The best answers for, “what’s your desired salary?” on job applications and interviews will AVOID telling the company your specific salary requirements.
In fact, you want to wait until you’re sure the company is interested in offering you the position to reveal your salary goals.
Sharing your salary requirements too early can cost you thousands of dollars… or cost you the job completely, and I’ll explain why in this article.
So make sure you read this before applying for jobs or interviewing with any new companies.
We’re going to look right now at the best answers for, “what’s your desired salary?” on job applications and interviews.
Let’s get started…
First we’ll cover what you should put in the “desired salary” field in job application forms. You’ll see this in many online forms, and even paper forms a company gives you when you first go in to interview with them.
There’s a blank space, and they ask you for a number.
And you’re probably wondering… “should I put my desired salary on job applications?”
The correct answer is NO…
You shouldn’t write your desired salary on job applications.
But at this stage, they know NOTHING about you, and they definitely don’t know if they want to hire you yet.
So they’re a lot less likely to want to stretch their budget.
When you’re filling out your desired salary on a job application, you know nothing about the job yet.
So maybe you put $40,000 on the job application, but you realize during the interviews that you feel $50,000 is much more fair because this job involves a lot more than the other jobs you’re interviewing for.
If you said $40,000 on the job application form, you’re going to have a difficult time getting $50,000 at the end of the process.
(They’ll say, “Well, when you applied, you said $40,000 was what you’re aiming at, and we’re prepared to offer you that amount.)
So it’s a lose-lose. You gain absolutely NOTHING by telling them your desired salary on a job application form, and you could potentially lose a lot (thousands of dollars, or the opportunity to continue interviewing at all).
You have a couple of options.
You can leave it blank, write “negotiable,” or put “9999” if a number is required (Some online forms might say, “Enter numbers only”).
Then, if there’s a place to put a note later in the application form, you can say, “Regarding starting salary, this is negotiable and can be discussed during an interview.”
That should get you the job interview! Now let’s talk about what to do if they ask about your desired salary in an interview…
Now that you’ve made it to the interview without revealing your desired starting salary, they’re likely to ask again at some point.
So let’s look at some good answers for the desired salary question in interviews.
Some employers ask this in an initial phone interview, and some employers ask later in the process when they’re thinking of making you an offer but still aren’t sure yet.
So you’ll need to be ready throughout the whole interview process.
Here’s how to answer questions about your desired salary in a first interview:
“I don’t have a specific number in mind yet. At this point in my job search, I’m focused on finding the position that’s the best fit for my career. Once I’ve done that, I’m willing to consider an offer you feel is fair.”
This is a great answer because it’s polite, professional, and makes it unlikely they’ll try to “push” you further because you’re saying you don’t have a number in mind.
If they push back or insist on getting a number from you, just repeat:
“I really don’t have a number in mind yet.”
They can’t push you for a number if you don’t have one!
Your goal when it comes to salary discussion should be to delay talking about this topic until you know they want to offer you the job.
Then you have leverage to negotiate with. Now they want you, and you can make requests/demands.
Until then, it’s NOT in your best interest to discuss salary.
So maybe you’ve gone on a few interviews and they waited until now to ask about desired salary, but they still don’t quite want to offer you the job yet.
Here’s how to answer:
“I usually reserve salary discussions for when I know I’m being offered the job. Is it alright 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 at times, you may be unsure if they’re offering you the job or not. You can simply 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?”
That’s the goal of everything we’ve covered above.
Before this point, they’re not even sure they’re interested and you really have no leverage to negotiate with or make demands with.
I mentioned earlier- but if you say a number that’s too high, you’ll scare them off. And if you give a number that’s lower than they would have offered, it’s going to chop thousands of dollars off of your starting salary.
So when employers ask for your desired salary on job applications and in interviews, the best thing you can do is to delay the discussion until they’ve decided they want to hire you.
Re-focus the conversation on your skills and their job responsibilities, to determine whether it’s a good potential match. (That’s the whole point of going on a job interview).
Share examples of your past work.
Tell them one or two things about the job that excite 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.