When and How to Disclose Your Salary Requirements
Some job postings ask you to include your salary requirements, or even your salary history, when applying for the position. Companies request salary information for various reasons. If your salary requirement (or salary history) is too high, employers can screen you out because they don't want to pay that much, or because they think you won't be happy working for less money.
On the other hand, if your salary requirement (or your salary history) is lower than the company is willing to pay, they may offer you a lower salary.
To avoid being screened out, and to avoid being offered a low salary, you need to be careful how you describe your salary information.
Read below for tips on how to provide this information without hurting your chances of getting a job, while still receiving a fair salary.
What Are Salary Requirements?
A salary requirement is the amount of compensation a person needs to accept a position. Some employers ask job candidates to give a salary requirement when they apply for a job.
Salary requirements are based on several factors such as:
Prior salary history
Previous work experience
Cost of living
Occasionally, an employer might ask you to include your salary history instead of (or along with) your salary requirements. A salary history is a document that lists your past earnings. The document typically includes the name of each company you worked for, your job title, salary, and benefits package.
Is it Legal for an Employer to Ask for Your Salary Requirements?
Employers can legally ask you to state your salary requirements. However, some states and cities restrict employers from requesting information about your past salary. Check with the state department of labor in your jurisdiction for the latest information on this issue, and the laws that apply in your city and state.
Salary Requirements: Include or Leave Out?
If the job listing doesn't mention it, don't offer any salary information at all. Ideally, you want the prospective employer to bring up the topic of compensation first.
If you are asked to include salary requirements with your application, you could ignore the request, but that means you risk not getting an interview. There is nothing employers like less than when candidates do not follow directions.
It is best to follow instructions. However, there are a few ways you can provide the required information while limiting your risk of being screened out or offered a low salary.
Tips for Including Salary Requirements
When asked to include salary requirements, you can include a salary range rather than a specific amount. This range should be based on the salary research you've done. For example, you can state in your cover letter, “My salary requirement is in the $35,000 - $45,000 range.” This kind of answer gives you some flexibility, and prevents you from locking yourself into a low salary (or being screened out for having too high of a salary).
When stating a salary range, make sure that the range is realistic. Do this by carefully researching what the position is worth:
Use salary surveys to determine the average salary for the position you are interviewing for, or for a similar position if you can't find information on the exact job title.
Use salary calculators to factor in cost-of-living expenses and to estimate what you should be paid in a particular location. There are a variety of salary surveys and calculators, including industry-specific and geographic resources, available online.
Another option is to state that your salary requirements are negotiable based on the position and the overall compensation package, including benefits.
Either way, note that your salary requirements are flexible. That may help keep you in the running for the position and will give you some flexibility when negotiating compensation later on if you get a job offer.
Tips for Including Salary History
If you are asked to include your salary history, you can also list your previous salaries as ranges rather than specific amounts.
But again, always follow any specific instructions about how to include salary history.
If the employer gives specific instructions on how to include salary requirements, follow those rules. For example, if he or she says to give a specific dollar amount (rather than a range), do so.
Again, you want to follow all directions on the job listing. No matter how you include your salary history, always be honest. It's easy for potential employers to check your salary with previous employers. Any false information will get you screened out of the application process.
Where and How to Include Salary Information
Salary requirements can be included in your cover letter with sentences such as "My salary requirement is negotiable based upon the job responsibilities and the total compensation package," or "My salary requirement is in the $25,000 - $35,000+ range."
Keep your reference to salary requirements brief, so the employer can focus on the rest of your cover letter.
If the employer asks you to include your salary requirement in a different way (for example, in your resume), be sure to do so.
There are a few ways you can include your salary history. First, you can include the history in your cover letter, briefly stating what you earn now. For example, you might say, “I currently earn in the mid-forties.” You can also include an itemized list of your previous salaries (or salary ranges), either in your resume or on a separate salary history page that you enclose with your resume and cover letter.
More About Salary: Salary Negotiation Strategies | How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Salary Expectations | Providing Salary History
Cover Letter Example With Salary Requirements
When and How to Mention Compensation in a Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter can be difficult, especially when you are asked to include information that you think could affect your chances of getting an interview. Some employers ask applicants to include a salary requirement in a cover letter, which can feel awkward or uncomfortable. However, there are ways to include this information without hurting your chances of getting a job.
Here are tips on when and how to include a salary requirement in a cover letter, as well as an example of a cover letter that lists a salary requirement.
Also see below for more cover letter samples, and tips for emailing a cover letter and resume.
When to Include Salary Requirements in a Cover Letter
If a job application does not require you to include salary information (such as your salary history, a salary requirement, or a salary range), do not do so. If you request too high of a salary, the employer might not even look at your application. On the other hand, if you request too low of a salary, they might offer you less than you are worth. In some locations, employers cannot legally ask about your prior earnings.
However, if the job posting or application states that you must include a salary requirement, be sure to do so if you are not in a location where employers are prohibited from asking. It's important to follow directions and provide all the information the employer requests. Otherwise, you risk being tossed out of the application pool.
Options for Including Salary Requirements in a Cover Letter
If the employer does not give specific instructions on how to include salary requirements, you have a couple of options to consider.
Include a Salary Range
One way to include salary requirements in a cover letter is to list a salary range. This gives you and the employer some flexibility.
Make sure your salary range is realistic. Research what the position is worth by using salary surveys and salary calculators.
Salary Requirements are Negotiable
You can also state that your salary requirements are negotiable based on the position and the overall compensation package, including benefits.
State That You're Flexible
No matter what, make sure you emphasize that your salary requirements are flexible. This will help keep you in the running and also give you options when negotiating salary later on.
Cover Letter Example with a Salary Requirement / Range
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Hiring Manager:
I'm writing to express my strong interest in the Web Design Specialist position listed on Craigslist.
I have experience designing consumer-focused health-based websites. While much of my experience has been in the business world, I understand the social value of the non-profit sector.
My responsibilities have included the design and development of the site's editorial voice and style, and the daily content programming and production of the website. I worked closely with health care professionals and medical editors to help them provide the best possible information to a consumer audience of patients and health care professionals.
Experience has taught me how to build strong relationships with all departments at an organization. I have the ability to work within a team as well as cross-team.
I can work with web engineers to resolve technical issues and implement technical enhancements, work with the development department to implement design and functional enhancements, and monitor site statistics and conduct search engine optimization.
My salary requirement is in the $70,000 - $80,000 range. However, my salary is negotiable based on the overall compensation package.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.
Signature (hard copy letter)
Sending an Email Cover Letter
If you're sending your cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message.
Include your contact information in your email signature, and don't list the employer contact information. Start your email message with the salutation.
More Sample Cover Letters
Cover letter samples and templates for a variety of career fields and employment levels, including entry-level, targeted and email cover letters for many different jobs.
More About Salary: Salary Negotiation Strategies | Salary Negotiation Tips | How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Salary Expectations