Artwork by: Nadiia Zhelieznova
If you’re wondering “How much of a raise should I ask for?” then be proactive! You can negotiate with your boss for higher wages, but approach it the right way. Read on for tips and advice on how to ask for a salary increase and get your well-deserved raise.
Even if you know you deserve a raise, asking for it can strike fear in the hearts of most employees, especially if you haven’t been at your job for very long. And you’re not alone in wondering “How much of a raise should I ask for?” Done correctly, negotiating for a salary increase demonstrates to the management that you have value beyond just a paycheck.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
When is the best time to ask for a raise?
What to do before asking for a raise
How much of a raise should you ask for?
How do you politely ask for a salary increase?
What if your employer says “no” to a raise?
In an ideal world, managers would look at an employee and think, “Wow! This person is a hard worker who is productive and reliable. I’m going to give them a raise!” In reality, the top priority of any business includes increasing profit and reducing costs, and sometimes that means its employees don't get the salary they deserve.
Keep in mind a major reason why a company might give an employee a raise: because it costs so much to recruit and hire a new employee, the company may lose money if one quits, according to a poll by Gallup. The cost of replacing an employee can range from one half to two times the employee’s annual salary. This doesn’t mean you should threaten to quit every time you want a raise. The best time to ask is when your contributions are on full display.
Ask for a raise when you’ve just completed a complex project. Another good time is after closing a profitable deal or when the company has reported unprecedented profit. One of the best times is during the final negotiations of a job application process before being brought on as an employee. If you didn’t ask during this stage, wait three or more months after being hired. Finally, just before a company’s annual budget review, make your move.
If you’ve just started the job, it’s not the best time to ask. It’s the same if your company has been experiencing financial difficulty or just lost a big contract. If your supervisor is under a lot of stress or undergoing personal challenges, you may not get the results you’re looking for at this time. Similarly, if you’ve recently come back from a leave of absence, or have recently received a negative performance review, it’s best to put on a stellar performance for a few months before asking for a raise.
Before you ask for the raise, you need to have a handle on how your current salary aligns with your financial needs. Calculate your weekly, monthly, and yearly earnings, then compare them to your living expenses to see if you’re falling short. Don’t forget your savings account—it’s important to have money in the bank!
After you’ve tabulated your expenses, compare your current salary to the average salary for similar positions at other companies within your geographical region. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good resource. Career.io’s Salary Analyzer tool can help determine if your desired salary is consistent with your position and industry by showing how it ranks amongst others in similar positions. If your current salary is below the average, you can make a stronger case that you deserve a raise. Also, review your company’s current policies for any guideline on how often employees can get a certain percentage of a raise.
If you want to earn more from your current position, ask your manager for no more than a 10% raise. If you’re not getting promoted or taking on new responsibilities, come prepared with concrete arguments to support this raise. For example, the times you excelled in your role or went “above and beyond.”
Don’t exaggerate or use hyperbole. Discuss your passion for your work and your interest in establishing a long-term career at that company. You have to negotiate a bit and you might get less than you asked for, but there’s no harm in aiming high. You may wind up in the three to five percent range, which is actually within the average for salary increases.
While the three to five percent range is typical, it's a good starting place, considering how the company is faring, where you're located, and where you are in your current position's salary range. But, 10 to 20 percent isn't outrageous if you’re being promoted.
If you're remaining in your current position, you still deserve a raise. However, be realistic and stick to the three to five percent range, depending on how long you've been with the company, your past performance, and your current responsibilities. Regardless of how much you’re asking for, come armed with hard data to back up your request so they can clearly see the value you bring.
Americans have to see a 3.2% raise or more to beat inflation, per the latest figures from the Consumer Price Index (CPI). But, a significant percentage of workers have earned more than that, as more than 63% who got an inflation-based raise received more than three percent, according to a poll by Bankrate.
The trick to asking for a raise: be confident, positive, professional, and present relevant data. If you’re unable to ask during your performance review and you can't wait that long, book a one-on-one with your boss. Don’t ask for a raise in front of others, as that will put your manager on the spot.
Other tips to keep in mind are:
Supplement accomplishments with data. While discussing your accomplishments, emphasize how they’ve benefitted your team and give quantifiable data. An example, “I increased my sales by seven percent this year, which is a three percent increase over last year. Much of this was new business, which totaled $24,000 in additional revenue.”
Keep your discussion future-focused. The employer will want to know what’s in it for them if they give you a raise. Have clear goals for what you want to accomplish in the next year and how it will add to your value as an employee.
Put everything in writing. Your boss may have to get approval from upper management and may not be able to say yes or no on the spot. Having things written down will ensure that no important information gets lost when going up the ladder.
The most important thing is to not get confrontational, and don’t quit on the spot. You can either let it go, or ask for more information. Below are examples of what you can ask:
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 you don’t get a satisfactory response, you can either accept the situation and try again in the future, or cut your losses and look for another job. Consider negotiating for alternate forms of compensation, such as extra PTO, a more flexible schedule, tuition reimbursement for job-relevant training, or remote work options.
If you’re interested in accelerating your career, take a look at Career.io’s Pathway to Promotion tool, which will teach you proven strategies, give you access to checklists and templates, and help you master the art of asking for and securing your well-deserved promotion.
Good times to ask for a raise include when you’ve completed a complex project, when the company is doing well, or the annual budget review.
To determine how much you should ask for, compare your salary to the average for similar positions at other companies, using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Career.io’s Salary Analyzer tool.
In general, a three to five percent increase is a reasonable ask, although, depending on your circumstances, you could go as high as 10 percent.
The trick to asking for a raise is to be confident, positive, professional, and have a lot of relevant data.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.