What to Put for Desired Salary

In an ideal world, you’d get your desired salary without asking for it. But – in reality – that doesn’t always happen.

In fact, when you’re filling out a job application, one of the trickiest questions to answer is what to put for a desired salary.

It’s not always easy to know exactly how much money to request from an employer. After all, you don’t want to shoot too high and price yourself out of the market, but you also don’t want to undersell yourself and leave valuable earnings on the table.

Which is why, in this article, I’ll discuss essential tips to help you answer the seemingly impossible question: what to put for desired salary?

I’m going to show you – step by step – how you can come out of this process with a smile on your face.

Let’s dive in.

Determining Your Desired Salary Range

To save yourself the embarrassment of asking for too much or too little, the first step is to figure out what salary range you should be expecting considering your experience, industry, living costs, and more.

Here are a few things to consider when determining your desired salary range:

Woman holding a tablet and checking information on it

Research Average Salaries In Your Industry

The internet is chock full of information about average salary ranges. So, before you put a random number in your desired range, how about conducting market research?

Some of the best sites you can use to fact-check your average salary include:

Let’s say you want to know about the average salary of web developers:

According to recent data, the median annual wage of web developers is around $77,030. But would it be wise to rely on a single source and draw a conclusion? Probably not.

Looking at recent data from Indeed, the average base salary of web developers is around $67,787 annually. Digging a bit deeper, I found that the base pay of web developers is $77,719 yearly, according to Glassdoor.

The best calculation would be based on data extracted from various sources. So, most people conclude that your desired salary should lie somewhere roughly between $68,000 to $77,000.

Factor In Your Living Costs

Your location plays a significant role in calculating a fair salary. Since the living costs vary per location, you need to dive into your state data and see what you can get based on your location.

Data reveals that the average US household spends around $66,928 annually on expenses, however, this number can be much higher or lower depending on which state you live in.

Here’s an overview of the cost of living index in popular US states according to the World Population Review.

  • Indiana: 90.6
  • West Virginia: 90.5
  • Iowa: 89.9
  • Missouri: 89.8
  • Tennessee: 89
  • Georgia: 88.8
  • Alabama: 87.9
  • Oklahoma: 87.9

So for example, if you live in Indiana, you’d be wise to base your salary expectations per the average salary in Indiana. That’s primarily because your rental costs, bills, groceries, taxes, and transportation will be relatively higher than, say, someone working the same job in Oklahoma.

Top Tip: If you can’t find your state in the list shared above, feel free to visit this site and check for living costs in your area.

Hands holding dollar bills

Consider Your Educational Background and Experience

It goes without saying that your education and experience are the biggest determinants of your ideal salary.

  • A survey by Statista shows that people with a high school diploma have a median annual income of $50,000 annually, while those with a college degree earn around $10k more per annum, at $60,980.
  • The same study also goes on to show that people with a professional bachelor’s and master’s degree usually earn almost double the amount at roughly $105,552 and $124,341 per year respectively.
  • Another article published by Florida National University sheds light on the importance of education and how it helps get a better-paying job. According to it, college graduates earn up to 61% more than non-college graduates.

But how does experience help state desired salary expectations during a job interview?

If you believe you have a strong educational background and adequate experience, you can confidently pitch a high desired salary – after all, you’ve got what employers value the most in candidates – work experience!

What to Put for Desired Salary On a Job Application

Some employers ask for your desired salary on the job applications, so it’s important to know what to write as an answer to this question on the paper.

Here’s what you can put for desired salary on your next job application:

State a Realistic Desired Salary Range

CNBC recommends the best way to answer regarding salary expectations, is by avoiding quoting a number too high or too low. 

That’s primarily because stating a high desired salary without the credentials to back it up may backfire. In other words, the hiring manager may drop your application and move to a candidate that’s asking for lower pay.

Likewise, mentioning a number too low risks short-changing yourself in the future.

So, to avoid the temptation to state a high number solely to get high pay, and steer clear of asking for low pay, answer this section by stating your desired salary range that you’ve calculated using the steps mentioned earlier.

Leave It Empty

There could be several reasons anybody would want to leave the “salary expectations” section blank.

  • Stating your expectations is simply overwhelming.
  • You worry that specifying a number would limit your salary options.
  • You fear losing the job opportunity by mentioning a range out of the company’s budget.
  • You prefer answering this question in-person during the job interview.
Woman signing a document while another woman is leafing through documents

Leaving the desired salary field empty assures one thing: the hiring manager won’t toss away your application due to the desired salary range.

Fill In With 000

If you think leaving the expected salary range section will look inappropriate, you can put figures like “000.” This will convey the impression that you carefully read the job application and aren’t willing to discuss salary just now.

In fact, in some cases, you might not even have the option to leave it empty. This is because a few automated job applications do not proceed unless you type in a figure.

Top Tip: A few applications have a section to leave comments in. You can leave a short note mentioning you’d prefer to discuss salary later in the hiring process.

Write “Negotiable”

Not all applications have a side box to write notes. So, you can write “negotiable” in the job application salary section if you have the choice.

This indicates you prefer discussing salary later in the hiring process – preferably in an interview.

Tackling the Desired Salary Range In Job Interviews

Now that you know what to put in your desired salary on a job application, it’s time to see how to answer that question in a face-to-face job interview.

A few employers keep questions like these for their in-person meeting with you. It helps them test your confidence level and determine how well you tackle tricky questions.

Here are a few tips to help you make sure you answer confidently:

Prepare Ahead of Time

Nothing alleviates anxiety and stress like preparing for the interview beforehand. 

Ashley Strausser, an associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development at Otterbein University, says, “The more time you spend preparing, the more confident you’ll be.”

So, take time out to conduct market research. Study about a company’s work culture, learn about the industry, and practice your answers with a friend in person to build confidence.

Be Upfront

When it comes to answering the “desired salary” question in an interview, you need to be armed and ready with an answer. Very few things turn off employers more than an interviewee’s cluelessness about their industry.

So make sure to be upfront, answer the question honestly, and state your desired salary clearly. Being vague and sounding uncertain won’t reflect well on you. 

Man holding a pen while sitting on his desk that has an opened laptop
  • First, beating around the bush and delaying the question can be seen as disrespectful. Your ambiguousness may make your interviewers feel like you’re wasting their time.
  • Second, a vague answer reflects your lack of interest and motivation. After all, no motivated candidate would appear for an interview without researching the industry standard rates and the company.

Delay the Conversation

Another way to handle the situation is to postpone answering the question. Although it isn’t the best option, it may help your situation if you’ve got no other choice. 

However, because most job interviews are so stressful, it can make it challenging to think on your feet. So be sure to prepare for a few lines beforehand to avoid uncertainty. 

  • “Currently, I’m more focused on landing a suitable role that aligns with my long-term goals. I’ll be glad to discuss salary later in the hiring process if you’re comfortable.”
  • “I don’t have a specific figure in mind. However, I’d be glad to discuss the role further to understand the right compensation package based on my experience and education.” 

Ask Questions

If you feel nervous about giving a precise figure, you can try steering the conversation in a different direction by asking questions. Though it will require some preparation at your end, it remains an effective strategy nonetheless. 

Here are a few example questions to help you out. 

  • “I would like to know more about your company’s values for the role before discussing my salary expectations. Is it possible for you to share your budget for the position?”
  • “I have a few more questions about the role that I’d want to know before answering the desired salary question (Proceed with asking those questions)”
  • “What is your pay range for an employee with experience and educational background similar to mine in this role?”

Sound Confident

A lack of confidence can ruin your chances of landing the job. In fact, according to the experts over at TwinEmployment

  • 40% of employers won’t even consider an interviewee if they don’t sound confident or even fail to smile during an interview
  • Additionally, 65% of recruiters won’t even consider taking a candidate who fails to make and maintain eye contact up to the next stage
  • Lastly, 20% of them downright reject interviewees who sit with crossed arms

So, when it comes to the “desired salary” question, make sure you sound confident, enthusiastic, and maintain proper posture and eye contact. Ensure that your answer has a purposeful tone with an authoritative yet friendly voice.

Remember, the key to sounding confident is to back your words: 

  • Always mention you read a specific salary range through a reliable source (be it an official job search site or a governmental institute).
  • Let them know about the average salaries of people with the same experience and education as yours.
  • If a recruiter asks you about your salary during an interview, and you want to counter offer a salary higher than what they’re initially offering, make sure you don’t apologize or sound apologetic. Instead, be assertive and explain why your skills are worth the figure that you suggest.

You cannot go wrong when you back your claims with research. It conveys the impression that you entered the interview room with one goal in mind – to win the job. 

Desired Salary Do’s and Don’ts

Now that you know what to put for the desired salary and handle the question during the interview, here are a few do’s and don’ts to boost the success of getting the pay you deserve. 


  • Ask for professional advice. Adam Grant, a Wharton School of Business professor, says, “Advice-seeking is a powerful way to have an influence without authority.” 
  • Be flexible with salary negotiation. In case the hiring manager disagrees to come to terms with you, be willing to negotiate a salary or work out a different form of compensation. 
  • Sound grateful. Always thank the employer for the salary they offer. 
  • Learn more about the role. Knowing more about the role and responsibilities helps state a suitable salary range. 


  • Avoid specifying a fixed figure. Never lock yourself in a specific amount, always give your employers some breathing space. For instance, try not to mention your desired salary as a fixed “$60,000” annually. Instead, provide a range: of $60,000-$66,000. 
  • Try not to bring up the salary question yourself. This might make you sound impatient. So, ideally, wait for the employer to bring up the question. 
  • Don’t sound aggressive. Watch out for your tone when discussing the salary. Some people often unknowingly start sounding rude when discussing money. Make sure you’re not one of them and maintain a polite tone during salary negotiation. 
  • Avoid giving your salary history upon job offer. Requesting salary history is banned in a few US states, so you don’t have to answer this question if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. 
Two women facing each other in a one on one meeting

Related Questions

What Should I Put for the Desired Salary Entry-Level?

Study the average salary for entry-level positions in your role and mention your desired salary accordingly. 

I know that as a beginner, stating the desired salary can be intimidating. However, there’s nothing wrong with being confident in your achievements and asking for a reasonable salary, even if you don’t necessarily have a lot of previous work experience in the industry. 

Top Tip: A good rule of thumb to remember is that, according to Indeed, the average entry-level salary in the United States is just over $40,000  annually.

Why Do Employers Ask You Your Expected Salary?

Employers typically ask for an expected salary because they have a specific budget in mind. 

They want to ensure your desired salary aligns with the figure allotted for a certain role. The company, however, may expand the budget if more candidates expect a specific salary range or if they bring something truly valuable and unique to the table. 

What to Do If My Hiring Manager Doesn’t Ask the Desired Salary Question?

It’s possible that the hiring manager won’t ask you about your desired salary during an interview. If this happens, you might need to bring it up in conversation on your own.

Just be sure to:

– Back up your desired salary with data-driven research
– Make sure the salary you want is well within the average market range for people in similar roles
– Remain confident and concise as to why you deserve it

Sometimes, recruiters may not ask you about your desired salary because they aren’t serious about considering you for the role.  If you feel like that’s the case then as they say “Don’t go where you are not invited” and be willing to walk away if you aren’t being offered fair compensation or respect.

Key Takeaways

  • Research the average salary for your role and use this as a reference for deciding your desired salary range.
  • Stick to the desired salary range mentioned in the job description.
  • If the hiring manager doesn’t ask about the desired salary, bring it up in conversation.
  • Ask for fair compensation and be willing to walk away if you aren’t offered what you want.
  • Consider your living costs, average industry salaries, educational background, and experience when figuring out a good salary range.
  • Prepare ahead of time and maintain a confident tone to help boost your chances of success during the interview

So, there you have it – a few vital tips when answering what to put for desired salary in interviews. 

I know that a real-world job search is never picture-perfect. You’re often compelled to do things you don’t want to, like stating and negotiating your desired salary.

But have faith in your worth and don’t be afraid to negotiate. With the right attitude and information, you can get the salary you want.

I wish you all the best in your job search endeavors.

Jason is a contributor at PFGeeks and has been figuring out ways to make money since the age of 12 when he organised a Connect 4 tournament in his school class. From the age of 15, he set up and ran a successful mobile Disco company that focused on everything from local parties to (eventually) corporate events for brands like Google and Hilton. Fast forward to 2020 and Jason went from part time writing to going all in on the content industry - it was a pandemic pivot that so far is reaping him rewards. For many years he was also a Radio producer and researcher, and it's this "leave no stone uncovered" methodology that Jason now brings to all his writing - believing that deep analysis is key to a strong article. When he's not brushing up on the latest Finance news or feeding his entrepreneurial side, Jason loves to solo travel, geek out on SEO trends and get some exercise in with long walks.

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