How to ask for a pay raise: 5 tips for success

7.5 mins | Travis O'Rourke | Article | Workplace

A woman in a blue blazer and white shirt sits in a meeting room. There's a second woman in front of her and on the desk, there are papers and a glass of water.

Knowing how to ask for a salary increase involves a lot of tension between an employee and their manager. Generally, when an employee feels the need to ask for a raise, it is because they have been looking for it for quite some time and feel that they deserve it, either because of the workload, their current duties or responsibilities.

To prevent creating an unpleasant situation or using an inappropriate tone with unfounded arguments, we have prepared some tips on how to ask for a higher salary.

Is there an ideal time to ask for a salary increase?

Knowing the ideal time to ask for a salary increase doesn't come out of the blue; you need to work hard and make it worthwhile. When you take on new roles, change industries or have increased responsibilities it's because the company understands that you're ready for new challenges. 

What does this mean? This may prove that your leaders are aware of your potential, that the company is somehow taking your evolution into account and is looking to continue this progress. 

All of this is an indication that you are on a good path and, depending on how long you’ve been in this situation, it may be time to start floating the idea within your company that you deserve a raise. 

It is important to note that, if you do not feel good about your new responsibilities, you cannot cope with your new functions, are not meeting the established goals or are far from the set objectives, maybe it’s not the right time to raise this.

Today there are several methods that companies employ for career progression of their employees. Understanding where they are and where they can go, including promotion targets with clear expectations, and salary benchmarking.

If your company’s culture makes it clear how this works, it may be useful to understand if there are existing ways to make this salary increase happen. But if you feel that the time has passed and you have accomplished incredible goals within the company, then you can prepare yourself to talk to them and ask for your deserved raise.

What to avoid when asking for a salary increase?

Knowing how to ask for a salary increase involves understanding it will be necessary to avoid some issues. If you go in without a strategy or using poor justifications, you may lose the opportunity you have created.

Here are some tips to help you know how to ask for a salary increase in a comfortable way.

Avoid asking for a salary increase too soon

As we mentioned earlier, it may not be a good idea to ask for a salary increase too soon, whether it's because of how long you've been with the company, new roles, or the last raise you received. Doing so in haste may not go over well with your leaders.

Think of the arguments you should prepare; start with what you are doing and accomplishing for the company, in addition to your time experience. Show your loyalty to the company and that this salary adjustment should take place because it is a valid reward for all that you are doing.

Stay in the salary range

Don't go too far out of your current salary range, even if you are standing out and being very professional. Always be aware of the reality of the market. Doing some research before negotiating a salary increase will help you prepare for a new agreement that is good for both parties.

An excellent source for salary research is the Salary Checker or Salary Guide, published annually by Hays. In this report you’ll find information on salaries in various professions, detailed by experience level and cities across Canada.

Avoid using personal situations

Many employees talk about personal situations to try to get that coveted salary increase, but it may not be a good idea. As much as the company empathizes with its employees, it also works with numbers and data. The salary increase, as well as a promotion, should come from your achievements at work and not from your personal circumstances.

Many people have personal problems, be it health problems in the family, or personal loans, but none of this has anything to do with the company or your workday within it. You need to show your importance to the company.

Avoid ad hoc justifications

Your leader needs to feel that you are right, and that by increasing your salary they have your commitment to the team/company, its goals, and have your skills for a longer time. Showcasing your full performance is a smart way to achieve this, avoid any complaints or small and weightless justifications irrelevant to the company.

Is there a salary limit?

We talked about some points that you have to avoid when asking for a pay raise and one of them is to exaggerate the salary range. Never stop dreaming big but do it one step at a time. Research the market and find equivalent positions so you can understand how much you should be earning. 

When you talk to your leaders, show knowledge and that you know how much you and your skills are worth. Companies like numbers, so use them to your advantage.  

The most appropriate for this type of negotiation is a percentage between 5% and 20%. Why these numbers? Simple, if you ask for more than 20% you can give a bad impression or even scare the company. Meanwhile less than 5% is not worth the effort and stress for the employee.  

Other points that maybe you can touch upon and propose in the negotiation are regarding benefits. If you hadn’t thought about this, additional vacation days, a better health plan, or flexibility can be something strategic and convenient for both sides.

Step-by-step to ask for a salary increase

Before we get to the tips on how to ask for a salary raise, it is important to have a notion of the why and how:

Do you stand out in your company?

Being known positively within the company and as a standout in your role is paramount in this journey for a salary increase. The idea is not only to be recognized by your manager, but by other areas of the company as well.

Do you understand the current economic market?

Asking for a raise in the middle of a recession or market downturn is both courageous and dangerous. Understanding the state of the economy in Canada, the province and even the sector in which you operate is going to be fundamental when asking for that increase in salary.

Are you prepared for a ‘No’?

It is necessary to consider the possibility of a negative answer. Even knowing your potential, your merit and the positive conditions of the company, there is always the probability of a refusal.

If this happens, will you keep up the good work to show how deserving you are and push forward for the possible raise, or will you lose the desire because of lack of recognition and instead look for another job? It is very important to prepare yourself psychologically and define what you want for your career.

5 tips on how to ask for a salary increase

1. Prepare your arguments

Research. Research the company, your team, your role, your performance and the job market. List all your arguments and think about your professional qualifications. Then take the same list and start polishing it, leaving only the important ones with enough weight to make a difference at the time of the meeting.

Show respect at the time of dialogue, do not impose or demand, rather present facts. You have to know how to speak, control your tone, be confident in your words and show that you are open to listen as well. Remember, everything is an exchange and conversation, even this meeting.

Show professionalism, highlighting your importance and your desire to continue to grow within the company. Be committed to your leader, but also to your ideas.

2. List your strengths and differential points

Having a list of strengths and defining accomplishments of your current professional performance can give great weight to your objective and even better, open the eyes of your leaders.

Do not lie, your managers will know and that will make everything more difficult. Try to develop a small inventory of your skills, show how you have developed and how you are working on weak points, investing time in training and specializations.

3. Evaluate the company's situation

Respect limits. Do not try to force a promotion or salary increase if your company is going through a delicate moment. The size of the company does not matter, all companies go through difficulties.

Having understood this scenario, talk to your leader at a calm moment. Do not get overwhelmed or skip steps. Avoid bringing it up in the middle of a big acquisition, an event that is about to happen or a problem that requires the attention of your managers. Keeping this in mind, it is possible to have a much greater margin of consideration from them, once you’ve shown consideration as well.

4. Show that you care about the company

Explain your journey, how you grew and how you intend to grow in the company. Expose your ideas. A good leader understands when you are being sincere with the company.

Choose a comfortable occasion for your leader, exchange an initial idea with a more personal tone, show importance and don't feel shy. You're not doing anything wrong, even if the raise comes from a market opportunity that came up.

5. Be prepared for new challenges

Having a salary increase will more likely create a need for new challenges. There is no shame in asking for a raise once you are paid for your good work, so it is normal the opposite be proposed as well.

These conversations can give you that project you’ve been waiting for, but you must be aware of the possibility of having new, different responsibilities, of being put in charge of more ambitious projects and with greater demands. If they pay more, they will demand more.

Are you comfortable asking for a raise?

It is natural to be fearful of losing your job, but this feeling should not become an obstacle. With good arguments, respect and context, it is possible to obtain the much-deserved salary raise.

Now that you know some tips on how to ask for a raise, get ready to give it your best shot. Set up a meeting and be as calm as possible. Just as with a job interview, being confident is essential, but here your advantage is that you already know the role and with whom you will be talking.

Something to keep in mind: do not expect an immediate response. Companies follow several processes and sometimes it’s not up to just your leader agreeing with you. Even if you talk to the CEO of the company, he will most likely talk to HR. Be patient and remember that good things come to those who wait.



About this author

Travis O'Rourke
President of Hays Canada & CCO, Hays Americas

Travis is a Marketing graduate from Fanshawe College and was the 2023 recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award. He joined Hays after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays' outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

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