"Please Include Salary Requirements"

To be considered for the job, companies are now asking job applicants to state salary requirements in their cover letters. It's just one more method to help overworked HR managers narrow down the applicant pool by assessing who has realistic expectations about the position and who doesn't. But for first-time job seekers, this is not an easy task. Entry-level job seekers don't usually know what a fair compensation package for a particular position looks like. So what can a recent college graduate who is looking for a job do?

Don't be too specific
Stating that you want to make $45,000 is not a good strategy. Including a range ($40,000-$47,000) is a more appropriate response to this type of request. Brandi Blades is a Vice-President at Brill Street, & Co; a Gen Y talent acquisition company that provides recent graduates with free assistance during their job search. She advises:

“When a company is ready to talk salary, be prepared to discuss a broad range. Employers want a sense you’re playing on the same field. Before discussing specifics, be certain you’ve shown a high-level of interest in the company and you’re confident you’ll be able to arrive at a fair agreement. If possible, it’s best to win an employer over with your know-how first, let them know you’re willing to negotiate, and then dive into the nitty-gritty.”

Be informed
Stating a range is a good start, but it needs to be realistic. Gather as much information as you can find about salaries for the position to which you're applying. The best web site to find this type of information is one you may not heard of. It's called Jobnob and right now at Jobnob you can look at over 400,000 individual salaries at various companies by position and according to founder Julie Greenberg, they have about 4 million more salaries on the way. Jobnob is great because students have free access to specific salary information, not just industry averages. For example, Jobnob tells you how much money financial analysts at Goldman Sachs make vs. financial analysts in general. This is really helpful information when you're applying to a specific company.

Networking should not be overlooked. Talk to a seasoned professional in that field: someone who has witnessed changes to the industry over a number of years. For instance, someone who worked in technology start-ups during the mid-90's only, is likely to have a skewed perception of salaries in that industry. Someone who worked in the same field in the 90's and ten years beyond is apt to have more accurate information. So, talk to someone who has proven staying power in a particular field.

If all else fails. Blades says:

"If you’re asked for salary in an application before you’ve had the opportunity to talk with an employer, insert a range and indicate you’re flexible.”