In a game of poker, showing your cards to your opponents would put you at a great disadvantage. No surprise, then, that when an employer asks you to list your salary requirements in a cover letter, you feel a tad vulnerable.
But there is a simple logic behind this standard request: If you require compensation far beyond what a company is prepared to pay for the position, it doesn’t want to waste its time—or yours—going through the interview process. So if you’re asked for salary requirements, especially if applications without them won’t be considered, it’s time to tip your hand.
Websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor can show you what you can expect to earn based on your industry, location, skill set, and experience. If you have industry contacts, inquire what entry-level employees typically make. Or go straight to the source, says Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? “You can call the HR department of a company and simply say, ‘I saw a job advertised at your company and I’m wondering what the entry-level salary is for this department.’”
Set a Range
Your benchmarking should help you determine a bottom line—the absolute minimum you’ll accept. But rather than a single figure, present your requirements in a ten-thousand-dollar range. This increases the chances that your expectations and the employer’s budget will overlap and gives you some room to negotiate later on. Reeves suggests writing, “My salary requirements are in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, depending on the type and scope of responsibilities.”
Unless the employer is feeling generous, you’ll probably be offered a salary on the low end of your range. But you still have some wiggle room. Salary is only one part of an employer’s offer; employee benefits also carry a lot of weight, and can be used as leverage. If you feel the salary is on the low side given the responsibilities of the position, it can’t hurt to bluff a bit and say that you expected more comprehensive employee benefits and will need a higher salary to offset this.
About the Author
The question "What are your salary requirements?" can strike fear into the eager hearts of job seekers. Here, a reader asks for advice on how to respond:
When you are applying for a job and an interviewer asks for your salary requirements, how should you respond, especially if you do not have a current salary?
Our answer: Your salary requirements are quite simply, and honestly, negotiable. You don't have a salary history to divulge, so you really are at a jumping-off point, and your salary will be based not only on what is a fair number but also on the other benefits offered.
If asked for your requirements in a cover letter, write, "My salary requirements are negotiable." Something so simple can help you get your foot in the door for an interview; naming a number too high could make them apprehensive about bringing you in, and identifying a number too low could hurt your chances of securing the best possible salary. If you've done thorough salary research using the Internet, made phone calls, and had discussions with other first-year associates, you could name a salary range, but only do so if you're very comfortable and confident that you've gathered accurate information.
It's also likely that you will be asked about salary during your interview. Prevent a deer-in-headlights reaction by having a prepared response. Choose from two options: Respond by saying something along the lines of, "My salary is negotiable considering other benefits and what your firm thinks is a reasonable start." The other choice would be to mention a salary range that leaves plenty of room for negotiation.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Mark Popovich
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