By Clay Wyatt
Posted on 03/17/2016

Consider a situation in which you’re filling out a job application. Among the many questions, you’re asked to provide your salary history and/or your desired salary range.

While it may seem easy to just provide the requested information, doing so may work against you. The information you provide could impact your offer or even eliminate you from contention. With this in mind, here are some tips for handling salary information on a job application.

Don’t do it

Unless you’re required to provide salary information, it’s generally best not to do so. Doing so might lead to a low offer or none at all. For instance, if you indicate you’re willing to work for $50,000 per year and the employer planned to offer you $60,000, it might decide to reduce that amount. On the other hand, if it has budgeted $35,000-$40,000 for this position and you state that you need at least $50,000, you probably won’t get the job.

Describe Your Current Salary as “Competitive”

Assuming this is the case, consider describing your current or previous salary as “competitive” and noting that you’re willing to discuss it later. If you’re applying online and the application only accepts numbers, California State University, Fullerton advises providing an estimate of your present salary.

List Your Target Salary

An alternative to providing your salary history is to list how much you would like to earn and notify the employer, perhaps in a comment field, that this figure represents your desired earnings. For example, if you are hoping to earn $60,000 per year, you could list this instead of your current salary. Just be sure to notify the employer of this in some manner on the application.

Mention that Your Desired Salary is Open

If you’re required to provide your desired salary in order to proceed, you don’t necessarily have to give an exact figure. California State University, Fullerton suggests writing that it is “open” in the relevant box on a paper application and mentioning that you’re willing to discuss it during an interview. If you’re dealing with an online application that only allows numbers, it advises researching the appropriate figure first.

Offer a Salary Range

If you decide to provide your salary target to an employer, consider offering a range instead of an exact figure. According to the Houston Chronicle, doing so will enhance your negotiating power. For example, if the employer requires a number and you’re looking for at least $60,000 per year, you might list that you’d like to earn $60,000 to $70,000. In such a case, you would convey your minimum salary expectation while leaving room for a larger offer.

The Bottom Line

Be tactful when dealing with salary information on a job application. Remember that, in general, it is best to avoid giving specific figures. By handling this situation appropriately, you should improve your odds of remaining in contention for the job without reducing your chances of successfully negotiating an offer later on.