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How to Ask for a Raise and Actually Get One

Discussing compensation with an employer is often a conversation that gives employees great angst.  In general, employers want their talent to be happy about compensation, but also want to make sure they’re not overpaying staff compared to the market. It’s important to enter the conversation prepared and try to keep emotions in check. As recruiters, we often have conversations with employees and employers about compensation talks. The tips below will hopefully aid in making compensation discussions as productive as possible.

Do your research

Understanding your market value is an important part of negotiating your compensation. Approaching your employer with specific market data points is very impactful. Speak with multiple peers within your industry in order to understand how you compare to them. This is essentially your market value. Speaking with one person at another company who may either make more or less than you doesn’t necessarily paint a full picture of your market value. It’s also a good idea to have a relationship with a trusted recruiter who can provide market intelligence around compensation.

Make the conversation about you and your performance, not a co-worker. Watercooler talk can sometimes lead to the discovery that a colleague makes more than you.  Stating one co-worker earns a higher salary isn’t a strong enough case to justify why one should make more.


Be strategic about when you approach your boss for a raise. Asking to sit down and discuss compensation during an intense time at work can often have an adverse effect. Your boss may be distracted or stressed to the point where it looks poorly on you. It’s also a good idea to schedule a formal time in advance to speak with your boss rather than just abruptly walking into their office.

It’s important to understand the process for how your company reviews compensation. Most companies have a policy of not changing compensation in the middle of the year. Typically compensation figures are set during a firm’s yearly budgeting and forecasting process. It may be too late to ask for a raise after your compensation has already been decided upon by senior management.

Finally, discussing your compensation may require multiple conversations.  If your firm doesn’t have a formal mid-year review process, it’s a good idea to ask your boss for an informal sit down to discuss your performance thus far as well as your compensation goals for year-end.  This conversation will enable you to track how your boss perceives your performance and address any areas of improvement before your compensation is decided by year-end.  It’s also an opportunity to communicate what your compensation expectations are in advance of senior management’s annual budgeting process.

State accomplishments

It’s a good idea to keep a journal or log of all your completed tasks and accomplishments for the year. This will be a useful tool when building a case as to why a raise is warranted. Highlight the tasks that were outside of your normal job description since meeting the minimum requirements may not be enough to justify the raise you’re seeking. Try to reference times when your work saved the company money, made a procedure more efficient or had a positive effect on the firm’s culture.

The Point: Compensation conversations are complicated matters that demand thoughtfulness and articulation. It is important to be prepared for the conversation, understand the importance of timing with the conversation and clearly articulate your value-adding contributions and accomplishments.

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