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
When you are requested by a potential employer to include your salary requirements in your cover letter, be prepared by knowing your worth. Using your knowledge around what salary is commensurate with your skills and experience will give you an edge in writing your cover letter.
However, you may occasionally find during your job search that a potential employer will require you to include your salary requirements in the initial cover letter. Typically, this request is designed to ensure that the employer is only considering candidates whose salary requirements fall within the range they have budgeted for the role.
In this instance, there is no way around it: you must include a salary range in your cover letter. But how do you make a cover letter that mentions your salary needs without eliminating yourself from the position right out of the gate? Read our example cover letter with salary requirements below, to get some ideas on how you can write your own.
And for more about negotiating your salary, check out our article Salary Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid, which explains how to negotiate the best salary possible.
Example Cover Letter with Salary Requirements:
Dear Ms. Kindig,
My varied customer service and training experience, along with my extensive educational background, make me an ideal candidate for the corporate trainer position posted in the Careers section of your website. Much of my previous work experience has been in customer service, and the tools and techniques I have learned from this industry transfer directly to the skills outlines in your job post, including effective written and verbal communication, facilitating group discussions, problem solving, developing rapport, organizing, meeting goals, and managing groups.
My extensive educational background, bachelor’s degree in marketing, and postgraduate work in teaching and counseling will help me add new perspectives and ideas to your department. I know I can be a key player on your training team, and I would like the chance to prove that to you.
Per your request, an acceptable salary range for this job, based on the description and my research, is 50-55K, not including benefits or supplements. My requirement is flexible and negotiable, depending on such factors as additional benefits, the opportunity to earn bonuses, and opportunities for advancement. Thank you for your time and consideration.
For more information related to salary and salary negotiation, check out our article Salary Negotiation and Job Offer Tools and Resources for Jobseekers.
Other Free Sample Letters for Job Seekers Include:
Free Jobseeker Sample Job Search Letters
Free Jobseeker Sample Thank You Letters
Free Jobseeker Sample Letter: Accepting a Job Offer
Free Jobseeker Sample Letter: Declining a Job Offer
More Helpful Cover Letter Resources:
Cover Letter Examples
Cover Letter Builder
How to Write a Cover Letter
Cover Letter Samples