Two women talking in an office

How to ask for a raise and get one

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Do you want more money? I bet you want more money.

I know there are people out there who love to argue that money isn’t everything, money isn’t the main reason people go to work, money can’t buy happiness etc. etc. But it still pays for things like food, clothing and mortgages, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that, despite the righteous wisdom, there are a lot of folks out there who could still use a raise.

But when it comes to asking for one, many simply don’t know how.

You have to ask, though. A simple piece of advice was given to me a long time ago, that I try to always remember: The least you will get out of life is what you ask for. Sometimes you will get less, but only very rarely will you get more.

Say you’re selling your bike. Unless there’s a bidding war, if you ask for $500 for it, nobody is going to say, “I’ll give you $600.” Similarly, when negotiating a salary, unless afraid of losing you to a competitor, an employer isn’t going to offer you more than you ask for.

A lot of companies give annual salary adjustments, but if yours isn’t one of them, or if you want more than that, be prepared to ask for it. I asked some experts for some advice on how and when to go about it to maximize your chances of success.

Here are their top tips.

Know how the company is doing. People aren’t going to be feeling generous when they’re losing money.

Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write, says “Don’t ask when you know the company is underperforming. That shows you’re not attuned to the corporate environment. If you know it’s been profitable. That’s a good time.”

Optimize after a good performance. The best time to ask is when you’re shining.

Karen Siwak, executive director of Resume Confidential says, “Ask when your value to the organization is fresh in your boss’s mind. So, for example, after completion of a major project, after a positive performance review, or after achieving an exceptional client win.”

Abby Kohut, recruiter and author of Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets, concurs. “After you’ve done something really terrific — let’s say you had a project and the budget was a million dollars and you did it for five hundred thousand — that would be a good time to ask for a raise, after that project was over,” she says. “I wouldn’t do it that minute, though. I would wait a couple of weeks.”

Choose your time wisely. Timing is everything.

Wheatman says, “I would plan a meeting. Don’t just pop in there and ask. It should be a planned discussion. Make it clear what the meeting is about, that you want to talk about performance.”

And time of day matters. Body Language expert and founder of the Body Language Institute, Janine Driver, says you can increase your chance of getting a “yes” if you approach someone after they’ve had caffeine. So, don’t schedule first thing in the morning. “Wait until ten o’clock, when he’s got three cups of coffee in his system.”

Be specific but be flexible. Do your research and find out the market value of your job. Does your salary fit in the range? If not, you can demonstrate this.

Ask for a specific amount above what you’re making and say, “I think I’m worth more than what I’m making and here’s why…” But be prepared not to get exactly what you ask for.

Come armed. Bring proof of why you deserve more money.

Wheatman says, “Prepare a little folio of examples of the work you’ve done and how you’ve been instrumental in doing something for the company or department in which you work. Don’t ask without substantiating why you’re deserving. Demonstrate how you’ve gone above and beyond, and made an impact. Come with examples. Present your qualifications and achievements in an organized and productive fashion.”

Don’t make it about you. You’ll get a raise because you deserve it, not because you need it.

Kohut cautions, “Don’t ask by saying ‘My mortgage just doubled.’ It can’t be because of something going on in your life. It has to be because of something you did that is deserving of a raise.

Don’t give up. If your request is turned down, ask what steps you can take to merit a pay increase in the future. If it’s because the timing isn’t right, ask when a better time would be.

Take the steps you need to take, and ask again later.

Is there a best day of the week to ask for a raise?

In his book, Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There, Mark di Vincenzo writes:

“Thursday or Friday. We’re most open to negotiation and compromise then because most of us want to finish our workweek with the least amount of conflict. This feeling at the end of the workweek may be preparation for the weekend, when we spend more time with family and friends, getting along with whom is a high priority.

The worst day? Wednesday. Unpleasantness and surliness tend to peak then, so try to avoid any situation that can lead to conflict.”

Eventually, if you’re worth more money and they can afford more money, they should give it to you.

It still won’t buy you happiness. Or so they say.

See also:

  • How to earn more money: Strategies for landing greater starting salaries and pay raises
  • The best (and worst) days to apply for a job


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    • Matt

      What about asking what else you can take on to increase your value to the company?