Asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking, particularly if it’s for a job you haven’t had for long. At the same time, salary negotiation is a vital skill to master if you want to succeed in your chosen career.
It’s not just about getting enough money to live a comfortable life. A fair wage proves your labors are valuable and important, while eloquently arguing for a raise can increase the respect employers have for the work you do.
To ensure your work gets the compensation it deserves, master the following salary negotiation skills:
Picking the best time to ask employers for a raise
Researching average salary ranges for your sought-after career
Calculating reasonable raise percentages
Asking for raises in your current job
Negotiating a raise during the job interview process
Inquiring about raises for a job promotion
What to do if employers refuse to give you a raise
Identifying the best time to ask employers for a raise
Individual managers in a company might look at a hard-working employee and decide that they deserve a raise. Collectively, though, corporations are organizations devoted to reducing costs and increasing profit. If we think of businesses as living beings with a will of their own, there’s only one reason why such an entity would grant individual employees a raise: because they’ll lose money if that employee decides to quit.
This doesn’t mean you should threaten to quit your job every time your employee denies you a raise. You should, however, carefully pick and choose the time you ask employees for a salary increase, waiting for moments where your value as an employee is on full display.
Do ask for raises…
Don't ask for raises…
Right after successfully completing a complex project.
If you’ve just been hired.
Right after closing a profitable deal.
At the start of a job interview process.
During the final negotiations of a job application process.
If your company has been having financial troubles recently.
Just before a company’s annual budget review.
If your supervisor is dealing with stressful responsibilities.
Three or more months after being hired.
During or after a period of exceptional profit.
How to find the average salary range for your career of choice when wondering how much should I ask for a raise
Before deciding whether to ask for a raise or not, take a close look at the current salary of the job you hold or the job you want. Calculate your weekly, monthly, and yearly earnings, then compare them to your living expenses to see how much you’re truly earning (or will earn). If you’re barely making a profit, that’s extra reason to ask for a better salary.
Next, compare your job’s current salary to the average salaries of similar positions in other companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website is one of several online sources that lets you look up information on average salaries for certain career sectors. If your job’s current salary is below the statistical average for your job, you can make a very strong case to employers that you deserve a raise.
Join Career.io now to use our Salary Analyzer and compare your current salary.
How to calculate a fair wage increase
There’s one more reason to look up the average salary for the job you work at or the job you seek, and that’s to calculate your ideal raise percentage. Some job advice websites state your new salary should be 10% to 20% higher than before, while other sources say most modern companies will give employees a 3-5% raise.
As a bare minimum, the raise percentage you request should cover all your current living expenses and match the national average for salaries in your career field. It’s also worth studying your company’s current policies to see if there’s guidelines for how often employees can get a certain percentage of raise.
Ultimately, you should be ambitious AND realistic when answering questions about your salary expectations. If the salary hike you suggest is slightly higher than what your boss is comfortable with, they’ll likely be willing to haggle with you on the specific amount. If the raise you request is way too large, however, your boss might just flatly refuse without giving you the chance to negotiate.
How much of a raise to ask for in your current position
If you’re currently employed at a company and want to earn more from your current position, ask your boss for a raise that’s no higher than 10%. Since you’re not changing positions or taking on new responsibilities, it’s important that you come prepared with concrete arguments about why you deserve this raise.
Cite moments in the past few months where you excelled at your core responsibilities or went above and beyond the call of duty. Without exaggerating, talk about your passion for the work you do and your interest in pursuing a long-term career within the company.
How much of a raise to ask for when being promoted
It’s easy to assume that if you successfully ask for a promotion, you’ll automatically get a generous raise since you’re rising up the ranks and taking on more responsibilities. In practice, though, many modern companies will give freshly promoted employees a mild raise of around 3%.
Some businesses will even promote an employee without giving them a raise. This can happen because of budget issues, rigid guidelines related to average salaries in a department, and so on.
If you’ve just been promoted, and you want a higher raise than 3%, bring data and reasoned arguments to your supervisor meeting.
Compare the raise you’ve been offered to the average salaries other companies offer for similar positions. Mention recent projects you took part in that generated profit for the company and cite specific amounts of money. Be flexible and ready to negotiate for a prolonged period of time.
According to a recent News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average wages for civilian workers in the U.S. have gone up by 5.2% over the past year, while average benefits increased by 5.0%. In the same time period, wages/salaries for government workers went up by 4.4% and benefits by 5.0%.
How much of a raise to ask for during job interviews
Statistically, employees tend to get the highest raises when they transition to a new job at a new company, their salaries increasing by anywhere from 10% to 20%. The recent global pandemic threw these statistics into flux for a time, but on the whole, employees who move from their old job to a new job can expect to get fairly generous boosts in wage or salary.
If you’re trying to negotiate a higher salary during a job interview with a new company, most of the advice listed above will work just as well (describing ways you boosted profit/productivity in your old job, citing data about average salaries for this position, etc.).
Try to negotiate higher starting wages during the final stages of an interview, when hiring managers are emotionally invested in completing the job application process and bringing you on board.
Finally, make sure your agreed-upon salary increases are recorded in a formal job offer email or written employment contract.
What to do if your request for a higher salary gets denied
When your supervisor or hiring manager declines your request for a raise, you’ll naturally want to know why. More importantly, you’ll also want to know how you can change their minds.
Employers generally reject raise requests for two reasons. First, the company might just not have enough money to increase their employees’ salaries. The other, more brutal reason is that your employer simply doesn't care enough about the work you do to retain you in the long-term.
If your face-to-face request for a raise (or your salary increase request letter) does get denied, don’t respond with indignation, guilt-tripping, or other antagonizing behaviors. Instead, simply thank your employer for hearing you out then ask how you could earn a raise in the near future.
Sample questions to ask employers who deny you a raise:
“Thank you for considering my request. Can you tell me more about how you reached this decision?”
“I’m hoping to earn a salary increase sometime in the next six months. What would you recommend I do to achieve this goal?”
“If a raise isn’t viable at the moment, are there alternative bonuses or benefits I could work towards?”
If your employer responds positively to your questions, this can be a sign that they’re interested in negotiating a compromise salary range or rewarding you in some other way.
For instance, they might offer you:
A smaller but still meaningful salary increase
Bonus pay for special projects
The freedom to arrange your own work schedule
Extra vacation hours
Increased stock options or better portfolios
If your employer avoids answering your questions or actively shuts down your attempts to ask them, that can be a sign they don’t value your work or your potential to advance within the company.
In situations like these, it may be best to cut your losses and search for better paying work at another business.
If you do happen to get one or more job offers that offer better salaries and benefits, you can tactfully mention these offers during negotiations with your current bosses. Under ideal circumstances, they might just give you a better counter offer.
Request a raise after major personal accomplishments, periods of profit, or when employers aren’t swamped with work.
Compare your current salary to your current living expenses and the average salaries for professionals in your job sector. Make sure your proposed salary increase is higher than the former and close to the latter.
When asking bosses for a raise in your current position, suggest a salary increase close to 10%.
If you’ve just been promoted, ask bosses for a raise that’s higher (but not too much higher) than 3%.
If you’re switching jobs, you can expect a starting salary that’s 10-20% higher than the wages from your previous job. If you’re negotiating for a raise near the end of your job interview, get any salary agreements in writing.
When requesting a raise to a boss or hiring manager, talk about moments where you improved company profits or increased workplace efficiency. Cite concrete, well-researched numbers.
If your initial request for a raise is denied, there’s still room for you to negotiate with your boss. Ask them what you can do to get a raise at a future time and inquire about other benefits you could earn.