It is a question that bedevils job seekers: the one when the employer asks how much you want to get paid if you're hired. It's tricky terrain.

QWhen a company says it wants salary requirements, where do I include them? In the cover letter, or on the resume? Do I just give a range, or can I even ignore this altogether?

APalmer Suk, president of Snelling Personnel Services in Vienna, said there is no specific, correct way to deal with the salary question, either in writing or in person with an interviewer. But he offered some suggestions that his recruiting firm gives to job applicants.

He said that if asked for a salary demand, the applicant could make a reference to it in the cover letter, but he suggested finessing the question, if possible, rather than ignoring it.

"The objective is to get in front of the employer," he said. "We counsel our applicants to say, 'I'm flexible for the right opportunity.' "

He said that if an applicant feels compelled to mention her current salary, either in a letter or in person, she could add that she's willing to discuss it further.

"It's not a black-and-white situation," Suk said.

The one thing he would not do is ask for a specific amount.

"Whatever you say will be too high or too low," Suk said, either handing the company an opportunity to pay you less than it may well have been intending, or pricing yourself out of the market.

He said the applicant ought to have done enough homework to know what salary she can reasonably expect based on her experience and skills, the going pay for the job she's applying for, and any other factors that might play into a specific situation.

Ultimately, he said that when the salary question comes up during an interview, there's usually some interest by the company at that point. "So when they ask, 'How much do you want?' I'd say, 'I'm sure you'll come up with a competitive package based on my experience.'

"That kind of puts the ball back in their court," Suk said. "But let's say that doesn't fly. Then you may have to say what you're currently making, but say that you would expect some kind of a raise" based on your experience and the new responsibilities you might be undertaking.

Even so, he warned that with the fallout in the technology industry, not all workers in that field can expect to earn as much as they once did.

"In that case, you may have to take a half step back on salary," Suk said. "But the big picture is more important." That means getting a job you are comfortable in, at as high a salary as can be reasonably expected.

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him Wednesday at 11 a.m. at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.