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How to Answer the Salary Question on Online Job Applications

Answering The Salary Question On Online Job Applications

Online job applications nowadays typically go beyond just uploading and submitting resumes and cover letters. For most employers, good application documents simply won’t cut the mustard. In most cases, candidates would need to fill out an online application form to be able to apply for a vacancy. This helps recruiters get additional information to make an informed decision about which candidates to move forward with.

One of the most common questions candidates may need to answer in the form is salary requirements. Surely, you know how much pay you’d like to get. So, this one should be a piece of cake, right? While it may seem like a no-brainer question, it can be a tricky one to navigate. Your answer will play a crucial role in your application’s fate. So, read on, and we will provide you with some tips on how you can best answer it.

Why Do Employers Ask Salary Requirements?

A single job opening typically attracts 250 applications. Finding the best candidate by going through each one of them is like finding a needle in a haystack. To make the prescreening process more efficient, employers generally ask deal-breaker questions like salary requirements. This allows them to narrow down the selection of candidates and focus their efforts on those who meet their requirements. So, yes your answer can have an impact on whether you will move to the next stage of the recruitment process or not.

Another reason is that employers typically have a salary range for each position they are hiring for. The desired salary question will enable them to determine if they can afford your help or you’re way too out of budget. For instance, if their range is $50,000 to $60,000, and your salary expectations answer is $80,000, then you can kiss your chance for an interview goodbye.

In addition, employers ask for salary requirements to test if you have knowledge of the industry and your relative worth. If your answer is a bit off from the industry’s average salary range, it can provide decision-makers with a negative first impression. You might be perceived as someone clueless or not confident about the value of your work, or you’re not serious enough to take the time to do your homework.

How to prepare for the salary question?

When a vacancy for your dream job finally opens, you would want to be among the first ones to apply. You wouldn’t want to miss the boat, right? While it can be tempting to jump into hitting the apply button immediately, you need to contain your excitement. Take the time to read and carefully evaluate the job description first to see if the role aligns with your interest and goals. This will allow you to save time and maintain focus on vacancies that genuinely interest you.

In terms of salary, you probably have a figure in mind already. Of course, you would want something similar or higher than your previous job’s salary! When you apply for a new job, it’s only natural to consider your current salary as a baseline. While this may seem ideal, it’s not always the case. Remember that salary ranges could differ based on industry, location, job function, and seniority level. To maximize your chances of getting the salary you deserve, make sure to include the following in your to-do list.

  • Refer to the job post as most employers provide a salary range for each of their vacancies.
  • Use online salary calculators such as Glassdoor,  Salary.com, and PayScale.
  • Understand your value by comparing your expertise and experience level against the job requirements and responsibilities.
  • Define your ideal salary range based on the above data.

How to Answer The Salary Question

The answer fields in online job applications generally have certain limitations, such as allowable character types, length, and range. Such limitations make it tricky to respond to the desired salary question. Unlike in an actual interview, you may not be allowed a chance to elaborate or justify your answer in an application form. Let’s take a look at some of the effective ways to answer it without sabotaging your chances of progressing to the next stage.

a) Leave blank if not required

Online job application forms generally have required and not required fields. If you are required to answer certain questions, it is either marked with an “asterisk (*) or “required”. In this case, you don’t have any other choice but to answer it. Otherwise, you will get an error message, preventing you from progressing to the next steps of the job application process. On the other hand, if the question is optional, then it’s up to you whether you prefer to provide an answer or not.

If the desired salary question does not require an answer, we recommend leaving it blank. This will prevent the risk of you providing a number that is too high or too low. In such cases, you could potentially limit your salary options or sabotage your chance for an interview in the event your answer was out of the employer’s budget.

Although you’re skipping the salary part during the job application process, don’t think you’ve gotten away with it. If you are selected, you would still have to discuss this with the employer at some point in the recruitment process. So, make sure you are prepared and armed with a strong case for your ideal salary. There may also be a need for a salary negotiation in case the initial offer is not in line with your requirements.

b) Write an open-ended response

Some online job applications allow you to enter non-numerical characters in the answer field. This is a good thing because it gives you some flexibility in terms of text characters and what details to provide. In this case, you can opt to avoid providing an exact figure. We recommend leaving an open-ended response that shelves the answer until later in the recruitment process.

An open-ended response implies that you are looking to have a conversation about your salary expectations during the interview. However, you need to be mindful of your answer. Avoid writing, 0, 999, 1, none, or NA. Remember that whatever you write could impact the outcome of your application. Here are some good examples of good open-ended responses.

  • Negotiable
  • Entry or senior level
  • To be discussed during the interview
  • In line with the market or industry range

c) Pick a salary that is slightly higher than what you hope to get

Now, what if the online job application form explicitly requires you to write a hard figure? That being the case, your best plan of attack is to do what it says. Provide your salary expectations. But like what we mentioned above, your answer may influence the outcome of your application. So, you need to be careful with your numbers.

When picking a salary, provide a figure that is higher than what you expect to get. This increases your probability of achieving your salary goals. As they say, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”  The same is true when answering the desired salary question. Aim for a high and realistic salary, and you are more likely to get an offer you would be happy to accept.

Use the data you gathered from your research to come up with a range that is ideal for your candidate profile. For example, you came with an ideal salary range of $50,000 to $60,000. If you would be happy to accept $55,000 the least, then your answer in the online job application form should be $58,000 or higher.


The desired salary question during the job application process can seem like a harmless question for unsuspecting applicants. But the truth is your answer can impact your application. The good news is there are strategic approaches to answer the question and give you the best chance of landing an interview. So, make sure to follow our tips above for your next application.