Salary Negotiation Tips: How to Ask For (and Get) a Raise

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If it’s been a while since you’ve had a decent raise, you’re not alone. The Washington Post recently reported on the low unemployment rate and also took note of the general lack of pay increases due to slack in the labor market. According to experts, a wage spike may be on the horizon.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages and salaries increased 2.1 percent for the current 12-month period, and benefit costs increased 1.8 percent for the 12-month period ending June 2015.

The time could be right for you to better your personal salary picture and make sure you’re part of the coming compensation spike. If you’ve decided to ask for a raise, go in with a plan.

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Know the Data

“I think it’s best not to think of asking for a raise but rather how to present the fact that you deserve a raise,” says Kate White, the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and the bestselling author of the career guide I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve.

If you’ve increased your value to your company, you’ve earned a raise. Arm yourself with specifics about your performance that will support your pay raise request. Show how you have added clients, increased revenue by X dollars, or cut the budget.

Diane Gottsman specializes in etiquette and leadership training, with clients ranging from university students to Fortune 500 companies. She says it’s a good idea to do your research to learn what others are making in your field when you ask for a raise. Check, LinkedIn and for data.

Take into consideration your experience, tenure of service and contributions to the company, as well as the job market in your city before you ask for a meeting with your boss.

“Never point to someone else’s salary as a reason you are asking for a raise,” Gottsman cautions. “There is no benefit to bringing up information that is not public knowledge for discussion. It could land both of you in trouble if your company has policies against discussing salary information with coworkers.”

Instead, speak about industry specifics and pay ranges in your community. Maintain focus on your accomplishments and be honest about your motivation.

“Get in there several months before raise time, because at raise time the amounts have already been set,” White says. Try to get your boss to name a number first, and then negotiate from there.

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Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Asking for a raise is not a one-time only event. And it’s not just about money.

“Don’t focus only salary, an area for which an employer may be constrained; there may be other areas that can have a lot of value that might be added to the negotiation,” advises Ed Wertheim, Associate Professor and negotiation expert at the D’Amore-Mckim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. 

Examples include tuition reimbursement, health benefits, flex time, severance pay and other perks.

“Pay a lot of attention to benefits,” Wertheim adds. “These can be quite valuable. A great health plan may offset some disappointment in a salary offer. Don’t negotiate each item at a time; negotiate a whole package. Tradeoffs can work to your advantage.” 

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If you feel nervous about asking for a raise, ask a trusted friend or family member to rehearse the conversation with you a few different times. Have your friend ad-lib responses to your main points, so you are prepared and relaxed by the time the real conversation arrives. 

Don’t hesitate to prepare a short report that summarizes the ways in which you’ve impacted your team’s performance. Having everything in writing will make the conversation go more smoothly and show that you’ve carefully considered your request. Take the emotion out of it and focus on the data.

Plan for Future Negotiations

Your boss might say no to your request for a raise, so it’s a good idea to plan your response if you don’t get the answer you are expecting. Keep your cool and focus on how you can achieve your goals in the future.

“If your boss doesn’t agree to give you a raise this time around, there may be other perks she would consider,” says Gottsman. “You might negotiate working a half day on Fridays or leaving early a couple days a week to make cold calls on potential clients. Come up with your own list of options, and be prepared to talk improvement.” 

According to a report prepared by Clear Management Human Resources Consulting, employers are putting a big proportion of their merit increase budgets toward high-performing employees. Middle performers earn an average increase of about 2.8 percent. The highest performers earn an average salary increase of 4.1 percent. The lowest performers might see no increase at all.

If you were turned down based on your job performance, ask for specifics in order to help you to grow. Before the meeting is over, ask when you can get together again to talk about progress to make sure a raise is in your future.

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