Negotiate Like a Pro — How To Ask for a Raise
Don’t stress out over asking for a raise. These tips will smooth out the process.
Contributing Writer at Tally
October 21, 2021
When you excel at work, a pat on the back or a simple congratulations won’t do. Receiving a raise can signal you’re doing well in a role, but it’s not always as easy as that. Some jobs give yearly raises like clockwork, but others only give raises with promotions or when an employee negotiates one.
Asking for a pay raise can be a stressful situation. Tons of questions are likely flowing through your head:
How do I bring the topic up to my boss?
How do I know how much to ask for?
How do I know my request is reasonable?
Take a deep breath and read on as we walk you through how to ask for a raise to get the pay increase you deserve.
When is it right to ask for a salary increase?
Timing can play a big part in asking for a raise. Ask at the right time and your boss may easily give it to you; ask at the wrong time and you may come off as demanding or insensitive. Here are some tips on what to consider when picking the right time to ask for a raise.
If your company is in the midst of budgetary cuts and people are being laid off or furloughed, it’s likely not the time to ask. Not only is it unlikely your boss has the budget for a pay increase, but it also makes you seem insensitive to the business’s needs.
On the flip side, when profits are soaring and the cash flows relatively freely, that may be the perfect time to request a higher salary. It’s also fine to ask when the company is operating as normal.
Your boss’s emotions
Remember, your boss is a human with human emotions. Being aware of these emotions can go a long way in getting your raise approved. If your boss seems particularly upset or distanced — or just had a stressful meeting with their supervisor — it may not be the time to ask for a raise.
However, if your boss just got great news about a client or you just had an excellent performance review, that could be a great time to bring up a pay bump.
Your time on the job
If you’ve worked under the same job title and same salary and performed at a high level for at least six months, this is an appropriate time to ask for a raise. You’ve demonstrated that you are skilled at your position and delivered great value to the company.
If you were just hired a few months ago or are within six months of your last pay increase or promotion, your boss may see your request as greedy.
Some companies have firm timelines for everything, including pay raises. If you know your company gives pay raises at a certain time of year — such as around annual performance reviews — you may want to wait until then to approach your boss about a raise.
You don’t necessarily have to wait for the exact day of your review. Instead, ask a few weeks to a month before they generally occur. You could say, “I know yearly pay reviews are coming up. I feel I’ve contributed a lot to the company. I’d like to sit down and speak further about my salary before my review.”
Preparing for the meeting
Compare your responsibilities
No company wants a “that’s not my job” type of employee. They prefer employees who see new responsibilities as challenges to take head-on.
Sometimes, these responsibilities reach a gray area between your current role and a higher role. For example, a non-supervisory employee managing an intern.
Look at others in your role to see if they have the same responsibilities as you. If you’re the only one taking on these higher-level responsibilities, use them to build your value.
You could present your management of the intern and the intern’s success as a way to discuss moving into a new job with supervisory responsibilities and a higher salary.
Collect salary data
Go into the meeting armed with all the salary data you can find. Sites like Glassdoor, PayScale and Salary.com offer aggregated salary data for people in your role nationwide and in your area. Use this data to help build your case for a salary raise.
Perhaps your role was a new one at the company, and the company didn’t realize the average salary was higher. Or maybe the company simply started low to leave room for future increases. Either way, this data is one of your strongest tools in the negotiation process.
Plus, this data will help you better understand if your salary request is reasonable.
You also have to keep in mind your company’s salary structure. If your company doesn’t give more than 3% raises without a promotion, you may want to structure your request to fit this.
Also, if you have close relationships with your co-workers, it may be worthwhile to ask them about their current salary or salary range. Ideally, you could talk to people in the same role as you or one notch above you to know what type of budget your company sets for these roles.
Be respectful when asking this information and let them know you’re using it only to make sure your requested raise is reasonable. Also let them know you have no plans to bring up this salary comparison to your boss. This is information gathering so you know your requested salary increase is at least within your company’s budget.
Outline your successes
Finally, make a list of all your successes in your role and how they’ve helped the company. Though your boss may already see you as indispensable, this list can help drive the point home and quantify your value.
When outlining your successes, focus on how they benefited the company. For example, if you saved an at-risk client from canceling, and that client went on to make large purchases, outline the revenue the client brought in after your save. Or, if your productivity rate is consistently well above the expected rate, present how much extra revenue this can bring in.
Also, don’t be afraid to paint failures as successes. For example, if you struggled in a specific area of your job early on and now are one of the best in that area, highlight this turnaround. This shows you’re not only aware of your shortcomings, but you work toward fixing them.
How to ask for a raise by delivering a strong case
The day has finally come for your salary negotiation meeting. Your boss is busy, so make this meeting count by delivering your case concisely and with confidence.
Make it brief
Again, your boss is a busy person. Out of respect for their time, plan to keep the meeting as brief as possible — don’t turn it into a one-hour PowerPoint presentation.
You could explain to your boss that it’s been at least 12 months since your last pay raise and you feel your contributions to the company, your hard work, your recent accomplishments and the additional responsibilities you take on beyond your job description merit an increase. You can then present a few of the successes you outlined earlier.
After presenting this data, don’t immediately throw out a salary expectation. Instead, let your boss process the information and respond. Your boss may have a number in mind that’s higher than what you wanted.
Prepare to negotiate
If your boss balks at your proposal or throws out a low offer, use your compiled data to support your case. Show your market value by presenting the average salaries in your position in the area and stress that you’re only seeking a salary adjustment to meet the going rate.
If your supervisor continues to balk at your pay raise request, you can attempt to negotiate other perks, such as:
Additional vacation time
A work-from-home arrangement
An enhanced annual bonus
Be ready to hear “no”
Unfortunately, your boss has every right to turn down your request for a raise. If your boss indeed shoots down your proposal, don’t become upset or issue any ultimatums. Instead, thank your boss for their time and suggest you revisit this topic at your annual review.
Though you may feel discouraged and upset by your boss’s refusal, put your best foot forward and continue delivering excellent work. If your boss sees their rejection didn’t harm your quality of work, they may be more open to future discussions about pay increases.
What to do with your pay raise
Now, what should you do with this extra money? Here are a few financially responsible ways to use this extra money.
Pay down debt
Consider applying extra income to your debt-payoff strategy. Since you set your budget using your old salary, the additional income you’ll bring home will be free and clear. Take this opportunity to earmark that extra cash to pay off high-interest debt.
Build your emergency fund
If you’ve already got your debt under control, apply the extra take-home pay to building your emergency fund. Remember, it’s recommended that this fund equal three to six months of living expenses.
Increase your retirement savings
It can also be a good idea to apply the extra take-home pay to your retirement savings. For example, if you have a 401(k) through your employer and apply 100% of the pay raise to it — this is possible since you make 401(k) contributions with pre-tax income — your take-home pay should be the same as it was before the raise.
If you’re investing in the stock market or an IRA, consider contributing only the after-tax, take-home portion of your raise.
Pay raise requests don’t have to be stressful
It’s never comfortable to talk salary with your boss, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a raise. By doing your research, understanding your company’s rules on pay increases and using solid negotiation strategies, you can make the process easier and improve your chances of getting a raise.
With the extra cash from your raise, you can accelerate your debt payoff strategy. You can also use the Tally† credit card debt repayment app to help you faster repay your higher-interest credit card debt. The app can help you roll all your credit card payments into one monthly payment — and Tally can offer you a lower-interest line of credit.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.