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Salary Requirements

Part 2 of 2

When your cover letter has your current salary, that’s generally sufficient. As long as your title and experience are in line with what they’re looking for, the numbers should be roughly comparable. If your salary is substantially less, chances are either that your employer frequently underpays, or there’s a problem with your abilities.

While providing only your current salary doesn’t tell the company if your expectations are reasonable, it at least gives them a number to measure against their range, and that’s where your resume comes in. If there’s nothing off-putting about it visually, it will be looked at with your current salary in mind. The hiring authority or screener is going to be looking for justification of your number. Does your job description exceed your salary? That might indicate a problem.

Even before the market turned, salary was used as a way to screen people out. Companies falsely believe that adhering to some formula or profile will ensure a good hire. But screening by salary doesn’t take into consideration a person willing to take a cut in pay, nor one who is underpaid. Since the company isn’t likely to stop and consider these possibilities or the reasons why they might exist, your best bet is to explain it in your cover letter. The alternative is that they’ll assume the worst, and withdraw your resume from consideration.

On the other hand, should you be invited in for an interview, chances are good that you’ll be pressed for your expectations. Stick with your answer. Depending on with whom you’re speaking, you might have a little dance take place. They press, you demur. They press harder, you demur more. Smile to make sure you’re not coming across as argumentative, and paying attention to your tone of voice, explain that you don't intend to be difficult, but you're there to learn more about the company, the opportunity, and whether you’ll fit well together, and you’re not expecting some pie in the sky increase.

If you're sticking within your industry and field, chances are you're in their range, so assuring them that your expectations are reasonable should suffice. So now a word to the wise. If you’re expecting anything more than 3%, you’re being unrealistic. Although most companies are laying people off, one look at any of the job boards will tell you many are still hiring. It’s an employers’ market, so be realistic lest you price yourself out of consideration.

Often I hear from job searchers who don't want to tell a prospective employer what they're making and steadfastly believe that that information is none of the company's business. Wrong.

Usually it's because people fear they'll be lowballed and keeping their salary confidential will prevent this. Actually, the only thing that keeping your salary confidential will prevent is your getting an interview. The company has a right to know what you’re making, and no, they don’t have to tell you the range. In any case, if you think the company will undercut you, why are you interviewing with them?

Interviewing isn't supposed to be a game, but it probably always will be. While everyone else is playing it, you concentrate on being real and respectful to both yourself and the company with whom you're interviewing. Tell them what they ought to know - your current salary - and sidestep what's unnecessary. By the time you get far enough into the process where the salary requirements make a difference, it will have become more of a meeting of the minds rather than a tool to possibly boot you out of the picture.

Read Part 1

- Judi Perkins

Judi Perkins, the How-To Career Coach, was a recruiter for 22 years, consulting with hundreds of hiring authorities throughout the hiring process. She’s seen over 500,000 resumes, knows how hiring authorities think and how they hire. As a result she understands and teaches what other coaches don’t: why the typical strategies in finding a job so often fail, what to do instead, and why. She’s been on PBS’s Frontline, will be in the May issue of Smart Money magazine, and has been quoted frequently in numerous articles for CareerBuilder, MSN Careers, Yahoo Hot Jobs, and the New York Times, among others. She’s also been featured as an expert in numerous career books. Sign up for her free newsletter at Find The Perfect Job!!

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