Listing Pay Rates on Job Applications

A reader writes…

Why do so few job listings show a dollar amount for the pay and show instead DOE? On the apps they ask for a pay expectation in dollar amounts, I can’t respond with DOE. I don’t want to apply for jobs where the income is below my expectations; it wastes my time and the employer’s. I also don’t want to tip my hand and show a lower expected salary on the app to get the job. What do you suggest?
Dear “Kenny Rogers,”

I can’t help it, but when I read your question, all I can hear in my head is the classic 1970s song, “The Gambler” – “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…”

The fact is, companies hesitate to state actual pay rates in job descriptions just like you, as an applicant, want to refrain from listing your expected pay rate in the application.  It’s a complete NUMBERS GAME – a “gamble.” 

Neither party (meaning, you or the company) wants to be the first to reveal dollar amounts.  For job seekers (as you’ve noted in your question), you don’t want to sell yourself short by listing a low rate.  On the other hand, if you state a high salary expectation, you may scare the employer away and miss a perfectly good opportunity.

Believe it or not, companies posting jobs with “DOE” are going through the same thought process.  They don’t want to state a set pay rate (or even pay scale) because they truly may be open to paying a higher amount for qualified candidates that meet or exceed their expectations.  In contrast, they may not be willing to pay the same amount for someone more entry level… but who could still do a good job.

I hate to say it, but these days, it’s definitely an employer’s market.  With so many people looking for work, businesses have the upper hand.  They don’t necessarily have to reveal anything about the pay because they know they’ll still be able to attract plenty of interested candidates.

That means you, as the job seeker, need to be the first to step up to the plate and reveal your “cards” (I’m going back to the Kenny Rogers reference here!)

Here’s a suggestion on how you can do this:


Utilize your cover letter to address the “pay” issue:


Within your cover letter, you can mention that your “expected salary” is what you believe is your market value.  But here’s the key so that you don’t seem inflexible… you should acknowledge the fact that you may not have a complete understanding of all of the functions of the job (which may be valued at a different pay scale). 

To go further, I suggest that you state in your cover letter that you recognize there are various forms of compensation (benefits, exciting company culture, etc.) that may make up for a lower pay level.  Express that you are open to considering these items.  Remember folks, “total comp” can include bonuses, benefits, 401(k) packages, etc. — and is not limited to a base pay rate.

So, before you “know when to walk away… or know when to run,” go along with the game and list your rate.  As the economy improves, things will change, and it will go back to being an employee’s market where YOU will have the upper hand.  Until then, I hope this advice helps!

Hey readers, as fellow job seekers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What have you done in this situation? 

Managers / Supervisors – I’d love to hear from you too!  Do you agree with me on this one?

Look forward to your comments!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jason wilson
    May 03, 2011 @ 14:14:24

    im sorry this is all new to me i dont know what DOE means and i do think i have missed out on good jobs by over stating my pay expectations


    • anitaclew
      May 03, 2011 @ 14:27:16

      No problem, Jason – I appreciate your honesty!
      “DOE” means “depending on experience”
      I encourage you to read through my previous posts… you’ll see that I have several job seeker tips for people who are “new” to the job hunting game!
      Good luck, my friend!


  2. Simmie
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 17:01:09

    I agree that not posting at least a ballpark salary is cheesy. However, for those who have been out of work long-term, finding out what that DOE $$ is becomes important — we don’t want to state a salary expectation that is just a little bit too high, with it being reviewed by someone going “just by the numbers” and price ourselves out of what *could* have been a good job opportunity.

    I agree that as the job market improves, this will hopefully be less problematic.


    • paul
      Apr 14, 2011 @ 11:00:45

      Is salary negotiating is even possible in your opinion?? I was just wondering if you have ever had any salary negotiation success??


      • anitaclew
        Apr 20, 2011 @ 09:06:42

        Hi Paul, I’m sorry it took a few days to respond to you! In answering your question…

        Yes, I think salary negotiation is possible – BUT it can be risky and certainly may depend on the situation. For some jobs, the pay rate is what it is… no negotiation. In other circumstances, however, you may have some wriggle room. Here are some quick words of wisdom from good ol’ Anita:

        1. Do your research and clearly understand your market value, going rates, etc.
        2. Go into your interview (or the next step in the hiring process) with a figure or pay scale you would be comfortable with. In other words, have a good idea of what you would or would not accept. After all, why waste your time (or the company’s time if you’re way off, right?)
        3. If possible, try not to be the first to bring up the subject of salary.
        4. When an offer is presented (and if you think it is low) be prepared to consider how you would counter. (This is the risky part). If you ask for say, 10% more, they may accept… or they may slice that in half… OR they may say, “thank you” and “there’s the door!”
        Are you sure you want to take that risk in such a tough job market? It’s up to you but from my experience, I think it’s good to be flexible and it’s essential that you are reasonable.
        5. Remember, salary includes total compensation. Consider some of the other perks such as benefits, bonuses, paid time off, etc. – These are often attractive (and may also be negotiated).
        6. Maybe the money is lower than you’d like to start… but you can ask them to reconsider after a set amount of time (4-6 months, for example) and reevaluate. Get your foot in the door and know that with stellar performance… your pay may increase over time (and as the economy improves!)

        I hope this helps and would love to hear back from you with any progress!

  3. Everett
    Apr 13, 2011 @ 11:19:12

    I agree with you Paul. I have never seen a situation where DOE didn’t mean the lowest possible salary we can get you for. I refuse to apply to any DOE job offers.


  4. Cecile Kansky
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 11:31:40

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I assuredly enjoying every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. I surely feel strongly about it and love looking out more on this topic. If feasible, as you perform expertise, would you thoughts updating your blog with more data? It indubitably is extremely beneficial for me.


  5. paul
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 09:01:26

    I really agree with the poster and disagree with the editor because every experience I have had, never gave me an opportunity to negotiate anything. The job offered, if there was an offer made, was a take it or leave it proposition. Regardless of the economy, there is never an opportunity to haggle over salary!! Even when the employer is in a desperate situation, they stick to their budget and their salary guide/range.

    Stick to applying to jobs that post their salary. Employers that play coy with salary DOE are not trustworthy.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.

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