How to Handle The Pesky Salary Expectations Question

How to Handle The Pesky Salary Expectations Question

You begin applying for an online job, answering the basic questions, and uploading a resume. Suddenly, you get a question that reads:

And then they put a little * next to it that means you have to write something. Immediately your mind races because you do not want to say too much and weed yourself out of the running. But at the same time, you do not want to give the farm away for a handful of magic beans either! So, what do you do? Try the following advice below.

Please note: This question is not related to requesting “Salary History”, a hot topic that has led to some recent laws passing in the United States. It is ok to ask what people expect. It is not always ok to ask what they were paid in the past.

1. Respond with a phrase or word

If the form allows for text, answer with “Negotiable” or “Open”.  It is that simple. However, some forms require numerical answers.

2. Respond with a nonsense number

These days the “desired salary” field on an online application form almost always requires you to enter a number. Then, it won’t let you proceed without entering something. Here is what you do and this is something recruiters have even recommended to job seekers. Add a number that pretty much says, “I won’t tell you until we negotiate”:

  • $0
  • $1
  • $0000001

Stating that your salary expectations are $0 and $1 pretty much says, “We will negotiate later.”  Any smart company seeking smart business people will look beyond this field to your actual qualifications. They can ask you about your salary later during your interview.

The risk involved with nonsense numbers

Applicant tracking systems, which we had written about before, may get tripped up. If they are set to flag applications unless a certain salary is entered you may get eliminated from the process by an automated setting. Even more, a person may think you are blowing off the question or not taking the application seriously. If this concerns you, try the following.

3. Research salaries on Glassdoor and enter a salary range

If you do not want to be taken the wrong way and cannot enter text, try adding a salary range. Do your research on Glassdoor (easiest) or by reaching out to former/current employees at the company of interest to get inside information on the salary. Then, enter your floor and ceiling salary expectations. For example:

  • $100,000-$125,000

The key here is doing your research. Show that you know the nationwide salary ranges for your type of position. Know your worth and use what you discover. If you find a position pays in the low $140K’s, then try a range of $135,000-$155,000.

4. Respond with specific numbers after researching

You are an honest person. You hate games and like to be direct. If this is your behavior you need to work with people like yourself, the best bet may be to give the straightforward answer.

Again, research on Glassdoor and come up with a specific number. You want to do this to make sure you are not asking for too much or too little. If what you want is aligned with what the company is offering you will get through the process quicker. The con here is that you might disqualify yourself from the opportunity. Don't get too caught up on salary when the position may include bonuses, stock options, and other forms of compensation.

You can negotiate harder after receiving an offer, too, if they want you for the job badly enough. Many times being "direct" and entering a safe value will get you exactly what you ask for. Sadly, this usually means you could have asked for more.

5. Don’t put yourself in a position to answer the question

The fact is, online job applications are not the beginning and end for all job seekers. 80% of all jobs are found through networking and 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to screen candidates. When you network you skip all the technology, all the extensive forms, all the algorithms, and all the junk job boards.

Networking leads to meeting the right decision-makers and that gives you the best chance to make a first impression. Negotiating salary comes later after the hiring manager is already sold on you.

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