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3 Ways to Address Salary in Your Cover Letter

Salary is such a delicate part of every job search. You want the job but you don't want to work for free, and you don't want to take a pay cut if you don't have to. To complicate the issue even more, addressing salary is more delicate today than a year ago because too many job seekers are chasing too few job openings.

What does that mean? Well, the employer appears to have the advantage. If you're unemployed and really desperate to find a job, you don't want to play hard ball and risk losing an offer. If you're not so desperate, you have more flexibility in what you say about salary to the employer, but you still have to play it safe. So if you find a job ad that requests salary requirements, how do you address it in your cover letter? Here are three options:

  1. Beat around the bush by saying something like this:
    "Salary is only one of the factors I consider important in weighing a job offer. I'd be happy to discuss it once we determine I'm a strong candidate for the position."
  2. Give a range you're comfortable with:
    "Based on my understanding of the job responsibilities listed in the ad, plus the value I could bring to your organization and my understanding of the market, my salary expectations would fall in the range of $40,000 to $60,000 per year."
  3. State an exact number you're hoping to settle on:
    "Based on my understanding of the job responsibilities listed in the ad, plus the value I could bring to your organization and my understanding of the market, the salary I have in mind is $35,000 per year."

The important thing to keep in mind is that if you are desperate, you don't want to appear to be. An employer can pick up on that and extend a low salary offer. If you're not desperate, you have to consider current economic conditions and be as realistic as possible when stating a salary range. Use salary research sites like Salary.com, PayScale, and Bureau of Labor Statistics to get an idea of what the job might pay.

There's no right way to talk about salary, so base your expectations on your research, what you're comfortable with, and what you can live with.

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