Think twice about listing your desired salary when you submit your resume to a prospective employer. Even if you include what you feel is a reasonable and well-researched salary range, you might end up eliminating yourself from being considered for the job. Unless you're applying for a job with the federal government, or a private sector employer specifically requests that you put salary information on your resume, don't. Doing so might make an impression -- and not a very favorable one.
With the exception of the federal government, employers usually prefer that applicants provide succinct resumes that contain only enough information to stimulate interest in learning more about the applicant. The purpose of a resume isn't to get you the job -- it's to give the employer a reason to call you for an interview. Employers use the interview process, with your resume close at hand, to explore your qualifications, background and expertise. A resume for a private sector job should be one to two pages, but if you're looking for a job with the federal government, the amount of detail you include might warrant three or more pages.
Federal Salary Listing
Again, a resume for the federal government contains far more detail about your work history. It should include your salary history for every position you've held, according to the advice provided by the National Archives and Records Administration in its "Federal Resume Guide." The likely reason the government wants to know your salary history is to estimate the level at which you were performing in private sector jobs. If you're a federal government employee, qualifying for another federal job often requires that you've performed at a certain GS-grade and salary level for consideration.
Private Sector Resume
Putting a desired salary on your resume for private sector jobs sends several wrong messages. It suggests that you really don't know how or when to communicate your salary expectations and that you're uncertain how the typical hiring process works. Also, it begs the question why you would clutter your resume with yet-unnecessary information about what you think you're worth instead of using resume space to describe your qualifications and background. However, if the employer requests that you include desired salary in a cover letter, there are several ways to do so in a way that won't jeopardize your chances for being considered a viable candidate.
Do your research before you include your desired salary in the cover letter. Study the market rate, based on your level of expertise, experience and education, assuming those are all relevant factors. For example, salaries for entry level positions may be based on academic achievements and grade point average, rather than work experience that many recent graduates don't have. Call the employer or a competitor and ask about salary ranges for the job for which you're applying. Use a salary range in your letter, instead of a precise figure to designate what you'd like to earn. If your cover letter must contain your salary history, list your salaries and bonuses separately, especially if you received performance-related bonuses.
Flexibility and Salary Knowledge
The easiest way to state your desired salary when you're open to negotiations is to write, for example, "My desired salary range is in the mid-$50,000s; however, I'm confident that we can come to a mutually agreed salary should you extend a job offer." Another option is to say, "Based on my experience and education, the market range in my field is between $50,000 and $62,000. I'm open to negotiation, based on the total compensation package." The way you state your desired salary should reflect that you're flexible -- if, indeed, you are -- and that you know the value of your skills and expertise.