Many job listings for programming positions ask you to send a resume and "Salary Requirements" or "Salary Expectations" right at the start. I do kind of know what I need to live on, and what I'd actually prefer to make.

Should I list a range? Should I ignore that piece when I send my resume? Should I say that my salary requirements are "negotiable"?

18 accepted

I always say "Negotiable based on benefits". Salary is only one small of your total pay. Bonuses, Health care, 401k plan / matching , profit sharing, training, work environment, ability to telecommute.. all of these add up to total compensation and all of these are negotiation points.

Very rarely will a job listing offer details on all of these variables, so I feel it's fair to put off giving a number until you've discussed them. If they disagree with that, then I probably won't gel with the management style anyway.


If you're applying for permanent positions then I would leave off the Salary Expectations, or put negotiable. In my opinion it's better to negotiate salary after you have been chosen, as it gives you better bargining power. If the companies hiring policy is based mainly on Salary expectations of applicants, rather than experience or suitablility, is that a place you want to work?


Always start with an amount slightly higher than what you want, just like if you were selling a car. Asking for too little has been proven to undercut your career salary path. People will never pay you more than what you ask for, and are always going to try and get you to come on board for less. Every time someone gave me what I asked it's a sign that I didn't ask for enough.

That doesn't mean get out of control and ask for a ridiculous amount based on your experience. So do some research, and you can always adjust it if you aren't getting offers.

You could leave it off, but you might find that where negotiations start is wildly off your expectations.


Have a look at this salary FAQ over at the site Ask the Headhunter




You need to know going in what you're looking for, because it will come up, unless they're not at all interested.

Putting your salary requirements in a cover letter cannot help you. If your resume is interesting enough, they will call you. The only thing the salary requirements can do at the beginning is get your resume & cover letter tossed.

Also, make sure that you never reveal your salary history. What you have made in the past is nobody's business, and is irrelevant to what you will make in the future. If you're asked, simply say "I'm sorry, but that's confidential." See Nick Corcodilos' excellent article on the topic, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.


It's not in your interest to give a potential employer a number--ever. I've been on both sides of the table in this situation.

When I was younger, I once gave a number. I later received an offer with that number on it, which I happily accepted. Even later still, I discovered I could have named an amount twice that number. My employer couldn't believe how fortunate they were. I ended up working with one or two people who were way less competent than I was who were earning way more than I was. Plus, as a consequence, my contribution was not sufficiently valued by upper management with many of the assignments I would have found more interesting going to others. On more than one occasion, I was given only hours to completely rewrite something that an incompetent colleague had been given weeks or months to screw up.

I have sat on the other side of the table asking prospective employees what their salary requirements were, and I have received answers that were half or less of what I expected them to say. I found myself in the position of thinking: "Poker face, Bob! Poker face!"

I have signed contracts and employee agreements where rate or salary were strictly confidential and others where they were not. I cannot be bothered to hunt down every past contract so whenever I am asked, I simply respond with "I am not at liberty to say." While I have never had anyone continue to press for an answer after that response, if anyone did, I would simply point out they wouldn't want me betraying their confidences so please don't ask me to betray anyone else's.

In this industry, there are always lots of open jobs, and even more jobs advertised. If an ad says they won't consider applications without salary history and/or salary requirements, I don't waste their time or mine: I do not apply.

I assume all of those ads are simply trying to survey the market for salary expectations, in any case. It's not like any law prevents someone from just making up a job advertisement for a job that doesn't exist. HR departments and pimps do that all the time.

The pimps, in particular, and many larger businesses often buy advertising space in bulk. If they don't have a current job opening to fill that space, they won't hesitate to advertise a job they already filled in the past or to make up a job just to test the market for availability and price.

The companies doing the hiring know the market for the jobs they fill. HR departments subscribe to salary surveys costing hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. Plus, they conduct their own research, and they know what other people in the company doing the same job earn. They are much better informed than you are or will ever be.

They already know the maximum they will offer. You cannot ever increase that maximum. By providing a number -- any number at any point in the negotiation -- you can only decrease it.

Years ago, there was an excellent essay online describing exactly how to handle salary during negotiations. Sadly, I cannot find it right now. Basically, it described the following steps:

  1. The first time the interviewer asks, respond with "I am much more interested in <insert description of what you are looking for> than in the amount of an initial offer."

    I like "working with other smart people solving difficult challenges" so I insert that. The answer deflects the question, lets the employer know why you might want to work for the company, and tells the employer you understand negotiation means initial offers are not necessarily final offers.

  2. The second time the company asks, respond with "You are in a much better position to know what value I can offer your company."

    This response deflects the question again and puts the company on notice that you are well aware just how much better informed they are than you are.

  3. The third, fourth and any subsequent time they ask, repeat the response from 2 above or combine 1 and 2 together.

    The response deflects the question again and -- eventually -- with enough repetition, they will accept that you are not going to give them a number.

  4. If the company gives you a lowball offer below what you will accept, thank them for their interest, explain why you think you add much more value than that, explain that you are not interested at that price, and tell them if they have a better offer to give, you will be happy to consider it.

    If they ask how much more, give the same answer as 2 above. If they press, give the same answer as 2 above and add "If that was your best offer, I won't waste any more of your time."

    If they haven't made their best offer yet, they still know what their best offer is and can make it. If they already made their best offer, you are already done. They are only asking to get another data point for their research. You get nothing out of giving them a number, and if you remain firm, the worst case is you get a data point for your research.

I understand how difficult it can be to not give the answer they ask for. Often, after giving one of the answers above, an interviewer will just remain silent. So just remain silent too. Out-wait them. If it gets to the point where you just have to say something, if the interview is on the phone, ask if they are still there or if the line was disconnected. If face to face, ask if they are okay or if they are having a seizure or something. But wait a very long time before saying either of those things.

In short, don't ever give them a number, and don't ever offend them with your refusal.


I'd go with negotiable, but when HR contacts you to go over a few things, you probably should ask about the ballpark figure they typically offer. Also, if it looks like they will be offering way below what you need, you should make it clear that you do not intend to work for a salary under some amount X.


Fearless Interviewing

You should have an idea of what the position is worth (and what you want). If not, get a description of the position and find it on a salary site like salary.com

You should postpone salary negotiation as long as possible, and do your best to get a range from them first. Example: if/when asked, your initial response can be something like as good or better then someone of my skill in this market (polish it up and put it in your own words, yada yada yada).

If pressed for what you want, then give a range based on the research you have done and what you want to achieve.

Dealing with recruiters is a bit different since they are at least a little bit on your side. You can be more frank about what you want, and they should know the range on the positions they are trying to fill.

The book describes this better (and I don't have my notes with me).

Keep in mind that most of time, the people interviewing you won't be part of your salary negotiation. So the first step for you is to establish that you are the best candidate for the job... then you can talk about salary.


If you are looking for a long-time work relationship, put in at least a ballpark figure. If they aren't willing to pony up anything near that, you'll be saving both of your time.


I'd like to add that this is a very cultural question. In central Europe you're expected to advance a range in the upper third of the market salary.

In Switzerland, there is a comprehensive salary study for IT professionnals from ICT which is still affordable in the basic version. Such studies exist certainly in other countries.

If you're passing through a recruiter, ask her about the salary range the company communicated to her. But take this information carefully, since recruiters are sometimes paid of a fraction of the salary, the might forward a value too high.


Check out indeed.com to get a rough approximation of salary. I wouldn't put a figure in a response (like others have said, put something like "Negotiable"), but when it does come time to discuss salary, at least you may have an idea of the range.


I hate that question as salary in my opinion depends on the work you are doing, not the skills you possess. I would always err towards what you'd prefer to make rather than what you need to live off. Putting a low salary request makes you look like you don't value your skills. Putting in one that is market value + a little bit shows that you do rate yourself. It you start off too low people are not going to reward you for it.


I suggest that whether or not you put it on your resume or negotiate it after being hired that it might be beneficial to do some research on wages. It could give you a little bit of leverage when you're negotiating or if you put your expectations on your resume. It couldn't hurt you to know a few statistics, I'm sure your potential employer will know.