Ask About Salary in Email

If you've received a job interview or even a job offer, you might be feeling excited but also nervous. The time has come to discuss salary, a process that lots of people find very uncomfortable. The good news is that in many situations you can now conduct these negotiations over email, which can be much less intimidating. With a few simple strategies and phrases, you can discuss salary in an email effectively and professionally.


Asking What the Starting Salary Is

  1. Begin your email with a greeting and end with your signature. You should always treat emails about work the way you would letters. In your salutation, you should use the name that the person emailing you signed off with in their message, or whatever name they used when they introduced themselves if you've already met in person.[1]
  2. Be polite but direct in asking about the starting salary. Show enthusiasm for the position. If the company has asked whether you're interested in the job, you should thank them for their message, state that the position does sound interesting, and then write "May I ask what the salary range is?"[2][3]
    • If the company is reaching out to schedule a second interview, reply to the person who emailed you that you are excited to come back and ask if they are the right person to speak to about compensation for this job.[4]
  3. Don't feel obliged to reveal your current salary. The company recruiter or hiring manager may ask what salary you're making at your job now rather than answer your inquiry about salary directly. This is another lowballing tactic since they're hopeful that you'll disclose a salary lower than the amount they are willing to pay and they can then offer you this same figure rather than the higher one they might otherwise have given.[5]
    • It is unethical and in some cases illegal for a company to ask about candidates' confidential information like current salary. This is a privacy violation. The State of Massachusetts made it illegal starting in 2018 for an employer to ask about past earnings. New York City and Philadelphia have passed similar laws.[6]
    • If a recruiter asks about your current salary, reply by stating the salary range you are focusing on in your job hunt and ask if this position falls in that range.[7]
    • If the company insists on knowing your current salary, you should probably walk away from the job. They will likely not be good employers since they are behaving unethically.[8]
  4. Determine your personal salary range. It is important to know both what your ideal target salary is and what your minimum acceptable salary is before learning the starting salary of the job. If the starting salary does not meet this minimum standard, you should probably not continue with the interview process for this particular job.
    • You might be asked what your target salary is before the starting salary is disclosed, which is another good reason to have your salary range in mind already.
    • Research will help you to determine your salary range. You can use websites like Glassdoor and Payscale again to get a sense of what professionals with similar experience and education to your own make in your field and city.[9]
    • Special skills, such as knowledge of specific computer programs, years of experience, and levels of education, for instance having a graduate degree, can make you a desirable candidate and might help you command a higher salary than the average in your field.[10]
  5. Determine the starting salary before a second interview. If the starting salary is not advertised, you do not necessarily have to inquire what it is before deciding whether or not you might like the job. You can go on one interview first if you want. However, don't accept a second interview before determining what the starting salary is.[11]
    • Although it would be helpful if the salary range was listed in the job advertisement, many companies don't disclose it because they are probably hoping to find a candidate who is unaware of their own market worth and the average salary range in the field, whom they can lowball. That's why it's helpful to do your research before asking about salary.[12]
  6. Ask about starting salary in a reply email rather than a new one. When a company recruiter or the hiring manager emails you to ask about your interest in the position or to schedule a second interview if you've already had one, take this opportunity in your reply message to ask what the salary is. If the company never reaches out to you, you can assume they aren't interested in hiring you and so knowing the starting salary is moot.[13]
    • Another advantage to asking about salary in a reply message is that you don't have to think of a subject line of your own for the email.

Asking for a Higher Starting Salary

  1. Negotiate salary over email to make sure your message is clear. If you've received a job offer, the time has come to negotiate your salary before you sign. Doing this via email is acceptable if you and your potential employer have previously been interacting through this medium, especially if the job offer itself was extended in an email. Using email gives you time to craft a coherent case for your counteroffer without becoming stressed and flustered.[14]
    • There are some disadvantages to negotiating salary via email. Some experts believe that negotiation is better done face-to-face, and that an email can read more like a list of demands than a dialogue between employer and employee.[15]
  2. Avoid mentioning the word "salary" in your email subject line. You should pick a subject line that is generic but still lets the recipient know that the message relates to the job. You might consider including your name and a reference to your "thoughts on the offer."[16]
    • Don't use a subject line such as "Salary negotiation." This is too blunt. You don't want to come across as pushy or entitled.[17]
  3. Use an appropriate salutation. Always use a greeting in your email correspondence with your potential employer, the way you would if you were writing a letter. The correct greeting depends on the context of your previous interactions with the recipient.[18]
    • If your communications have been formal so far, address the email with "Dear" followed by the recipient's prefix (Dr., Mr., Ms., etc) and last name, then a comma and a line break before beginning your message.[19]
    • If you're unsure of your recipient's preferred prefix, for example Mrs. or Ms., simply write out their entire name with no prefix.[20]
    • If your interactions have been more informal, consider replacing "Dear" with "Hello" or "hi" and using the recipient's first name.[21]
  4. Strike a respectful and polite tone. When negotiating your salary, you want to come across as genuinely grateful for the job offer and enthusiastic about the position. Start your email by thanking the recipient and stating that you are excited about the opportunity.[22]
    • Remember to always use complete, grammatically-correct sentences and to proofread your email for typos. You want to convey professionalism. Never use emojis or abbreviations like "LOL" that you might in text messages.
  5. Be firm but not combative in stating your counteroffer. One expert suggests that writing "I would be more comfortable if we settled on [x amount]" is a good, neutral way of phrasing it.[23]
    • Don't use phrases like "Are you sure you can't do any better?" This leaves the company room to simply reply no. When you give an actual counteroffer, you're making the company respond to that specific amount and making it more difficult for them to say no outright.[24]
    • Avoid using an argumentative or pushy tone. Making a combative, categorical statement like "I will not accept anything less than [x amount]" is ineffective.[25]
  6. Back up your counteroffer with research. Clearly and politely list the reasons that justify the salary you are asking for. Draw on the research you've done into average salaries in your field and for people with your background and skills to bolster your case.[26]
    • For example, after listing the qualifications that will make you an excellent employee for the company, you might say that based on your research, the average salary for comparable positions in your city is [x amount], and you would like to discuss moving your proposed salary closer to that figure.[27]
    • Your justification for your salary should be based on your skills and the average salary range for this position. Don't try to build your case on arguments about how you personally need a higher salary to be able to pay your bills.[28]
  7. Sign off respectfully. End your email with a polite closing remark like "Sincerely" or "Best," followed by a comma, and then your signature on the following line. Keep your method of signing emails consistent in all your communications with the company so that there is no confusion. If you've been using your full name in your signature, continue to do so.[29]
  8. Be prepared for counteroffers. Salary negotiations are a back and forth process, and can take some time. Remain patient, polite, and professional throughout. Bear in mind that you might not get the exact salary you ask for, though you should not agree to go below the minimum acceptable amount you've decided for your range.[30]
    • Be aware that even if you begin negotiating your salary over email, you might end up discussing it over the phone at some point in the process.[31]


  2. [v161211_b01]. 25 May 2021.

Quick Summary