Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
Ideally, you will want to know how to include salary requirements in a cover letter without over-inflating the numbers or underselling yourself.. So, how do you walk the fine line between being humble and establishing what you’re worth? Here are a few strategies and examples to help you out.
Writing a cover letter can be daunting. Even the most seasoned professionals sometimes fail to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Now imagine having to include your remuneration expectations in your cover letter. How can you present your salary requirements without coming across as money-obsessed or undervaluing your worth?
If you’re looking to tackle the tricky task of including salary requirements in a cover letter, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog, we explore:
Why include salary expectations in a cover letter?
4 tips on preparing salary requirements for your cover letter
How to include salary requirements in a cover letter
5 sample cover letters with salary requirements
According to an article by Harvard Law School, some U.S. states and cities, including Massachusetts, California, Oregon, and New York City, have made it illegal for employers to ask about a candidate’s past salary. This is to address the gender pay gap where women, on average, earn less and employers tend to pitch next salary based heavily on past salary.
Cover letters don’t typically include salary expectations, but some employers require job applicants to state them within the cover letter. Here’s why hiring managers request this info:
The hiring process can be time consuming and expensive, so finding the right candidates early on in the process can save a lot of time, money, and energy. If your salary expectations closely meet the company budget, you’re not going to waste the time of your prospective employer and are more likely to make it to the next round of the recruitment process.
Organizations typically expect candidates to have some idea about the market rate for the job they’re applying for. In this way, the organization can assess whether the candidate has an awareness of what the job entails and what the standard salary should look like. In essence, it’s a subtle tactic to determine whether the applicant is lowballing or asking for too much.
If a prospective employer is asking you to include your salary requirements in a cover letter, then they could be setting a maximum threshold for any salary negotiations that take place during or after the job interview. For instance, if the company establishes an annual salary of $120,000 and you’re asking for $130,000, the company may try to negotiate at $125,000.
Avoid including your salary requirements in a cover letter unless you’ve been expressly asked to do so. Pitching too high or low could prove detrimental and salary negotiations tend to work better in-person and at a later stage of the hiring process.
Now that we know why employers might expect to see your salary requirements in a cover letter, let’s look at four tips and tricks on how to do this convincingly:
Researching the job role and industry, combined with evaluating your education, skills, and relevant professional experience is critical. Here are two other considerations to think about:
Education. College degrees can play a major role in your remuneration package. For example, holding a relevant master’s or professional degree commands a much higher salary than a bachelor’s degree.
Length of experience. Take a look at the number of years you’ve been in the industry. Typically, the longer you’ve been in the industry, the higher your target salary should be. However, this rule might not hold true if you’re switching careers.
Your salary requirements should factor in your prospective employer’s location. For example, if the company is based in an upscale city with a high cost of living, you should consider the cost of living in that area when setting your salary requirements. In most cases, employers will take these factors into account when setting their budget for the role.
During the course of your previous employment or academic studies, you’ll probably have acquired many skills. These could be soft skills, such as leadership, team building, and public speaking, or technical skills, such as programming, coding, and web design. If you possess specific skills relevant to the job you’re applying for, consider them when setting your salary expectations.
Your existing, or most recent, salary will give a good indication of what your new salary requirements should be. For example, if you’re currently working as a sales manager and targeting the same role at a different organization, your salary expectations should definitely be higher than what you’re earning right now (why else would you switch jobs?).
Once you’ve researched and fully evaluated your salary requirements, work out the best way to present this information in your cover letter.
Here are three tips to follow:
When adding your salary to your cover letter, it’s best to provide a range instead of a fixed number. Adding a desired salary range does not give your employer a specific figure. It does, however, provide them with a baseline expectation and some wiggle room for negotiation.
Whenever you’re providing a salary range, make sure to state that you’re flexible and willing to negotiate. Focus on communicating a positive message to your potential employer that you’re not just applying for the salary; you value the learning experience, growth opportunities, and other benefits.
Sometimes, being indirect is the way to go. If it’s difficult to obtain reliable figures for the job you’re applying for, mention in your cover letter that your expected salary should be in line with the industry average. And include that you’re open to negotiations.
Your cover letter’s closing paragraph is an ideal place for your salary requirements, either as a standalone paragraph or as part of your closing call to action.
Here are five examples to give you some inspiration:
“Based on my education, skills, and extensive leadership experience, and taking into account duties and responsibilities outlined in the job description, my salary requirement is $[number] per year. Please note that I am open to negotiation on the remuneration package once I have a better picture of your company’s culture, growth opportunities, and how my job role will fit into the bigger picture.”
“My salary expectations are in line with my extensive education in the field of [field name], [number] years of experience in the [industry name] sector, and in-depth knowledge of [relevant job-related skills]. I would like to request a salary within the range of $[number] to $[number] per year. In light of the growth opportunities and other benefits offered by your organization, I’m happy to negotiate on the salary.”
“For this job role, I would like to state my salary expectations between $[number] and $[number]. My salary expectations are not only at par with the industry average for this job role, but they’re also negotiable based on the other benefits offered by your organization.”
“With regards to the job duties and responsibilities, I would like to set my target salary between $[number] and $[number]. My expectations are based on my previous experience, job-related skill set, and the fact that I will need to relocate to the city where your office is based.”
“As far as my salary expectations are concerned, I would like to request an amount that someone with my experience and skill set is likely to earn in this job role. I trust your organization is fair with its compensation packages, and I am open to negotiations.”
Check out Career.io’s Salary Analyzer to find median salary ranges for numerous jobs and specific sectors that you can use as a baseline.
Adding your salary requirements to your cover letter might seem like a challenge, but with the right research and preparation, it can help you secure the salary you deserve.
Evaluate your relevant education, experience, and skills when considering your target salary as well as using industry average salaries as a benchmark.
Don’t ignore a request for salary requirements and only include this information in your cover letter if you’ve been expressly asked to do so.
Instead of providing a lump-sum figure, it’s better to provide a salary range in your cover letter. Don’t forget to mention that you’re flexible and willing to negotiate your salary too.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.