Employers request salary histories and/or requirements to help determine if there is a fit financially. If you ignore the request entirely, you are likely to be screened out; however, you also run a risk of being screened out if you provide salary information too early in the process and the information is not a close fit. The goal is to obtain an interview to determine if the position is a fit for you and the company, which is when salary discussions can begin. (Visit Expert Advice on Interviewing and InterviewSmart®)
Salary requirements: If an employer requests your salary requirements, they are seeking information about what you expect to earn in your next position and whether this expectation is compatible with their budget. Your personal circumstances, such as geographical area, career track, industry, or type of organization, may create differences between your past salary and your current requirements. The safest course may be to indicate that you are sure the employer has a fair compensation program and that your primary interest is in this company and opportunity. Another option is to provide the widest range possible based upon the type of position and geographical area; however, also indicate that that your primary interest is in this company and opportunity.
Salary history: When employers request a salary history, they are seeking factual information specific to your past positions that they will analyze to infer a potential match. If you are fairly certain that your salary history matches well with an organization's compensation structure, you may include this in your cover letter. Often, though, an organization's salary expectations are less clear. If your salary history differs significantly from the employer's expectations, there is a risk in presenting the information without being able to discuss any mitigating factors. If you have mitigating factors that can be easily explained, such as a geographical move, career change, etc., you may note it in your cover letter without mentioning numbers. Always indicate that you are sure the employer has a fair compensation program and that your primary interest is in this company and opportunity.
Keep in mind that once you have the interview (telephone or face-to-face) you need to be prepared to discuss your salary history along with any mitigating factors to account for potential discrepancies between your salary history and your current expectations.