Answering “Desired Salary” in a Job Application or Interview

what to put for desired salary

There are two places where you might be asked to answer what your desired salary is. During the job application process and during the job interview process. Both portions are important to your job hunt. And the strategy you take while discussing salary is imperative as a job seeker.

You don’t want to answer with a salary that’s too high, immediately pushing you out of the running for the job. Or answer with a question that’s too low, causing you to answer with a salary number that makes you regret it at later date. Which could cause you to have reservation with your new employer and leave too soon.

Before we dig into what to put for desired salary on your job application, let’s figure out what your perfect salary range should be.

Determine Your Salary Range, First

There are two methods to figuring out what your salary range should be. The first method is to take your current salary range and “give yourself a raise”. A typical raise is around 8% of your existing salary. That means you would take your current salary, add 8% and that would be the range of your salary expectations for the new job.

The second method is to use a tool like or, which both will help you to see the average salary range for not only the job you’re applying for but the geography you’re applying to as well.

This can be very helpful for those who are moving to a new geography and need to think about cost of living and average salary as part of their salary negotiation for the position.

You can use both methods in combination as well. Simply take your existing salary and be sure you do the math to figure out what your relative scale is in the new geography and then add 8% to that giving you a range.

Try not to decide an “exact figure” as this shows you’re not willing to be flexible on a salary offer. By showing a range, it means you’re willing to consider the entire compensation package as part of your benefits and compensation.

What to Put For Desired Salary on a Job Application

Listing your desired salary on a job application is important. But it isn’t a requirement. Most employers will ask about your salary history. They may ask what your current salary requirements are as a way to determine this as well. And ultimately, this becomes what gets put into your job offer.

Many job seekers are confused now hat to put in the job application. Because most online job applications require a hard figure versus a range. So they are faced with an exact number that can be difficult for them to answer.

The best way to do this is to list “999” or some other infinite number on the job application. This simply implies that you are looking to have a conversation about salary during the interview or during the on-site session that you both might share.

The interviewer or hiring manager may even call you to have a phone interview when you place that number on the job application. which can be beneficial for both of you to ensure that you and your future employer are on the same page with regards to salary range and salary expectations.

Try not to stress what to put for desired salary on your application. Additionally, you don’t need to include that as part of your cover letter or resume. It is not a requirement. A recruiter will be more than happy to have this conversation with you as part of the interview process for the prospective employer. Just remember not to place a specific number on the application.

How to Answer Desired Salary Questions in a Job Interview

Speaking about compensation and pay during a job interview can be difficult for both you and the employer. It indicates that you might negotiate their job offer if they provide one. But by the interviewer asking you this question early on, it can help to save time for both you and them. Don’t be surprised when you get the desired salary question in a phone interview, pre-screen interview or on-site interview. But recognize this is not the time to negotiate.

So how do you answer the interview question “What is your expected salary?” when asked.

Best interview question answer

The best answer is to be very literal with your calculation. This is because it shows leadership and selfless nature to your response. Even if you’re asking for higher salary, it provides you a platform to quantify why. And it has nothing to do with a skill set you bring to the table.

Here’s an example answer:

“Well, I’m asking for $120,000 to $130,000 and that’s because I did research and found that it’s the average salary range for this role in that geography. In addition, I’d like to provide myself an 8% raise when I enter a new job. And so I feel like this is a fair ask that thinks about the company instead of just myself.”

That answer can be brilliant because it includes your current job while also including what makes you a great candidate, and that’s your ability to quantify yourself. This is your best way to speak to salary requirements in any setting. Phone interview, on-site interview, group interview, or other.

If You Aren’t Asked About Salary At All

This is a common scenario, job seekers aren’t always asked this question right away. They are asked to have the phone interview, on-site interview and more. Then have to wait until they receive an offer to hear about compensation. So how do you fix this as a candidate?

The best way to fix this is to ask about compensation right away. Just ask the hiring manager and potential employer what the salary range is this role before you proceed. They will be more than happy to answer it for you. And they most likely already have a predetermined budget for the role.

Job Seeker FAQ’s

Common questions regarding compensation questions to a candidate.

Should I include my work experience as part of my answer for desired compensation?

Your work experience should be part of your resume, not how you negotiate. If you’re trying to use your experience to gain a higher salary, I wouldn’t. Use your experience on your cover letter, resume, and your work accomplishments to let that speak for itself. Use the method described above to provide a more clear dictation on how you arrived at your salary range.

What is the best way to start a negotiation?

One of the best negotiation tactics to prompt the salary question to yourself. If the recruiter isn’t telling you upfront or not asking you as part of the interview questions, then mention it to the hiring manager. Say, “I want to be upfront with you and tell you my compensation expectations. They are flexible, but here’s what I’m thinking regarding the salary range and why.”

How important is knowing my ideal compensation in my job search?

It’s pretty important. Is it part of the hiring process, for a recruiter to ask the candidate what their ideal pay looks like. Be sure you know your answer before you begin your job search.

How important is it to mention my previous salary?

If you are using the best method described above, you don’t have to mention the specific number of your previous salary. Only that you have given yourself an 8% raise in that range.

What if I’m applying to a position that I haven’t had in the past?

That’s okay. Even if you are changing your position within the industry, you should still use the best method described in this guide.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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