How to negotiate a pay rise

The art of salary negotiation is a key career skill that will help you throughout your working life. Here are our top tips for planning and executing a strategy to help you get you the pay rise you deserve.

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Timing is everything

Asking for a raise can be disruptive for employers, so it’s essential you get your timing right. If you get it wrong, you can get yourself labelled by senior people in the organisation as a pain in the neck, at a time when they need to be thinking more about your value.

Can you dovetail your request with the pay round? This is usually done as part of the performance management process, annually or sometimes bi-yearly. If your company doesn’t have a set pay review time – or you’ve just missed it – raising the subject of your salary during your performance development review (PDR) is a good option. It’s very possible that your organisation’s pay review is being carried out at this time anyway.

Research your market value

Negotiating a pay rise is primarily about your value. Get an idea of what you should be asking for by speaking to people doing similar roles to you within your company, in the same sector and in similar organisations. Talk to people you know well so that you’re comfortable asking how much they currently get paid and how much they’re planning to ask for at their next review. Also take a look at salary surveys and checkers, as well as speaking to recruiters.

Know what you’re asking for

Begin with the end in mind. Be clear about why is this is so important to you and your rationale behind it. Why does this have to be done now? Where does your salary fit into overall career trajectory? Make the effort to understand the organisation’s process for making pay awards. Find out how it works, who is involved and the power and influences regarding the decision.

Talk to your boss

Where is your boss is likely to fit into this process? They will need to be involved at some point, even if they don’t have the power or influence to make the final decision. It’s useful to know what they will do for you, just as much as knowing what they might need from you.

Build a business case

You’re going to need a water-tight business case and evidence of your skills. Record specific you things did and significant moments and events. Include examples of your work and projects you were on, how you work with different teams and your relationships with key people. You need to show that you’ve been working well on tasks that are beyond what everyone else is doing.

Present your case

When presenting your business case to whoever you’re negotiating with, highlight the successful projects you’ve been involved in. Draw attention to quantifiable data, such as figures and timeframes. Go over your track record in producing results and other stages of your work history that demonstrate your value. Be sure to point the decision-makers towards recommendations from colleagues and any supporting documentation. Invite them to go and talk to Jane in marketing, for example, who will tell them about the work you’ve done for her.

Be ready for discussion and negotiation

Be well prepared to discuss your pay at the negotiating table: make sure you know what you deserve. Be clear with yourself on what your boundaries are. How much scope for flexibility are you going to allow? What are you willing to accept or not accept?

You have the option to go back with a compromise and other suggestions. Think about a solution that could fit in well with your strategy. There may be different elements of your pay package that could be interchangeable or traded-off. Identify what these are so that you know what your options are.

Your organisation is unlikely to ever pay you what another organisation will: when you’re under contract, your employer will try and hold you at the lowest possible rate. That doesn’t mean that you cannot create a package that will work well for you, just be clear about what you want and why you deserve it.

Use the power of silence

Don’t be tempted into speaking or committing yourself to an offer too early. Negotiation is about pacing. An appropriate response to the first offer might be, “Thanks for that, I’m going get to back to you on it”.

Take time when considering the offer

Each situation is different and you may need more or less time to consider the offer depending on how close it is to what you want and what the other options may be. If you’re asked how long you need to think the offer over, say you’ll let them know that day or that you’ll sleep on it, depending on how much time you need. Even if you think that the offer is perfect, I would recommend giving yourself at least a night to think it through.

This also helps you stay in control of the situation. The people negotiating with you need to know this is important and it’s absolutely fair enough for you to take your time in making a decision or thinking about what your next move will be.

Tie it up

If you get an offer that’s not what you wanted you can easily say it’s close enough, or it isn’t close enough. Whether you get what you want or not, you need to close the discussion. Do that by saying: “Thank you, I appreciate your time and offers. I appreciate you’ve taken on board my case and listened.” Whatever’s happened, if you’re happy to stay, then stay. If you’re not happy to stay, then you’ll have to consider leaving. If you want to try again next year, that’s also up to you.