What to put for desired salary on application

What to put for desired salary on application

Filling out job applications can feel like a checkbox on your way to the really important conversations you’ll have in an interview process. But how you answer specific questions on the application can determine whether or not you even make it to the race for the open role. The desired salary question is a perfect example of how most job applicants make an easy mistake. By putting a number that’s too high, they disqualify themselves from the interview process. And with a number that’s too low, they corner themselves into a place where they can’t negotiate a higher offer when the time is right. 

What to put for desired salary on your job application 

Consider the following 4 best practices as you fill out the desired salary question in your next job application: 

1. Leave the question blank (if possible). 

The first and best option to manage this question on a job application is to leave the answer blank. Why? You don’t have enough information yet about the company and the role to provide a fair, accurate answer. To see how to gather more data and give a clear answer (and when to answer this question) read our How to Negotiate Salary: The Definitive Guide.

By leaving the answer blank, you are signaling to the employer that you want to talk about salary at a later time during the interview process. However, if your desired salary is not negotiable or you feel confident that you know what number you need to accept an offer, write in your answer instead of leaving the space blank. 

2. Write negotiable in place of a number (or 000).

Some job applications won’t allow you to leave a specific area blank—they may require that you answer the desired salary question in order to submit the application for review. In this scenario, you may have to write something just to get the application into the hands of the recruiter to start the conversation. If this is the case, consider writing the word “negotiable” in the answer space. By indicating that you are negotiable on desired salary, this answer should keep you in the race (rather than flagging that your desired salary is too high or too low). 

If the job application doesn’t allow for a nonnumerical answer and requires numbers, consider writing “000” in place of a specific number. This should help you bypass any requirement for a specific number and allow you to submit the application. But, if there’s an area on the application where you can indicate that you are negotiable on salary, be sure to include it, especially if you’ve added “000” as your desired salary number. 

3. Give a salary range.

When leaving the answer blank or writing negotiable are not options you can use, the next best answer for the desired salary question is to write in a range. But before you write in a range that goes below your desired salary, write in a range that goes 10 - 20% higher than your desired offer. 

For example, if your desired salary is $90,000 and you write $80,000 - $100,000, the employer will likely create an offer that is on the lower end, believing that you would be happy with $80,000. Instead, write the range 10 - 20% higher than the number you want to accept. For this example, that would look like a range of $90,000 - $100,000 or $110,000. Keep your desired salary number as the lower end of the range so you can allow for more negotiation when the time is right. 

4. State a specific salary number.

If the desired salary question requires a specific number and you cannot leave it blank, write in “negotiable,” or offer a range, the next best option is to include a specific salary number. In order to figure out this number, you must be informed on your worth (your experience, your education, etc.), how much salary is typically allotted for the role you’re applying for, and typical salaries in your area. 

To find a truly accurate number, it’s better if you can ask the employer questions about how they level the role you’re interested in (what level is the role considered?), what their compensation policy is (do they pay in a specific percentile compared to others in the industry or market?), and any information on pay banding (what is the range of pay for the level of job you’re hoping to land?). But for most applicants, these questions can’t be answered until you’re in the interview process. On the job application, consider doing your own research to answer the question with as much information as you can find. 

Here are a few ways to figure out what your desired salary number should be (before you get to the interview process): 

Consider your education and experience. 

The number of years of experience you have under your belt and your highest level of education should always be considered when you select a desired salary number. With more years of experience, a relevant degree, and certifications or extra training, your worth is higher than someone fresh out of college or without as many years of experience as you. Factor these details into your desired salary number. 

Research national and local averages for the role.

Don’t let simple research scare you away from finding out what the local and national averages are for the open position. By informing yourself with this data, you’re arming yourself for a more logical discussion about salary with the future employer. Companies typically pay for verified salary data anyway—they know the average salary is for the role based on this information. Do as much research on your own to find these numbers for your role. 

Talk to your peers. 

Discussing your salary with your peers might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s one of the most critical steps you can take to truly arm yourself with current, accurate salary information. Look to your peers in similar roles, a similar industry, and even better, a similar location. Offer up your previous role’s salary to help your peers get more information as part of the conversation. 

Get the compensation data and insights from FairComp.

To get access to compensation data—just like employers pay thousands of dollars for with employer-only comp data—join the FairComp waitlist. At FairComp, our mission is fair pay for all, that’s why we’re building the only verified source of pay information, by employees, for employees. With information from FairComp, you can find out exactly how much your role is worth—without the extra research or any guessing.

Need more resources? Check out these links: 

The importance of salary data when negotiating job offers

How to make your job application stand out

You should talk to your friends about your salary. Here’s why (and how).

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