How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?”


Interview Questions and Answers, Salary & Job Offers

Actionable advice from real experts:

picture of Biron Clark


Biron Clark

Former Recruiter


Dr. Kyle Elliott

Career Coach


Hayley Jukes


How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?”


Interview Questions and Answers, Salary & Job Offers

Actionable advice from real experts:

Biron Clark


Biron Clark, Former Recruiter


Kyle Elliott, Career Coach

Image of Hayley Jukes


Hayley Jukes, Editor

Having witnessed the importance of effectively answering “What is your desired salary?” in job applications and interviews, I’ll share the best strategies with you.

Let’s start with the most important rule: The best tip on how to answer “What is your desired salary?” on applications and interviews is to AVOID telling the company your specific salary expectations. 

In fact, you want to wait until you know the company is interested in offering you the position to reveal your salary expectations. Sharing your desired salary before this point can cost you thousands of dollars or cost you the job, and I’ll explain why in this article.

  • Do not disclose your desired salary early in the application process. This can hurt your negotiation leverage later on.
  • The overall goal is to delay salary discussions until the employer expresses interest in hiring you. This strengthens your negotiation position and allows you to secure a more competitive offer.
  • When pressed about salary, consider discussing your most recent salary or redirecting the question back to the interviewer.
  • Negotiate salary after receiving a job offer. Research market value for similar positions to inform your desired salary range. Be prepared to counter the initial offer with data to support your request.

What Is a Desired Salary?

Commonly requested by interviewers and hiring managers, a desired salary is the amount you wish to earn from a new job. Of course, your desired salary should be realistic and align with your skills, experience, and current market trends. 

For instance, depending on the area, a realistic salary for an entry-level accountant might be $50,000 — requesting a salary of $175,000 would likely result in a few raised eyebrows.

When Is the Best Time To Discuss a Desired Salary?

The best time to discuss your desired salary is after the employer has expressed interest in you and ideally after you’ve had a chance to learn more about the specific role and responsibilities. 

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Stronger Negotiation Position: Once the company has invested time interviewing you and sees you as a potential fit, they’ll be more willing to negotiate to secure your talent.
  • Informed Discussion: By this point in the interview process, you’ll have a better understanding of the role’s requirements and what the company is looking for. This allows you to tailor your salary expectations to the specific position.
  • Avoiding Early Disqualification: If you disclose a desired salary that’s outside the company’s budget early on, it could take you out of the running before you have a chance to showcase your skills and experience.

How to Determine Your Desired Salary

Having spent years on the other side of the table, I’ve seen countless candidates struggle with the question, “What is your desired salary?” But here’s the good news: with some research and self-assessment, you can confidently approach the salary conversation knowing your worth.

Market Research

In order to provide a desired salary within an acceptable range, you should start your research by learning more about the company and the open position. Glassdoor is an excellent resource for salary averages. 

Several factors can also influence salary ranges, including company size, industry, geographic location, and the level of demand for the role. 

For example, according to Glassdoor, a Staff Accountant in New York City should expect base pay of $55,606.

Assess Your Skills and Experience

When considering your desired salary, it’s important to take stock of your value in the job market. This includes your formal qualifications like education and certifications, but also your relevant work experience and accomplishments. 

The more specialized your skills and the more successful you’ve been in previous roles, the higher your value will be to potential employers, and therefore, the higher your desired salary range can be.

Personal Needs

Salary expectations can also vary depending on where you live. Cities with a high cost of living will typically offer higher salaries to compensate for expenses like housing and transportation. 

Think about your desired lifestyle as well. Do you need a salary that allows for a luxurious lifestyle, or are you more flexible with your living standards? Understanding your cost of living will help you determine a salary that allows you to live comfortably.

Consider Benefits

Finally, you’ll also want to consider the company’s benefits package. You might not be able to get your requested salary, but if the organization offers robust health insurance or a great retirement plan, you should factor it into your decision.


Dr. Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES
Tech & Interview Career Coach

How do I negotiate salary effectively without underselling myself or pricing myself out?

Market research and available salary data should lead your negotiation, as companies base their offers on the going rate for people with similar backgrounds, experiences, and skills. As you calculate your pay, don’t forget to consider the total compensation beyond your base salary, which might include a sign-on and/or performance bonus, stock options, health insurance, and other forms of remuneration, all of which can add tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in additional value to your package.

How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?”

Candidates often felt pressured to give a number right away, unsure of what was fair or how to negotiate effectively. The good news is, with a little preparation, you can transform this conversation into an opportunity to showcase your value. 

Here’s my best advice:

Focus on Value

Don’t just throw out a number. Instead, emphasize the value you bring to the company. Briefly showcase your relevant skills and experience, highlighting how you can address their specific needs. This reframes the conversation from what you want to what you’re worth.

Remember, you’re selling yourself, so focus on the value you offer and showcase your willingness to find a win-win solution.

Highlight Flexibility

Salary negotiations are a two-way street. Signal your willingness to work with the company by expressing openness to discussing the total compensation package. This includes benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement contributions, as well as potential for growth and bonuses. 

By demonstrating that you value a well-rounded offer, you open the door to a more creative and mutually beneficial agreement.

State a Desired Range

If pressed, or if you believe that you must provide a figure to proceed to the next stage in the hiring process, you can state a broad range rather than a specific desired salary. This shows you’ve done your research and establishes some wiggle room for negotiation. Make sure the range is realistic based on your experience and the market value for similar positions.

This is preferable because you’re less likely to rule yourself out and get eliminated by going too high, and you’re less likely to limit your job offer later by going too low.


To avoid early salary discussions, bypass the preliminary screening by leveraging your network. If you know someone in the organization, ask them to forward your resume to the hiring manager. Focus on selling yourself in the role initially. A strong impression will put you in a better position to negotiate a fair salary later.

How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?” (With Examples)

Over the years, I’ve seen responses that have both impressed and left me confused. The truth is, the best approach to answering “What is your desired salary?” can vary depending on where you are in the hiring process. 

In this section, I’ll provide tactics and specific examples of well-crafted responses you can use to confidently answer the salary question at different stages of the hiring process.

Job Application

The best way to answer desired salary or salary expectations on a job application is to leave the field blank or write ‘Negotiable’ rather than providing a number. 

If the application does not accept non-numerical text, then enter “999,” or “000”. Then, look for a notes section later in the job application and write, “Regarding desired salary, this is negotiable and can be discussed in the interview.” It is not beneficial in any way for you to write your desired salary on job applications.

Here’s why…

If you say a number that’s too high, you could scare them off immediately. And if you provide a desired salary that’s too low, it can cripple your ability to negotiate later.

Initial Job Interview

During the initial interview, the employer might be gauging general salary expectations. Here, you have three tactics you can use to avoid disclosing your desired salary and potentially jeopardizing your chances of landing the role:

  1. Deferral Tactic

You can politely say you’d like to learn more about the specifics of the role and benefits before discussing salary.

Here’s an example of what you can say:

“At this stage, I’m primarily interested in finding a role that allows me to utilize my skills in project management and contribute to expanding the company’s reach into new markets. Once I have a better understanding of the role’s responsibilities and the overall compensation package, I’m confident we can discuss a salary that reflects the value I can bring to the team.”

This approach shows your interest in the role while subtly requesting more information before diving into salary specifics.

  1. Discuss Your Most Recent Salary

One tactic you can use is to share your most recent salary instead. This is a good option if you feel you were highly paid or fairly paid in your most recent role.  

For example,

“I’m currently earning a base salary of $45,000. I don’t have a specific number in mind that I’m targeting for this next position, though, and I’m willing to consider an offer that you feel is fair.”

You’re giving them some information about your compensation so they can tell you if the company can at least afford to pay you an increase over your last role. But you’re not putting yourself into a corner by telling them the exact number you’re targeting.

  1. Redirect the Question

You can also redirect the question back to the interviewer by asking what they’ve budgeted for the role. This is a bit more direct but can work (while providing you with some useful info about what they’re willing to pay!) I like combining this tactic with some of what we covered above. 

For example,

“At this point in my job search, I’m focused on finding the best-fitting position for my career and I don’t have a specific number in mind yet. What range did you have budgeted for the position?”

Second or Third Face-to-Face Interview

Maybe you’ve completed a few interviews and they waited until now to ask about your desired salary. For cases like this, there’s a different type of answer you can give.

If you’re near a job offer, you can say:

“I usually reserve salary discussions for when I know I’m being offered the job. Is it ok if we discuss the role further to determine if this is a good potential fit first? After we know it’s a good match for both sides, I’d be happy to talk about compensation.”

Or maybe you’re not sure if they’re offering you the job or not when they ask, “What is your desired salary?”

In this case, you can say,

“I usually reserve salary discussion for when I’m being offered the job. Is that the case here?”

If they say “yes,” then you can negotiate.

If they say, “no”, then you can respond:

“Perhaps we can finish discussing the role and then discuss salary after we’re sure it’s a good match. What else can I answer to help you determine if the job is a good fit in terms of my background and skill set?”

After the Job Offer

If you’ve been given a job offer but want to negotiate for something closer to your desired salary, the first step is to make sure you’ve done your homework about relevant salaries in your area — if you can find company-specific information, even better. This way, you can counter the offer with an informed target salary, and if the employer balks at this number, you have the data to back it up.

A good strategy is to not provide a specific number but a range. For instance, if you’re seeking a desired salary of $50K, you can ask for a salary between $48K and $54K. That way, the hiring manager will be more inclined to settle for a number at the lower end of your range, feeling like they got a good bargain for your expertise.

Finally, when communicating your salary range, remain professional and confident. After all, thorough research helped you determine your desired salary. And if the company can’t meet your reasonable expectations, you can likely find another that will.

The Goal: Save Salary Discussion Until You Know They Want To Offer You The Job

Remember the main goal of everything we’ve covered above… whether you’re deciding what to put for desired salary on an application, or preparing to face the topic in your interview.  Before you know the company wants to hire you, you have no leverage to negotiate with or make demands with. 

So when employers ask about your desired salary on applications and interviews, the best thing to do is to delay the discussion until they want to offer you the position. 

Refocus the conversation on your skills and the job responsibilities to determine whether it’s a good potential match. (That’s the whole point of a job interview). Ask them questions about the job. Share examples of your past work. Tell them one or two things about the job that excites you. But keep the conversation focused on their job and your skills/abilities (as they relate to the job).

Then, when they decide to offer you the position, you can discuss salary and bonuses with them knowing they are interested in hiring you and are likely to meet some of your demands if they’re reasonable.

picture of Biron Clark

About the Author

Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions. Follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read more articles by Biron Clark

About the Contributor

Kyle Elliott, career coach and mental health advocate, transforms his side hustle into a notable practice, aiding Silicon Valley professionals in maximizing potential. Follow Kyle on LinkedIn.

Image of Hayley Jukes

About the Editor

Hayley Jukes is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerSidekick with five years of experience creating engaging articles, books, and transcripts for diverse platforms and audiences.

4 thoughts on “How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?””

  1. I just applied for a job, and entered “999” for the desired salary, but there was no notes section. Did I screw myself over?

  2. Some electronic applications require you to pick a number (usually a range), such as $100k-125K, 125k to 150k etc. You have no option to over-ride this. What do you suggest? Or if they ask you directly – “what were you making in your last job”?

    • Pick an extremely broad range.

      Or if a single number is acceptable, you can put “999” or “000” and then mention in a “notes” section that salary is negotiable and can be discussed in the interview.

      The question of what you were making is different than asking your salary goals. If they ask your last salary, I’d say it’s confidential information and you signed a confidentiality agreement with your last employer.

    • Online forms don’t allow for “extremely broad” ranges. I just chose the lowest choice on the form because it’s absolutely ridiculous for the position – and it was ridiculous for the company to include the question at this state.

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