Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Outlook Chronicles: Including Salary Requirements In Your Cover Letter

So here's the set-up: without fail, I meet with students who, upon leaving my office, have a million more questions. Some of these questions they figure out on their own, some they e-mail to me for my two cents. Not surprisingly, I tend to see a lot of the same questions. So for those of you are asking yourselves those ground-breaking questions, like "should I text the hiring manager?," here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.

A student writes:

Hi Shimrit,

I'm working on finding jobs and networking, as per your recommendations, and I've come across a job that I would really love. It's as a program associate at a non-profit. They ask that applicants send in a resume and cover letter, which is no problem, but they also ask that applicants include past salary history and desired salary in the cover letter. Given that I've never had a salaried position, nor have I ever considered what my "desired salary" could be, I'm at a loss for what to do on this. Any suggestions?


And I answer:

Hi Ann,

This is a common request by employers.  Often, it is made in order to ensure that the applicant understands the industry standards regarding salaries. You have a couple of options here. You could simply state a range based on research and industry standards. is a great resource for ascertaining salary ranges. You could also refrain from giving any actual numbers, but still indicate that you are aware of these norms, and that you didn’t get into this kind of work to become rich.  This second option is probably what I would do, though you run the risk of angering the employer by not answering the questions. Still, here's what I might say:

“My salary requirements are negotiable and dependent on benefits. I am aware of the salary ranges in the non-profit industry and believe that the value of the work I am doing is as important a consideration as the amount of money I will be earning.”

Of course, this type of statement has to speak to your own beliefs, so don't say this unless you mean it.

If you have any other questions, or want to run what you think a reasonable salary range for this position might be by me, feel free to reach back out.


How do you handle job descriptions that ask you to include salary requirements in your cover letter?

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