A job description asks for your salary requirements. What's the smartest approach to take?

You just found the perfect job – the job description is filled with responsibilities in which you would thrive, and you match the minimum qualifications to a T. At the bottom of the description, however, you see these words: Please submit a cover letter, resume and salary requirements.

Uh oh. Salary requirements? How should you position the information? What should you say? And should you include salary requirements on a resume, cover letter, or separate document?

Why are they asking for salary requirements, anyway?

The short answer is that companies ask for salary requirements to screen out candidates. They use this information to help them determine if there is a fit financially. If you are too high on their salary range for the position, it may weed you out before you even get an interview. If your requirements are too low, it could either weed you out or get you an interview, but it may also mean a lower salary offer if/when you are offered the job.

If you ignore the request for salary requirements altogether, it could also weed you out and prevent you from getting an interview because you didn't follow the employer's job application directions.

This scenario presents a difficult situation, but one that is not impossible to navigate. It just takes a little research and strategy.

How to handle the salary requirements situation.

Compared to being asked about your salary history (which can be an even trickier situation to navigate), providing salary requirements can be done correctly. Follow these steps:

  1. Do your research to determine fair industry wages, as well as your worth.Take the time to conduct some research to determine a fair range for the position and industry, and take into account your years of experience (or not) in this role, as well as a change in commute, geographic location, cost of living changes, and other intangibles that are represented by the new position.

  2. Use a wide salary range to increase your odds of overlapping with the employer's range.You don't want to weed yourself out too easily by submitting a range that is nowhere near the employer's salary range. You've done your homework, now it's time to present it in a wide-enough range to be more likely to overlap with the range the hiring manager is using. This overlap will help keep your application from being screened out too soon, and will hopefully set you up for more wiggle room should you make it to the salary negotiation phase.

  3. Provide your salary range in your cover letter.Do not put your salary requirements in your resume. A better place is within the cover letter. Be short and succinct when providing your salary range requirements. State that your range is based on thorough industry research, you are flexible, but you do expect fair and competitive compensation. It's also a good idea to reiterate your desire to discuss salary expectations in person during an interview.

  4. Don't forfeit more information than is required.You can give the employer an unfair advantage if you put forth more salary information than is required. Only provide salary requirements when prompted, and keep your options wide to ignite further conversation. The last thing you want to do is set yourself up to be taken advantage of in salary negotiation conversations should you get a job offer. Unless previously solicited, an interview is where one might expect to discuss salary.

Salary requirements for a job application don't have to make you feel like you're walking on eggshells, as long as you do your research and position yourself correctly. Follow the tips above and you should be just fine.

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