Interviewing

How to Answer Desired Salary Questions on Job Applications

During the application for just about any job, you’re likely to be asked about your desired salary. Often, you’ll even be asked multiple times

This question can stress job seekers. If you give away your desired salary too early, the employer may end up paying you less than they might have otherwise. If you ask for too much, the company may see you as unrealistic. 

But many applications include desired salary questions, and some won’t even let you submit your materials without filling in a required blank. 

So, what should you do if you’re confronted with a question about your desired salary on your application? 

Here are our tips. 

If you only accept a particular minimum salary, consider including a salary range.

Companies ask questions about salary so they can make sure they can afford you. If they have a much lower salary budgeted for the role than you would accept, you’re wasting your time – and theirs – by advancing to the interview stage. 

“Unfortunately, with the popularity of online applications, it’s becoming increasingly common to encounter the question. It’s often used to determine if the candidate is within the company’s budget,” says Career Sherpa.

So, if you know what you want to be making, at the very least, consider including a salary range – but not a specific figure – when asked this question. 

Make sure you know the range that’s within the going rate and market value for your position in your area. Write the midpoint or median range you would accept rather than just the highest number.

Yes, you might run the risk of entering a lowball figure here, so that’s something you want to consider when answering this question. At the same time, do you want to waste your time interviewing for a position that turns out to pay less than what you would accept? 

Research the salary range for the position before entering your figure.

Another way to make sure the application is worth your time to complete is by writing the hiring manager or recruiter about the salary range for the position. Even if the posting itself doesn’t include a budgeted salary, write to the company and ask what they have in mind for the position. 

If they provide the figure for you, you now have two pieces of information. First, if the position’s top range is still too low for you, you won’t waste time putting your application together. Second, if you would only accept the top half of the salary range, then you can include only the upper range in your salary request. 

Avoid answering the salary question altogether on the application form.

An alternative to answering this question is to wait and see what the company might offer during the interview. Perhaps you haven’t gotten a concrete answer from the hiring manager, or you think you might include too low of a salary range if you answer the question directly. 

You might feel like if you don’t answer a specific required question on the application that the company will think you’re being evasive. But it’s actually common for candidates to put off answering on application forms. 

You usually have a few choices in answering: 

  • If you don’t have to answer this question before you can submit the form, then feel free to leave it blank. 
  • If you can type a word into the form, you can write “negotiable.”
  • If you have to type a numerical value, include “000” or “999” (or whatever number that lets you bypass the question). Including a figure like this tells recruiters or hiring managers that you want to discuss salary later on. You can also add a comment on most applications noting that you didn’t answer the question because you wanted to discuss salary later. 

When you are invited for an interview, keep pushing off answering salary questions for as long as you can.

So, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t reveal the salary before you get a sense of what the employer is offering in terms of salary. If an employer asks you a question about your desired salary during preliminary interviews, here are some ways to answer the question: 

I would prefer to wait to discuss salary until we’re further along in this process. Can we wait to talk about salary before determining if I’m a good fit for the role? 

If the recruiter or hiring manager insists on talking about salary, it’s a good idea to get them to tell you as much as possible about the salary range they have in mind if you don’t know it already. Then, you won’t risk offering a lowball or highball figure. 

So, a question like the following can usually get you to where you want to go: 

I don’t have a particular figure in mind. Could you tell me the budget range for this role? 

How to Answer Desired Salary Questions

Discussing salary is one of the trickiest aspects of the job application process. You want to get as much information as possible about the employer’s budgeted pay range without giving away the salary you would expect. So, ultimately, you want to avoid answering the question on application materials, as well as pushing it as far down the interview timeline as possible. 


Still concerned about how to address salary questions?

Consider watching the webinar “Salary Negotiation for Job Seekers” from Ivy Exec’s Senior Career Coach Sarah Stamboulie. 


 

About the Author

Ivy Exec is the premier resource for professionals seeking career advancement. Whether you are on the job, or looking for your next one - Ivy Exec has the tools you need.