How to Ask for a Raise

Mary Gormandy White
Paycheck Stubs

Asking for a raise is not something you should approach lightly. Before requesting higher pay from your boss, you need to be prepared to make a solid, fact-based argument on your reasons for requesting additional compensation. For the greatest chance of success, plan your request carefully, and be sure that your reasons are sound, your timing is appropriate, and your demeanor is professional.

Start With Two Types of Research

1. Market Research

Before asking for more money, conduct some research to find out what the going rate is for the type of work you perform in other companies in your industry that are located in the same geographic area where you work.

  • You can do this by talking to networking contacts in jobs similar to yours and scanning job postings for equivalent positions to see which ones list compensation. Also check to see if there are published salary surveys specific to your location.
  • The local Chamber of Commerce may have access to this kind of information, or your state's department of labor may publish data that you can use. For example, the Alabama Department of Labor publishes quarterly and annual wage reports online that you can review by county or by industry.

If you discover that your wages are below the market rate, you can use this information to make a case for your request. If, however, you learn that your pay is at or above market rate, you will need to try a different approach - or possibly change your mind about asking for more money.

2. Company Research

In addition to getting a general sense of what jobs like yours pay overall, try to get a sense on the climate within your company regarding pay increases.

  • Find out if there is a formal pay range for your job. This will give you an idea of the minimum and maximum pay for your position so you'll have a sense of where you fall. Start by looking at your job description to see if the pay range for the position is published on it. If it's not there, ask the human resources (HR) representative in charge of compensation if there is a published pay range for your job.
  • Review company policies and practices related to pay increases. The employee handbook is a good place to begin. Also, if you have been there for a while, reflect back over times that pay increases have been given in the past. Do pay raises typically come only at performance evaluation time or when a promotion is offered? Is there a minimum time frame between raises? Has there been a freeze on pay increases lately? If you have not been there very long, ask a trusted co-worker or the HR representative.

The information that you gather can help you make an informed decision regarding how much to ask for and when to time your request for the best chance of success.

5 Steps to Planning Your Approach

1. Know What to Ask For

Based on the research you conducted, set a realistic pay increase goal to request. For example, if your company historically only gives three percent increases and your wages are above the midpoint of the pay range for your current job, don't go in and ask for 20 percent. If your request is too far out of line, chances are that your boss will simply dismiss you without consideration. If it's within the realm of possibility, however, you may find that your boss is open to hearing what you have to say and may grant your request.

2. Identify the Reasons for Your Request

Make a list of the specific reasons that you feel you deserve a pay increase. These reasons should be presented in terms of why you are an invaluable asset to the company, not from the perspective of you needing more money. The list should include your unique skills, significant contributions, ways your responsibilities have increased since the last time your pay was adjusted, and other similar types of information.

3. Practice Your Request

Study the list you came up with to the point where you can easily recite it. Take that information and work it into a persuasive argument that you can use to make your case to your supervisor. It's a good idea to write out what you want to say, just as if you were preparing a speech or presentation for a client. Practice what you are going to say, ideally in front of a trusted friend (outside of the workplace) and ask for feedback. Make adjustments as needed until you are comfortable stating your case in a professional way. Be sure that you do not come across as whiny, overly demanding, or as if you are making a threat or giving an ultimatum.

4. Choose the Right Time

Consider timing very carefully as you prepare to ask for an increase. You should consider timing in terms of your own accomplishments, as well as what is going on in the company.

  • Did you just complete a significant project, accomplish a major milestone, take on additional duties, or do something that saved the company a lot of money or brought in new business? If so, this could be a good time to make a case for why your pay should be higher.
  • If you know your boss is working on the budget for next year, it's probably a good idea to ask for a raise before he or she finishes so that the new amount - if approved - can be built into the budget.
  • If the company is facing economic hardship, has recently been through layoffs, has just lost a major customer, or is facing increasing competition, hold off on making your request. Asking for more money in such circumstances could send a message that you are out of touch with what is going on in the company.

5. Set a Meeting

Request a meeting with your boss to discuss your request. This will be better than just catching him or her during a free moment for a variety of reasons. First, asking for a meeting introduces a certain level of formality to your request. Your boss will know that this isn't something you are doing on a whim or just because you had a bad day. Additionally, setting aside a meeting time increases the likelihood that you will have your supervisor's full attention during the conversation.

2 Steps to Making the Request

1. Meeting With Your Boss

Treat the meeting with your boss just like you would treat a job interview or a meeting with an important client. After all, it is a sales meeting, and your goal is to convince your supervisor to agree to pay you more money.

  • With this in mind, wear the highest level of professional attire appropriate for your position.
  • Arrive a few minutes early and be prepared to have a constructive conversation.
  • Greet your boss professionally, maintain appropriate eye contact, and exhibit good manners.
  • Exhibit a positive attitude throughout the meeting, no matter what the outcome is. Even if the answer is 'no' today, remain professional and polite in demeanor. Failing to do this could cause a temporary 'no' to become a permanent one.

2. Follow Up in Writing

Within a day of the meeting, follow up with your boss in writing, either via email, a hand-written note, or a formal business letter - whichever is more appropriate in light of your relationship.

  • Thank your supervisor for taking the time to speak with you about your concerns and reiterate your request, along with the key reasons you feel that it is warranted.
  • If your boss indicated steps that you need to take before a raise can be considered, mention those and give an overview on your plans for making progress.
  • If other concerns were raised during the meeting, address those in the letter as appropriate.

Even if you already got an answer, whether it was yes or no, it is good form to follow up in writing, at least with a statement of appreciation for your supervisor's time and consideration.

Be Prepared for the Answer

Making a request for a pay increase is just that - a request. You may get a positive answer, but you may not. Either way, as long as you handle the process professionally, you can make progress toward building a positive, credible image for yourself in the workplace.

How to Ask for a Raise