So you’re super excited to apply to this job online, only to see that question glaring at you: What are your salary expectations? Many electronic job applications these days are pretty advanced and won’t let you move on until you enter a response into the field. Here’s how to answer the salary question on a job application.

How to Answer the Salary Question on a Job Application (3 Options)

First, Don’t Put a Real Number

You’ve probably heard that the first person who gives a number in any type of negotiation loses. This is no different in salary negotiations.

If you put a really low number below their budget, you have just low balled yourself and you’re going to get the lower end of the range. On the flip side of that, if you provide too high of a number without them really assessing or knowing why you deserve that, you may have outbid yourself from even being further considered. An important note to add is you should never look at just the base salary.

When determining a salary, you need to understand the total compensation including all monetary and non-monetary rewards. To provide a base number would be premature. A company can offer a lower salary, but amaaaazing benefits that offset the out-of-pocket health insurance you might pay. Or perhaps they have an amazing sign-on bonus or you think the $5,000 less salary is worth cutting your commute time in half.

I’ve coached hundreds of candidates through salary negotiations and I know it is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job search process, but it doesn’t have to be.

3 Options to Answer the Salary Question on a Job Application

With these three options, you should be able to put your best foot forward in the process and set yourself up for success.

Option 1: Negotiable

If the online application allows you to type in any letters, go ahead and just put DOE or “negotiable”. This keeps it open-ended and the recruiter on the other end understands that in order to get a number from you, they’re going to have to schedule that phone interview and at least have that discussion.

Option 2: Low Number

Now, because a lot of applicant tracking systems out there are pretty advanced, you may only be able to insert a numerical value. If this is the case, you can go ahead and put in a really low number such as 0, 1, 100, 1000. Whatever it allows you to enter, just go ahead and put that really low number. The recruiter on the other end is going to know that you’re not serious about working for free or working for 100 dollars per year, so they’re going to understand that this is just a way to bypass the system. In order to really know your number, they’re going to have to schedule that phone interview.

Option 3: High Number

And the third option is to go the complete opposite route and put the highest number you can think of. That means put $999,999 or whatever they’re allowing you to put in there.

Again, the recruiter is going to know that you have bypassed the system by just putting in some random numbers, but they don’t truly expect you to think that you’re going to get paid a million dollars for whatever title you’re applying for.

By the way, if you are applying for a position that is over a million dollar salary, well, my guess is you wouldn’t be applying for it online, you’d be headhunted out, right? (Also, don’t forget about me!) *wink

]Salary Question on Job Applications – Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s really important to remember that a recruiter’s job is to find the best qualified match possible. This means they’re not going to let this one little number or one really high number that is, of course, a fluke, deter them from calling you in.

But most importantly, your resume needs to impress them or your background really needs speaks to them. So, feel confident in either, again, putting negotiable, putting the lowest number, putting the highest number, and you’re good to go.

Comment below and let me know which option you would choose and what’s worked for you in the past.

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