We all could use a little extra in our paychecks, but asking for a raise is anxiety-inducing, even when you have a strong case to make. Asking for a raise without preparation can be awkward at best, and unsuccessful at worst.
A veteran hiring manager, Josh Doody, author of “Fearless Salary Negotiation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Paid What You’re Worth,” walks us through how to ask for a raise — and what to do if you’re turned down.
1. Research your value
It’s important to know how your salary stacks up with others in your field, Doody says. Start by researching and estimating your market value.
Look at Glassdoor.com, PayScale.com and any relevant industry sites to find the typical pay range for someone with your skills. If possible, find information specific to your region. Are you paid appropriately or compensated less than others doing similar work?
It’s not enough to just ask for more money, Doody says. You’re more likely to get results, he says, if you can approach your boss and say, “I’ve done quite a bit of research, and it looks like I’m 10% below the midpoint of industry pay range. The value of the work I do is greater than I’m being compensated here.”
2. Determine what’s changed
At some point, you agreed to your current salary. Now, you want more, but what has changed since then? To be successful, identify why your pay should be greater than what you originally agreed to, Doody says. Have you added value by taking on more responsibility? Have you done training and or taken classes to boost experience? Are your skills in greater demand in the job market?
Only ask for a raise if you can logically argue that you add more value now or are worth more than when you started, Doody says. Asking for a bigger salary because you’ve bought a house or want to purchase a BMW won’t fly with most bosses.
3. Find examples of your value
Next, collect examples of your accomplishments to demonstrate why you’re more valuable and deserving of a raise. Doody says specific examples are ideal — such as learning a new programming language, getting certified as a project manager or acquiring a different skill.
“You’re saying, ‘Not only am I more valuable and here are the things that have changed, but here are my biggest accomplishments that demonstrate I’m adding more value in a tangible way since my salary was set,’” Doody says.
4. Put your request in writing
Your research is done, but don’t meet with your boss just yet. Prepare a written explanation summarizing your raise request, including your market value estimation, clear reasoning for your increased value and specific examples, Doody says. You’ll ask for the raise in person, but you’ll give your manager this written request after you meet.
This accomplishes a few things, Doody says. First, it helps you articulate your reasoning and rehearse what you’ll say to your manager. If you’re having trouble making your case, that may be a red flag that you’re not ready for a raise.
Second, most managers must get salary approval from their bosses. If you have this document prepared, your manager can give it to the decision makers. They’ll be able to read your case rather than hear it second hand, and your version is likely much more compelling, Doody says.
5. Sit down with your manager
Now it’s time to ask for your raise, but because you’re already so prepared, Doody says this meeting shouldn’t be stressful. A face-to-face conversation is ideal, Doody says, but a phone call or video chat will suffice if you work remotely. If you have regular one-on-one meetings with your boss, that’s a perfect time to bring this up. If not, schedule one.
You’ll explain the raise you’re seeking and discuss everything you’ve prepared in your document. Afterward, hand your manager your written request or email it. You may get an immediate yes or no, or you may have to wait for others to weigh in.
Why you may be turned down
Despite all this preparation, Doody says, there are two common reasons why you may hear “no.”
- Your specific job title doesn’t allow you to be paid more at your company. Say you’re a junior software developer, and your company’s max pay for that role is $60,000. If you’re already making $58,000, a 10% raise would put you past the pay grade. In this situation, it may be better to pursue a promotion so you can go up in rank and pay.
- Your request was timed poorly. If your company does annual performance evaluations, this process usually means that employees receive raises from a set budget. If you ask for an increase in your salary during one of these cycles, there may be slim pickings for an extra raise, Doody says. He recommends instead going for an off-cycle raise, perhaps four to five months after the review process.
Your choices if you get a “no”
If you can’t get the raise you believe you deserve, Doody says one option is to look for opportunities elsewhere. But another option is to ask your manager for a plan to justify a raise in the future. Doody suggests telling your manager, “I thought I was ready for a raise, but you disagree. What value do I need to add to the company to make me more valuable so this raise can happen later?”
This conversation can be illuminating, Doody says, because it may reveal that the bottom line is you won’t get paid more. But if your manager seems game, ask for action items that will put you closer to a raise next time. Consider even asking for a written development plan, Doody says, which helps you plot out what you need to accomplish, the skills and experiences you need to acquire, and how you can become more valuable to command a higher salary.
If you’re thinking about leaving a job because you feel underpaid, Doody encourages you to talk with your manager first if you’re in a competitive industry. “Managers prefer for you to come and have this conversation with them rather than blindside them with a two week’s notice that you got an offer elsewhere,” he says. Doody adds that the odds are especially in your favor if you’re a tech worker in an in-demand position, and if you prepare with the above steps.
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Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, which provides clarity around decisions that help you start or grow your small business. We provide unbiased information, entrepreneur-focused advice, and tools for small-business loans, tax and legal issues. We also connect you with experts who can answer questions about growing your small business.