Salary History and Expectations in Person, on Resume, or in Cover Letter?

The job posting says, "Provide salary history" or "State salary expectations." Does the employer really want you to put your salary history and expectations on your resume? That would be an odd place to refer to compensation: past, present, or future.

The best place to talk about salary history and salary expectations (or pay history and expectations) is in the job interview, face to face. The second best place to discuss it is in a phone interview. The third best place is in your cover letter. The worst place is in your resume, and I advise you not say a word (or number) about it there.

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Let's take a look at these top three options:

Salary History and Expectations in Person at the Job Interview

Talking about money is best done when you are face to face with your prospective hiring manager. There's bound to be some negotiating, so you will want to have the benefit of seeing your interviewer's body language, and be able to use your own to reflect your professional stance about the issue. Plus, the interviewer will see you dressed professionally and by the time the issue of salary comes up, you will have won him or her over to a large extent.

For tips on how to negotiate your salary, read Salary Negotiation Skills.

Salary History and Expectations in a Phone Interview

Talking about money on the phone is trickier because you can't see the person you're speaking to unless you use a video call system (like Skype).

The level of employer's commitment may be hard to gauge, so you may not feel ready when the subject of compensation comes up. But, assuming you are ready, follow the same guidelines for handling the initial money talk as you would if you were having a face-to-face interview (Salary Negotiation Skills).

Salary History and Expectations in a Cover Letter

My rule of thumb: If you can avoid it, don't write about salary history and expectations in your cover letter. Once you put something in writing, you start the negotiation process, and an initial cover letter is way too soon to start that process. However, there are a few situations where you may decide it's best to talk about salary in your cover letter, such as:

  • The job posting requires that you include your salary info, and you have reason to believe that if you don't comply you won't get a job interview.
  • You want to state a very high salary because you don't want to waste the employer's time and your time pursuing a job that does not meet your salary needs.

Here is a sample cover letter that states the job seeker's salary expectation for his next job:

Cover Letter for a Software Engineer With $95K Salary Expectation

Susan Ireland, Resume Author