Resume Tips

What to Put For Desired Salary? 3 Tips to Help You Decide

desired salary in job application

In a perfect world, you don’t discuss salary until an offer is on the table. Unfortunately, you may be forced to show your hand earlier than that. What do you do if an online job application asks, “what is your desired salary?” How do you approach the same problem when a job listing states, “Provide a resume, along with salary requirements”? 

No worries! You can provide this information, and still maintain your ability to negotiate. Just pay attention to these three tips.

What to Put For Desired Salary in a Job Application

When you try to determine what to put for “desired salary”, you have three options. First, you can write “negotiable” in the space you are asked to provide your salary. Or you can provide an industry range. Finally, you can provide an honest answer — your target figure. 

There are some valid reasons to consider all three.

1. Desired Salary Question: Don’t Leave It Blank

You really shouldn’t leave this space empty on your application. A hiring manager may assume that you filled out the application hastily and weren’t paying enough attention to provide an answer. That said, you could address the question by writing “negotiable”. This allows you to ‘punt’ the question over to the job interview.

This makes a lot of sense. First of all, doing so helps you negotiate your salary in-person. As researchers found, in-person negotiations often allow to build a better rapport that, in turn, leads to better outcomes! 

OK, but what should I do if a recruiter follow-ups on the phone and still asks to provide a range? 

Explain that you are excited about the job, and don’t want to miss the opportunity by quoting a salary that is barely out of range. Ask to discuss salary at the first interview and offer to bring any information on your salary history that you can. Just tread carefully. You are better off taking a chance at stating a number than you are frustrating the hiring manager by avoiding the issue.

2. Provide an Industry Range

Some job forms only support numeric entries for the ‘desired salary’ field. If that’s the case, your best bet is to provide a salary range. 

The ideal number should be in-line with the industry medians. But also take into consideration the following: 

  • Your experience
  • Special skills or training
  • Whether you will have management responsibilities
industry salary range

Here are some great tips for determining an appropriate salary range:

  • Check similar job listings: focus on those in your area. Write down the salary ranges you encounter and use them in your application. 
  • Check salary comparison websites: Glassdoor and PayScale aggregate salary information across an array of employers, roles, and locations. 
  • If your current job is in the same field, you can use your current salary as a bit of a guide. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work if you are changing careers or you are currently underpaid.

3. State Your Price

Naming an exact figure is the least desirable option. You may not have much of a choice, however, if it becomes clear you will lose out on the opportunity if you don’t provide the information. 

Sadly, this can mean you lose your power to negotiate on your base salary. This is especially the case if you reveal your current salary. You may be offered a bit more money, but there is a good chance that you could have negotiated for more if your hand had not been forced. Thus, resort to this option only if you have no leeway at all. 

What If My Desired Salary is Too High? 

What can you do if you overshoot the mark? You may put down the salary range and find out later that it’s higher than the industry standard. Likewise, you may simply hear back from the hiring manager that you’ve asked for too much money. What’s then?

You can recover from your ‘salary fiasco’ during the job interview. Here’s how.

Start by asking about the full compensation package. You may be able to find some points of negotiation there. For example, mention that you are willing to take a lower salary due to the availability of some worthwhile benefits such as PTO. 

Also, consider doing some extra company research before the interview. Enter the negotiation with a good range of compensation for someone with your experience. Perhaps you can make a case for the salary you requested. It’s also good to be honest and direct if you truly cannot take a salary below a certain amount.

Finally, try to move the conversation on to other things. This way, the disagreement over salary isn’t the last thing on the interviewer’s mind. Close the interview by reiterating your interest in the position. But state that you need some extra time to consider the compensation and offer to have a follow-up after the interview

To Conclude 

If you have to provide information on your salary expectations, try to save your answer for the interview. In case it isn’t possible, your next best choice is to offer a salary range. In the very rare cases where you must provide a number, do your research. Show that you have reasonable salary expectations by providing a figure that makes sense for your industry, and be prepared to negotiate that choice in the interview!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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