How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise

When I was a shy teenager, my grandmother used to tell me “they can’t shoot you for asking” to help remind me that there was no harm in advocating for myself.

This advice has been helpful to remember any time I have been nervous about asking for things—especially higher pay.

Grandma’s advice is something most workers would do well to remember.

According to a PayScale salary survey, nearly 60 percent of workers haven’t asked for a raise in their current field, and many who have avoided the conversation have done so because they are uncomfortable.

Asking for a raise does not have to be overwhelming or uncomfortable. Here are the steps you need to take to ask for—and get—that raise you deserve:

How to Ask for a Raise

1. Do Your Homework

Before you even schedule a meeting with your boss, you need to know the answers to some important questions:

  • How much are other individuals in your field making?
  • How much are your particular qualifications worth?
  • What is your company’s policy for raises?
  • How financially healthy is your company?

Researching all of this may seem like a tall order, but it is necessary to understand all of these details before you ask for a fatter paycheck.

In order to determine what others in your position earn and how much your background is worth, check out online salary calculators, such as If you cannot determine your company’s pay and raise practices from the company website or the human resources material you received when you were hired, schedule a meeting with your company’s HR director. Helping employees to understand the company compensation policy is part of his job.

Finally, you need to be fully aware of your company’s financial fitness before you ask for a raise. If your employer is struggling, now is not the time to ask for more money, and knowing those financial facts in advance could stave off an awkward conversation with your boss.

2. Know Your Boss’s Preferences

Does your boss like lots of data in order to make a decision, or is she more likely to prefer bullet points and cutting to the chase? You have observed your boss day in and out, and you should have a sense of the types of requests that appeal most to her, so you can tailor your raise request to suit.

If you can find out ahead of time, it is also a good idea to know in advance what your boss’s criteria are for bumping you into the next pay grade. She might be able to tell you exactly what she looks for, or your question might prompt her to think about defining those criteria. Either way, it will give you something concrete to work towards.

3. Gather Evidence

No matter how great a relationship you have with your boss, it’s likely he does not remember off the top of his head that you were the individual who landed the big account or that you stayed late every night for a month to meet a deadline. That’s why it’s so important to provide several examples of your stellar performance when you ask for your raise. Think of this as the same kind of self-promotion you did to land your job.

And just as you want to highlight your accomplishments during your big ask, you also want to point out the ways your skills and expertise will help with upcoming projects. Your boss needs to know that you are looking toward the future and not going to rest on your laurels once you get the raise.

4. Make Sure Your Request is Complaint-Free

It could be tempting to remind your boss that you have gone without a raise for two years or that you are working harder than anyone else in your department, but this would be a mistake. Negative statements, even if they are true, can sound like complaints, which are hardly going to endear you to your boss.

The same goes for your expenses. You may desperately need the raise because of a rent hike or out-of-control bills, but these are not your boss’s problem and should not be part of your negotiation—although your personal finances can certainly help you figure out the amount to ask for. The only exception to this rule is if your personal expenses have risen for work-related reasons. For instance, if your office recently moved to a new location, making your commuting expenses higher, then you can include that in your conversation with your boss.

5. Choose Your Timing Wisely

It may seem like a no-brainer to ask for your raise during your annual performance review, but that is possibly too late. Generally, management makes decisions on raises and salary prior to the actual review, and you want to make your case before these decisions are made.

The best time to ask for a raise is right after you have just done something great for the company, such as solving a big problem, landing a major client, or saving the company money. At that point, your worth to the company is still fresh in your boss’s mind.

6. Know What to Do with a No

Thinking getting a no ahead of time will keep you from feeling flat-footed in the moment. Your reaction will depend on the reason your boss gives, but it’s worthwhile to think through those scenarios before you get into your boss’s office.

  • If your boss says no because of your performance, you could ask what would need to change for it to be a yes. Ask if you can revisit the question in a few months after you have had some time to work on the issues.
  • If the no is financially driven, decide ahead of time if there are benefits you might accept in lieu of a raise, such as a one-time bonus, stock options, more vacation days, or more flexible work hours.

If you feel the no is proof that you are unappreciated in your job, this conversation might prompt you to dust off your resume. But it’s never a good idea to issue an ultimatum or express frustration in the moment. This is why thinking through how you will handle the possible no from your boss is so important—it will help you feel calm and in control during the actual conversation.

7. Just Go For It

Just like asking someone to prom, delaying your request for a raise will do nothing but make the process more nerve-wracking instead of less. So set up an appointment with your boss and make your case. It can be easy to procrastinate for months (or even years!) if you’re uncomfortable selling yourself, but no one else is going to advocate for you.

Mastering the Art of Asking

Asking for a raise may be uncomfortable, but it is an important skill that everyone should master. As my grandmother liked to remind me, requesting things might get you exactly what you want—and even if it doesn’t, they can’t shoot you for asking.

Have you ever received a raise just by asking? Tell us how the process went.

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  1. Avatar Melanie @ Dear Debt says:

    Honestly, I never asked for a raise when I worked at nonprofits. I just assumed they never had money. Now that I’m self-employed, I’ve been forced to learn how to ask for more money. It’s really empowering — and most of the time, they say yes!

  2. Avatar Rachel @ The Latte Budget says:

    Informative post! I did my research when negotiating my last job offer and got them to agree to evaluate my performance every 6 months versus 1 year so there is more opportunity for a raise – I have gotten a raise twice a year since then! I would have lost out on thousands, had I not negotiated. It is scary to do, but so worth it if it is done right.

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