Including Salary Requirements in Cover Letters
Written by Sarah Edwards, Author • Last updated on April 22, 2024

Salary requirements and expectations in a cover letter

Talking about salaries at any point in the hiring process can bring about feelings of confusion or discomfort. Still, some think it’s a good idea to face these emotions head-on by mentioning their salary requirements in cover letters. Could this strategy be helpful when applying for a role, or is it a mistake? This article will help you navigate this murky territory and plan your next steps.

Should you include salary requirements in your cover letter?

Although many cover letter articles will tell you that you should never write about salary requirements in cover letters, the answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it seems. There are valid points on both sides of the argument.

Why you may want to include it

In some cases, a hiring manager or recruiter will request that you include your salary requirements in your cover letter or resume. In that case, you may jeopardize your chances of getting the job if you don’t do it.

Additionally, some believe that including your salary requirements in your cover letter projects confidence and shows that you understand your worth as an employee. 

Why it may not be a good idea

One reason you may want to reconsider mentioning your salary requirements in your cover letters is that the figure you give may exceed the employer’s budget, and they may not consider you for the position as a result. On the flip side, you could present a much lower number than expected and end up being underpaid. 

Consider appropriateness and timing

Being upfront about your salary expectations is never a bad thing. However, there may be drawbacks if you bring up salary expectations too early in the process. Before you include them in your cover letter, think about your timing and whether your application is the best place to start this conversation. 

Read the job posting thoroughly

Before you do anything else, review the job posting carefully. If it asks you to include salary requirements in your cover letter, don’t leave them out. If the posting doesn’t mention it, but the hiring manager or recruiter asks you directly to include it in your cover letter, you should adhere to their request.

Consider the laws in your jurisdiction

If you live in a state where it's against the law for an employer to ask about your current salary, it may be best to leave pay information off your cover letter. An employer could be penalized if it's believed that they’ve violated the law by requesting this information.

Don’t make it the focus of your letter

One rule of thumb regarding how to put salary requirements in cover letters is to avoid listing them at the beginning of your letter, as this will be what the hiring manager focuses on. If you include this information, do so at the very end.

Do some research on the employer

Conduct online research, talk to a recruiter, or ask a contact (if you have one) to see whether those who work at the company included their salary expectations on their cover letters. If others have done it, no one will be shocked if you do it too.

Expert Tip:

Even if you’ve been asked to include salary requirements in your cover letter, your wording matters. Make sure your tone is confident and professional. Avoid coming across as self-important or demanding to ensure that the hiring manager will be receptive to the information.

Research your role’s market value

Some feel that discussing salary requirements in the cover letter is an assertive move. It indicates that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to your role and that you know the value your knowledge, experience, skills, and traits bring to the table.

Indeed, it’s possible that this information could help solidify your candidacy if your salary requirements fall within the employer’s budget. That said, there are two important things you must do before mentioning your salary requirements in your cover letter.

First, understand that you’ll need to do your homework. You must conduct extensive online research using data from job boards, anecdotal evidence from online forums, information from LinkedIn, and whatever other reputable sources you can get your hands on about what someone in your role should be getting paid.

As you carry out this research, keep your experience, education, and skill level in mind. As resume articles often indicate, these qualifications can affect how much someone will be paid in a particular role, with more advanced or experienced professionals often earning more than others.

You must also know how to customize any cover letter templates you use by quantifying your achievements.

Doing so clearly demonstrates the impact you’ve made in your current role. This, in turn, can help you justify the salary numbers you’ve given in your cover letter. It will help the hiring manager see why you’re worth what you’re asking for — and may make you more likely to get it.

"Although many cover letter articles will tell you that you should never write about salary requirements in cover letters, the answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it seems."

Be flexible

When figuring out how to include salary requirements in cover letters, make it a point to use language that signals your flexibility.

You don’t want the hiring manager to feel like you’re making demands. You should indicate that, while you believe the number you included accurately reflects your value as a candidate, you’re open to negotiations and want to move forward in a collaborative way. Studying solid cover letter examples can help you nail the right tone.

When you use such a tone, a hiring manager is less likely to dismiss your salary requirements, even if they’re a bit high. Demonstrate that you’re willing to work with a potential employer if you want the same treatment in return.

Be honest

When thinking about how to handle salary requirements in a cover letter, always assume that a hiring manager has good intentions when it comes to ensuring that you’re properly compensated for the value you bring. With that in mind, you should always be transparent when presenting your salary requirements in a cover letter.

It’s crucial to be completely honest about your experience and skills, as the hiring manager will use this information to calculate your salary. Don’t simply copy cover letters or resume templates and submit them, as they won’t reflect your unique background.

Furthermore, it’s important to be direct about your salary expectations so the hiring manager won’t be caught off guard when it is time to negotiate.

Examine relevance

Job seekers should always consider whether information on an expected salary is relevant for the hiring manager. This can depend heavily on the norms in a particular company or industry.

Salaries are already fixed and non-negotiable in some cases (such as in government or public education roles). There would therefore be no reason to include your expected salary range because accepting the job means accepting whatever pay comes with it.

In other cases, the hiring manager may have already included the salary range for the role in the job description. If you insist on including it in your cover letter, you risk inadvertently suggesting that you haven’t read through the entire description before applying or that you don’t respect their decision about salary. 

Note that there’s nothing wrong with asking whether the included salary is firm once you get to the interview stage. This is where many candidates choose to bring up their salary requirements.

A polished, professional cover letter always makes a good impression

There will likely always be a debate about whether it’s a good idea to include salary requirements in a cover letter. If the job description, employer, or recruiter asks you for it, make sure it’s in there. Otherwise, rely on your own research and assessment of whether it's relevant to help you make the right decision.

What’s most important about writing a cover letter is maintaining a professional tone throughout, even when writing about salary expectations.

To this end, consider using cover letter or resume examples to ensure that your application materials are polished before you submit them. These resources can help you decide on a tone, format, and design that work together to make you stand out and land the job you want.

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Sarah Edwards
Sarah Edwards
A seasoned HR writer with more than a decade of experience, Sarah crafts insightful guides and timely articles that help people grow their skills.

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