The Best (and Worst) Ways to Ask For a Raise

Asking for a raise is one of the more nerve-wracking things you can do in a job. If you phrase your request poorly, or react poorly to a denial, that can have ramifications for your position as a whole. However, if you ask for a raise in the right way, and at the right time, it can have big benefits for you. You’ll either be granted the raise you request, or you’ll make it known that you’re tuned into the company, that you’re assertive in your professional desires, and that you have the initiative to pursue your career goals.

Before we dive into how to ask for a raise, however, I’d like to lay some groundwork for what not to do. Knowing what not to do will clear the path for how to do it right. So, first things first….

  • Avoid negativity. If your instinct is to complain about your workload or bring up personal problems as incentives for your manager to give you a raise, you’d better think twice. Asking for a raise provides neither the time nor the place to discuss workload—that is better addressed in a separate meeting. And even if you have personal concerns (mortgage payments, ailing relative, etc.), it is better not to bring these things into play. Rather than focusing on professional accomplishments, you will instead be drawing the focus away from the business, and that will do you no good in the long run.
  • Don’t bring up time with the company. Unless you and your boss agreed to review your salary after an allotted period of time, there isn’t a good reason to bring this up. Internally, perhaps, you might have decided to ask for a raise after 1 year, 3 years, etc., but don’t bring that up with your boss. They’re probably already aware of the time you’ve been there—there is no need to remind them.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your coworkers. The focus of asking for a raise should be on your contributions—what have you done to warrant increased pay? If you say “Sandra from accounting has gotten a raise and she doesn’t do half the amount I do,” you are setting yourself up for failure. Your boss will not only read this as negativity (see the first bullet point), but it will also make you look petty. Better to not say anything if you have nothing nice to say in the first place.
  • Don’t threaten to quit. If you throw out the “I’ll quit” line, it can have a huge negative impact on your job overall. First off, your boss will see you as a whiner who puts their own wants above the needs of the whole. Secondly, if you don’t get a raise and also don’t quit, you’re much more likely to be passed over for any promotions later on. You’ll be seen as a pushover, or unable to follow through. If you decide the throw down the gauntlet and threaten to leave, then chances are you’ll be packing up your desk shortly thereafter.

Feeling nervous? That’s okay. That’s normal, and if you weren’t feeling nervous, I’d be feeling nervous for you! Now that we have covered what not to do, let’s dive in and discuss how to ask for a raise the right way. It’s a lot easier than you might think!

  • Timing is everything. If your company is laying off people left and right, dolling out pay cuts, or ceasing to hire new talent, now may not be the time to ask for additional pay. Pick a time when a successful project has come through (preferably one that you had a big hand in), your company is making money and generally being economically viable, and you have materially contributed to company gains. Asking at the right time will make it much more likely that your request will be met with an open mind, instead of a frustrated one.
  • Ask for a realistic amount. If you ask for a 50% raise, you will get a lot of strange looks. Part of asking for a raise is doing your homework—how much do people in your position usually get paid in your industry and geographic location. Also take into account what you have done for the company. How much revenue have you brought in? How much money have you saved them? Having these facts are very helpful in asking for a pay increase.

Generally, I have heard asking for a raise between 1 and 5%. I have heard as high as 10%, but above that is pushing it quite a bit, and being a nervous person myself, I would ask in the middle rather than on the upper end. Be realistic in your expectations, and make sure you are prepared to negotiate, if it comes to that. If you’re interested in more help in this area, Career Solutions Group can help you learn how to negotiate pay more effectively from the get go.

  • Phrase it right. Now comes the really important part: phrasing your request. There are lots of templates out there for how to phrase this, but I like this three pronged approach:
    • Sentence one: “The company has experienced economic growth in the last X [period of time].” Lay out your awareness of the company’s health, which demonstrates that you are tuned into what is going on within your department and within the larger organization. Additionally, starting with the company shows your commitment to literally putting the company first—as it comes before your own needs in the request.
    • Sentence two: “My/our department has been working hard…my last performance review ranked me well across the board…the project I spearheaded has really taken off economically…” Show your value. If you have done something to increase the overall value of the company, now is the time to bring it up. You want to show why you are an asset, especially if you’ve gone above and beyond the normal requirements of your position.
    • Sentence three: “I’m wondering/hoping to get a [percent increase] to my pay.” This last sentence is both the simplest and the trickiest. This is where you actually ask for a raise and, in my experience, simple is better. Dodging around the subject will waste your time and your manager’s, and will only increase your stress. Once you’ve laid out the reasons for deserving a raise, it becomes time to ask for one.

Even if you don’t get a raise—and getting a raise is never 100% guaranteed—asking in a respectful, thoughtful manner will do you credit down the road. And if the company is truly never planning on giving you a raise and you want to make more money, you at least know to start surreptitiously looking for a new position at a company with more opportunities. It is a nerve-wracking process, true, but in the end it can be a win.

Career Solutions Group has helped hundreds of job seekers and career changers successfully conduct their job search. If you are interested in making a career transition, email us at to get more information on how set up a free consultation with our company!

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group