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How to write an effective email asking about compensation

Being offered a new job is an exciting event! However, before you accept the position, it's essential to find out everything your new job entails, including compensation. Writing an email to your potential employer is an effective way to open the compensation discussion. It gives you time to compose your thoughts and lets you set the stage for in-person conversations and negotiations. While discussing your salary with a potential employer might make you feel a little nervous, you can use the following tips to compose an email that projects an air of confidence.

What to include in your email asking about compensation

The first step to writing an effective email about compensation is knowing what to include. The following are necessary components when composing your email:

  • Recipient's full name, typically the hiring manager or recruiter
  • Clear subject line
  • Suitable greeting — Dear Mrs./Ms./Mr. First Name/Last Name — or Hello, First Name/Good morning/Good afternoon if you don't know the recipient's preferred pronouns or salutations
  • An introductory paragraph that expresses your appreciation for the job offer and for the hiring manager taking the time to interview you
  • Follow-up paragraph that asks what the starting salary range is
  • Concluding paragraph that asserts your interest in the position and thanks the recipient for their time and consideration
  • Signature and sign off (Regards/Sincerely, First Name/Last Name)

Including these components indicates you're approaching the subject professionally and thoughtfully.

How to set the right tone for your email asking about compensation

Now that you know what components to include in your email, you can compose one in a tone that's friendly and polite yet assertive. You don't want to include "salary" or "compensation" in your email subject line because it can be too blunt, projecting an air of entitlement. Instead, use a generic subject line that still refers to the offer, like "regarding the offer" or "thoughts on the offer." If you received the offer by email, you could use the original subject line that the recruiter used.

After you've decided on your subject line, it's time to move on to your greeting. If your interactions with your potential employer have been formal so far, you'll want to open with "Dear," followed by their preferred prefix. If you don't know the recipient's preferred prefix, it's acceptable to use their full name with no prefix. You can also start your email with "Hello" or "Hi" if the hiring process has been more informal. You'll want to follow up your salutation with an opening line that's friendly and professional. Here are some suggestions:

  • Good afternoon
  • Good morning
  • Hope this email finds you well
  • I hope you're having a great week
  • I hope you're doing well

Next, you'll want to thank the hiring manager for taking the time to interview you and extending the job offer. Ensure them that you're enthusiastic about working for the company and you find the position interesting.

Once you've made your interest in the position known, it's time to address the issue of compensation. Writing something like, "Before I accept this offer, may I ask what the salary range is?" clearly states your question without sounding pushy. Mention that you don't feel comfortable proceeding with follow-up interviews or accepting the offer until you discuss compensation.

Close your email by restating your interest in the position. Let the recipient know that you look forward to hearing from them soon and thank them again for their time and consideration. Here are some suggested closing phrases to include in your signature:

  • Sincerely
  • Take care
  • Regards
  • Best
  • Many thanks

Make sure to sign your email with your full name and contact number.

How to prepare for a follow-up email

While you're waiting for your potential employer to respond to your question about compensation, you should prepare for salary negotiations in case the answer is not what you're anticipating. Here are some items that you'll want to include when composing an email for salary negotiations:

  • Your value. Ensure your potential employer knows your value by reminding them of how much experience you have, your certifications, and any other qualifiers.
  • The market average. Research how much people in similar positions earn in your geographic area. If your starting salary is less than the market average, it's appropriate to mention this in your negotiations.
  • A higher salary than what you require. If you want $60,000 a year, ask for $65,000. This gives your potential employer plenty of room to negotiate down while still offering you the salary you need.
  • Your expenses. If you have to relocate to accept the job offer, you'll want to mention that your incurring extra expenses.
  • Other forms of compensation. If you're willing to accept other forms of compensation, such as extra vacation days or full-coverage health insurance, you should mention this in your email.

When bringing up these concerns and your counteroffer, you want to be assertive but not combative. Say, " I would be more comfortable accepting this position if we settled on [salary amount] as my starting salary." A specific amount gives you a concrete starting point for negotiations and provides you with leverage when finalizing your compensation and benefits.

One item that you leave out of your negotiation email is your current salary. Instead of answering your initial question about your starting salary, your potential employer might ask you about your current salary. Unfortunately, an employer might use this information and offer you a lower salary than the one you desire. If a hiring manager asks you about your current salary, state the range you're hoping to earn in your new position and ask them if the new job falls within that range.

If your potential employer insists on knowing your current salary, you might want to refuse the job offer. Pressing a job candidate for their current salary is unethical, and it's illegal in some states and cities. Also, if your potential employer's hiring process involves multiple interviews, they should be willing to discuss your salary before the second interview. Don't accept a second interview without determining your compensation. If you have to walk away from an offer, create a profile on CareerBuilder so that other potential employers can find you.

Now that you have some tips on how to compose an email to your potential employer asking about compensation, you're ready to write an email that ensures you get the compensation you deserve. Keep in mind that salary negotiations can take time and might require many conversations between you and your potential employer. Keep your cool, maintain your professionalism, and always be polite. Your potential employer will be impressed with your composure, and your negotiations will go more smoothly.

More tips for discussing compensation with your employer:

Are you trying to decide between a job that pays a salary and one that pays hourly wages? Here are the pros and cons of both.

If you want to bring up your salary during an interview, here's when — and how — you should do it.

Develop these six negotiating skills to get the salary you deserve.

Here's what you do and don't want to do when negotiating your salary.

Find out what your salary success number is and how it compares to your colleagues'.