What to Put for Desired Salary on a Job Application: 5 Best Responses

Jan. 30, 2019

As a job seeker, you will find many obstacles on your way before you finally land on the job of your dreams. Do you know what to put for desired salary on application for a job? Will you quote a figure if you are fortunate enough to get a call for an interview? Apart from writing an impressive resume, you will need to ace the interview and prove that you are a worthy candidate who deserves the salary you desire so much. However, there is a hurdle that could prevent you from getting an audience with the interview panelists: an online job form.

These application forms found online have a similar structure. Usually, they require you to fill in your details such as your name, physical address, email, and a phone number. The educational and professional background with a list of your skill set is also mandatory. Also, there is a field requesting for ‘Expected Salary’ or ‘Present Salary.’ What is your desired rate of pay? It may seem like an easy question where you can enter in your salary figures or what you wish to get. However, there is a catch. Your answer can either set you apart or completely remove you from the race line-up leading to the interviews.

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How to answer desired salary question in an online job form?

People who do not know ‘what to put for desired salary’ in an application form find it difficult because they do not understand the weight of this query. It has an impact on the job seeker’s job screening and is a factor that determines whether you will move to the next recruiting step. If you are lucky enough to get a chance for an interview, your answer regarding the desired compensation will act as a basis for the compensation package you will get.

These procedures may make you think of a million ways on how to avoid giving out your salary expectation on these job application forms. For clarity, this is a lose-lose situation for those seeking jobs. Most professionals believe that this kind of recruiting process is biased since the employer ends up knowing more about you before the interview.

“Why are they forcing you to disclose some sensitive financial data? Why are they judging your value before they meet you? Why are they not using their budget?” These are some questions that may run in your mind before filling in that form.

As much as the response to ‘what is your desired salary’ may be a complex issue, most employers still need to know, and since you desire that job, you may be forced to answer.

Do you want to know what to put in desired salary field? Below is a list of possible responses:

1. Phrase response

You may find that some application forms have a blank space with a precise limit of characters for typing your answer. Do not answer directly. Thus, write ‘negotiable’ or ‘open for discussion.’ Try to be ambiguous in your answer to avoid giving out your salary information. Also, you can write ‘entry level’ which will automatically translate to your desired wage without necessarily revealing the figures.

2. Number response

In some cases, you might get a form that prompts you to input a figure. You will have to write a number that does not make sense. By entering a number that will raise the recruiters’ eyebrows, it will give them a hint that you do not want to disclose your salary information. These numbers can be $1.00, $1,000,000, or $0.00.

This main purpose of this strategy is to attract the attention of the HR hoping that they figure out your intelligence by not wanting to disclose your salary history. A keen company will respect your decision and proceed to scrutinize your academic and professional qualifications for the position. They will later bring up the question on the interview.

However, it is a risky affair since the application system may eliminate you. For instance, if the company has a salary limit of $80,000, and your field has $1,000,000, the chances are that the robot will reject your job application. Or the recruiters may eliminate you for not following simple instructions.

In such a case, it is advisable to find an empty field where you can fill in additional information and write:
“NB: Concerning the ‘desired annual salary’ field, I am open for a salary negotiation during a one-on-one interview and the figure stated above does not reflect my current desire.”

3. Numerical range

You may find other job applications that do not allow text, but you can input characters with a dash, it is possible to give your expected salary range. But if you are not sure what to put as desired salary range, for instance, you can write $45,000-$60,000 or $65,000-$75,000.

Ensure that you carry out comprehensive research about the company together with the position’s market value. Also, you can find out your worth in the job market via www.payscale.com. The primary objective is to find a range that will not be too high or extremely low as compared to their initial offer.

Let’s say, for instance, that you think the salary for the particular position is around $60,000; then you should range your expectation from $60,000-$70,000. The HR will respect your worth because you have not undervalued yourself.

4. Specific figure

Another option for job seekers is to be honest. As they say, honesty is the best policy. Whatever you do, do not lie about your current salary. You may be tempted to add false figures to give you better pay. But most HR professionals know their jobs and they do a thorough background check from your previous employers. So, your lies will come back to bite you during the interview.

After carrying out extensive research on what to put when asked for desired salary in line with your career, you’ll see that it’s a good idea to enter a correct figure. It may give you an opportunity to move to the next step where you will have a better chance to negotiate if you end up being the suitable candidate.

However, it is imperative to note that whatever you write as the rate of pay expected on application is exactly what they will offer you. So, do not fear to show your worth. The recruiters will comply with your figure if they think you are the candidate they want.

With sites such as www.glassdoor.com, you can easily know the estimated salary for a particular position.
Below are the pointers to always keep in mind:

  • Enter a salary range if it’s possible;
  • Do not lie about your current or previous pay;
  • Always research the position and the average market salary across the board;
  • Know your worth.

5. Do not apply; network first

What is a good number to put for desired salary? Do you feel apprehensive about this query? Most job seekers do not know the answer. Due to technological advancements, numerous job sites link job seekers to potential employers. Thus, you have to apply for the positions online by filling in all your details. To avoid all these processes, the one thing you can focus on is networking. Research shows that 85% of jobs are filled through networking. Hence, job seekers can now embrace the spirit of networking more rather than spending time filling out forms on the online job boards.

Why is networking a powerful job seeking tool?

See, you will not go through all the protocols of online forms and recruiting systems. You have the upper hand since you are in contact with the HR of the said company. If you are lucky enough, you might get an opportunity to meet the person who has the final say in the recruitment process. Thereby, you get an excellent opportunity for negotiating your desired salary.

Case Study 1

Many students in colleges or universities have no idea on what to put for desired salary internship, and they may end up being underpaid in their places of work. It is essential for them to research and keep themselves updated in the current job market.

Mary has just finished college and is seeking a company where she can do her internship program. When applying for a job as an intern, she needs to specify her desired salary for internship. Since she is fresh from school, she does not know if the said company pays its interns and if they do, what their salary scale is.

What Mary can do is research comprehensively about the company in question and the roles of the position. Since she has no previous experience, she has no bargaining power. So, it is wise for her to write ‘negotiable’ or ‘company offer’ in the section requiring the indication of desired pay.

However, after thorough research, Mary can put a figure ranging from $10 to $20. So, her application form would be as below:

Job Position: Intern Editor
Company: Mac Publishers
Salary: $10-$20 per hour

According to Glassdoor, the average pay for an intern in the USA is around $33,120 per year, which translates to $2,760 per month. Hence, Mary’s expectation would be in the estimated range of salary per hours worked.

Mary’s Interview Negotiation Skills


Besides indicating the desired salary correctly, the job seekers should be able to bargain effectively during the job interview. Let’s consider Mary’s example further to see how well she will establish herself and her desired pay during the interview with an HR manager. After answering all the questions correctly, the recruiter may ask:

"Mary, it seems you are quite knowledgeable about our company. Don’t you think your salary expectation is a bit on the higher side for an intern?"

Since she is new in the job market, this is an opportunity for her to negotiate without sounding uninformed. With the knowledge she gathered during her research, she can use it to defend her salary range.

Her response should be centered on the following argument:

"Well, thank you for bringing that up. Actually, I was not sure what figure to write since this is my first job application. But I did carry out intensive research, and the current job market offers almost a similar pay for internship programs. Since I believe I am a perfect fit for this position, I know that I will add value to the company with my skill set and hard work. Thus, I can confidently say that my salary expectation is up to par with my future contribution to the company."

Expert tips:

  • It is essential to keep calm while negotiating.
  • Present your arguments in a natural way backing each statement on why the company should pay you the stated figure.

Case Study 2

James is a college tutor who is seeking a part-time job to supplement his current income. He has been busy applying on the online job sites, but when it comes to the salary field, he gets stuck on what to put for desired salary part-time job. Since the position he wants as a tutor is not full-time, he is also not sure what to put for minimum salary desired. It is a tricky situation for him.

In this case, it is advisable for James not to reveal his current pay. So, whatever he does, he needs to avoid this question by either entering a figure that does not make sense like $1 or $999 if the system requires a number response.

If it requires a phrase, he should write, ‘negotiable’ or ‘salary discussion during the interview.’ However, he needs to learn more about the position and the college or university in which he wants to teach. What is the salary range for their tutors? With numerous research sites, it is easy for James to know his salary worth just with a couple of clicks. This will go a long way in assisting him to negotiate his salary range during the interview.


James’s Interview Negotiation 

Regarding the above case study, let us look at how James will negotiate his salary during the interview. The HR will notice that James did not want to reveal his current pay, and this may either throw him off the recruiter’s list or give him a chance to showcase his worth.

So, after all the vital questions, the HR will probably ask:

"James, if you get this job, what is your expected remuneration package seeing that you did not comply with our instructions to fill in your salary history?"

In this case, James needs to avoid stating a specific figure because this is a part-time job and he might sell himself short. So, he should try to direct the question back to them. His response may be:

"Well, thank you for the question. Since this is a part-time position, I was not 100% sure on the range I should write. With this in mind, I was hoping to hear your offer first, if that is fine with you before we start negotiating on a suitable range."

With the above response, James has managed to redirect the salary question back to the recruiter politely. This might give him an upper hand because chances of the HR giving him a specific salary figure are high. James will now choose to negotiate if the figure is what he wants or not.

What if you have disclosed your salary history?

What happens if you have already revealed your salary on the online application form? Are you entirely at the mercy of the HR? Should you agree to their first offer based on your salary history?

The main tip is to keep calm and tone down the question when the recruiter brings it up. Take for instance that you disclosed your current salary as $60,000, and the company offers you $65,000. When you respond by saying you were expecting more, they reiterate by saying,

"but that was your previous salary as per the data we have".

At this point, you need to think carefully before answering, and give a response like this:

“Yes, I do not dispute that, and I completely understand where you are coming from. From the time I sent my application, I have done extensive research about the roles and responsibilities at this position. Which I must say is quite challenging. On top of that, I managed to get accurate salary estimates in the current job market, and I was hoping to discuss a range of $70,000-$80,000. I believe that I have what it takes to be an asset in this company. My skill set will contribute to the success and productivity of this company since I thrive well in a challenging environment.”

Assuming that you have a research compilation of the salary estimates, this is a perfect time to present the documents to the HR. Continue redirecting the discussion to what you are bringing to the company in terms of skills, and you may be quite lucky to get what you desire. However, keep in mind that you should not press hard, which may get the interview tense; if you see that the HR is not convinced by your value for the company and is not ready to offer you the desired rate, you can always redirect the discussion into starting from the salary the HR offers and the potential of promotion in the coming 6-9 months, after you show your worth in practice.

After the interview, relax and watch as your dream career takes off with your desired salary in place! With our expert tips, this may happen much faster.


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