As you progress in your career, it’s only natural to expect compensation for your expanding skill set and expertise. But don’t think it will happen on its own. Often, the difference between asking for a raise and actually getting one is your ability to negotiate with and prove your worth to decision-makers.
From researching your professional value to being conscious of timing, the negotiation tactics you use when requesting a salary increase will directly impact your success — and the amount you’re offered.
10 Steps for Negotiating a Salary Increase
Whether you’re hoping for a higher salary from your current employer or a new one, it helps to have a strong starting position. Don’t request an increase without considering your market value, the timing of your request, and what you’re willing to accept.
Before starting a salary negotiation, use these tips to get the most from your efforts.
1. Know Your Numbers
Your base salary is influenced by a variety of factors, including where you live, the industry you work in, and your level of experience. The first step you need to take when preparing to ask for increased compensation is to research the average salary range for your position in your area.
You can do this using a salary calculator such as:
Once you have an idea of your average market value, it’s time to consider how your skills and experience set you above the rest. For example, are you well-versed in a desirable programming language, or have you won a notable award for graphic design? Perhaps you’ve worked with impressive partners or landed a significant deal.
Regardless of whether you’re aiming for the higher end of your position’s compensation scale or you’re looking to expand beyond it, having a realistic idea of your professional market value gives you accurate and practical insight into what kind of salary you can reasonably ask for from a hiring manager or boss.
2. Prove Your Worth
Knowing what you want in terms of a salary offer and actually getting it are two different things. Simply asking for a bump isn’t always enough to convince a prospective employer or boss that you deserve it.
Before entering into a salary negotiation, review your most impactful and notable accomplishments and jot down the numbers associated with them. Remember to include actual values instead of generalizing them to really drive your point home.
For example, by what percentage did you increase sales, or how much additional profit did you bring in? Alternatively, by how much did you reduce customer service requests, or how early did you complete a major project before the deadline?
Outline your most impressive contributions so that it’s easy for decision-makers to see what makes you worth a pay increase or higher offer.
3. Consider Timing
The timing of your request for more compensation has a major effect on whether it succeeds. Increases are more likely to be accepted if you ask for them:
After a Successful Project
If you recently wrapped up a successful project that brought in more money, saved on expenses, or improved day-to-day operations at the company you work for, now’s a great time to ask for a raise. Just make sure that the project’s been wrapped up and enough time has passed to prove it was lucrative.
And don’t ask for a raise after something you’ve worked on has yielded poor results.
When the Company’s Doing Well
Many companies offer quarterly reports or presentations to employees that demonstrate the growth (or lack thereof) the business has experienced in the past quarter. Asking for a raise when the company’s experiencing a decrease in sales or has had to cut staff is most likely going to be met with refusal. And it will make you look bad.
Instead, ask for a raise when the company is performing well. This doesn’t have to mean that it’s experiencing unprecedented growth — you can still ask for a raise when the company is moving along as expected. Just don’t ask for one when the company is struggling.
At Review Time
If you have annual reviews, they’re an opportune time to start negotiating salary adjustments. Review your accomplishments since the last review period and use them to bolster your request. Point to goals you set and met, responsibilities you’ve taken on, and any successful projects you’ve contributed to at your current job.
After a Job Offer
If you’re looking for a new job, you can negotiate the first offer they give to you if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Counteroffer with the number you’re comfortable with, but don’t forget to consider their compensation package as a whole. While they may offer a lower starting salary than you expected, they may provide additional perks like outstanding health insurance, a signing bonus, or in-office child care.
Although it’s appropriate to provide an expected salary range when asked during the interview process, try not to get too far into salary negotiations until you have a formal offer in hand.
Alternatively, you can also use a job offer as leverage with your current employer. Let them know you received a higher offer from another company and give them a chance to counter. This way, they can decide if they’re willing to match the offer you received, or if they’d rather let you go. However, make certain that you actually want to work for the offering company, since it won’t look great if you don’t get an increase but stay with your current employer anyway.
When Your Responsibilities Change
Sometimes, your professional responsibilities change slowly over time, meaning your current salary no longer matches your role. For example, if you start training new hires or help your boss with project planning, your title may be the same, but your lower salary doesn’t reflect your day-to-day duties.
This is an ideal time to ask for a raise, as long as your job duties have actually changed on a consistent, ongoing basis. One-off responsibilities don’t count, such as staying late to help your manager meet a deadline once a couple of months ago.
4. Choose Your Compensation
While most raises consist of a salary increase at their core, it’s also important to consider your entire benefits package. Your total compensation consists of everything from vacation time to health care, so be prepared to include these considerations in the negotiation process if your boss or potential employer isn’t able to offer you the salary you ask for.
Consider accepting compensation in the form of these perks and benefits:
- Tuition reimbursement or a professional development budget
- Stock options
- Additional time off
You can even ask for non-monetary compensation, like a new job title or options to support a healthier work-life balance like flexible hours or remote work.
5. Pick an Amount
Before you ask for a salary increase, you need to know what you want. Base the number you ask for on average salaries for local professionals in your area and industry, what you make now, and any additional skills you bring to the table.
You can start with a range, but you should still have a specific amount in mind, whether it’s a number or a percentage — for example, $65,000 or a 5% increase. If you don’t tell your boss or potential employer what you expect, they may not offer you what you want.
How much you ask for depends on the reason and timing of your request. If you’re only asking for a raise because it’s been a year or so since your last one, and your job duties haven’t changed significantly or permanently, expect between 3% and 5%. If you’ve taken on a new role and responsibilities, and you have the numbers to prove your success, it may be appropriate to ask for a 10% to 20% raise.
6. Be Flexible
Whether you’re asking for more money from your employer or from a recruiter or hiring manager during a job search, be prepared for a back-and-forth conversation about compensation. After all, it’s a negotiation.
Have a specific number in mind that you’re willing to accept in terms of salary, and consider what other benefits or types of compensation will impact the amount you ask for.
Don’t expect to throw a number out there and have it immediately accepted. Although it’s not impossible, chances are you’ll be given a counteroffer, and you need to be ready to either discuss it or take it.
Be prepared to have a conversation with your boss or hiring manager about what you’re asking for compared to what they can offer you. Listen to their reasoning and be willing to consider what they have to say. They’ve given you the respect you deserve in hearing you out, now it’s your turn to mull over whatever they come back with.
7. Set Your Emotions Aside
It’s easy to let your emotions take over when discussing a raise, which directly impacts your financial freedom and quality of life. But it’s crucial to keep your cool and remain polite, professional, and calm during compensation discussions.
Even though negotiations can be stressful and frustrating, becoming visibly angry or upset won’t do you any good. If the conversation gets too heated or you feel yourself getting emotional, ask to take a break.
Ideally, though, you want to keep the discussion straightforward and to the point. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out ordeal. Make your request, state your case, and give your boss or hiring manager time to think about it. It’s unlikely you’ll get an answer on the spot anyway because salary increases typically have to go through other departments like human resources and accounting.
8. Book a Meeting
Another way to manage your emotions is to plan for the conversation in advance. Book a meeting with your boss or hiring manager beforehand so you can both be prepared. Feel free to let them know you’d like to schedule a time to discuss your compensation so that you’re both aware of the purpose of the meeting.
This gives you both time to prepare by reviewing your performance, salary, and accomplishments. You can even practice negotiating with a friend or family member to give yourself a confidence boost and figure out how to handle difficult questions.
Having a specific day and time in place gives you ample time to prepare and ensures you have a chance to present yourself professionally. Choose a nice outfit, print out any relevant documents, and clear your schedule so you aren’t interrupted.
9. Follow Up
As mentioned, you likely won’t get an immediate response to your raise request. Instead, your boss or hiring manager will probably have to discuss it with their boss, human resources, and accounting. But make sure that you don’t let it get swept aside.
If you don’t hear back within a week, follow up with your boss or hiring manager to ask for an update. Don’t let them avoid giving you an answer, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. If your request is refused, it can affect whether you accept a job offer or start looking for new employment.
While it’s reasonable for your boss or hiring manager to take some time to contemplate your salary increase, don’t let it get to the point where their noncommittal is keeping you from taking the next step.
10. Have a Backup Plan
If you’re negotiating a job offer from a potential employer, your next step will either be to accept or refuse the counteroffer you receive.
But if you’re negotiating a salary increase with your current employer, your next steps are more complicated. If you get the raise you were hoping for, then you can continue on as normal. But what happens if you don’t? Are you prepared to quit your job? Or are you going to accept the refusal and try again next year?
When asking for a raise, it’s important to consider what will happen if you don’t get the counteroffer you expect or if your request is met with refusal.
If your employer can’t offer the raise you were hoping for, ask them what you can do to get there and ask for a reevaluation in three to six months based on your performance.
Alternatively, start getting your resume and cover letter up to snuff so you can apply for positions with other companies.
Negotiating a salary increase often feels intimidating and stressful, but as long as you’re prepared, you stand a better chance of getting a raise.
Research salaries for comparable positions in your area, track your most impressive and successful projects, and approach the process with professionalism to increase your chances of getting what you ask for. Following these tips can help you to feel more confident, collected, and qualified when asking for more money from an employer or hiring manager.