When and how to address salary in a cover letter

If you read my column last week, you know how I feel about discussing salary too early in the job-search process. Since many employers use financial information to rule out job candidates, I recommend putting off the conversation until you understand the challenges of the position and have a chance to point out the dollar value you will bring to the workplace.

Of course, this wait-for-the-right-time strategy is not appropriate for all job hunters. Actually, this advice only applies if you are looking for a long-term position. If making money is a higher priority than developing your career, you should ask about salary before scheduling an interview. If the employer can’t meet your bottom line, they strike out. Move on to the next company.

Here is another exception to my recommendation. Let’s say that you are a career-minded professional looking for employment with a stable, growing organization. In your research, you identify a position that seems like a perfect match for your experience. But the hiring manager refuses to glance at your resume unless you disclose your salary requirements in advance. If this opportunity really lights your fire, you might decide to go for it. Break your own rule (and mine) and talk about money up front.

Following are a few ways to handle requests for salary information:

The courteous delay tactic. If you are interested in a job but would like to delay the salary discussion until you learn more about the company and position, try using indefinite language in your cover letter. Like this: “I am genuinely excited about the prospect of working for XYZ Company, which allows for some flexibility with regard to salary. Let’s set up a time to meet. I’m sure we will come to an agreeable solution without much effort.”

The safe bet. Some employers will not be satisfied with an obscure response. If you want the hiring manager to consider you for a particular role, you have to inform the business of your preferred salary. Here’s the problem: If your base number is too high or too low, it can either shut the door on your candidacy or hinder salary negotiations later on.

If you decide to take the risk, remember that your primary goal is to land an interview. Tread carefully. First, research the industry and job opportunity to ensure that you fit in with the organization’s pay scale. Then, choose language for your cover letter that casts a very wide net. Like this: “In response to your request for salary requirements, I am adaptable within a broad range, from $45-$65K. I am confident that a personal meeting will help us determine a starting salary that will meet both of our needs.”

The take-it-or-leave-it approach. Let’s say that you know the salary you want, and you have the experience and confidence to ask for it. The next time you find a job posting that demands financial information, clearly state your requirements in your cover letter. Use forthright and professional language, like this: “With my proven skills and measurable achievements over the years, I can add immediate value to your organization. I am seeking minimum compensation in the range of $140-$145K.”

Eve Nicholas: Eve.GetAJob@gmail.com.

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