Paying IT specialists in France & Germany: What’s the right salary?
Let’s face it: the one “IT guy” who has to take care of everything that relates to computing in an entire company is a relic of the past. In order to attract and retain IT talent, or, if you are just that, to be sure to receive fair compensation for your work, you need to be able to tell apart the different IT positions and determine the layers of salary accordingly. Here are our 3 tips to match person, position & pay.
German IT specialists are not necessarily more flexible than other German employees. Many will avoid a position that isn’t identical or directly superior to the one they previously held. They want to guarantee success and not be overwhelmed by new responsibilities. French IT professionals are likely to be more adventurous in this regard.
Lack of cultural interest in medium-sized companies
Younger French & German candidates tend to prioritize offers from firms in the following order:
- Large corporations, including German / French companies
- American companies
- Southern European companies
Successful medium-sized companies with a global reach are rarer in France than in Germany and thus do not enjoy the same prestige. This means that good candidates are culturally less interested in a position in a French medium-sized company, especially if the job is far from a big city.
However, if you are hiring in the capitals, the prestige of a metropolis can have an important impact on the attractiveness of your positions. This is very much the case for Paris, more than Berlin, because of France’s centralistic infrastructure and greater international renown. However, if in Berlin, you could explain to your candidates that the German capital has certain quality of life advantages over Paris (green spaces, air quality, cost of living etc.). Especially the younger generations will take this into account.
The French are generally less attached to their home region than their German neighbors. But on both sides of the Rhine, there is more and more demand for home office work. If you are planning to have your IT specialists move to manage the systems of several subsidiaries or production centers, you should remain flexible about where their home base should be.
Where will your candidates be coming from? Understanding the CV
It’s important to remember that many developers are self-taught, lack a solid academic background, and do not necessarily have in-depth technical knowledge yet. It is therefore not a good idea for the job offer to contain wording such as “successfully completed master’s degree” or "at least 5 years of professional experience". Instead, we recommend something like "extensive knowledge of PHP" or "safe use of CMS".
This is however not the case to an extent where you are forced to completely disregard traditional ways of qualifications, namely diplomas.
In France, the economy magazine Usine Nouvelle does a yearly report of what IT schools are considered the best of France, among private and public institutions both. Many of them train engineers, more generally speaking. According to this report, the top 5 leading IT schools are:
- ESILV (Greater Paris Area)
- Centrale Nantes
- Grenoble INP – Phelma
- ECE (Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris)
- INSA Lyon
The education system in Germany is very different. Everything more or less takes place in the universities, where the best students will have to set themselves apart from the crowd. Problematically, the grades are a tricky factor to work with, since the methodology and grading vary regionally (each Bundesland is responsible for its education system). Thus you can not tell the broad level of a candidate simply by the school they have been to.
Geographically speaking, it is still useful to know that many talented candidates will be located around the Aachen area, since the RWTH is not only of the biggest German universities numerically, but also the number one university for engineering and information technology. For you, this location also bears the advantage of proximity to the French border, with a 2 hours 30 minutes high speed train connection to Paris.
Depending on the scope of your operation, it can of course be advisable to tie relations with these schools, in order to hire young talent right out the gates for their first professional steps, or even during their studies as IT interns. The ladder is a great way to have trained candidates at hand before the need arises.
How important is proficiency in German / French to you?
Bilingual candidates are rare. The French labor market is considered less tight than the German one. Unemployment in France is around 7 % compared to 5 % in Germany. But this also varies with education levels: According to the INSEE, the unemployment rate for people with two years of study after high school is already an entire percentage lower. As you probably know, most positions on the IT side require at least that.
Now, given the general scarcity of bilingual people, not to mention if you also desire a certain familiarity with the respective cultures, you can see where this leads. Though binational diplomas have gained popularity in recent years, IT people specialize in code languages, not everyday or even business languages. So overall, finding a qualified, bilingual IT professional more or less comes down to finding the needle in the haystack.
As a foreign company, if you are in a situation where bilingual competence is a must, it will likely prove a lot cheaper and easier to finance some language classes for the new hires. They will generally appreciate the opportunity to further qualify themselves. Some (especially Germans) will undervalue themselves and simply not apply at all, if you state the perfect mastery of two languages on your job offer; even if their level may have been sufficient. Others (mostly the French) may apply only for you to find out during the interview that what the candidate presented as a C1 level is actually closer to a B1. Consider sacrificing this prerequisite entirely.
Taking into account what we’ve established here above, it remains true that the income of European IT employees mainly varies with their years of experience. Overall though, salaries in France are lower than in Germany and not distributed across the territory in the same way.
While salaries in Paris will be the highest of the country, this is not at all the case in the German capital, for example. The differences between the amounts paid mostly stem from the different structures of the tax and health care systems. Germans pay a lot for their healthcare and their taxes are deducted directly from their salaries every month, whereas French healthcare costs next to nothing and taxes are lower. Thus the slight difference in average buying power between both countries is mostly determined by the local cost of living. No need to get into in depth mathematical analysis: whatever you do, your new IT hires need to be paid in accordance with the local norm.
For your comfort, we’ve compiled the data from our previous articles on the subject into a single chart. The numbers are average ranges in gross annual salary, between the beginning and end stages of different IT careers. The data is mostly derived from surveys by Stack Overflow.
|Data miners, scientists, analysts||38K-65K||45K-70K|
|Test engineers, business analysts||35K-65K||46K-75K|
|Data Director, Digital Director||70K-100K||90K-130K|
|Chief Informations Officer, Chief Information Security Officer||90K-200K||90K-250K|
To sum up, the average for all sectors for IT employees in Germany will be between 44.000 and 51.000 for beginners, between 55.000 and 67.000 after 3 to 5 years of career, and between 70.000 and 90.000 for a management position from the 10th year onwards. The detailed differences will of course largely depend on each company.
The salary, a key factor?
Generation Y or not, surveys show that salary remains a key factor for graduates when choosing a career and an employer. And of course, at a certain level of responsibility, the salary must follow. But compared to other fields, IT specialists tend to be a little different from the rest.
Our research suggests that money is really just one of many factors to them, and small companies that quickly reach financial limits can benefit from this. The rest of the compensation package, like the company car (essential if your IT agent is responsible for more than one base), flexible hours and an agile work environment, are just as important.
Offering interesting work and motivating compensation is enough for some, but most qualified workers feel a need for continuous progression throughout their professional life. Many want their future to be secured by contractual guarantees for growth.
German employees tend to be more patient than their French colleagues. Nonetheless, with both, it is advisable to provide long-term promotion guarantees, paired with training opportunities to make them realistic and financially beneficial to your operation. During the annual interview, the salary, the position and the short- to medium-term career prospects should be negotiated. Set the date for this well in advance; your candidates will appreciate it and be all the more invested during their onboarding period.