How to Get Around Salary Boxes On an Online Job Application

Share this article:
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Facebook
Email this to someone

Career Coach & Author Jack Chapman Tackles All of Your Salary and Negotiation Questions

You know them, you hate them, but how do you beat them?

All the experts—Jack Chapman included—agree it’s best for job-hunters to hold off on any and all salary talk until the interview process is complete and a firm job offer is in hand. But as hundreds of our readers have pointed out, the “salary boxes” found on online job applications often require a numeric answer. You want to play your cards close to the vest, but sometimes that feels impossible when a potential employer is barely letting you sit at the table.

Jack Chapman, author and our resident “Salary Expert,” has some great tips and strategies to combat this problem that has affected almost everyone looking for a job recently.


My problem with your “don’t disclose salary” is that most of the time, the applicant is posting his/her answers online and is very limited in the responses they can give. For instance, some online applications will only accept dollar amounts or numerics in the field that requests this information. There is not usually a place to expound or write a narrative or clarification concerning your answers. What do you do in that situation? I know because I’ve been there!

While I understand the need to screen out anyone who is not qualified for a position, it’s my opinion employers are probably missing out on quite a few good candidates because of the overzealous and strict screening processes. Many times recruiters are making hiring decisions based upon very limited information.


I get this question a lot. Here’s what I recommend.

First, one or both answers to these two must be “yes”:
1) Do you actually fit the range
2) Are you sure it’s worthwhile for the employer to interview you regardless of whether you currently fit a “normal” salary range?

That’s what employers want to know. As long as 1 or 2 is true, then you have a good reason to be interviewed.

It will help to take an imaginary “Numbers as a second language” course. In “Numeric language,” the “fill-in-the-box-or-halt-the-application-process” means something. When we translate that one number into English, it means either: “Can we afford you?” or “Can we make the job/salary bigger so it fits?”

If you can truly answer “yes” to that, then reply “No Problem!” using the same “Numeric Language” by entering an acceptable number. Instead of submitting your current or previous salary, reply in the same “one-number code language”—a number you’re sure will be in their range.

Another way to say this is “single-number-in-a-box-with-an-asterisk” is shorthand for whether compensation will be a problem. In order to let them know you can fit in a competitive range using one-number language, put a number in the box that means “no problem.” That means a number right around the median for the job to which you’re applying.

That number won’t make you screen yourself out. Instead, you’ll screen yourself IN to the interview by using a number they won’t scoff at (too low) or balk at (too high).

How do you find that median number? Do some research on the web. Chapter Five in “Negotiating your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute,” lists web salary research sites, the best among them being!


If they ask for expectations, that’s fine. However, if they ask for “current salary” or “previous salary,” and if your answer is very different from the actual, then you’re out of integrity. That’s a risk you’ll have to decide to take or not. If you do take that risk and enter an “earnings expectations,” in place of a “current earnings,” you’ll need to clarify it.


When you get to the interview and BEFORE salary is brought up by them, say “When I filled out the application online, it asked for my salary history. I thought my salary expectations would be a more helpful number for you, but I’ll be content with a competitive salary. I thought I should mention that.” Then switch the conversation back to the job interview questions.

The most important thing to remember? Don’t screen yourself out!

All the best,
Jack Chapman

Career coach and author Jack Chapman, who wrote “Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute,” is teaming up with to offer a weekly Q & A on all things related to salary negotiation.

Using real questions sent in by actual readers, Jack will help you navigate the choppy waters of interviewing for a job, negotiating a salary and asking for a raise or promotion. Remember all those times you desperately wished you had someone to help you answer all the tough questions that invariably surface around negotiations? Now Jack has your back and he’s providing easy to implement, real-life solutions to your salary negotiation dilemmas.

Check back every Tuesday for the FREE advice that could prevent you from losing thousands of dollars in unnegotiated pay, get you the job you want and steer you clear of potential pitfalls during the interview process.

If you have a question or need some advice from Jack, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to stating your problem or question, and we’ll send it to Jack for his expert advice. Although Jack will do his best to reply to your question, the large number of responses we receive make it difficult to address each one.

For Employers

Individualize employee pay based on unique job requirements and personal qualifications.

Get the latest market pricing for benchmark jobs and jobs in your industry.

For Employees

Analyze the market and your qualifications to negotiate your salary with confidence.

Search thousands of open positions to find your next opportunity.