As a rule, you should not mention salary in a cover letter. You'll have more negotiating power after you've had a chance to communicate your value in an interview. In other words, if they don't ask, don't tell. But what if they do ask?
A couple weeks ago, we launched a poll to find out how our readers would handle this situation. The results might surprise you!
Our poll asked: "If you were applying for a job and they asked for salary requirements in your cover letter, how would you respond?" Interestingly, almost 80% of you said you'd acknowledge the question without giving a specific number. Here's the breakdown:
- 39% would not give a number, but would "Let them know I'd be willing to discuss salary after we determine I'm a strong candidate."
- 39% would not give a number, but would "Indicate that I'm flexible about salary, since it's only one of the factors I consider important."
- 15% would give a number, but "State a wide range to give myself the best chance of matching their budget."
- 6% would give a number, and "Aim high and ask for the top of my range, but be ready to negotiate."
What IS the Best Answer?
I hate to say it, but there is no single, best answer. Each of the answers above could be acceptable in a given situation. But each strategy also has potential risks.
- If you don't give your salary requirements they might reject your application because, as one hiring manager says, "...there is nothing that a potential employer hates more than someone [who]cannot follow directions."
On the other hand, in a field like sales, leaving out the salary info might be interpreted as a savvy business move by someone who really knows how to negotiate. (Hey, it's possible.)
- If you do tell them your desired salary, you win points for following directions, but you run the risk of under- or over-pricing yourself. So that's a bit of a crapshoot, too.
How to Decide
First, be sure to research the salary range as thoroughly as you can, so you're fairly certain of what they're likely to offer. But your decision should also factor in variables such as:
- Your personality – Are you risk-averse or a bit of a gambler?
- Degree of need – Are you desperate for a paycheck, any paycheck, or can you hold out for top dollar?
- Level of responsibility – Is it an entry-level position, or one that requires your specific kind of experience?
- Current job market – Are there still plenty of opportunities, or has this field been hit with recent layoffs?
- Industry norms – Is it a traditionally low- or high-paying field?
- Size of organization – Is this a struggling startup or a worldwide corporation?
In the end, you'll have to trust your gut, cross your fingers, and choose the response strategy that feels right for you.
What kind of tactics have you used for addressing an employer's request for salary info? Share your thoughts or experiences in the Comments section below!
How to Find Your Value Proposition
Good vs. Bad: Make the Best of Your Cover Letter
The Interview: How to Answer the Salary Question