Dear Matt: Most online job application forms ask for my current and/or desired salaries. Do I put what I would like to get, what I think I may get or what I am making now, in hopes of just getting that interview, where I can then discuss further?

Matt says: The reality is, honesty is the best policy. “If you are forced to give a desired pay range, gimmicks and tricks are not your best bet — good, solid research will generally get you much farther,” says Aubrey Bach, Senior Manager, Editorial and Marketing at, a website where you can research and compare salaries.

Researching sites like Payscale can help you as a job seeker get an idea of what the market is like in your industry, field and region. If you’re asked to submit a pay stub down the road, if the new employer calls your old employer to verify the number you give, or if you simply lose track of the made-up number, you’ll be caught in that lie and that may be reason to rescind a job offer, adds Bach.

“Don’t rely on gimmicks like lowballing,” says Bach. “That can just give the recruiter a reason to lowball their initial offer, or give the appearance that you are under qualified for the position.”

When filling out an application, focus on your total compensation package, not just your salary, says Twin Cities recruiter Jennifer Peterson, President of Peterson Search & Consulting LLC (@Search_Jennifer). This includes salary, bonus and incentives, such as total cost of your health care package, including employer-paid portion.

“Recruiters and companies know that in order to make a career move, the role must be rewarding, challenging and provide an income level at or above what you are currently making,” says Peterson.

And keep in mind that while a recruiter may base an initial offer for a new job off your past salary, you should negotiate your new salary on the new job title and responsibilities, not the old one, says Bach.

“Since you’ve already done the research, you know what that range should be,” says Bach.

If you’re working with a recruiter or staffing firm — something more common in today’s job search — use the recruiter as a resource.

“A good recruiter can help you in this type of situation,” says Peterson. “If you are currently overpaid, a good recruiter will probably tell you to sit tight unless you are miserable in your current job. If you are currently underpaid, they will ensure you move up to the market value and share with you what you could/should be making.”

Entering your salary information is only one part of the application and job search process. Recruiters know the industry and what people in your role/field are generally making. Be honest and upfront. Then get the interview and wow them to get the salary you desire.

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