Salary negotiation

What to Put for Desired Salary on Your Next Job Application

In a perfect world, your salary amount is a discussion you have at the end of the interview process. But what do you put for desired salary when the application asks for it?

Ideally, you should either leave the desired salary field blank or put “negotiable.” If you can only insert numerals, set a realistic salary range based on your market value, like $45,000-$50,000. That’s the short and sweet answer, but it’s not always that easy.

Salary negotiation is a balancing act — and you can’t afford to botch it. Learn more about what to put for desired salary so you can get paid what you deserve.

Desired Salary 101: Determine Your Worth

What are you worth? If a number doesn’t immediately come to mind, then you need to assess your fair market value to get a concrete answer. According to, you can do that in three steps:

  • Compare your current job to a benchmark job
  • Consider company factors that influence pay
  • Calculate your market value

Let’s unpack each of these steps so that when the time comes, you can negotiate your salary in confidence.

1. Compare Your Current Job to a Benchmark Job

A benchmark job, or key job, is any position that has consistent salary expectations and responsibilities across industries and organizations. By finding a benchmark job to compare your role to, you can determine if your current pay range is adequate or not.

The goal is to find the right benchmark job. When surfing through job boards, never compare jobs based on the job title alone. A job title tells you little about the role’s responsibilities. Instead, look for job descriptions and skills.

Example 1: Junior Front-end Designer


  • Experience using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WordPress
  • Any experience working with JavaScript Frameworks such as React or Angular.JS
  • Basic knowledge of PHP for the back end
  • An interest in UI / UX
  • 2+ years web development experience

Example 2: Jr. Front-end / UI Developer


  • Extensive experience in Twitter Bootstrap framework, CSS, HTML,HTML5
  • Experience with JavaScript and jQuery
  • Ability to write clear, web-standard, well-documented code
  • Website UX/UI architecture experience
  • 2+ years web development experience

In the above example, these two jobs have similar requirements and experience levels, but the titles don’t sync up. The job itself calls for an entry-level front-end UI designer. Now, you can Google average salaries for these positions to see what people are making in these roles across the country.

Once you’ve found a benchmark job that resembles your own in both job title and responsibilities, you can move on to step two.

2. Consider Company Factors

Factors like company size, industry, and location will directly influence the salary range. A larger company will usually pay more than a smaller company. But a smaller company will typically give you more access to upper management, executives, and a better professional experience.

The industry itself is another factor. If an industry is booming, there’s more money to go around, and you’ll find it easier to discuss salary negotiation with hiring managers. But if an industry is in decline, you may have a harder time getting the salary you deserve.

For example, web developers are in such demand right now that it’s not uncommon to find entry-level jobs paying upwards of $60-$70k. The need for web developers is steadily rising, so advancement is quick, and raises are frequent.

Lastly, your location is key. Chances are a tech job in California will pay you more than the same position in Florida simply because the cost of living is higher.

3. Calculate Your Worth

After looking at job benchmarks and company factors, you also need to assess your own job performance and skillsets. If you’re an entry-level hire with a low starting salary, you won’t be worth as much as a seasoned employee — even if you share the same title. Be honest about your performance and experience to get a realistic idea of what you should be earning.

Before we move on, you may be tempted to use a tool like Glassdoor to determine your worth. The problem with career sites like this is that their market value averages tend to be lower than what the market is actually paying, which means you get an inaccurate picture of your earning value.

Now that you have an idea of what a fair salary for your position looks like, let’s talk about what to put for desired salary on job applications that ask for it. You can schedule a free call with us to find out how much you could earn, the salary info you’re legally entitled to, and how to ask for more — the right way.

What to Put for Desired Salary

What you need to know about hiring managers and recruiters is that they have a budget to consider when they hire. With that in mind, if you exceed their ideal salary range on a job application, they may write you off without giving you an interview.

The key is to get past the application and into the interview process. Once you land a job interview, you have the floor to discuss your desired salary in depth. Here’s how you can get there.

Desired Salary Do’s

  • Leave the salary range field blank if you can. This frees you up to discuss your salary later in the interview process with zero limitations.
  • If you can’t leave the field blank but you can insert alpha characters, then you should put “Negotiable.”
  • If you can’t leave the salary field blank or insert alpha characters, then you should add a range. Put down a realistic range that’s commensurate with your experience, performance, and the going market rate for your position.
  • Since you’ve done your own salary research, you know the high- and low-end extremes of your salary range. For example, a range of $45,000-$55,000 is pretty broad, but it’s not outrageous. This gives you more latitude when negotiating a salary in person.

Desired Salary Don’ts

  • Don’t put down a lower salary range than you’d like to make. While it seems safe, it locks you into a lower amount. Employers will usually try to offer you a lower salary than what they are willing to pay, so don’t limit yourself.
  • Don’t lock yourself into a specific amount. For example, if you write “$50,000,” the employer will take that as your maximum salary expectation — even if they would have paid you more.
  • Never give your salary history. Requesting salary history is illegal in some states, so don’t feel like you have to provide that information. If human resources, a hiring manager, or a recruiter asks for your salary history, tell them you’d rather discuss it in person.

It’s also common for hiring managers to ask you to include your salary expectations in your cover letter. Again, be as vague as possible. You can either write down a range or tell them you prefer to discuss it in person.

Discuss Salary Once the Offer Is Certain

You can’t determine what type of job application you’ll get, but if you’re qualified and follow the steps above, there’s a good chance you’ll get an interview.

Once you get an interview, there are two things to remember:

  • Never discuss salary until they bring it up.
  • Only negotiate salary when you’re 100% expecting a job offer.

When the discussion does come up, let the employer make the opening offer or ask them for a range based on your job level rather than an exact figure. You never know what number they will settle on, so asking for a range is in your best interest.

It’s also bad etiquette to jump the gun on salary — let the employer discuss it when they’re ready. If they offer you the job without discussing salary first, though, you have the right to broach that conversation.

You’re Interviewing the Company, Too

Something many applicants tend to forget is that they’re interviewing the company as well. When it comes to salary, if your potential employer is not willing to pay you what you’re worth, then maybe they’re not worth your time.

You can’t always pick these companies out before applying, but if you research company reviews carefully enough in your job search, you can usually see trends in how they treat and pay employees.

You can glean a lot from following a company on social networks like Linkedin. Read their job descriptions and look at their benefits packages. The language they use to describe a role, and the benefits they offer, are good indicators of what the company culture is like.

If you see red flags, don’t hesitate to move on in your job search.

Knowing What to Put Helps You Earn What You Deserve

In an ideal situation, you wouldn’t have to discuss your desired salary until you know you’re getting a job offer. However, real-life job searching is rarely so picture-perfect.

Do your research to get a fair and accurate idea of your worth, brush up on the do’s and don'ts of salary negotiation, and remember that not every job is the perfect job for you.

Whether you’re required to include a salary on a job application or a hiring manager wants to discuss your earning expectations early in the process, you now have the tools to handle these situations and set yourself up for success.

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