When and How to Disclose Your Salary Requirements
Some job postings ask you to include a dollar amount that you expect to earn as a salary, or they may even ask you to include your salary history when you apply for the position. You may not feel comfortable about this – how do you know when and how to disclose your salary requirements when you apply for jobs?
Why Companies Want Your Salary Information
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 than another candidate.
In order to avoid being screened out or 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. Salary requirements are based on several factors such as:
- The industry
- 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 as well as 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’re asked to include salary requirements with your application, you could ignore the request, but that means you risk not getting an interview. There’s nothing employers like less than when candidates do not follow directions.
It’s 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 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).
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.” When stating a salary range, make sure that the range is realistic:
- 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’re 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.
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.