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What Should You Say on a Job Application When They Ask What Rate of Pay You Are Expecting?

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Employers use expected salary as a way to determine fit with a potential new hire. If the candidate has the qualifications, but wants more money than the company can afford, she'll be rejected. This can discourage the applicant; she wants to earn what she's worth but doesn't want to miss out on an opportunity because of a salary mismatch. When asked to quote an expected pay rate on an application, consider the answer carefully.

Do Your Research

Regardless of the industry, there will be a standard pay range for the position you're applying for. A job in retail might command an hourly wage of a certain level, and a professional position might offer a salary and benefits package. Speak with recruiters or friends in your industry to get this information. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains a detailed online database of wage data for most occupations, including regional statistics.

Know Where You're Coming From

Your situation can affect your pay rate demand. If you are unemployed, realistically expect to make no more, and possibly less, than the pay rate of your last job. If you're being poached from a position, ask for at least 20 percent more than your present salary unless you are anxious to leave your job. If the application asks for your previous job salary, quote not only the base salary, but any bonuses and benefits as well.

Salary is Negotiable

The party that offers a figure first is thought to lose power during a negotiation. For this reason the company might pressure a candidate to quote an expected salary, even if they are interested in hiring him. On an application, it's acceptable to quote your expected pay rate as "negotiable," according to career coach Charlotte Weeks, quoted in "The Wall Street Journal." Emphasize the value you can bring; in a cover letter, state that your salary is negotiable and you look forward to bringing your extensive experience and top-notch education to the company.

Quote a Pay Range

If you choose to quote a figure, or are pressured to do so by a recruiter, consider offering a pay range instead of a specific number. Add to your previous research by looking up recently advertised job postings in your area. If you see most postings are advertised at $40,000 annually, with a few at $42,000, $43,000 or as low as $35,000, it's reasonable to quote a range of $35,000 to $45,000. You can also quote a narrower range, for example, $40,000 to $45,000, if the lower end of the range falls below your minimum salary expectation.


Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).