Ask a Career Advisor: What Should I Put for “Desired Salary” on Job Applications?

Ask a Career Advisor: What Should I Put for “Desired Salary” on Job Applications?

When it comes to filling out job applications, the most challenging question of all may be, “What is your desired salary?”

If you enter a number too low, you may land the interview, but receive a lowball offer. Or, if you place your bid too high, will you scare off the hiring manager and never even get the chance to interview? And, is it still appropriate to write “negotiable” on your application and not name a number at all?

These are all valid considerations, and ideally, you’d have the chance to discuss and negotiate your salary in person. But, unfortunately, you’re not always given that chance as a job seeker.

To help you address the “salary expectations” question on a job application – without getting screened out by hiring managers or applicant tracking systems (ATS) – we asked iHire Career Advisor, Lori Cole, to share her know-how on the matter.

“The best way to answer the dreaded desired salary question on an online application is not to answer it at all. Atleast, not yet.” Lori started.

“All online applications are different, so there are multiple things you can try when you’re asked to enter your pay expectations. If the application form lets you, I suggest leaving the field blank. If it doesn’t let you leave the field blank, enter ‘negotiable’ instead.”

However, as you may have noticed, this method can sometimes cause errors and keep you from completing the application, forcing you to enter a number. So, what do you enter when the desired salary is required?

Luckily, Lori has a few more workarounds.



“If a numerical response is required, use ‘000’ or ‘999’, and if there is a note section of the application, mention that salary is negotiable based on the total compensation package,” Lori added. At the same time, she cautioned against entering a number too high, like 999,999, as that may get you thrown in the discard pile if an ATS is scanning the application, or scare off a hiring manager if the number seems too high. On the flip side, entering a number too low can cripple your chance to negotiate a higher pay later.

But if you really must enter a range on an online application, what should a job seeker do?

“If you’re going to provide an answer on your salary expectations, list an acceptable range within $10-15k of your desired number that matches the salaries for someone with your skills, qualifications, and experience,” Lori answered, “It’s always best to provide a range than an exact number.”

Which leads to the next question, “What if you don’t know your desired number or even an accurate scope on what you want to make?”


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“Before filling out any online application, it’s essential that you know your worth,” said Lori. “If you don’t know what a good salary range is for the position, start with iHire’s Salary Research Tool to make sure the range you list aligns with the fair market value of the job and the location.”

As a final piece of advice on how to answer “What is your desired salary?” on a job application, Lori offered this: “At all costs, try to defer the question until the interview process. Also, you should avoid sharing your salary history or your last salary as employers will sometimes use your current salary as a baseline.”

There you have it! By following Lori’s advice on how to bypass entering your desired salary on a job application, you’ll allow yourself the opportunity to negotiate your salary in person and earn what you’re worth.

by: Alexia Hasbrouck
October 28, 2021

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