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When a potential employer asks you to address your accomplishments, qualifications, or how you'll fit into the company in the cover letter, the answer is relatively straightforward. But when asked for desired salary, many people don't know where to begin. You may be afraid to ask for too little and end up not making enough, or ask for too much and lose the job to someone who's willing to work for less. Avoid these fears by discovering when and how to note salary requirements in your next cover letter.
When to Discuss Salary
Some companies ask for a salary letter -- a letter indicating how much you'd like to make -- or they may ask for just a sentence in your cover letter stating how much you hope to earn. In these cases, it's appropriate to note desired salary. If the employer has not specifically requested that you indicate a salary, don't include this in the cover letter, advises the Office of Career Services at Columbia University Teachers College. Wait to discuss the salary in person during an interview or when you are offered the job, providing you with a better opportunity to negotiate.
If you know anyone in the industry, ask them for advice on the salary range for the job to which you're applying. Search websites such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or the U.S. Census Bureau to find statistics regarding how much an individual with your level of experience and education usually makes for the job. Factor in geography -- a job in New York City might pay higher than a job in Alabama because of the higher cost of living in the city.
Provide a Range
Once you've determined the typical salary for the position, determine a range rather than providing a firm number. For example, if you desire to make $11 an hour, ask for $10 to $13 to provide room for negotiation. Don't be afraid to ask for a salary that's on the higher end as long as it seems reasonable based on your research. Asking for too low of a salary may indicate to the employer that you aren't knowledgeable about the industry and how much the job usually pays.
Work it In
Begin your cover letter by detailing your interest in the job, your experience and what you bring to the position. Don't place your salary requirements in the first couple of paragraphs of your cover letter as it will overshadow your experiences and capabilities. Provide your salary requirements in the last paragraph, making sure to reiterate to the employer the experiences you've had and the potential benefit you'll bring to the company. Indicate that the salary range isn't set in stone by telling them that your desired salary is "flexible" or "negotiable."
- Columbia University Teachers College Office of Career Services: Cover Letter Writing Guide: Salary Requirements
- Careerealism: Addressing Cover Letter Salary Requirements
- Wetfeet: How to Disclose Salary Requirements in a Cover Letter
- The Ladders: Five Ways to Negotiate Salary Requirements
- The Daily Muse: The Secret to Giving Your "Salary Requirements"
- Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor: The Employment Situation -- March 2013
Natasha Hochlowski holds a dual B.S. in chemistry and writing from Loyola University Maryland. She has been writing professionally since 2007, frequently contributing to "The Journal of Young Investigators," and has worked as a technical writer/editor for several major pharmaceutical companies.
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