There’s a right way and a wrong way to approach your boss when asking for a raise. The right way considers timing and preparation. The wrong way considers neither and will likely leave you without a raise.
Asking for a raise and negotiating salary are two different things.
Typically, you negotiate salary when the topic of salary is already in question. Like when you are starting a new job and need to come to an agreement on starting pay.
Asking for a raise happens after you already have the job. Asking for a raise might also happen because you initiated a conversation about wages rather than the employer.
This makes the process a little different than negotiating salary at the start of a new job.
But don't worry, the process is still pretty simple.
When asking for a raise, timing is everything.
An extra step in asking for a raise compared to negotiating salary is timing. You have to know when to ask for a raise.
As you prepare to ask for a raise make sure you choose the right time. In some cases, the answer to your request for a raise (yes or no) can be decided entirely based on your timing.
There are right moments and wrong moments to ask for a raise that you need to be aware of.
The following are GOOD times to ask for a raise:
The most common practice for raise timing is a year. This includes your first year mark at a new job. If your salary hasn't seen any pay increase in over a year's time, you can use this and data on inflation to justify a raise request.
Raises are largely based on your personal work merit. If you've taken on more responsibilities and have a bigger workload, then you could possibly ask for a higher compensation. Note recent successes and achievements and make them about the company. Talk about how you delivered X that resulted in Y increase in sales and Z new customers. Show a trend of improvement and accomplishment to make the case for your raise.
Make sure you are being a valuable asset to the company and your monetary worth to the company will grow. Be honest with yourself about your performance and the value you provide the company. It is smart to time your request for a raise following a major success or accomplishment on your part. This time period is when your contributions will be crystal clear to your boss and other senior-level leaders.
Maybe you won the company an important new account recently or single-handedly created a new, streamlined system that is saving the company a ton of money. Use examples like this to argue in favor of getting a raise.
Many companies conduct quarterly or yearly performance reviews. These reviews are the perfect opportunity to talk about your raise with your employer. They're a meeting that's already been set up to talk about your work performance, making it an appropriate time to bring up a salary raise proposal.
If your company doesn't already do performance reviews then you'll have to set up your own meeting to discuss a raise. The end of the fiscal year is one of the best times to ask for a raise because this is the time period when the company is looking at the budget for next year anyway.
Many companies distribute incentives and offer raises around certain key dates in their fiscal year—which varies by company and whether or not the budget is on a calendar year or on a different fiscal calendar.
Find out how your company operates and when it has typically given raises in the past. If there seems to be a trend or pattern, use this to determine your timing. The following are BAD times to ask for a raise:
If a company is resorting to laying people off, odds are they are trying to cut down on costs, not hand out raises.
Raises often come because someone's work has been exceptional. If you know your performance has been subpar, it's going to be harder to justify a raise.
If your job already has performance reviews at the end of the year, it might be best to wait until then to ask for a raise. This is most likely when they're prepared to make budget adjustments to accommodate raises as well.
Your company’s performance is a major factor in the timing of your request for a raise. If you know the company is in a financial tight spot, then odds are they won't be able to give you a raise. You can still ask, but it might be more beneficial and professional to wait for a time when the company is doing better financially.
While you may not know the exact financial state of your company, do your best to make your request at a time when you believe the company can actually afford to give you a raise. Because you know your company, your boss, and your situation better than anyone else, there may be a few other timing variables to factor in.
Evaluate your current position and your company’s current situation. If possible try to project the future of the company and include any key findings or notable items in your proposal.
Once you've decided on when to ask for a raise it's time to do some salary trend research. Before you can get a raise you have to know what the market value of your work really is.
Don't forget to factor in variables like how long you've been working, your education level, and any added skills or certificates you bring to the job. There might also be differences in pay depending on your area. Bigger cities where the cost of living is higher and the job market is more competitive might have higher salary trends than calmer, more suburban areas.
Take everything you've learned from your salary trend and job market research and apply it to yourself. Insert yourself into the data you've collected to see what kind of raise you can reasonably ask for. This will also illustrate to your employer why you are justified in requesting this raise.
Don't forget to add any other variables that add to the monetary value of your expertise. It also helps when you can present this information with as much detail as possible.
Don't just say, "I made my department better." Give them numbers that show and prove how you made the department better like, "I increased sales revenue by 10% in the last quarter."
You should also prepare a raise percentage range that you would like to receive. It won't help you or your employer if you go into the meeting unprepared with how much you actually want to start making. An average raise to ask for is 3% and an average raise for exceptional work is 6%.
Go through your presentation ahead of time. Walk through your key points and practice asking for a raise and justifying your raise increase request. You can do this in front of a mirror or with a friend.
Remember to speak slowly, clearly, and confidently. Use your practice time to anticipate potential questions and comments from your boss and come up with responses. Be ready for anything that might come your way during the meeting.
Have the dollar figure that you would like to see your pay increased to in mind. To get the raise you want you need to be specific about the raise you want.
Have a specific range for a new salary number or raise percentage in mind. But give your employer a specific number at the top of your range instead of giving them the range itself.
By doing this you'll give your employer wiggle room to counteroffer with a lower raise percentage that still fits in your personal raise range. You also need to be specific about the date by which you would like to see this raise in effect.
All the details of your raise proposal need to be outlined clearly in your ask. It's also a good idea to request a response to your proposal by a specific date.
Once you're prepared to ask for a raise you should set up an actual meeting to talk about it with your boss. Raises aren't something to bring up casually with an employer. Let them know you're serious by scheduling an actual meeting with them to talk about the raise.
This will also give you time to sit down and explain all your reasoning behind why you deserve the raise. Provide a single-page handout for your employer to keep after the meeting.
On this raise handout, provide a simplified outline of why you deserve the raise and your research to back up the salary trends for your position and skill set. This will be helpful for your boss if they need time to consider the raise and how it might fit into the employee budget. They might also need to talk about your raise with other superiors and get permission before granting you the raise. A handout will make this process easier and provide your killer talking points to anyone else involved in your discussion when you aren't around.
Whether you get the raise you wanted or not, always express gratitude to your employer at the end of the meeting. It's important to keep a friendly and professional relationship with your employer, even if they can't meet your raise request at that time.
Even if you plan on seeking different employment if you can't get this raise, you'll still want to keep this work experience as a positive time in your work history. This will also help keep your network in the career field as open as possible.
Also, remember that not all raise decisions are in your employer's power. They have a business budget they must stick to and might not be able to afford the raise you want right now, regardless of how much they feel you deserve it.
Just because you know you want a raise that doesn't mean you know how much to ask for a raise.
An average pay raise is a 3% increase on what you're making now.
An exceptional pay raise is a 6% increase on what you're making now.
This doesn't mean that you can't ask for an even higher percentage range. But the higher the raise the more reasons you need to justify that raise request. For example, maybe you've gone without a raise for several years and would like a higher raise now to make up for that. Or maybe you have personal work expenses now like commuting to work that you would like to be compensated for now.
A combination of your personal job position and general trends in your field should dictate how much you should ask for in a raise.
Typically, you don't want to ask for a raise more than once a year. Raises that take place more frequently than that aren't very common unless there are special circumstances involved. For instance, maybe you just got a raise 4 months ago, but then suddenly something changes at work where you're now doing three times the workload. That would be an appropriate instance to ask for another raise even though you just had one in less than a year's time. But most often, the answer to "how often to ask for a raise" is once a year.
Justify asking for a pay raise by coming to the compensation meeting with your boss prepared. You need to be prepared to show the data supporting why this raise is a reasonable request for someone with your skills. You also need to show your work merit and all the benefits you bring to the job.
Give specific and detailed examples of salary research and work you've done that show clearly why you deserve this raise. Give a list of your accomplishments. Let them know all the hard and successful work you've already done and what you plan to continue doing for the company. Let your boss know what more they can expect from you should you get this raise. They want to know how you've been good for the business as well as how you'll continue to do good for the business.
In general, a 6% raise is considered appropriate for exceptional employees. This means that in general terms, a 6% raise is the highest raise you want to ask for. You can go beyond this to ask for a 10% or even a 20% raise but you'll need good reasoning for a raise this high.
Sometimes it's not just a raise you're asking for, but a title change as well. Job titles are important because they outline your responsibilities at work and show other future employers the amount of responsibility and trust previous employers placed in you.
Title promotions don't always include pay raises, but the raise in title can be enough to get you taken more seriously for raises later on. Company's also sometimes have salary caps on certain employee levels, meaning in order to get a raise, sometimes you have to change your job title first.
Asking for a job title change is like asking for your own internal job interview. Set up a meeting with your boss and come prepared to discuss why you are perfect for this new job position title. Outline your abilities to perform the new job title's functions and why it would be beneficial for the company to promote you to this position.
Include in your new job title interview an idea of the pay raise you would ideally like to receive once you have these new responsibilities. Provide any industry research that outlines how much you should be making in this new position.
One of the biggest reasons to ask for a raise is because of a workload increase.
If your current list of duties and responsibilities at work is larger than the one you had when you first started, than you might be due a raise.
Of course, you still want to keep other timing factors in mind.
For example, if you have an increased workload due to financial difficulties in the company, you might not be able to get a raise right now.
But you can certainly document all the extra work you are doing during the company's time of need and use this information to request a raise later when the budget is more flexible.
Either way, you should make a comparison chart to clearly illustrate the added workload you've taken on when you go to ask for a raise based on increased workload.
Another scenario you might come across is being underpaid.
Figure out whether you are underpaid by visiting multiple websites to find salary data in your field.
If you have friends or colleagues in your field you can also ask them about what they make at their jobs.
The main thing you want to do when asking for a raise when you are underpaid is illustrate to your employer how you are underpaid according to the current job market.
Then give them a raise percentage range that would take you up to where your salary should be.
Say you've done everything you're supposed to do, researched, prepared, scheduled a meeting, and your boss comes back with a raise offer that's too low.
Now what do you do?
You have two options:
1. Accept the raise you've been given and wait a year to ask for another raise.
2. Or, come back with another raise proposition or counteroffer.
Salary negotiations are about give and take.
Maybe you asked for a 6% raise and your boss comes back with a 4% raise offer. If you want, you can then try and propose a compromise of a 5% raise.
Generally, you're going to see the most success by being flexible and willing to compromise during salary negotiations.
It can be really hard to know what to say when asking for a raise. Especially if you've never asked for a raise before.
Here are a few dialogue ideas to help you know how to ask for a raise:
"I would like to set up a meeting to discuss my compensation with you, would that be alright?"
"Would (this day and time) work best for you?"
"Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and discuss my salary."
"I would like to request a salary adjustment."
"I would like to set up a meeting to review my salary."
"Here are some of the reasons I feel a raise is justified: (give key, detailed examples and data that show why this raise is deserved)."
"Based on the merits I've described; I would like to propose a (insert raise percentage) raise for myself this year."
"Thanks again for being willing to meet with me. When do you think I can expect a response to my raise proposal?"
You're in the meeting you've set up and now it's time to ask your boss for a raise. Here's an example of what that conversation might look like:
"I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me.
Recently I've taken on some new responsibilities at work. I now oversee three other employees and 4 new clients. I also finished an important project that has risen our sales by 20%.
Based on my recent work performance and increased responsibilities, I believe it reasonable to ask for a 4% raise. Ideally, I would like this raise to take effect the beginning of the next fiscal year.
I'll be looking for a response to my proposal in the next week.
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me and talk about my compensation."
From this formula you can see that you basically want to start with a thank you, outline why this raise is justified, outline your proposed raise and time frame, and end with another thank you.
The best place and time to ask for a raise is when you can ask in person during a meeting specifically scheduled to discuss compensation.
But there are possibly instances when you need to know how to ask for a raise via email. Maybe meeting directly with your boss just isn't possible at your place of work or maybe you work remotely.
In that case, here's a template for hot to ask for a raise email:
Small paragraph thanking the employer for your job and the opportunities it presents you.
Longest paragraph referencing the work you do and the contributions you make to the company. Be specific and give facts and statistics when possible. Don't forget to reference any other personal professional variables that might affect how much you should be paid like certificates you've earned.
Small paragraph requesting an in-person meeting to discuss your compensation further.
If you must discuss the details of your raise over email, then replace the final paragraph in the template above with a paragraph outlining the raise you would like to receive and when you would like this raise to take effect.
End the email with a request to get in touch again later with their response to your raise proposal.
Always ask for a raise in writing.
Even if you're following the ideal method and setting up an in-person meeting to discuss the raise, you should still put your request in writing.
This gives you and everyone else involved in your raise at work an official hard-copy of your raise request.
You never know when having something in writing will come in handy later down the road.
Format your raise request the way you would format a resume or cover letter.
Even if you land that big raise, you still need to keep your house in order with proper budgeting and financial planning.
Check back with the Check City Blog for more financial tips and tricks to help you become a personal finance pro.
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