Monday, March 18, 2013

The Outlook Chronicles: What's a Salary History and How Do I Write One?

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:

Dear Ms Paley,

I've finally been applying to some jobs that I've found and I was just wondering what employers mean when they ask applicants to provide a resume, cover letter and salary history and desired salary?

Thank you and have a great weekend!
- Lisa

And I answer:

Hi Lisa,

You should address these questions in the last paragraph of your cover letter. You do not need to attach a separate document (unless otherwise stated). Compensation and salary history can get a little nuanced if you’ve had a yearly salary with benefits, which we can talk about when we see each other next week. In these situations, you may want to mention not only your most recent or current salary, but also your total compensation package, which might include benefits, bonuses, and even stock options.

However, since you, as a senior, have yet to hold a full-time job, you might say, “In my most recent roles as a summer intern and on-campus student worker, my salary has ranged from $8.50-$12.50 per hour. My desired salary for this position is negotiable, but ranges from $$-$$$ depending on benefits and responsibilities.” In order to get a good feel for industry salaries, I recommend using websites like or