How to include salary expectations in a cover letter

By Robert Half on 11 May 2023

If you’re on the lookout for a new job, you may have noticed some employers asking applicants to include their expected salary in the cover letter. This can be daunting for obvious reasons – if you go too high you risk pricing yourself out of the running, but go too low and you could be selling yourself short.

So how do you find the amount that is in the just right zone? And how do you share this sensitive information professionally, and avoid saying anything that may hurt your chances of securing an interview?

To help you safely navigate this tricky task, we’ve put together a handy overview with our top tips on how to expertly include salary expectations in your cover letter, so that you put yourself in the box seat to win the role and the wages you deserve.

How to include salary expectations in your cover letter

When it comes to including your desired salary in your cover letter, the first rule is, only do so if the employer has asked you to. If they haven’t mentioned it, and you include it anyway, you risk sounding overly focused on financial rewards, so you’re far better off waiting to ask about remuneration in person at the interview. However, if the job advertisement does request you share this information, it is critical that you do.

Deciding how much to ask for is difficult, and it’s a good idea to spend some time researching similar roles to get an indication of a sensible range. Online resources such as Robert Half’s Salary Guide are a great place to start, and if you have worked in a similar role, you can add that information into the mix. Suggesting a range can be safer than a single figure estimate, and how you phrase it is important too. Take these two contrasting examples below for example:

  • I am looking for a position with an annual salary of $75,000.
  • My salary requirement is $65,000–75,000, negotiable based on the responsibilities of the role and potential for advancement.

It’s easy to see how the second phrase allows for much more flexibility, with the range offering a wider scope. In addition, mentioning there is room for negotiation based on the non-financial benefits that may be part of the package is a smart idea too.

Where should you position expectations in your cover letter?

Another important factor is where to position the information within your letter. Our advice is to save it until the end. By waiting until the final paragraph to state your salary expectations, you allow yourself time to share your relevant skills, experience and education before you mention money. If done well, this will demonstrate why you are worthy of your requested remuneration.

The ideal cover letter length is one page, so be concise and stick to what’s important so it doesn’t get too long. Keep in mind, you’ll need an introductory paragraph, then two paragraphs where you highlight why you are the perfect fit for the job, before closing off with a final paragraph where you can include your salary expectation.

Related: Find out how to answer when you’re asked about your salary expectations

Dos and don’ts when sharing salary expectations

Let’s now recap the key dos and don’ts when sharing your salary expectations on your cover letter:

  • Do include your expected salary in your cover letter if the job advertisement asks you to
  • Don’t include it if it is not mentioned – save talk about the salary for the interview
  • Do plenty of research to uncover what is a reasonable salary expectation for the role
  • Don’t come across as being too greedy or rigid in your request
  • Do leave the door open for negotiation if the role includes other benefits.

Related: Learn how to reject a job offer because of the salary

Other factors to consider

Before you hit send on your application, make sure you’ve carefully considered things from every angle. For example, if the position is your dream job, has fantastic potential to build a successful career, or offers an amazing culture and professional development program, you may you be willing to accept less than what you are asking for. On the other hand, if the position requires you to travel long distances to and from work, does not align fully with your ambitions or values, or involves long hours, you may decide you will only accept the role if offered the highest pay bracket.

Including salary expectations in your cover letter can be easy

While it may seem a scary prospect, when you follow our tips, learning how to include salary expectations in a cover letter can be easy.

At Robert Half, we can help you land you a role that will kickstart your career. Talk to our experienced Hong Kong recruitment team today on +852 5808 6553 to learn about current opportunities or submit your resume and we’ll be in touch with any suitable roles.

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