How to Ask for a Raise

Five tips on how—and when—to request your salary increase.

How to Ask for a Raise

Learn how to ask for a raise the right way.

You need to know how to ask for a raise. For workers in every industry and at every level, this is one of those lessons that is about as elementary as learning to tie your shoes and spell your name.

Granted, and you've probably been told—or you've at least told yourself—that you should be grateful to have a job at all, especially if the economy is in a tight spot. But the market fluctuates and eventually, you will find yourself wondering when and how to ask for a raise.

More money doesn't guarantee that you'll be happier or more productive in a job in the long run. Although you might feel giddy thanks to a raise, the joy is fleeting. What's more critical is that you're getting paid what you're worth. By being fairly compensated and financially rewarded, you'll likely feel that your company values the work you do, and that counts toward enduring job satisfaction.

There's no time like right now to do your homework and prepare your raise request in a professional way.

How to Ask for a Raise

Step 1: Consider Timing and Phrasing

Timing, as they say, is everything. And while it's not necessarily everything when it comes to asking for a raise, it is certainly a very big something. Carefully consider the situation that your company is in before you move forward.

A down economy or particular rough patch for your company shouldn't prevent you from asking for a pay increase. But you also don't want to march into your manager's office and appear clueless. "You can start by acknowledging to your boss that these are indeed tricky times," says Vicki Salemi, Monster's career expert. Say something like, "I know this hasn't been a typically normal business-as-usual type of year, but my performance has excelled based on XYZ. Is it possible to consider a raise for the coming year?"

That said, if your company furloughed and/or laid-off employees, it's probably best to hold off, or at least keep your expectations in check. You can still ask for a raise when things begin to improve, as long as you do it with the understanding that your boss may want to pay you more, but may not be able to.

Step 2: Arm Yourself with Facts

Once you're confident that the timing is right, the next step of how to ask for a raise is to go in prepared. "Before asking for a raise, always know your worth," says Salemi. You can gather information from a variety of sources including:

  • Your HR department: Some organizations may disclose salary ranges on the company's intranet site or if you reach out and ask.
  • Industry research: Contact the national professional organization for your industry (such as the AICPA for accountants), and look on their website for local chapters, says Salemi. If you don't already have contacts locally, reach out to see if they have a going rate in mind for someone with your skills and experiences.
  • Salary databases: These can be useful tools for a general ballpark, but keep in mind that salaries can fluctuate widely depending upon the type of company as well as geography. Monster's Salary Tool allows you to search by job title and location so you can get a more accurate number.
  • Former bosses and colleagues: Get a sense of what they pay someone in their organization with your skills and experiences.

Once you gather this information, think about how your salary stacks up. For instance, if you've determined that your job pays a range of $80k–$100k, and you have several years of experience, it's reasonable to aim for the top of the range. "This salary insight is also incredibly helpful to use as a guideline when you start job searching externally as well," says Salemi.

Step 3: Describe Your Quantifiable Accomplishments

After you have a salary figure in mind, you need to know how to ask for a raise in such a way that it's almost obvious why you're asking.

Start by listing out all you've achieved throughout the year and try to make your metrics as quantifiable as possible—something like "I exceeded my quarterly sales quota by 20%." Managers can't argue with numbers.

After you compile your bullet points, schedule a meeting with your supervisor—in person, if possible. During the conversation, share your findings and your list of accomplishments. You can also discuss additional ways in which you're eager to contribute to the business if you're seeking a promotion.

Step 4: Have a Backup Plan

If you're turned down for a raise because economic conditions more or less forbid it, you could ask for other forms of compensation.

First, see if a spot-award bonus or a year-end bonus can be awarded. "Oftentimes," says Salemi, "it's considered differently within the budget because it's not direct compensation and usually won't create an imbalance in internal equity among your peers."

If money is tight, you can try asking for more personal time off, or reimbursement for online home expenses like your monthly WiFi bill and office equipment, especially if you work remotely. It might not be the raise you want, but it can be a show of good faith that reinforces your value.

Step 5: Discuss Next Steps

If your boss is open to your request or flat-out approved it, don't leave without discussing the next steps. You can start by asking that they put your raise agreement in writing, and loop in HR and/or payroll as needed.

If a raise is future-dated for a few months down the road, still get that approval in writing and then follow up to make sure that the raise actually occurs when it's supposed to.

Another possibility is that your boss may ask you to table the discussion for a later date. If that's the case, put it on your calendar to remind yourself to follow up and take the initiative to do so.

Alternately, Look Elsewhere for a Better Salary

If you're been given the runaround, or if no raise is in sight, knowing how to ask for a raise won't get you the results you're after. It's time to fire up a job search and get paid what you deserve. Ready to take the first step? Make a profile on Monster for free and we can hook you up with the right kind of jobs that match your needs—financial and otherwise.