How to Ask for a Pay Raise

How to ask for a pay raise? That’s the question that always come up one time or another during your career. May be you think you are underpaid, or your skills and responsibilities have grown, or you simply need more money. Here are some tips on doing your research, preparing for salary negotiation, negotiating techniques, and more.


Photo by Unhindered by Talent via Flickr

How to Earn More from Your Job without Asking for a Pay Raise

Before we go into asking for a promotion or negotiating a raise, there are a few things that you can do to maximize your income with your current job. Here are a few options for your to consider:

  • Work More Overtime — How much overtime and how often depends on your job situation, but there is a better chance to get overtime if you make it known to your manager or supervisor that you are available upon request.
  • Volunteer to be on call — Some jobs pay you a small amount to be on call in exchange for you to be ready for work within 1 or 2 hours. You still have limited freedom on your days off. In turn, you have the first dip on overtime if the need arises.
  • Ask for special assignments — Some assignments take you away from your home or office for a period of time. While you are on these assignments, most companies will pay for your travel, daily transportation, food, and lodging — saving you on your normal expenses. Some companies pay flat per diem for each day you are on the assignment, which can turn out to be more than your daily expenses and you get to keep the difference!

Note: these options may not work well for everyone — remember, your life and happiness come first, money second.

How to Ask Your Boss for a Salary Increase

Personally, I have done this a few times during my career. This is not a difficult exercise as long as you do your homework.

1. Do Your Research

Make sure you have a good reason (better if there are more than one) — “I want to make more money” is not a good reason. An excellent reason to ask for a raise is if you have the skills and knowledge, have been a good performer, and are making less than the average salary. Here are some excellent resources to do your research:

  • Salary.com — You can do a search by job title and zip code. This free service will give you nice income graph, salary range, break down of your total pay including benefits, and even a snapshot of your paycheck. With their premium service, you can do even more (I didn’t try this).
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics — This is a great site with a lot of data, and it lets you get wage data by state.
  • Various job and career sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com can also give you some idea on what hiring companies are willing to pay for someone like you, and the kind of skills and experience they are looking for. Are your skills up to date?
  • Similarly, your company’s internal job opening database is a good source of salary information
  • Your HR department may be able to provide you with information — i.e., if you are being paid more or less than average compared to others with the same job and years of experience.
  • Lastly, search firms and job agencies can give you an idea on how much your skills and knowledge command in the marketplace.

If your skills and knowledge is up to par, but you are underpaid, then you have a good reason to ask for a raise. If your skills or performance is not up to snuff, may be you need to work on them. If you are paid more than average for your job, may be it’s time to find a higher paying job that offers more opportunity for growth.

2. Mentally Prepare Yourself

Next you want to mentally prepare yourself before walking into the meeting with your boss. Negotiating for a raise could be nerve wracking if you are not prepared. Here are some points to consider:

  • Be clear and specific about what you are asking for. For example, don’t say: “I need a raise because you are not paying me enough.” Instead, tell your boss that you like your job, but you’ve beeing doing some research and feel that you are underpaid for the value you bring to the company. Say something about your performance, skills, and achievements. Then ask for a specific amount of pay increase — i.e., $5,000. You want to ask for more than what you want so there’s room to negotiate.
  • Prepare your talk track and practice. Practice with your spouse, your friends, or even in front of a mirror. You want to come off as reasonable and assertive, but not needy, whinny, or confrontational.
  • Consider other alternatives. If your boss cannot give you what you want, what about vacation days, flexible work hours, option to work from home, company car, reimbursable expenses, and so on.
  • Keep your career in mind. This is also a good time to ask your boss for feedback and discuss your career. Talk about developmental needs and other opportunities.

3. Act And Follow Through

Next you have to do it and actually go to your boss and ask for a pay raise. This is where most people stop and sell themselves short. Here are some points to consider:

  • Meet in person — Face-to-face meeting is best. Schedule a meeting with your boss well in advance. Personally, I prefer to make this a morning meeting to avoid any unforeseen situation.
  • Dress neatly — This is the day to look neat and clean, but this is not an interview so don’t pull out your suit if your office attire is casual.
  • Thank your boss — Regardless of the outcome, make a point to let your boss know that you appreciate the time to meet with you and listen to you.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some useful articles I found on this subject:

About the Author

By , on May 8, 2011
Pinyo
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo have enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

Leave Your Comment (6 Comments)

  1. Look at it from the business owner’s perspective. They:
    –>want to reduce costs and increase revenue;
    –>know that employees are the biggest expense to their company;
    –>want to keep productive employees who add value to the company.

    So, no matter what the economy is like, when interviewing for a job (or asking for a raise), you need to ALWAYS demonstrate your value to the company, and talk directly about that value. The only thing to focus on is the value you provide to the company.

    Find out all you can about the company, the position you’re interviewing for, and the biggest issues facing the company. Talk about how you can help solve those problems, and show how you’ve done similar things in the past.

    Maybe you’ve reduced costs, or increased revenue, or lowered employee turnover, or expanded a product line, or expanded sales into new markets. Whatever you’ve done, talk about it specifically. Think like a business owner. Ask yourself: if you were the owner, why should you hire this person (you)?

    Now that you’ve laid out the reasons WHY you should be hired, when the conversation turns to salary, you can talk about HOW MUCH you think you should be paid.

    Some people think that whoever gives out the first negotiating number loses; I disagree. Instead, YOU should be the one to set the salary anchor (the “anchor” is the number around which the negotiation takes place), and make that number significantly more than your currently (or offered) salary, but completely justified by your value to the company. Maybe a 40% increase is warranted, so ask for 50% (since it’ll likely be negotiated down). Whatever the number, say it matter-of-factly, and don’t blink. You’ve laid out your case and you know your value. Don’t be emotional. Practice your meeting with a friend or spouse.

    Back when I had a corporate job, I did this, and boosted my salary about 25%, when the typical salary increases at the company were 2%-4%.

    People are often reluctant to ask for more–especially if it’s a big jump in salary. That reluctance boils down to not valuing yourself; it’s fairly common, creeps into other situations and life choices, and can be extremely limiting.

  2. Pinyo says:

    @MoneyEnergy — I agree. As a manager, I’ll always do what I can to ensure my employees are paid fairly; however, it doesn’t always work out.

    As far as often can an employee ask, I think as long as you have a legitimate case, you should ask.

  3. MoneyEnergy says:

    On the other hand, it shouldn’t always be up to the employee to have to ask for a raise, should it? If it’s overdue and the employee is underpaid, shouldn’t the employer have some responsibility to keep the wages competitive?

    @Tom: I don’t think you should assume MW didn’t try. That post sounds a bit “on the attack;” why is that?

    One other thought I have is how often it is acceptable to ask for a pay raise: anyone have any thoughts here?

  4. Jonathan says:

    I totally agree with these comments, if you don’t ask you don’t get and why shouldn’t you ask for a raise, if you work hard and have done your research on market rates. I do think that you need to build a business case to justify your request. Most reasonable employers can’t refuse if you do your research well

  5. Tom says:

    Did you try?

  6. Minimum Wage says:

    Doesn’t work in the minimum wage world.

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