How to Ask for a Raise in a Bad Job Market – and Actually Get It

How to Ask for a Raise in a Bad Job Market – and Actually Get It

While the economy continues to limp along and the headlines shout dire statistics concerning unemployment rates, you should not be cowed into accepting the same wages year after year if you feel you’re at the top of your game. But how can you possibly ask for a raise?

It’s easier than you might think.

Asking For a Raise? Do These 4 Things First

Careful preparation, timing your request, and making your request clear will help you, as will being confident and sure of yourself. Before you take any action though, the most important thing is to be aware of the possible consequences.

Know the Facts

You will want to compile a few different sets of statistics before asking for a raise.

First, know the industry standard salary range for you position. Second, gather as much financial data about your employer as possible, including who has the authority to negotiate a higher pay rate. Also write up a detailed analysis of how your contributions added to the bottom line.

How did you save the company money? How did you make the company money?

If you have data concerning the rising costs of living including housing costs, fuel, utilities, groceries, and other necessities, that couldn’t hurt to include.

Cover all your bases, not only should you be able to prove what others with your education, experience, and job title are making, you should be able to prove you both need and deserve additional compensation.

The reason all of these factors are important is that hard facts will overcome all of your employer’s objections. The old stand-by excuse of poor profits will be hard for the supervisor to say when you’re politely confronting him with last quarter’s earnings report.

The cop-out that you have hit a salary cap is impossible to argue when you’ve compiled an accurate report of industry standards for your position. You want to remove the possibility of such waffling before you face off across a desk in a conference room. Know the facts, as they will be indisputable.

Timing Your Request

Do yourself a favor and do not ask for a raise if you have spotty attendance, your company has just posted huge losses, or your CEO was just replaced by a new one.

You will only make yourself look bad. You want to ask for a raise when the company is doing well, stable, and nothing is amiss. If your company is consistently under-performing, you should be looking for a new job, not asking for a raise.

If at all possible, take advantage of your yearly or quarterly review to ask for a raise. Often, salaries are renegotiated during such reviews and you are already speaking to the person who holds the power to grant your request.

Your preparation for your review will also show initiative to your superior and shows that you value his or her time.

Should you work for a company that does not have regularly-scheduled reviews, you will need to make a formal request for a meeting.

Mince no words in your polite, concise email or written request. It’s far better to be honest and simply state you would like to hold a private meeting concerning your compensation. Do not apologize or backpedal. Remember, you already have your proof lined up. You’re not going to go in groveling.

Confidence and Clear Communication

On the day of the meeting, wear your version of a ‘power suit.’ If you work in a stuffy, corporate job, wear a suit, literally. If the environment is more relaxed, wear something that makes you feel confident and capable.

Men might want to get a new haircut and a straight shave the morning of the meeting, while women might like to go in after a before-work massage or facial.

During the meeting, present your facts. Share your findings. Make your case. Remain calm and professional. Also, always ask for a little more than you wanted. This gives you room to negotiate while still acquiring the salary you deserve.

For example, if you want $42,000 a year and free parking, ask for $44,500 and work the parking stipend in as the number comes down. Your superior will probably try to wheedle. If you begin to feel backed into a corner, pause for three whole seconds after he or she stops talking.

This will allow you to answer in a thoughtful, controlled way. Take your time, don’t get flustered.


As the meeting progresses, your manager may try several different tactics to make you accept your current wage. Think ahead as to what you will accept in lieu of additional compensation.

How about 100% employer-paid benefits? Would you consider accepting more paid time off instead? Can the company interest you in a lighter work load or a different position with better hours?

Often, managers try these tactics because they are cheaper for the company than outright handing you more cash. If you’re not sure if it’s in your best interest to accept a counter-offer, ask for time to conduct more research. Your superior should not try to bully you into accepting on the spot.

If you feel you are getting nowhere or are met with outright hostility for asking for a raise, you may want to simply end the meeting.

Ask your supervisor if the issue could be re-visited in six months or a year. Then, start applying for other positions.

While the inability to grant your request is understandable, rudeness or brushing you off is not. Always be the bigger person and thank your superior for meeting with you. You still have to work for the company, and bridges are always better left unburned.


While asking for a raise during tight economic times can be tricky, it can be navigated successfully.

If you’ve been at your company a while and made yourself into a valuable employee, chances are they will not want to spend the necessary time to train somebody new and get them caught up to speed.

By doing your research ahead of time, timing your request correctly, and conducting yourself well in negotiations, a higher salary may just be one meeting away.

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