A job application may often include a question about desired pay or minimum rate of acceptable pay. Applicants may hesitate in answering this question, concerned that a provided amount may be different than the intended salary offered by the employer.
It is acceptable to indicate “negotiable” as the salary amount. If the candidate’s application is otherwise strong, the employer should be willing to discuss the salary in an interview or before hiring.
Specifying a Salary Range
If an applicant indicates a desired salary that is lower than the salary the employer considered, the employer may further limit the amount of salary that might be offered. On the other hand, a salary listed above comparable salaries may prevent the employer from considering the application further. If "negotiable" isn't an acceptable answer for the potential employer, then the best answer is a range within reasonable low and high limits for the type of job, but that should be based on research. Even when using "negotiable," a salary range sets boundaries for negotiations.
Any applicant should conduct research on potential salaries. Salaries vary based on applicant qualifications, financial health of the organization, and geography. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains average wage data on a broad range of jobs and industries, and serves as a sound starting point for negotiations. Other salary research sites, such as careerbuilder.com, may offer more detailed salary information for specific occupations. New college graduates can benefit from a quarterly salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The survey includes nationwide average starting salary offers by major, degree level, and job function. The survey is available through many college career centers.
Many occupations have corresponding professional organizations that provide regular salary data. For example, accountants can use salary data from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, while economists can get useful data from the National Association of Business Economists.
Salary is only one component of an overall compensation package. Benefits such as health insurance coverage, retirement plans, vacation and personal time, and tuition reimbursement factor into a comprehensive compensation package. Benefits may vary substantially from employer to employer. Personal preferences such as geography and work-life balance should also be evaluated when determining an acceptable salary range.