Some Advice on Job Hunting From One New Pro to Another: Setting a Salary Range

Recently, I accepted a wonderful new position and gave notice to my previous employer. Everything went very well and I was asked to assist in the hiring process for my replacement. I prepared myself for the difficult task of sorting through resumes and agonizing over a hundred people with the perfect qualifications to fill my position. I was ready to carefully consider nuances in presentation and to weigh one person’s experience against another. As it turns out, the process was much easier than I had ever imagined.

At least 50% of the resumes were discarded almost immediately because of salary expectations. As for the other 25%, more on that later…

Advice Tidbit #1: How to Set a Salary Range
First of all, if they ask for your salary range, give it to them (after careful consideration of course). If you don’t, your resume could get passed over for others who are able to follow directions and have salaries in the company’s range. The way to successfully give a salary range is to consider both your own worth and the level assigned to the job by the hiring company. For instance, if the position is listed as an “entry level” position, you should have a clue as to their salary range based on other jobs in your area. If you are job-hunting in my area (Cleveland), you should know that a basic entry-level salary is much less than $50,000 -70,000. If the salary listed in your cover letter is more than $10,000 (or even $5,000) too high, your resume may be headed for the circular file. Here are some tips on the dreaded “please include your salary expectations” request:

Just Do It – Sure you don’t want to take yourself out of the running by giving a salary that’s too high or too low, and it may be tempting to leave it off altogether. Stop and just do it. If the company asked for it and you don’t give it, it may look like you don’t/can’t follow directions.
Always Give a Range – go from the lowest you would possibly accept to a little more than you would expect. If you give an appropriate range, you can always ask for more based on what you learned about the position in your interview.
Never Lie (to the employer or yourself) – Don’t lowball them to get an interview for an entry-level position hoping that they will increase the salary for “the right” candidate (you). You’ll end up seeming dishonest if an offer is made. If the salary is too low for you, it’s not the right position anyway.
Pay Attention to the Position Description – you know what your current job pays, and can look at the national averages on the PRSA website. If the position description says entry-level or junior – or director – you will have a good idea of a general range the company might expect to offer.
Consider the Company – a small nonprofit will have a completely different salary range than a large corporation or a prestigious agency. Consider the size and prominence of a company when setting your salary range.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short – If the title, responsibilities listed and company sound like they fit with a $50,000 salary, and you are qualified, then ask for it. If the company throws your resume to the side because your expectations are too high, the position is probably not worth pursuing.
Be Flexible – Sometimes saying that you are flexible or that your salary is “negotiable” is a way to get a phone call even if you are out of their range. It doesn’t hurt to add it if, even after research, you don’t have a clue what the range might be.

Setting the perfect salary range for you and the company you are applying to is truly something of an art, but it’s an art worth mastering. Researching the company, reading the position description carefully and knowing the industry averages can not only help you set an appropriate salary, but can help you make the best decisions regarding your personal worth and avoid positions that don’t offer fair compensation for the level of experience and responsibilities. I hope to follow-up soon with another article based on my recent hiring experience, and in the meantime, best of luck job hunting!

Julie Cajigas is the president and owner of Inspired Copy & Communications, LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired Copy & Communications, LLC provides freelance copywriting, ghostwriting and freelance public relations. She can be reached at