How To Ask For A Raise (With Examples)

By Ryan Morris - Mar. 18, 2021
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How do you ask for a raise? If you’re anything like most of us, you don’t. Or at least, you don’t for a very long time.

It’s tough to have a frank discussion with an employer about how much you’re worth to them, and tougher still if you’re the kind of person who’s allergic to confrontation.

But frank conversations like these are necessary to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of in the workplace — if you believe you deserve a raise, you should be able to ask for it.

You’re probably wondering when and how to ask for a raise, and what sort of preparation you should do ahead of time to make sure that the conversation goes smoothly.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a guide to help you figure out just that.

When to Ask for a Raise

Unless you’re particularly money-obsessed, if you’re asking this question at all, it may already be time. But deserving a raise and being capable of getting one are two different matters.

There are plenty of reasons you might deserve a raise — but to actually get one, you need proper timing and to get all of your resources in order first to make sure you state your case as well as you can.

Here are good times to ask your boss for a raise:

  • Performance reviews. Performance reviews are a great time to ask for a raise. You don’t have to initiate the conversation, really, so it removes a bit of awkwardness and anxiety from popping the question.

    Your boss or supervisor is probably expecting people to ask for raises around this time anyway, and if you have a particularly positive performance review, then it’s easy to segue into how your stellar performance is deserving of a bit more compensation.

    On the other hand, if your performance review isn’t great, then you might be better off waiting until you make positive adjustments based on the feedback you receive.

  • If your industry knowledge has increased. If you’ve made significant strides in your professional prowess during your time at the company, or if you’ve become a more marketable job candidate for other reasons, then it’s only natural to expect a higher salary.

    Whether it’s your company sponsoring you to upskill or you’re independently learning things that make you better at your job, you can use this new knowledge as leverage for a raise.

  • If you’ve taken on additional responsibilities at work. If you’re doing more work or have recently been put in charge of other employees in any way, it’s a good time to ask for a raise. As best as you can, quantify how those additional tasks have brought significant value to the company — money talks.

  • After a successful project. Depending on the nature of your job, some projects are more important than others. When you do excellent work on a critical project, it’s a good idea to ask for a raise while it’s still fresh in your supervisor’s mind. Just don’t over-do it by asking for a raise after each and every project.

  • If you’re a top performer. It can be tough to tell if you’re considered top-tier, but think of how you’re viewed around the office. If you’re well known around your work for being someone that consistently delivers or otherwise gets things done, that can present you with a lot of leverage in salary discussions.

  • When the company is doing well. This shouldn’t be the only reason you’re asking for a raise, but it makes a nice bonus if you also have one or more of the above reasons. Asking for a raise when your manager is stressing out about the budget and layoffs are looming in your department, you’ll come across as completely tone-deaf.

    On the other hand, if your company is experiencing record profits or growth, you’ve got great conditions for using the reasons listed above to snag a raise.

What to Do Before You Ask for a Raise

Even if you’re ready for and deserve a raise, you can’t go into a meeting with your boss swinging blindly. You have to take some time to prepare for your meeting before you move forward.

Think of a raise conversation as a second job interview. You’re trying to prove to someone that you deserve to be paid money for doing work for them — but in this case, you’re just trying to prove to them that you deserve more money than you’re already receiving.

So just like a job interview, you need to put together your numbers and qualifications so that when your boss asks you to justify your pay raise, you have the ability to do so.

Here are some things you should do before you move forward with asking your boss for a pay raise:

  • Do research. Find out what others in your same position are making right now, as well as how much salary you, in particular, could be earning based on your experience and education. This is one of the surest ways to get paid more money, assuming that the company has it to spare — if they know you can be making more money elsewhere, they’re often willing to pony up the dough.

  • Prepare your arguments. You want to have a plan in place as much as possible for how you’re going to act, but avoid giving yourself a script if you can. It’s hard to improvise if you plan your entire argument down to the letter, but prepare some bullet points of your top reasons and get ready to argue about how much you’re worth.

    Make a list of your recent accomplishments — especially those that have numerical data to back them up. For example, increasing sales by 14% or boosting website traffic by 10,000 viewers.

  • Have an exact number or percentage in mind. You don’t want to come into the meeting without a precise “ask” in mind. Use your research to come up with a number — note that choosing a non-rounded number may be more effective because it shows you did your research and haven’t arrived at your request randomly.

    If you feel speaking about your raise in terms of percentages instead of numbers, you can also opt for that. While many consider 3% to be a standard pay raise, you can certainly make the case for more. Aim higher than you actually expect to receive, because there’s a good chance your boss will negotiate your initial raise request down.

  • Practice and prepare for questions. Stressful moments become easier with rehearsal. Ask a friend, family member, or, even better, a coworker who’s gone through this process before to help prepare for your meeting. They can help pick out where your tone or arguments could use a bit of tweaking.

    Plus, you’ll get more comfortable with the conversation the more you run through your arguments. Also, have your mock manager ask you questions throughout this conversation, because your real manager certainly will.

  • Wait for the right time. If you start asking for a raise when the company is losing money and firing employees left and right, your boss is going to think that your grasp on the industry you work in is tenuous at best. And it might be enough to get your own job on the chopping block.

How to Ask for a Raise

Now comes the moment of truth — asking for the raise itself. There are a lot of things to keep in mind with this section, but if you followed our preparation advice above, you should be good to go.

Here’s a step-by-step process for asking for a raise:

  1. Request a meeting. A raise conversation should be private and in-person, or through video call if you’re working remotely. Ask your boss, privately, when would be a good time to discuss your salary.

    If you have a performance review coming up, you don’t need to set a meeting, but you might consider letting your manager know that you’d like to talk about your compensation ahead of time so they know it’s coming.

  2. Dress like it’s a job interview. You don’t want to come off as inauthentically put together just for the sake of this meeting, but you should wear your nicest work-appropriate clothes, fully-ironed and stain-free.

    Get your hair cut and throw on those nice-looking but super uncomfortable dress shoes. Show your supervisor that you’re taking this meeting very seriously.

  3. Start with a clear opener. Get straight to the point as the meeting kicks off — something like:

    I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. I’d like to discuss some of my recent achievements and how I’ve been adding value to the product team. As my responsibilities have grown significantly, I’m grateful for the chance to talk about my salary with you.

  4. Give a clear number. If your manager doesn’t immediately shut you down (which they shouldn’t, if you pre-arranged this meeting), then you can proceed with the salary or percentage raise you’d like to see. Mention how you arrived at that number based on your salary research.

    Based on the salary research I did for the sales representatives in Seattle with my level of experience and skill set, a salary increase of 6% is appropriate.

  5. Give your pitch. You should expect questions or comments after giving the number, but try to segue immediately into your reasoning. Talk about your recent accomplishments that are of significant value to the company. Mention those new responsibilities you’ve taken on.

    Whatever arguments you’ve prepared, this is the place to start using them. Keep this brief — there’s bound to be more conversation after this initial pitch. Something like:

    I’ve been consistent in hitting and exceeding sales quotas. In the last 3 months, I’ve exceeded goals by over 60%. I also brought in Hammermill as a long-term client, which will be a steady and significant source of income for the company.

  6. Answer questions. Unless your boss has already been dying to give you more money, you can expect some questions after your initial pitch. Your boss may ask about your salary research, about the impressive projects and the value of your specific contributions, or what you plan on doing differently or extra if given the raise.

    Bring in your salary numbers, have those achievement bullet points ready, and be prepared to discuss your future contributions. There will be some negotiation on the exact number, so be ready to compromise.

  7. If you’re rejected right away. If your boss flat out rejects any raise at all, be ready to ask pointed questions about what exactly you need to do to receive a raise in the future. You may also consider alternative options, like the ability to work from home sometimes, getting a bonus, or additional vacation time.

  8. Send a salary increase letter. It’s a good idea to put your salary increase request in writing. Your company will keep this on file as formal documentation of you asking for a raise, along with the number you asked for.

    This way, if you receive no raise or a smaller raise than you wanted, you’ll have an easier time making your case the next time you ask for a raise.

  9. Thank your boss. Even if you don’t get everything you want out of the conversation, be sure to thank your manager for their time. You can send a follow-up email that also expresses gratitude and, if your boss needs time to consider, reiterates your key talking points,.

    If you don’t feel you’re being compensated fairly, start looking for a new job. But in the meantime, continue to act like a polished professional at your current place of employment.

Tips on Asking for a Raise

Here are a few things to keep in mind while asking your boss for a raise:

  • Use strong language. When you use words like “may,” “might,” “believe,” “feel,” and “think,” you’re watering down your argument. You should be definite in how you’re contributing and why you deserve more money as a result. Be sure to maintain a balance between arrogance and confidence here.

  • Remain calm throughout the exchange. If you get emotional, it will show, and it could easily be held against you. One way or another, you want to be sure your boss doesn’t think you’re going to take their decision personally.

  • Remember that raises aren’t about rewarding you for your work. Practically speaking, they’re to keep you on retainer. If you’re making good money where you are, you won’t go looking elsewhere.

    So as you’re presenting your case, frame it in such a way that makes it obvious to your boss why they wouldn’t want to lose you to someone with deeper pockets.

  • Don’t give an ultimatum. Unless you truly are prepared to lose your position. If you do this, your old pal capitalism will teach you very quickly how much your boss truly values your contributions to the company.

Final Thoughts

Asking for a raise is never fun, but it’s an essential part of your career progression. As you get better at your job and make increasingly important contributions to your employer’s success, it’s only natural that you should be compensated accordingly.

Remember to prepare for the meeting, get your timing right, and stay calm throughout the process. If you follow the steps above, and you’ve been putting in good work, your boss is sure to give you a pay raise.

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Author

Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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Topics: Guides, Life At Work