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Bringing Up Salary Range in the Cover Letter

Bringing Up Salary Range in the Cover Letter

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

I am having trouble including my salary requirements on cover letters from a wording standpoint — every way I word my desired salary, the sentence looks awkward. I have always experienced writers’ block on this segment of a cover letter.

How do I include my salary range without making it sound like I simply added up my bills and added a few thousand for vacations? Do I have to include my last salary to substantiate the required salary?

Can you please recommend a less awkward-sounding formula than “as per salary requirements, I would need to be in the $42,000 – $47,000 range.” Or does this sound fine? Thank you!

“I’m seeking a salary in the $42-47,000 range.” As long as you’re basing the range on the market rate for the position and for your experience and skills, no one is going to think you just added up your bills and tossed in some extra for a holiday cruise. But you have to do your research to make sure you do know the market rate, specific to your geographic area.

But more to the point, why are you including this information at all? If you’re doing it of your own volition, stop! There’s no reason to talk salary at this stage. I’ve noticed that some candidates announce their salary requirements in their resumes or cover letters without anyone ever asking — and sometimes they wildly under-price themselves compared to what I’m planning to pay. (In fact, sometimes they do this even when the ad they’re responding to clearly stated a higher range.)

Now, if an employer requires you to include this information, then you have a decision to make. A lot of people will tell you to try to avoid talking salary up front and instead say that you’d prefer to talk about salary once you’ve had a chance to learn more about the specifics of the job … and then you just hope that if you’re a strong enough candidate, the employer isn’t going to discard your application just because of that. But of course, in this job market, with far more highly qualified candidates than can be hired, it’s understandable not to want to do anything to give an employer an excuse not to look at you further.

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It’s not crazy for companies to want to address salary very early on — they don’t want to waste their time if you’re wildly out of their price range. That’s perfectly legitimate, especially if what they’re able to pay is on the lower side of the normal range for the position. But if that’s the case, they really should just post their intended salary range and let applicants decide if they’re interested or not.

Most of them don’t do that, of course, because if you’re willing to accept a lower offer, they want to get you for that lower price. But that’s short-sighted: If they lowball you now and you figure out later that you’re under-priced for the market, they risk losing you over it. So they should tell you the range they plan to pay, deal with the consequences, and put an end to all the drama and hand-wringing these practices cause.

(By the way, I want to point out here that we’re talking about salary expectations. If we were talking about salary history, I’d tell you that that’s no one’s business but your own and to hell with companies that think they’re entitled to it.)

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