What to Put for “Desired Salary” on Internship Applications?

What to Put for “Desired Salary” on Internship Applications?

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Applying for internships can be a very daunting thing. It can be scary to put yourself out there, and you might feel as though you’re too inexperienced or not good enough. This is why it can be hard to find an answer for your “desired salary” on internship applications.

You should put ‘negotiable’ for the ‘desired salary’ question on internship applications. This answer will prevent you from providing numbers that deter employers or give off the impression that you’re underqualified. It will also invite the discussion to take place during an interview instead.

I’ll discuss why this answer is an excellent option in the rest of this article. I’ll also provide you with tips and tricks so you can answer this question with confidence- and get rid of that doubtful voice in the back of your head.

How To Answer the “Desired Salary” Question on Internship Applications

Let’s go into more detail about answering the “desired salary” question.

When filling in job forms, you don’t always have to answer the ‘desired salary’ question right away. Many applications will allow you to skip over the question, while others may request details about your salary expectations in a cover letter. 

But if you are going to answer the question, there are things you should and shouldn’t say.

What You Should Say

If you encounter a form that requires input before proceeding, it’s best to write in phrases that open up the topic for discussion later. These phrases can include ‘negotiable,’ ‘open to negotiation,’ or even ‘open to offers.’ 

The phrase you choose will likely depend on the job role, but it’s a great way to show the employer that you’re flexible with the salary range.

Answering the question with an offer to negotiate it later allows the employer to focus more on your qualifications and less on your “worth” in terms of salary. You will most likely stand out a lot more, and this will increase your chances of getting invited to an interview.

It also shows you’re confident that you’ll receive an interview at all, which implies that you truly believe in your abilities (as you should).

What You Shouldn’t Say

You deserve to get paid for your hard work. There’s no doubt about that.

However, approaching the “desired salary” question with an actual desired salary- as in a number- could scare off your employer or make you seem less qualified than you are.

Requesting a salary that’s higher than what the employer can offer might cause them to consider other hiring directions that fit their budget. Though you shouldn’t aim too high, it’s important to remember that asking for a salary that’s lower than your true expectations can negatively affect future negotiations.

Providing a number that’s too low does make it harder to negotiate for a higher salary later on, but it can also give your employer the impression that you doubt your own capabilities. This might lead them to do the same, and you don’t want that.

Keep in mind that your application is meant to give the employer an idea of who you are as a person. This means that the employer will already have an opinion of your character before the interview begins.

This is why it’s crucial to save the salary conversation for an interview. By doing so, the employer will focus more on your talent and less on your financial “worth.”

How To Answer the Salary Question in Internship Interviews

So you’ve applied for an internship, and you’ve been invited to an interview with your future employer.

You might be asking yourself: now what?

Now, it’s time to prepare yourself for the salary conversation in either a remote or in-person interview. Either option will mean that you’ll have to speak to the employer, which can be intimidating.

Here’s a list of examples of appropriate responses to the “desired salary” question that you can use in an internship interview:

  • “In my previous position, my salary was [insert number here]. Since this position is similar, I was thinking that we could use that number as a starting point to negotiate something that’s fair to the both of us.”
  • “My current priority is to find an internship that will properly suit my skill set and give me experience that I can use later on in my career, so I’m pretty flexible as far as salary goes. I would be happy to hear your salary offer first and negotiate from there, if this is alright with you.”
  • “As far as salary goes, I’m a pretty flexible person, but I do value my capabilities and have confidence in my skill set. However, I also value this company and want to be an asset, not a burden. I would love to hear your offer first and negotiate from there to reach an agreement that is fair to the both of us, if that’s alright with you.”

Imposter Syndrome: How Does It Affect Internship Applications?

I’ve discussed some helpful tips for answering the “desired salary” question in internship applications and interviews, but that doesn’t make the topic an easy one to talk about. In an age of such consistent comparisons, it’s so easy to lose confidence in our own abilities and fall victim to something known as imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome can negatively impact internship applications because it often skews your perspective on your own talents, experience, and qualifications.

I’ll discuss what it means to experience imposter syndrome, and how you can overcome it to offer the best possible internship applications and interview responses.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling underqualified or inadequate. In reality, most people who feel this way are skilled and qualified enough for the job. 

It’s common for people who experience imposter syndrome to overwork themselves. They may also hold unrealistic expectations for themselves. This thought pattern can negatively impact your mental health.

Though imposter syndrome is common in creative careers such as writing and art, it can be found in every area of skill- creative or not.

After a psychological study, researchers found that imposter syndrome affects up to 82% of people- and you could be one of them.

It can damage your ability to apply for internships and follow through with interviews in a way that convinces employers just how worthy you are. It can also make it challenging for you to calculate your worth, especially when answering questions about your desired salary.

Remember, you are valuable. This is an important thing to keep in mind when on the hunt for a suitable internship.

If you think you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, here are some tips and tricks to change that negative mindset and be confident in your abilities.

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome will enable you to calculate your worth, and help you negotiate better salaries when it comes to internships and other forms of employment.

Follow these steps to overcome Imposter Syndrome:

Talk About Your Feelings

If you’re worried that you’re incompetent for a desired or current position, it might be a good idea to talk to a person that you trust. This person might be able to help you navigate these feelings of incompetence and help you discover a perspective that truly reflects your skill level.

If you don’t have a person in mind, seeking help and talking to a professional can ensure you find a way through these emotional obstacles.

Talking through your feelings of self-doubt and addressing the issue will lead you in the direction of healing and not only help you interview better but live healthier in general.

Understand That Nobody Is Perfect

Though at times it can be hard to believe, nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and we actually can’t learn without making them.

It’s important to keep in mind that mistakes are to be learned from, not to dwell on.

There’s a saying that my elementary school’s art teacher ingrained into the minds of us students, and it has stuck with me ever since: “Perfect art is boring.”

Realizing that it’s okay to make mistakes is a step forward toward overcoming imposter syndrome, and essentially your success in all of your internship applications and professional endeavors.

Accept Your Qualifications

Your employer will not accept your qualifications if you don’t accept them yourself. And if you don’t accept them yourself, how are you going to be compensated for your work?

It’s essential to recognize your skills and realize just what you’re capable of. This is not only good for your mental health but also beneficial to your internship interviews.

Knowing your worth will make your employer a lot more likely to know your worth too. This will help you apply better, interview better, and eventually perform better at whatever internship you end up with.

Once you accept your qualifications and understand how to measure your work’s value, you’ll be able to accurately negotiate salary ranges that coincide with your skill level. 


The “desired salary” question can be so intimidating, but with these tips and tricks, you can overcome your doubts and reply in a way that will appeal to your future employer.

Remember that you are worth it, and you don’t have to be scared of that.

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About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a labor market expert. He is a mathematician who graduated from EPFL.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job board where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.