Some job posts say "include salary history" or "state salary expectations" when you submit your resume and cover letter. Should you do it? Should you even mention the word "salary" in your cover letter?
There's no right or wrong answer to that question. Here are my thoughts on the subject. After reading this article, do what your gut tells you is right for your job search.
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Talking Salary in Your Cover Letter... or Maybe Not
Although some job posts ask for a resume and salary information, the two do not go together. Ideally, discussion about salary belongs in the interview, not on the resume. It is greatly to your advantage not to make a monetary request before an interview. Indicating salary requirements before the interview may increase your chances of being screened out and decrease your bargaining power during salary negotiations. This is also true if you respond to a salary request from an employer. You could guess too high and price yourself right out of the job, or guess too low and settle for less money than you deserve.
Take a Risk
You know what I would do if faced with the kind of demand for salary information mentioned above? I'd flat-out disregard the request. That's right, I'd take the risk that even though I didn't respond to the ad's requirement, I'd still get in the door for an interview. I say "risk" because there is a risk in not complying, since you could be disqualified for being "insubordinate." But there is also a risk if you do comply, since you could easily be screened out for asking for too much money. Either way you would not get the job, but maybe that means it wasn’t the right one for you. Of course, you need to decide which suits your style of risk-taking.
How to Handle a Salary Request in a Cover Letter
If you feel obligated to address salary history in order to fulfill the employer's initial application requirements, do so in your cover letter (not on your resume!). Speak in generalities, such as:
- My salary in previous positions ranged from $X to more than $Y, accompanied by benefits.
- My growth in earnings from $4.25 an hour as a grocery clerk back in 1986 to my current salary as a division manager is something I'm extremely proud of.
- Since salary history is a confidential matter, please understand that I prefer to speak about it in person.
- I would like to discuss my salary history during our interview.
- My salary requirements are negotiable.
Here's a cover letter that side-steps the salary history question. Notice how the job seeker cleverly speaks of his salary history without revealing any figures.
Cover Letter Sample That Refers to Salary History
Know Your Salary Stuff
Talking directly about salary expectations in a letter is tricky. If you are pressed to name a salary, I suggest that you first find out what the position typically pays. (Learn about pay scales by checking with a career counselor, an employment agency, ads for similar job offers in the newspaper, and online resources.) Then mention your salary expectations in your cover letter using language that gives you room for negotiations, such as "I am looking for a position in the $X to $Y salary range."
Be a Savvy Negotiator
Salary negotiating is a skill in and of itself. Your cover letter and resume will get you the interview, your interview should get you to the bargaining table, and your negotiations should win you your desired compensation. For help tuning up your negotiating skills, refer to my book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Interview, and practice interviewing with a friend or counselor.
When the hammer-it-out salary negotiations start, remember this terrific bargaining technique called cherry picking: Present a number of items you want as part of the deal, knowing that you probably won't get everything on your wish list. The employer, feeling pretty smart about his bargaining skills, will likely pick a few "cherries" from your list and reject the rest. You both come out of the bargaining room smiling, feeling that a real compromise was made.
Here's a cover letter sample that deals with the salary expectation issue without spilling the beans about how much she hopes to make.
Cover Letter Sample That Refers to Salary Expectations
Cover Letter Salary History Example
1000 University Terrace
Salisbury, MD 21804
Director, Human Resources
1020 Hull Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Dear Ms. Dinisio:
I am a junior at Salisbury university, working toward my bachelor’s degree in Marketing. I discovered your internship program while researching opportunities in the field of business and marketing. I am writing to inquire about potential positions with Under Armour.
My courses in marketing have convinced me that sales and marketing is a career option I would like to explore. More importantly, an internship with Under Armour would be mutually beneficial and i would like it very much. Your company has an excellent reputation for customer satisfaction.
I know that the combination of my education and motivation to excel will make me an asset to your marketing department. My enclosed resume provides additional details about my background.
If possible, I would like to call you next week as to follow up to see if you would review my qualifications and consider me for a position for your company. If so, I hope to schedule an interview at a convenient time. I look forward to speaking with you. Should you have any questions before that time, you may reach me via phone (410-332-5188) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As per your request. My Salary History:
Planned Health Care, Inc. $38,000.00
Jonet Group, Inc. $25,750.00
City of Millington $18,000.00
Thank you for your consideration.