk to your insurance agent about a plan that might be eligible, If you plan to stay in Germany having a private fund in addition to the state-run pension system is a good idea). Edited to add: The word I was looking for/ the thing to ask for is "Vermögenswirksame Leistungen".

The company might contribute to your bus fare or other tickets for public transport, or you can negotiate for a parking lot if you go by car. Some startups are known to buy bycycles for their employees.

You can and should negotiate for training and courses relevant to your job ( a company that does not offer opportunities for training is not a company you want to work for).

There are some non-material perks - home office days, permission to bring the dog to the office, flexible working hours.

You can negotiate for a shorter probation period (usually it's six months). Before you do that remember this is a test period not only for the company, but also for you - if you find out that things don't work out you might be glad to leave on 14 days notice. Usually your contract will run for another three months after you quit - but this is negotiable, too. Btw. it's quite common to start with a lower salary and get the first raise after the probation period (i.e. after you have shown commitment and are likely to stay with the company), but this should be discussed beforehand.

You will get the more expensive benefits only after your probation period (companies don't want to pay for training for people who might leave in a hurry).

Bonuses on a lower salary are basically a bet on the future of the company and the competence of your managers (if the company fails or your bosses screw up you might end up losing the bonus due to no fault of your own). As a new hire you usually do not have inside information, so you can only follow your gut feeling (inform yourself as good as possible about the company and the field they are working in as there are obvious failure modes - but really, you cannot tell). However you probably do not have loans or mortgages or a high standard of living to maintain, so you might want to take the bet on the chance that you're on to a winner.

Edited to add: as pointed out in the comments working hours should be talked about. If you are working in a unionized (as in union, not as in chemistry) trade the union will negotiate hour for you (usually 38.5 hours per week), but then they will also negotiate salaries. If you work for the "Öffentlicher Dienst" (federal or state governments or communal authorities, if that's the right word) you will usually have the same conditions as a union member.

If you work in a private software dev business you will probably have 40 hours in your contract, plus some contracts have a clause that you are required to work a fixed number of hours overtime per month without compensation (even if contracts do not point this out this is an emergency clause, employers cannot legally build their business model on having everybody work overtime all the time). Of course you can negotiate for less hours, but you will get a smaller salary, less benefits and it will have a disproportionate effect on your pension fund if you're worried about that kind of thing (you will however get full healthcare which is a major reason that half-time jobs are quite popular).

In conclusion:

  • What you should ask for - training
  • What you may ask for - vacation days (a few days over the legal mininum), refund for public transport, cell phone
  • What you shouldn't ask for as new hire - the expensive stuff (cars, another ten vacation days, free food for your pet elephant etc)
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    One correction: The bare minimum of vacation days in germany is not 24, but an amount that is needed so you can have 4 weeks of vacation per year. It depends on the number of days per week, how many that actually are: If you are a shop clerk that works from monday to saturday, 24 is the minimum, if you work from monday to friday, 20 is the minimum. And you have to take vacation days according to the length of your work-week - if it is 6 days, 30 days of vacation are merely 5 weeks. – Jost May 2 '15 at 13:20
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    Just a minor addition: even if your company is using union rates, you can try and negotiate a higher rate, or being placed in a higher Tarifgruppe. – o.m. May 3 '15 at 15:50
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    @DanNeely Normally, people leave earlier on Fridays. – dirkk May 4 '15 at 15:54
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    Got my first job offer. They indeed offered a lower salary in the probation period. 3k per month in the probation period and then 3250 afterwards. They offered 27 days vacation, flexible environment, free drinks and snacks. It's a java software developer position in Stuttgart. However I still do believe that the salary is low compared to the industry. I actually started considering leaving after 1 year if my salary is not increased to 4k after one year working there ... although I haven't started working yet! Maybe it's not a good way of thinking ... – Jack Twain May 29 '15 at 21:44
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    @JackTwain: A 23% raise to 4k after one year is a little bit too high for a small company. You could get that if your performance is great, but don't count on it. In my opinion getting a 10% raise each year is good enough. Unfortunately this all dependents on your starting salary, which seems to be fixed already. Another way to get raises is to change your job description, e.g. you could argue that you're taking responsibility for deployments or other stuff nobody wants to do. – Chris Mar 30 '16 at 10:56
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Be careful about some perks. Some like a company car are taxed as if the company payed you the same amount of money. This might make you loose money compared to a higher salary.

In the german tax system there is a thing called "Geldwerter Vorteil". Perks your employer gives you that have verifiable price tags count as if your employer pays you the money directly. Take for example a company car. Unless you proove that the car is used way more for business than for you privately, your tax burden grows. It grows by 1% of the buying price of the car per month. You might even reach a higher tax bracket thanks to this.

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    Usually a company car is still a good deal even with the 1% tax. – Simon Nov 20 '18 at 17:29
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Firstly - check out open positions for similar jobs (for ex. here on StackOverflow). They usually write all perks/benefits they give their employees. So you can see whats kinda normal to get everywhere and what are things that can be given but aren't common.

Second - As a newbie, ask for training. Certifications or at least one conference visit per year in your field.

Third - If you develop software, it's common to get all the stuff you need to work from your company. I develop mobile apps, and I got a laptop and smartphone from my company, because I need it for work; if I work on smartwatch or tablet apps, then they need to provide me with a tabled and/or smartwatch. Don't be afraid to negotiate about anything you need to do your job.

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