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You’re minutes from knowing how to ask for a raise and get it. Start by thinking about this—
Asking for a raise can make your stomach churn. What if they say no? What if it turns into a fight? Why rock the boat, right?
But here’s the thing. You’re not wrong to ask. You’re not greedy. Asking won’t hurt. Just be respectful, and don’t demand the moon.
Asking for a raise means showing your track record in a way they agree with. You’re not begging for a gift or a favor. This is part of having a job.
You just need a few tips to know how to get a raise without ruffling feathers.
This guide will show you:
- How to ask for a raise in 5 steps.
- How to negotiate a raise to get paid what you’re worth.
- When to ask for a raise to increase your chances.
- What to do if they say no (so they still say yes).
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Get Ready to Negotiate a Raise
Sweaty palms time.
You walk in. You sit down. You say, “I’d like a raise.”
Your boss rubs her eyes. She talks budgets and policies. In the hallway five minutes later you want to kick something.
You didn’t get a raise, and you feel awful.
It’s not that you don’t deserve more money. You just weren’t prepared.
Ready for the best way to ask for a raise?
The Best Way to Ask for a Raise
The best way to ask for money is to deserve it.
Does that sound cliché? Okay, but—
Prepare asking for a raise by being worth more than your title.
Ask yourself this:
- When do I go above and beyond?
- What value do I create?
- What are my biggest accomplishments?
- Do I bring in extra revenue? Save time? Improve quality?
- Am I more than my job title?
Those are your biggest levers to get what you’re worth.
Need leverage? Before you ask for a raise, when your boss praises you, put it in an email folder called, “kudos.”
Pro Tip: Don’t think you deserve a raise yet? Are you underperforming? Find ways to get better at your job. Then circle back and ask later.
What else do you need besides money? After you ask for a raise, see our guide: What Are Your Career Goals: Set & Reach Them
Know When to Ask for a Raise
“Sorry, our budget is already in place.”
Don’t let them say that.
You need to know when to ask for a raise. And yes, there’s a right time and wrong time.
When Should You Ask for a Raise?
What’s the perfect time? Consider these points:
1. Ask when the company is making its budgets.
Companies have budget cycles when they plan, approve, and execute spending. Learn your company’s cycles if you can, then ask during the planning stage.
2. Don’t ask when your boss is grumpy.
Interpersonal skills are a massive career tool. Use yours by feeling out whether the boss is having a rough day or on top of the world. Ask for a raise when she’s flying high.
3. Ask for a raise right after you save the day.
Did you just land a big client? Solve a teeth-chattering company problem? Right after a big career win is the best time for asking for a raise.
4. Wait a year before asking.
How long since your last raise? If the company hired you a year ago and you haven’t had a raise, now’s the time. Less than a year since your last raise is too soon.
5. The best time is two months before your performance review.
Don’t wait for your performance review. Most companies decide the size of your raise a month or two sooner. So—have the discussion before your review.
One more tip about when to ask for a raise? Do it right after lunch. People are more relaxed and agreeable after a meal.
Pro Tip: What’s the worst time to ask for a raise? When quitting would crash the company. That’s blackmail. You may get the raise, but you’ll also get replaced.
Are you underpaid? Are you asking for a raise because your job is a drag? See our guide: I Hate My Job. I Hate My Boss. Here's What to Do *Now*
Evaluate Your Worth Before You Ask
“You’re already paid more than most for this job.”
Nobody wants to hear that.
So—before you ask for a raise, build your case.
- What the company will pay
- What you bring to the table
Here’s an example:
How Much of a Raise Should I Ask For?
You can ask for 10%–20% more money than you’re making right now without seeming greedy. So if you’re making $40,000 a year, you should be able to ask for $44,000 to $48,000 without getting laughed out of the conference room.
Do some digging first.
How much does the industry pay?
Forewarned is forearmed. Find out how much others in your industry are making. If they make more, that’s your ammo.
How much does your company pay?
Don’t go in cold. Learn your company’s average salary increase for promotions and raises. HR may be happy to share that. If not, ask other employees.
Does the salary structure seem piddling? The average salary increase is 3.1%. You’re probably not average, but it helps to know the playing field.
What have you achieved?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Never mind salary averages for your industry or company. Know what you’re worth.
Build a list of your job achievements. For example, when I negotiated a raise at one company, I knew my predecessor’s numbers from the start.
Then I beat him by 150%. “Yet you’re paying me the same,” I told my boss. How could he refuse my request for a raise?
Here’s a list of achievements you can use:
- Work projects that saved money
- Targets met or exceeded
- Employees you’ve trained
- Revenue growth based on your efforts
- Awards or honors
- Clients you’ve brought in
- Ways you’ve increased efficiency or delivery times
Any of those makes a good case for a salary increase.
Pro Tip: Not sure how much to ask for a raise—percentage or otherwise? Ask coworkers or recruiters in your industry. Search LinkedIn for “recruiter” and your job title.
Need to renegotiate your small salary? See our guide: How to Negotiate a Salary Like a Boss
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Ask for a Raise in a Performance Review
“You’re right. We’re not paying you enough.”
Why should your boss say the words above?
Because you earned it.
So—show it. But do it in a performance review.
If your boss gives regular reviews, that’s when she’ll tell you your raise. (Hint: It’s already set in stone by then.)
So ask to talk about your performance one or two months before—in an informal review. Then they can’t say, “Management set your salary for the year last month.”
Here’s what to say in that meeting:
What to Say When Asking for a Raise at Work
Let them set the tone. Start by asking what they think of the quality of your work.
Don’t settle for “good” or “bad.” We need detail. Ask for specific things you’ve done to help the company.
Then get them to expand. Ask, “why did that help? What would have happened if I didn’t do it like that?” Use active listening skills to make it work.
When it’s your turn, evaluate yourself while they listen. List your achievements and the value you created.
Pro Tip: What’s the easiest way to ask for a raise? Look outside the company. Many firms fix raise amounts at 2% or 5%. Yet you might get a 50% jump as a new hire.
What skills should you reference when asking for a raise? See our guide: Top 10 Employability Skills—Definition and Examples [+How to Improve]
Negotiate During Your Performance Review
“Would you settle for 10% less?”
This is key:
It’s not a negotiation. You’re telling them what it would take to make you happy.
You took the time to list your achievements. You did your research. You know what you’re worth. If they agree, so do you.
If they try to dicker, stay professional. Tell them you’ve worked hard to be worth X.
Say you hope you’re giving them what they want, and your request reflects that.
Keep it brief and specific. If they cite industry rates or company policies, remind them that your achievements make you more than all that.
In case your boss needs to clear your request with upper management, bring a bullet list of your achievements to help.
Pro Tip: Don’t talk about why you need the raise. Then you’re asking for a gift. Stay focused on your accomplishments and how you’ve helped the business.
Did they say no when you asked for a raise? Is it time to seek greener pastures? See our guide: How to Make a Resume for a Job [from Application to Interview in 24h]
If They Say No to a Raise, Renegotiate
“You’re worth more, but we can’t afford it.”
But it’s not the end of the world when you ask for a raise.
To fix it:
Ask if you’re overvaluing yourself. If they say yes, ask what it would take to get the raise you want.
What if they agree you’re worth more but can’t afford it? In that case, tell them it’s possible you’re wrong. Say you’ll do more research.
Because that implies you’ll go job-hunting—in a non-threatening way.
Then ask for consolation perks like flex time, a work from home situation, or an extra vacation.
Finally, check back in three months to see if things have changed.
Pro Tip: Want to know more about how to negotiate a raise? Read the excellent deal-making book, Getting to Yes.
Bonus: How to Ask for a Raise in an Email or Letter
Can you write a letter asking for a raise?
You can ask for a meeting in writing. Then in the meeting, bring up the raise.
Plus, asking for a raise in an email gives you, the boss, and senior management something to refer to.
Check out this how to ask for a raise email example:
Dear Mr. Ramirez,
The past year working at XYZ Company has been a thrilling ride. I’ve grown as an employee, taking on more roles and responsibility. I’ve added to my skills and worked hard to exceed expectations. I’ve consistently surpassed my targets and work goals. That’s why I’m writing to ask for a review of my salary.
I’d like to remind you that in the past year I:
- Spotted a company-wide accounting error that saved $1.2 M.
- Led a drive to implement cloud automation of receivables, saving an estimated 800 labor hours per year.
- Slashed 20% from the time needed for month-end reconciliations, saving an estimated $75,000 annually.
I’m passionate about the work I do here at XYZ, and I’m excited to continue my growth and contribution. I’m eager to see if your evaluation of my efforts fits my own. Can we set aside some time to discuss compensation?
It lays out your value and asks for the raise meeting.
If your boss needs to justify your raise to her boss, the letter gives proof.
Pro Tip: If you succeed, send a thank you note for a raise. Stanch buyer’s remorse by reminding your manager of your value. Then assure her of your renewed excitement.
When you ask for a raise in an email, use action words like slashed, led, and spotted. See our guide: 240 Resume Words: Action Verbs, Power Words, Adjectives, Buzzwords
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Recap: How to ask for a raise:
- Work hard to be worth more than you make.
- Know when to ask for a raise. (2 months before your performance review, when they’re drawing up budgets, or right after you saved the day.)
- Focus on your achievements.
- Write a letter or email asking for a raise so you’ll have something to reference.
What’s the worst part about asking for a raise to you? What happened the last time you asked for a raise? Give us a shout in the comments! We’d love to chat.