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How to Handle Salary Requirements

How to Handle Salary Requirements

August 04, 2010

Posted by Kristina Cowan

Job interviewing is like art: it requires skill, dexterity, and the right tools and environment. Make one wrong move and the result can be disastrous. This is especially true when it comes to discussing salary requirements. As a job-seeker, approaching a conversation with a prospective employer about salary requirements can be tricky.

How soon can you expect an employer to ask you about your salary requirements? Should you ever include salary requirements in a cover letter? How can you pick a salary that doesn’t aim too high or too low?

To find sage answers to these and other basic questions about salary requirements, I tapped several career experts for their wisdom.

The Ins and Outs of Salary Requirements

Question: When interviewing for a new job, what are some basic principles job-seekers should keep in mind about their salary requirements?

Answers: "Salary requirements should be based on the market value for a particular skill set or job … not on the job seeker’s needs or desires," says Barbara Safani, president of New York-based Career Solvers, a career-management firm. You should be flexible, too, knowing much can transpire during the time when a job is first posted and when it’s filled, she explains. "If a position seems perfect for you, but the salary is lower than you had hoped for, go through the interview process and sell your value to the hiring manager throughout. Once a hiring manager decides that you are the right candidate, they will be more willing to negotiate salary."

Dr. Rachelle J. Canter, author of “Make the Right Career Move: 28 Critical Insights and Strategies to Land Your Dream Job,” urges job-seekers to focus not just on salary requirements, but on opportunity. To that end, she advises asking yourself some key questions, such as:

  • Will this job provide you with crucial experiences, skills, and accomplishments that you need to attain your dream job eventually? 
  • Will it fill in critical gaps in your industry or job experience? 
  • Will it give you visibility with an audience you previously were unknown to?

Question: Should job-seekers mention salary requirements in cover letters?

Answer: "No no no-–salary is a way to screen you out (too high or too low), and you want a chance to look over a prospective employer before being eliminated," Canter explains.

Next: Should You Give an Exact Salary Figure?