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I want to apply for a PHD position in one of Germanys biggest companies. The position is not only exactly in the field I'm working but I'm actually researching exactly on the same topic for the last six months (and I'm explicitly allowed to use the results commercially), so I'm positive that I'll be a pretty good fit for the job and can show something to stand out other applicants.

While not mentioned on the job description nor anywhere else on their website I know the salary other guys get for working on their PHD thesis within this company: simply put, I cannot afford to work for the money they get, because I'm married and have a toddler, so as you can imagine we need a little bit more money to live than the typical PHD student. While I'm aware of the possibility that they are not able to change anything on the salary for this kind of position, I thought I'd give it a try.

My Questions are:

  1. When to mention it? I fear that mentioning it in the cover letter will make them reject me before they even get to know my expertise. On the other side, this could avoid wasting time if the salary is not negotiable. Should I actively mention it in the first interview? Wait for the interviewer to mention? Note: as far as I know salary negotiation for this kind of position is not common at all!
  2. How to support the requested salary? Should I argue with my expertise (downside: other applicants are certainly also experts in this field) or mention my higher living costs due to my family? I'm afraid it will look like begging.

Help is greatly appreciated!

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    Your family situation is totally irrelevant to a salary negotiation as well it should be. There is no reason at all for a company to pay more based on your children or lack thereof. Base any salary negotiation on what extra you will bring to the company over other choices. – HLGEM Mar 16 '16 at 16:05
  • in fact most companies already pay folks with families more, in the form of additional benefits. You don't get additional salary as well. If you can't survive on the salary you're offered, your options are that someone works a second job, or you find some way to cut costs (which may mean relocating and/or selling stuff), or you find a job you don't like as much but that will pay better... Or justify why you are worth more to this company than they are offering you. – keshlam Mar 16 '16 at 16:18
  • Also -- This depends on your profession, but in many fields PhD is the academic research degree, and unless the company is specifically performing that kind of research the advanced degree may not translate to being a more attractive candidate. – keshlam Mar 16 '16 at 20:38
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    Being married, having many children, wanting a new yacht, having a debt are not valid justifications to being paid more. – Salvador Dali Mar 16 '16 at 22:29
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    Anything you can use to argue persuasively in a negotiation is "valid" and "relevant". Depends on your style of negotiation. If you're the kind of person that has to make it personal, e.g. "I can't feed my kids on that" instead of "that is not the standard rate I see in industry publication X", that's fine. Just be aware that it can be done well or can look like begging, as you suggest. On the other hand, if begging gets what you want, I consider that a successful negotiation. – Chan-Ho Suh Mar 16 '16 at 22:46
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This really depends on how much you want the job, and how much time you want to invest in the process, should they bring you in for an interview. Since the decision to apply or not is based largely on your current financial situation, your physical location, and your knowledge of the company, only you can determine if it makes sense.

If you believe that there is room to negotiate salary, and you choose to invest your time, you should put off salary discussions as long as you can.

Your goal in an interview is to sell yourself and your skills, and give the employer as many reasons to hire you as possible.

If you have experience working with the exact same topic as the position calls for, that's a competitive advantage for you. If you interview well, that's another advantage.

You want to present your strongest case to the employer before you talk salary.

If you mention salary too early, you potentially give your employer a reason not to hire you.

If you've succeeded in selling yourself well, delaying salary discussions until the end, and stating your desired salary range, you have a much better negotiating position.

From there it depends, again, on how much you want the position, which will determine what your bottom line salary number is, or what is the minimum salary you will accept.

It's important to know and believe your minimum salary number -- much better to walk away then accept a number you know won't support your family.

It's entirely possible they may call you back if they don't find anyone else who is a better fit than you for the position.

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    Absolutely, know your minimum. And if you haven't worked in Germany before, do some research when calculating your minimum, e.g. health care works differently here. Also, in many cities you don't necessarily need a car, even with a toddler. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Mar 16 '16 at 18:30
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A lot depends on how convenient it is for you to interview. If it is a local interview and you can spare a day then address salary when you get an offer. Don't use your cost of living as a basis to support your number. At the end of the interview you pretty much should have demonstrated your value to them. "I am sorry but I would need to decline that number - my minimum salary is X".

They may have some really rigid guidelines on salary and cannot do much.

Another option would be to ask them a range up front. The problem you have there is if it is not in your range then you can't really take an interview and then ask for a salary above that range.

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I wouldn't waste my time if I knew the amount would be too low. Even negotiating an increase you wouldn't expect a huge increase. So unless you have nothing better to do, I suggest you look elsewhere.

The only time I think it would be wise to go for that job is if you intend to try and get a full time position there after you finish your qualifications. In which case you could look at it as an investment in your own future, rather than just a job.

In terms of when to ask, I ask before attending an interview what their range is. But others prefer to wait until they have an offer because by that time the employer has already invested time and resources into you.

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