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How to Ask for a Raise With Confidence

June 20, 2018

Would you rather endure a root canal than approach your boss about a raise? According to a study from global staffing firm Robert Half, the idea of asking for a pay bump causes workers so much anxiety that some would prefer to do almost anything else — even if they believe they deserve more money. Their angst may well be because they don’t know how to ask for a raise.

Employer confidence versus self-confidence

Eighty-nine percent of U.S. workers surveyed for the study believe they deserve a raise, yet only 54 percent are planning to ask for one. Just look at the list of unpleasant things they’d rather do instead:

  • Clean the house (32 percent)

  • Look for a new job (13 percent)

  • Get a root canal (7 percent)

  • Get audited by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (6 percent)

In fact, respondents were more certain of themselves when handling other nerve-wracking tasks, such as speaking in public (66 percent) or negotiating salary for a new job (61 percent).

Why the cold feet? It’s not because they feel uncertain about the economy: Eight out of 10 respondents feel secure about the stability of their company, and 65 percent feel more confident in their job prospects compared to a year ago. They also know their worth in the market, as 79 percent have consulted a third-party salary resource at least once in the past year.

It could be that they simply don’t know how to ask for a raise, as this is not something that professionals do regularly. Also, people naturally shy away from the possibility of being turned down, which could easily happen if they request more money. In the case of a rejection, 30 percent said they would ask again during their next performance review, while 24 percent would request more perks. Two in 10 (19 percent) would feel so dejected that they’d look for a new job. 

The truth is, now is the time to ask for a raise or promotion. In today’s competitive hiring environment, where accounting and finance salaries are growing each year, CFOs are very concerned about keeping top talent from leaving. Among CFOs surveyed, the top two methods of retaining workers as the economy improves are handing out promotions (63 percent) and raising salaries (52 percent).

Ready to take the leap? Here are a few tips on how to ask for a raise:

Give quantified reasons. Your boss will want to know why you deserve a raise, and your rationale will have more of an impact if it includes facts and numbers. How many hours did you save your team during the enterprise resource planning implementation? By what percentage did you reduce processing time in the last quarter? Before you sit down with your manager, compile a list of figures.

Know what you’re worth. This is arguably the most important tip on how to ask for a raise. The most recent Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance and Salary Calculator are invaluable tools when it comes to benchmarking the salary for your position and city. If your request is outside of a reasonable range, your chances of being turned down are greater. Ask for too little, and you’ll leave money on the table.

Schedule the discussion for an appropriate time. Keep in mind the firm’s calendar and your manager’s schedule. Year-end closing and the end of tax season are busy times — not ideal for talks about promotions and pay increases. But don’t wait until right before the holidays or your supervisor’s two-week summer vacation. Ideal moments are after a quick, clean close or when the company exceeds a quarterly or annual goal.

Be persistent (within reason). If your employer says no or not now, try negotiating for non-wage perks, such as extra vacation days or working from home once or twice a week. Also, don’t forget to ask what you would need to do to earn a raise in the future. Your boss will appreciate your professional drive, and you’ll know what skills to work on.

You may think you don’t know how to ask for a raise, but you do. As with anything, you’ll increase your chances of success when you do your research, practice your pitch and project a picture of confidence.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 340 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at accountemps.com.

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