It makes sense to ask for a raise when you’ve excelled at work.
And employees are right to expect it: U.S. private employers are raising wages. A Willis Towers Watson survey found that, on average, employers are expecting to increase wages by 3.4 percent in 2022.
Not only that, the rise in U.S. pay growth is driven by tightness in the labor market and labor supply issues resulting from the pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’ movement, said Hassan Enayati, labor economist at Cornell University.
How to Ask For a Raise
- Understand why you are asking for a raise.
- Rehearse what you want to say.
- Gather salary data for your position.
- Bring it up to your manager before the company review cycle.
- Share a list of your accomplishments and impact.
- Ask about possible promotions.
“Companies tend to know when they are underpaying and when it’s time for a raise, but will rarely make the first move outside of any normal promotion cycle,” said Nick Drewe, CEO of e-commerce savings platform Wethrift. “If a company values you and wants to keep you, they’ll do what’s right and make it happen. And if not, it might be time to start looking for a role that’s a better fit professionally and financially.”
But let’s say you want to remain at the company. Here are some concrete steps on how to ask for a raise, according to hiring managers, in-house recruiters, HR professionals and negotiation experts.
When to Ask for a Raise
Before even asking yourself how to ask for a raise, a more important question to ask is “why?”
You should understand how important it is for you to get a raise, asking yourself if you can afford to not get a raise and whether you are willing to quit your job if one is not obtained, Robin Ducot, CTO at Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey), told Built In.
Roblox’s senior director of engineering Philippe Clavel also has a bit of pertinent advice when asking for a raise: Don’t aim too high or it can come back to bite you. (He knows. He got bit.)
In 2004, Clavel landed his first job in the U.S. as a technical support engineer at a multiplayer gaming company. After two months, this native of France was promoted to a senior software engineer position. But there was an issue over pay.
“I said to them, ‘Hey, I see the market for this job should be 25 percent higher. That was my mistake. I went too far,” Clavel said.
He initially received a 5 percent salary increase and after some further negotiations, his salary bumped up to a 10 percent raise.
“I believe if I had started a bit lower, like maybe 10 to 15 percent, I would have been able to get closer to something in the 15 percent range,” Clavel said.
Knowing the answer to your “why” will inform you on how to approach your conversation with your manager and what to ask for, these tech hiring managers said.
For starters, if you’re unhappy with your job, asking for a raise will not make you any happier, Clavel noted. Instead, it would be better to discuss ways to resolve your unhappiness with your manager. Ask yourself if you want a raise because you feel your pay is below the going market rate, or it’s because your role has expanded and changed, Clavel said.
Employees should understand one thing about how to ask for a raise — timing is everything.
“Employees should ask ahead of time — don’t wait until the end of the year or until a cycle happens,” Ducot said. “That way, they can put the request on their manager’s radar early. It’s very hard to get a raise out of cycle, so don’t expect an immediate ‘yes’ when you bring it up, but expect an “I’ll look into it.”
If you ask for a raise at the end of the year and your manager doesn’t know you value one, they may have already granted raises to those who raised their hand earlier than you and no longer have funding for your request, Ducot warned. Bringing up the idea earlier keeps it top of mind for your manager going into the next review cycle, she added.
Asking for a raise earlier in the year is also a good way to receive feedback on your performance if your manager is not good at giving regular feedback. Your request for a raise may prompt their feedback early so you can address it before the next review cycle, Ducot said.
Successfully completing a project or doing something extremely well also marks another key time to ask for a raise, said Clavel.
Better late than never doesn’t always work. Before Bethanye McKinney Blount founded the compensation intelligence company Compaas, Blount was a software engineer. In the early 2000s, she was planning a departure from the tech company she worked for in pursuit of other opportunities.
“I told them that me leaving was nothing personal — it was not meant to be a threat,” she said. She simply felt stagnant in her current role and wanted to explore her career options beyond the company.
To her surprise, the company offered a massive 45 percent raise if she stayed with the organization. While some engineers would jump at that raise, Blount viewed this moment differently.
“What that told me is they could have been paying me better the whole time and chose not to,” said Blount, who nonetheless left the company after six months following that discussion.
To Blount, the 45 percent raise had come far too late, and if her compensation had been properly adjusted throughout her time at the company, she wouldn’t have felt so stuck in place.
Indeed, asking for a raise can be intimidating, but remembering the following expert-recommended tips might make articulating your salary needs a bit easier.
How to Ask for a Raise
Build a Bench of Supporters
Why: “It’s important to proactively build your bench of supporters. Having someone else to advocate on your behalf can go a long way in showcasing your value,” said Tracy Stone, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Tech at fintech company Intuit.
How: Proactively build these relationships over time so that your supporters can see your work and understand what you bring to the table, along with specific examples. Then when you’re ready to ask for a raise, tap into your network of supporters as references, or if they’re comfortable, ask one or two to send an affirmative note to your manager showcasing your development and growth from their perspective, Stone told Built In.
Gather Salary Data to Provide at Your Review
Why: “Employees should understand what the market is paying for their job. What are their peers making in similar roles at other companies? It’s important to come to the conversation equipped with this information,” Ducot said.
Drewe also noted: “It’s just doing your due diligence about what’s happening in tech, who has raised money recently, and ensuring you receive market rate.”
Although it’s important to have industry salary information as you explore how to ask for a raise, it is particularly important to have pay scale information from your own company if you can access it.
“Your salary is usually based on the salary for other people at the same level at your company,” Clavel said. “If you have a lot of people who are senior engineers, you don’t want to have one senior engineer making 50 percent more than the others.”
“Employees should understand what the market is paying for their job. What are their peers making in similar roles at other companies? It’s important to come to the conversation equipped with this information.”
How: Gather credible industry salary data for your particular role and geography, Dana McCormick, chief human resources officer at cybersecurity company Simeio told Built In. Salary data that requires a subscription is often the most credible, she added.
Another way to gather salary information for your particular company is to inquire at your company whether pay scale range data is available and to also have conversations with co-workers to see if they are willing to share such information, said recruiters
Ask for a Meeting to Review Your Salary
Why: “Your boss should know your agenda upfront so nobody’s time is wasted and they’ll prepare for the meeting too,” Drewe said.
How: When approaching your boss about a raise, it helps to be as direct as possible about what you want, and be as communicative as possible ahead of time. “Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t blindside anybody,” Drewe said.
What to Say at the Beginning of a Salary Review Meeting
Take Stock of Important Benefits You Want
Why: Your salary payout is the most vital piece of your compensation, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t the whole picture on how to ask for a raise. Most companies offer a variety of benefits as a part of their full compensation packages, including perks like stocks, parental leave and education stipends. Making sure you’re being appropriately compensated is more than just finding the right dollar amount — it’s also about receiving proper support for your individual lifestyle.
How: Within the benefits your company offers, perhaps you want to ask for additional vacation time, payment of an MBA program, or a larger slug of stock option grants. And, your company may be open to hearing requests for additional benefits that they currently don’t offer. “I highly recommend employees research the market for trends in benefits,” McCormick said.
What to Say if Your Company Is Financially Struggling
Develop a List of Your Accomplishments and Company Impact
Why: Ultimately, the strongest information you can bring to your salary review is about your own performance. Employees should understand what unique value they bring to the company, and be prepared to communicate that to their manager during this discussion, Ducot said.
How: Employees should understand what they’ve accomplished in the past year. They should come to this conversation ready to discuss their contributions to the company, their team, and how those contributions support the employee’s request for a raise, she said. Employees should make sure they’ve reviewed their performance and they are performing above expectations, Ducot added.
Rehearse The Points You’ll Raise in Your Salary Review
Why: It’s common for people to feel some anxiety when discussing compensation, but there’s really no need to be, whether in-person or remote, Ducot said. To help reduce the anxiety and ensure you hit all the points you want to make, practice rehearsing what you will say in your salary review.
How: You will likely be sitting across the desk from your manager for an in-person salary review meeting or talking to them via video conferencing. How to ask for a raise in either situation requires rehearsing your salary request, accomplishments and impact on the company while sitting in front of the bathroom mirror or recording yourself on video. You want to come across as clear and direct, without being defensive, Ducot advised.
Use Accomplishments, Not Longevity, as a Basis for a Raise
Why: “Don’t expect a raise just because time has passed. You should provide reasons beyond ‘it’s been a year’ when you request a raise,” Ducot said, adding, “Don’t expect a raise without having contributed anything worthwhile.”
Oftentimes people get pigeonholed into staying at a company for too long because their pay goes stagnant, getting arbitrary raises only after a certain amount of time,” Drewe said. “I think by keeping abreast of your role, the role above you, what the going rate is, throughout the course of your career, you can best assess the time to ask for the raise because you’ll have the data to back it up — provided your performance has also been stellar to warrant the raise.”
How: While you can mention how long you have worked for the company, note that in the past year you have helped the company’s goals, mission, products, services, financial performance or its relationship with customers and employees by taking X steps. If you have data on the impact of these steps, that should also be cited.
What to Say to Highlight Your Accomplishments
State the Specific Figure of Percentage Increase That You Want for Your Raise
Why: I think an employee should come to the table with a percentage or dollar amount because that will help further the conversation between the manager or HR professional so they can discuss how they arrived at that particular number, McCormick said, adding HR professionals have tools to research that figure or percentage to see if that amount is appropriate or not.
How: Subscription based salary tools are more credible McCormick said. But if that option is not available, a number of websites exist with free salary tools, such as Built In and Robert Half Technology.
What to Say If You’re Underpaid
Inquire About Possible Promotions
Why: An employee’s next career boost or promotion usually comes with a salary increase. The goal of a good manager is to pre-emptively walk with the employee on what their next career phase or development will be, which in turn will have an impact on their salary scale, Clavel noted.
How: “What’s interesting is that most employees who do take the initiative to ask about compensation are more interested in promotions. They want to know how to get promoted to the next level, not necessarily how to get a raise,” Ducot said, noting about a fifth of the employees in her department at Momentive ask for a raise within a year.
Negotiate if They Say ‘No’
“To get a ‘yes,’ expect a ‘no,’” Michael Wheeler, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School and former professor at Harvard Business School, told Built In. “Anticipate why they may be reluctant to give you a raise now and, therefore, generate good reasons why a raise would be appropriate.”
For example, your manager may cite concerns they would have to give a raise above the pay scale to other employees if they gave you that type of raise. Wheeler offers this advice if you face this situation and are doing more work than your colleagues:
“If everybody is doing X and Y and you are doing X, Y and Z, you can legitimately explain to your manager that you’re not the same as other employees,” Wheeler said, adding, “You can say if they also learn to do Z, that would be good for them and good for the company because there would be more people who are multifaceted.”
Managers may acknowledge you are doing a great job but say your request falls outside of the normal period for issuing raises when you go about your efforts on how to ask for a raise. Don’t be deterred, Wheeler advises. Instead, set an agreement for when your raise will be considered, he said.
Getting a raise out of the cycle is nearly impossible unless you get promoted out of cycle or really will quit, Ducot said.
“It’s common to have a knee-jerk reaction to a ‘no,’ and take an immediate hit to your confidence. Do your best to pause and salvage the situation by trying to learn as much as possible from it.”
“Employees should assume that a ‘no’ is really a ‘not right now,’ “ Ducot said. “It’s unlikely that your manager will decline to ever give you a raise. With that in mind, the real question is: What do I need to do to make sure that I am eligible for a fair raise during the next review cycle?”
For example, ask if there are particular ways you might expand your scope to set yourself up for a future raise, or how you might continue to improve your impact. You can also take action by asking for a future meeting to discuss, enlist your manager’s support to jointly develop a development and action plan to set yourself up for future growth, Stone said.
“Even if you get told ‘no,’ ideally you’ll learn something insightful, such as what your manager values, how the process works and feedback about what you need to improve,” Stone said. “It’s common to have a knee-jerk reaction to a ‘no,’ and take an immediate hit to your confidence. Do your best to pause and salvage the situation by trying to learn as much as possible from it.”
But if your manager says absolutely “no” to your raise, even after you counter their decline with contributions you have made to the organization and offer no reason for denying the request, Stone said it may be time to consider other options.
Tech executives, however, caution you against using threats as you go about exploring how to ask for a raise.
“Employees should not threaten to quit in their conversations with their manager unless they really mean it,” Ducot warned. “Approach the conversation with well-thought-out reasons why your performance deserves to be compensated fairly. If you are being courted by recruiters from other companies, you can mention that as context, but there’s no need to give an ultimatum unless you are willing to follow through.”
For Clavel, threats cause his head to go in the opposite direction.
“If someone is threatening to quit,” Clavel said, “it puts me in a position where I’m questioning the value the person brings to the company.
Encourage Others to Ask for Raises
Women are less likely to ask for a raise than men, according to a joint report by Glassdoor and the Harris Poll. A survey of 1,500 U.S. adults found 65 percent did not request a raise during the pandemic — of which 75 percent of this group were women. The survey also found that women are 19 percent less likely to ask for more money than men.
Women in tech might be reluctant to ask for a raise for a number of reasons. It could’ve taken them longer to get where they are, compared to their male peers, so they wait to make the next move. Or they lack the same level of confidence. Some people might even feel like it’s out of the question to ask for a raise.
“In my experience, women often perceive that the company is doing them a favor by giving them a raise,” said Ducot. “For women who experience this, they should reframe their mindset.”
Instead, women should understand a company should be compensating you fairly for the value you bring the company and a raise is recognition of the work that you do — not a personal favor, she added.
When co-workers are able to talk transparently about salary and are encouraged to recognize each other’s accomplishments, everyone is able to better understand their value and what they bring to the company.
“It’s expensive for employers to recruit, hire and onboard new talent,” Stone said. “I think women have an opportunity to really embrace the ongoing conversations with their managers to avoid selling themselves short.”
An earlier version of this story was written by Sunny Betz.