How to Succeed at Asking for a Pay Raise

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Asking for a pay raise is an awkward conversation for most people. While many companies have a pay increase policy, it may not address your needs. Competitive industries, such as tech, are usually more inclined to grant wage increases, but the question of a raise may still be valid. How should the conversation go? And what can you do to increase the chances of a salary increment?

The Key Elements of Asking for a Pay Raise

Is there a magic formula that will guarantee your boss saying yes?

Unfortunately not. But enough preparation will make a difference. Before you have the conversation, consider:

  • Company policy
  • Timing
  • Proof of your accomplishments
  • Market research
  • Your boss’s personality
  • Method of communication

The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be. If you believe in your skills and that you deserve a raise, negotiations will be much smoother.

Be Familiar with Company Policy

Many companies don't grant pay raises to employees except during employee-review cycles. Additionally, they may already pay competitive, industry-standard wages (which they may adjust for cost of living.) If this is the case at your company, and you demand an "out-of-cycle" pay raise, your chances of success are slim. You won't fare any better if you want more than the average for your position.

Check your employee policy manual (or similar document) for information on pay raises. Follow policy guidelines to the letter.

If there's no flexibility on out-of-cycle pay raises, perhaps wait until your next review. Then ask for a better-than-usual increase. You might see better results than trying to buck the system.

Time Your Request Right

When’s the best time to ask for a raise? If you’ve scored some recent wins, strike while the iron’s hot!

Did you hit your targets out of the park or finish a project ahead of time and under budget? Maybe you solved a serious problem for the company. Most bosses will recognize the merits of a reward under these circumstances.

Of course, the opposite holds true as well. Are you way off budget on a project and behind schedule? Then put pay increase negotiations on the back burner for now! If the scale of the work you do is disproportionate with the bump in salary you’ve been promised, you can still talk to your boss. Companies set budgets for pay raises before annual reviews, so don’t leave it until then.

Approach your boss a few months before and begin the conversation. They can investigate how much you do for the company to justify an out-of-policy increase. You’ll need to do your research to back up your argument. That takes us to the next step on how to ask for the raise you deserve.

Show What You’ve Accomplished for the Company

It's not a good idea to justify a raise with, "I need the money." Instead, prove that you deserve a pay raise by emphasizing your value to the company. Document your accomplishments, then present your case to the decision maker when the time comes. Be specific, use examples, and include impressive feats such as:

  • Revenue you earned
  • Money you saved
  • Customer satisfaction you achieved
  • Tight deadlines you met or beat
  • Solutions you implemented
  • Products or services you improved
  • Initiative you demonstrated
  • Extra hours you worked without overtime pay

Notice the action verbs in the list above. You might want to use those during the conversation to underscore what you’ve done for the company.

You could also play the long game if you think the time isn't right because of issues like financial difficulties or company restructuring. Consider taking on more responsibilities to justify a pay raise in the future.

In a nutshell: Don’t just ask for more money. Give the decision-maker incentive to reward you. If you do little above the call of duty, your employer probably thinks you get paid enough!

Research Your Market Value and Stick to It

Have a reasonable figure in mind and prepare to negotiate.

Establish your earnings range based on:

  • Your job
  • Company size
  • Location
  • Experience
  • Skills set
  • Demand

Here’s How to Research Your Field:

  • Look at salary surveys - Get a rough idea through sites like Glassdoor and Payscale. They contain salary data on a range of jobs. Numbers could be limited to industry averages, though,  and may not reflect experience, geography, demand, etc.
  • Talk to peers - Talk to people with similar circumstances--job, company size, area--for a more accurate idea of what you should be earning. You can use LinkedIn and other job communities to connect with peers if you don’t know anyone personally.
  • Analyze job postings - Not all job postings list salaries, or they may list a salary range. But they are more reflective of market value based on location and skills availability.
  • Speak to recruiters - If your field uses recruiters--and many jobs in tech do--try to obtain information on salary trends from them.

Know Who You’re Dealing With

Your boss’s personality type will help you decide how to ask for a pay raise. A boss who plays by the book may prefer a direct approach. Let them know in advance you would like a meeting to discuss your salary. Then be upfront about the increase you want and why it’s appropriate.

A different approach is to focus on a sales pitch or presentation to highlight your achievements. Some bosses are keen to listen when they see evidence of hard work.

Follow the chain of command when asking for a pay raise. If your immediate boss is a supervisor, don't go over your their head to the department manager. Instead, approach your immediate boss first and let him or her tell you the next step.

Choose the Best Way to Communicate

A meeting is more effective than a letter or email because a letter is an inflexible, one-way method of communication. It’s also easier for your boss to say no.

You can communicate and present your case better in a face-to-face meeting. And both of you can overcome objections on the spot.

What a letter or email can do is help you organize your thoughts and start the conversation. You can mention some accomplishments to show your boss how you'll broach the subject. In the same message, ask for an appointment to take discussions further.

In the Meeting

Be nice but firm when negotiating and don't get emotional. (Remember, it's business, not personal.) If your employer doesn't grant you a satisfactory pay raise, try negotiating concessions. Examples include performance-based bonuses, extra paid time off, perks or benefits. If negotiations are a success, get it in writing with authorizing signatures.

This page includes letter samples that ask for a pay raise or a meeting to discuss it. You may copy the text and modify it for personal use. (See the copyright notice in the box below.) Refer to the Letter Writing Desk for proper business letter formats in which to insert your modified text.

Pay Raise Letter Sample

Dear (Manager’s Name),

I'm grateful for the opportunity to work for you, and my time with the company has been a pleasant and rewarding one.

I hope you'll agree that in the two years I've worked for you, I've become an integral member of your team and accomplished a great deal. For example, in the last six months alone, I have

  • [Bulleted]
  • [list]
  • [of]
  • [major]
  • [accomplishments]

However, I'm still working on the initial salary on which we agreed two years ago.

As I recall, we also agreed to renegotiate my salary in two years based on my accomplishments, and that time has come. In light of my accomplishments and per our agreement, I'm respectfully requesting an immediate pay raise of six percent, to be followed in six months by a performance-based pay raise of an additional three percent.

I strongly feel that I've earned the immediate pay raise and I'm confident that I will also earn the six-month raise based on my performance. But I'm willing to negotiate, per our agreement. If you would like to meet to discuss this, please let me know. If I don't hear from you by [reasonable date], I will assume that you've waived our meeting because you've agreed to my terms.

Thanks again for the opportunity. I look forward to continuing to be a key player on your team in a mutually-rewarding relationship.

Pay Raise Letter Sample Asking for Meeting # 1

Dear (Manager’s Name),

I'm grateful for the opportunity to work for you, and my time with the company has been a pleasant and rewarding one. I would appreciate your advice on how to increase the reward for my contributions. Would you please schedule a time for us to meet within the next week or so?

Any time that is convenient for you will work for me.

I look forward to our meeting.

Pay Raise Letter Sample Asking for Meeting # 2

Dear (Manager’s Name),

I'm grateful for the opportunity to work for you, and my time with the company has been a pleasant and rewarding one. I'm also pleased that you've added new responsibilities to my job and I appreciate the chance to grow my skills. I would like to meet with you to further discuss my new responsibilities and the possibility of a pay raise for performing them well.

I can meet with you anytime this week that is convenient for you. If this week isn't convenient, please let me know.

This article has been updated by Laurence Bradford