Adriana Herrera, PayDestiny FounderThis career coaching article will answer the question “What do you put on an application for desired salary?”

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Career Coaching Guide

What do you put on an application for desired salary (Answer)

by | Sep 30, 2021

What do you put on an application for desired salary (Answer)What do you put on an application for desired salary? What is the best way to enter competitive market pay when it’s not possible to hold off on entering a specific salary number? What are some tips for evaluating what amount of money is equitable compensation for the job, before applying? ​​Putting your desired salary on an application can be intimidating.

This career coaching article will answer all these questions and explain what to put on an application for desired salary. You’ll learn the importance of holding off on putting a specific salary number on an application, when possible, and how to figure out what desired salary you should put on an application when it is not possible to hold off on entering a specific number.

After reading this career coaching article you’ll have the foundation to know what you should put on an application for desired salary.

Let’s get started!

What is desired salary from a job applicant and employer perspective?

What is desired salary from the job applicant and employer perspective

Desired salary is the salary a job seeker would like to make. Personal variables that contribute to a job applicant’s desired salary include:

  • What the job seeker is currently making (or was making), 
  • What they could potentially make, 
  • What they want to make, 
  • What they expect to be compensated for the job that they do, and
  • What they need to make to pay bills.

When an employer thinks about desired salary they are thinking about what they can, and will, pay to hire the right person for the job. What is put on an application for desired salary is any number that:

  • Reflects the job description and the position’s job duties,
  • Is a fair rate for what the market is paying for the job in the employer’s geographical location, and 
  • Communicates the candidate is self aware, professional, and has conducted research to enter the market rate for the job description and job duties.

It’s important to note that desired salary from an employer perspective has nothing to do with an individual’s personal expenses. Desired salary from an employer perspective considers what a person should be compensated for work performed

How does desired salary differ from desired compensation type?

How does desired salary differ from desired compensation type

Desired salary from a job applicant’s perspective is a number that reflects the salary they are willing to accept in exchange for performing the job’s responsibilities and duties. It takes into account their skills, years of experience, education, and track record of success.

Desired compensation type includes other variables such as benefits and job perks. What the job seeker puts on an application for desired salary does not include benefits or job perk information. Desired salary solely focuses on expected monetary compensation.

 

 

What is non-competitive salary? What causes it? How do you avoid non-competitive pay?

What is non-competitive salary

Non-competitive salary is pay that is not equal to or more than what the market is paying for the completion of the same job duties by someone with similar skills, experience, training, and education.

Non-competitive salary has several causes including when job seekers randomly select a desired salary number and enter it on an application without doing research to determine what competitive pay is for the position.

Non-competitive salary can also be the result of job seekers wanting or needing a new job so badly they do not do proper research before providing a desired salary number. What is put on an application for desired salary should reflect the job’s duties, the job’s responsibilities, the job applicant’s years of experience, education, and their skills, not emotions or circumstances.

I have a saying, “Go slow to go fast.” This means take the time to do the work and establish a solid foundation that will support success. 

In the context of avoiding non-competitive pay “Go slow to go fast” means take time to do the research to enter a desired salary that reflects what the market is paying for someone with your skill set and experience.

Why do employers make you enter information about your desired salary on a job application?

Why to employers make you enter information about your desired salary on a job application

One of the most expensive line items in a business is employees. Employers ask job applicants to enter their desired salary on a job application to see if the desired salary aligns with what they budgeted for the position. If the desired salary is out of budget for the position an employer will generally move on to another applicant as to not waste time and resources with an applicant the budget does not allow for. 

What do you put on an application for desired salary?

What do you put on an application for desired salary

When the job application does not require you to put a salary number, do not put a salary number. Instead enter something like:

  • “Market rate” 
  • “Negotiable”
  • “Open”
  • __________ (Leave the field blank)

Entering a desired salary when you don’t need to enter a value does not work in your favor. This is largely because:

  • You do not know the full scope of the job’s duties, 
  • The value you enter may not reflect all of the job’s duties resulting in the possibility of being underpaid, and
  • You lose salary negotiation leverage. 

When you enter a desired salary and you don’t need to, it may signal to the employer that you are not confident to discuss your abilities and what salary fairly compensates you

The answer to the question “What do you put on an application for desired salary?” is simple…If you don’t need to enter a desired salary number, don’t enter one.

If I don’t put a desired salary on an application when does desired salary come up?

 

If I don’t put a desired salary on an application when does desired salary come up

When an employer is mutually interested in you they will run their hiring process. During that process the employer will ask “What is your desired salary?” If you have learned the ins and outs of the position then you can respond to this question with your desired salary. If you have not asked questions to determine if you have a complete understanding of what the position requires say something like…

“I’m excited about the position. Prior to sharing my desired salary I have a few questions to ensure I understand all of the requirements. Is it okay if I ask them now?”



Then if you feel comfortable, share your desired salary. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your desired salary because you want to use the information to perform market research you could say something like…

“Thank you for sharing those details with me. To ensure I’m not overestimating or underestimating my desired salary I’m going to use the information you shared to do some market research. I will get back to you by the end of the [day/week] with my desired salary. Would you like me to call, text, or email you?”



Throughout the hiring process you need to be prepared to discuss your desired salary. It may feel scary to navigate discussions about desired salary (especially if you come from a culture where discussing this topic is taboo) but it is an important skill to develop. The further you excel in your career the more confident you should be to communicate what your contributions are worth.

If you get anxious just at the thought of discussing your desired salary remember the employee-employer relationship is a mutual exchange of value. It’s a two way street. You contribute your talent and skills and you’re compensated for your contributions. 

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How to prepare to put desired salary on an application?

How to prepare to put desired salary on an application

When you are required to enter a desired salary on an application the number you enter must be based off of:

  • Market research, and
  • A threshold of what you are willing, and not willing, to accept for salary.

Prior to entering your desired salary on an application you must research what the position is being paid based on:

  • Your location,
  • Job title, 
  • Job responsibilities, 
  • Job duties,
  • Job requirements,
  • Company size,
  • Your skills, 
  • Your years of experience,
  • Your education/ trainings, 
  • Your track record of success as it matches the duties, responsibilities, and requirements of the job, and
  • How you add unique expertise where the company has gaps.

Depending on goals, objectives, and a company’s size two positions with the same job title may have different job descriptions and different job duties. This can result in comparing apples to oranges.

It’s important that when you research the variables above you compare apples to apples. Meaning you want to compare what other similar companies are paying for the role based on the criteria in the job description. 

Do not make the mistake of comparing positions with the same job title without comparing all of the variables listed above. Doing so can result in muddled salary data that does not accurately reflect the position you are applying for. This can result in an overstatement of desired salary or an understatement of desired salary, both have negative implications.

If you need help with salary research PayDestiny’s Three Step Salary Negotiation Preparation makes it easy to research what the market is paying for a position and provides tools to:

  • Figure out what salary offers you will and will not accept,
  • Figure out what benefits and job perks you must have, are willing to negotiate, and willing to be without,
  • Master your desired salary data, and
  • Prepare to have salary negotiations with salary negotiation scripts and interactive salary negotiation practice.

Ultimately the number you enter for desired salary, when you are not able to leave the field blank, is a number that has been well researched and a number you feel comfortable with.

To know what to put on an application for desired salary you must conduct research on the market and use the data to determine your desired salary preference.

What you put on an application for desired salary sends the employer signals

What you put on an application for desired salary sends the employer signals

When I am hiring, my preference, as a business owner, is to see job applications that have either entered “Market rate” or “Negotiable.” This signals to me that the job applicant is waiting to learn about the position’s job responsibilities prior to a discussion about salary. This is important to me for several reasons. I want team members that:

  • Are detail-oriented and will research the market and learn about the position’s duties,
  • Want to understand the position to see if there is mutual alignment, 
  • Want to find alignment between the contributions to be made and the salary paid, 
  • Have confidence to not rush the salary determination process, and 
  • Are not just looking for a job but want a position to grow their career.

Job applicants that enter a desired salary number, when they don’t have to, may signal to employers that they:

  • Did not research what the position is being paid for their years of experience, education level, trainings, etc.
  • Do not have a clear understanding on how compensation works in a professional employer relationship.
  • Want to receive market-competitive pay for the role regardless of their skills and abilities. 
  • Want to be paid based on what the person previously doing the job was paid.

It’s important to consider the pros and cons of entering desired salary and what you may signal to an employer with what you enter on an application.

What if I enter the wrong number and it costs me the job?

What if I enter the wrong number and it costs me the job

When a job application does not allow you to leave the field blank or enter “Market rate” or “Negotiable” it can cause a lot of anxiety and fear that you may not get an interview based on what you enter.

Research the market and establish your walkaway rate to reduce and/ or eliminate anxiety and fear. Knowing your walkaway rate means understanding what the market is paying for someone in your location, performing the responsibilities of the job, with your track record of success, and figuring out what the minimum salary you’re willing to accept is. Your minimum salary is not to be confused with your minimum desired total compensation which includes benefits and job perks.

The minimum salary you’re willing to accept is your “walkaway rate.” It is the amount of money you must make in order to accept the job. If your minimum desired salary is not offered to you then you are willing to walk away from the job offer.

Of course you don’t want to just be paid your minimum desired salary but you must know your walkaway rate or you risk being underpaid which can cause you to lose upwards of $1.5 million (or up to $2 Million if you are Latina) over the course of your career.

When you correctly conduct research on what the market is paying for the position the desired salary number you enter will reflect the market. The desired salary you enter is a reference point for the employer. It is not set in stone, employers know this and use the value as a baseline.

In the chance you conduct research and the desired salary number you enter results in the employer passing then your research did you a favor. The number you entered reflected a lack of alignment with the employer’s budget and/ or what they were willing to pay. You want to find a job where your contributions, talents, and compensation align.

Now It’s Your Turn

The question of what to put on an application for desired salary can be daunting. You deserve to find a job you love and that pays you competitively. Take the time to research what the market is paying for any position you’re interested in. Use research and data to determine your desired salary. Enter it on an application only when you have to.

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