Salary Negotiations Blog Series: Salary Communications

Salary Negotiations Blog Series: Salary PositioningIn my last post—the first in this three-post series about negotiating the right salary for you—I wrote about how to determine the salary range you should be aiming for. In that post, I explained how to figure out your must-have salary range, your want-to-have salary range, and your negotiations salary range. I also included some tips about how to create a bit of negotiating room in your salary positioning. You can, and should, read the entire post here.

Today, I’ll write about how to communicate your salary range when you’re in asked about it by a prospective employer.

Prior to Your First Interview

Before your first interview, conduct some market research, so you know your salary range is within reason for your city, state/province, and country. Unfortunately, there is no one single website to consult to find out what all companies pay, however, this information can be discerned in pieces and parts through a mix of these four ways to source salary information:

  1. Consult general career information resources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook. It only lists general salary information for about 200 occupational clusters, but it’s a start and does provide job outlook details as well.
  2. Check salary sites like,,,, or Some of these sites let you evaluate how salaries compare in different geographic areas based on cost of living.
  3. Ask your network since it is a source of business intelligence. If you have connections in a company, you can ask them what the salary range is for the position for which you are interviewing.
  4. Conduct your own personal salary survey. Call competitors of the company you’ll be interviewing with and ask to speak to someone in HR. Tell them you’re comparing salaries and are hoping they could give you some general information about their salary ranges. Some companies will comply; others will not.

Once you’ve verified that your desired salary range is on target, there are two ways to communicate it to prospective employers: in writing, via cover letters, emails, and InMails, and via face-to-face or phone interviews.

Written Salary Communications

Quite often, a job posting will ask you to include your salary history or salary requirements in a cover letter. It’s very rare a company asks for both—usually it will be the latter. If an employer asks for this detail in your cover letter, you must include it, or they will discard your application. Because you’ve done your homework after reading my last post, you know what range to give them. Let me break it down for you further.

  • If an employer asks for your salary history, include a sentence at the end of your cover letter that says, “My salary history over the last three years has ranged from $x-$y.”
  • If you think your salary history sounds too low, instead of sharing your net salary, share your gross salary. If you’re dramatically underpaid, give your total compensation figure which will be higher because it includes your benefits.
  • If the opposite is true, and your salary is artificially high—higher than what may be expected—instead of giving your gross or total compensation figure, provide the employer with your net salary.

This approach helps to combat any negative initial perceptions from the employer, preventing them from leaping to an erroneous conclusion about your candidacy based on your salary history.

  • If an employer asks you to include your salary expectations or salary requirements, give them your negotiation range, not your desired salary range.
  • Towards the end of your letter, write something like: “My priorities are the scope of the opportunity and the degree of match with my strengths, but I believe a salary in the $x-$y range is warranted based on my achievement history.”
  • Cite a $10k-$20k range. For instance, $50,000-$70,000 or $35,000-$55,000. It shouldn’t be such a big range that it’s ridiculous and it shouldn’t be too narrow, either. Aim for just right, Goldilocks style.

Verbal Salary Communications

In interview situations, whether it’s a prescreening or a formal interview with one person or a panel, I recommend using what I refer to as the “peel an onion” technique, where you give one or more narrow responses to tricky questions.

Imagine that when the employer asks a question, they are peeling the onion and you are only going to give them one layer at a time instead of the whole onion at once. If they want to know more, make them ask more.

When you’re asked about what salary you want, you’re going to say, “Salary isn’t the number one issue for me, it’s the match or scope of opportunity or potential. That’s what’s critical to me.”

Then, stop talking and wait to see if they want to peel another layer.

If they say, “Yes, but how much money do you want?” Make them ask you again. This time you’re a little more direct in your response but also sort of turning the question around.

Say something like, “The last thing I want to do is waste your time or mine, so if you could share the salary range for the position, I can tell you if it’s in my ballpark.”

A lot of interviewers are fine with the first “peel an onion” response. Others will be fine with the second and they will tell you the range. You can then say, “That’s close enough for now.” Or “That’s in my ballpark.”

Notice that you’re not saying yes or no yet — this is just an initial sharing. At this point, all you’re agreeing to is that it’s worth your time to keep talking.

Occasionally an employer will say, “I must have a number. I can’t continue without a number.”

When they put you in a corner, this is where you share your negotiation salary range. You restate, “This isn’t the most critical factor for me, but I believe that my history of achievements, including (cite one or two) demonstrate that my experience is worth $x-$y.” Never give one specific number, always give a range.

Once an offer has been tendered, if they have offered verbally, ask them to provide you that offer in writing. You always want to negotiate from a written position than verbal.

But I‘m jumping ahead – it’s not time for you to negotiate quite yet. I’ll go over that in detail in my next and final post in this series.


Need help determining your salary negotiations position? Even a single coaching session can prevent you from leaving thousands of dollars on the table. Schedule your complimentary consultation today to see if coaching works for you.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.