Career

You Deserve a Raise

Here's how to get one.

Let’s be honest: You deserve a raise. What next? You’ve rehearsed your elevator pitch a thousand times. You’ve conquered your fear of asking your boss for that fateful meeting. You’re finally ready. But is now the right time?

There is plenty of great advice out there on how to ask for a raise. As an HR professional, however, I see too many employees who don’t take when to ask for a raise into consideration. By getting the timing right, your request is much more likely to be granted. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions regarding the best and worst times to ask for a raise. (Plus, why negotiating your salary with a new company is a must!)

How soon after starting a new job can I ask for a raise?

How many times have you thought, “This wasn’t in the job description?” Within the first few months, people often discover that what they signed up for isn’t exactly what they’re doing. The scope of your role may have expanded or deepened. You may be taking on work you’d rather not do, but you’re doing it anyway. It only seems fair to get a raise so your salary reflects your work, right? Not exactly. 

Whether you work at a startup or an established corporation, today’s companies have to evolve rapidly to stay ahead. With that, employees are increasingly required to evolve with the company. The extra work you’re doing now is certainly evidence that you deserve higher compensation. Nonetheless, you should not ask for a raise in the first three months on a job.

Can I ask for a raise if my workload has increased?

While companies expect employees to work hard and evolve quickly, they also have to hold up their end of the relationship. Perhaps you’ve taken over projects from a coworker who left or stepped into a management role. If you’ve taken on much more work than you initially signed up for, you deserve to be compensated for your increased workload. However, timing for this is delicate.

Let’s play out a scenario: You’re in a one-on-one with your manager when they inform you they’d like you to manage a few colleagues because you’re doing such a good job. Great! Or is it? Becoming a manager means that in addition to getting your own work done, you’ll also have to spend time making sure your direct reports successfully complete their work. If you accept the added responsibility, you should prove to your manager that you can handle it, as well as prove to yourself that you want it, before asking for a raise.

Should I ask for a raise if I haven’t had one in over a year?

Many companies choose to reward employees for their dedication by providing periodic raises tied to an employee’s length of service. In some industries, employees expect annual salary increases. If your company does not automatically increase your salary each year, you’ll just have to advocate for it yourself. 

If you are confident your performance is top-notch, but you still haven’t received a raise in over a year, you have a strong case to ask for one. As you approach a work anniversary, or after a significant amount of time has lapsed since your last raise, set up a meeting with your manager to discuss a raise. In the meeting, point out how long it has been since your last raise. Given how quickly employees voluntarily change jobs these days, your multi-year tenure is a testament to your commitment to the role and good support for a raise.

Is a performance review an appropriate opportunity to ask for a raise?

For most companies, performance review season is also the time they officially consider raises. That makes it one of the best times to ask for a raise. However, the performance review season isn’t just one meeting. You may have to conduct and submit a self-review. The financial officer may give your manager or department head a budget before reviews begin. From my viewpoint in HR, there are many moving parts to a successful performance review season. Because of this, there is still the question of when during the performance review season you should ask for a raise. 

If you can find out exactly when your company’s annual budget review is, make sure to express your desire for a raise before your manager has to submit their raise requests. If you don’t know your company’s raise process, time your ask about a month before performance review season starts. Note that you may not receive the raise request right away. However, asking early will give your manager enough time to factor it in to their budget request. 

That said, your manager has their own work and perhaps several other direct reports to consider. Do not assume they will remember your request. Even if you’ve asked before performance review season began, you should remind them of your raise request again during your performance review.

Should I ask for a raise after a significant achievement?

With luck, there will be times in your career when you make a significant achievement that goes above and beyond expectations in your role. As long as you’ve been at your company for more than three months, and you haven’t received a raise in the previous three months, making a significant achievement is a great time to ask for a raise. 

Your office capital is high immediately after you’ve landed a big client, secured a major grant, or introduced a significant cost-cutting measure. Within a few weeks of your big achievement, you should use this leverage to politely, but firmly, request a raise that reflects the additional financial value you’ve provided.

Should I ask for a raise if I’m making less than my colleagues?

Some companies set up pay bands for certain jobs based on the level of skill and responsibility the role requires. You may find out that your salary is lower than the pay band the company has established for someone with your workload. Alternately, you may discover that a colleague who does the same work as you is being more highly compensated. If you have evidence that you are underpaid, and you are confident that you are successfully executing your role, it is a good time to ask for a raise. 

I’ve received a higher offer from another company — can I use this as leverage in asking for a raise?

When push comes to shove, many employers would rather give someone a raise than see them leave. We’re in a competitive job market, and the expense of replacing someone who has departed is often much more than the cost of giving an employee a raise in order to retain them. So, if you’ve received a higher offer from another company, you’re in a strong, albeit tricky, position to ask for a raise. 

The tricky part is that there is no guarantee your employer will give you a raise once they find out you’ve received a higher offer. In fact, this tactic can backfire, particularly if you were just using the other company’s offer as a bargaining tool and were never planning to accept it. 

Your employer might be upset to discover that you’ve been spending time pursuing outside offers. They may grant your raise but start to question your commitment. As a result, you may get passed over for prime assignments or promotions. At worst, they could not only reject your request for a raise, but also terminate your employment. 

If you find yourself in the position of having a higher offer from another company, tread lightly. That offer is definitely strong evidence that you deserve a market value-based raise. Nonetheless, you should only ask for one if you are comfortable with the possibility of accepting the competing offer. 

What time of day or week should I ask for a raise?

There are no hard and fast rules on the best time of day or week to ask for a raise. Ultimately, once you’ve decided that the general timing is right to ask for a raise, the best time of day or week depends on your manager’s personal quirks and patterns. 

Over the next few days, notice when your manager is at their calmest and most content. Or reflect back on times you’ve had exceptionally positive interactions with them. You might notice that your manager is often frazzled in the mornings and happier after lunch. In that case, be sure to request a meeting around 2 or 3 p.m. You might also notice that your manager is distracted and leaves early on Fridays. Or perhaps your manager locks herself in her office to manage inbox overload on Mondays. Whatever the personal quirk, you should ask on a day when they typically have more time to consider your request.

Should I negotiate my salary before accepting a new offer?

OK, so this isn’t technically a raise, but negotiating an offer involves a similar process. Note that the offer stage is far and away the most effective time to increase your compensation. People can get 20%, 50% and even 100% increases by applying for and accepting a role at a different company, when it is rare they’d even get a 10% raise staying in the same role at their current company.

The company’s initial offer is an attempt to establish your starting salary. On your part, you might be hoping to convince them to increase the offer. Of course, you have more leverage asking before you accept an offer rather than after. Be honest with yourself: Will you be happy taking the role at the salary they offer? If not, now is the best time to advocate for yourself.

If you don’t ask for what you want now, you’ll risk starting the role with resentment toward your new employer. This risk is heightened if you find out that some of your new colleagues negotiated their offers and are making more money than you for the same work. Unfortunately, many people are concerned they’ll appear greedy if they negotiate a job offer. This fear is especially common among women. As long as a company does not explicitly state they do not negotiate offers, it’s fair game. 

You may feel uncomfortable asking your future boss for more money before you’ve even started. If so, you can begin the conversation by speaking with the recruiter you’ve worked with throughout the interview process. Especially once you’ve made it far enough in the process to receive an offer, the recruiter is your ally. They should be able to coach you through whether an increase is possible and how much wiggle room there is in the budget for the role. 

Remember, if you’re at the stage of negotiating an offer, there’s a reason. Whatever the reason, you liked the role enough to devote time and energy to interviewing with that company. As you consider asking for more money, it’s important to remember that there is more to a job than salary. 

Several studies have questioned whether more money actually makes our jobs more enjoyable. Related research has found that other benefits, like flexibility and purpose, are more important to job satisfaction than salary. Instead of just asking for a raise on the initial salary offer, now is a great time to negotiate benefits that might improve your job satisfaction even more, like extra vacation time or the ability to avoid your commute a few days a week by working from home.

When it comes to real estate, the popular saying is location, location, location. When it comes to asking for a raise, timing, timing, timing could be just as crucial. Keep these tips in mind as you navigate asking your boss for a raise.

Kelli Newman Mason is VP of People Operations at New Knowledge. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their two children.