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How to ask for a pay rise to improve your financial situation

Maximising your income is one of the best ways to improve your financial wellbeing, but actually asking for the pay rise that you think you deserve can be tricky. We spoke to 4 recruitment experts for their top tips

30 April 2018Frankie Jones 4 min read

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Average wages have been fairly stagnant since the financial crisis and official data shows that pay is still rising by less than inflation. In fact, the CV writing firm Purple CV surveyed 2,500 Brits and found out that, on average, we reckon we deserve an extra 36.8% pay rise.

If you do feel like you're genuinely entitled to a pay rise, it can be a great step to achieving greater financial wellbeing for yourself. Increasing your income can help you pay down debts, save for the future and give you greater protection should any unexpected costs pop up. And, if you use the extra money to pay off your debts, it could even help your credit score.

But there’s a difference between thinking you deserve a pay rise and actually getting one. Asking can be scary – and no one’s likely to offer one on the spur of the moment.

So, how can you make it more likely your request will be considered and when is it okay to ask for more money? And what's the best way to use your extra income? We’ve been asking the experts...

Get your timing right

Sinead Bunting, spokesperson for the job search website Monster, says it’s important to consider timing when asking for more cash.

“Asking for a pay rise is similar to your initial salary negotiations; however, once you're in the job and have been doing it successfully for a while, you're going to be in a stronger position.

“Most companies will work hard to keep good employees, as the cost in time, recruitment fees and the handover process make losing a valued employee bad news; however, with businesses under pressure to continuously manage costs and overheads, making a solid business case is essential.”

It’s also a good idea to consider the best time to pop the question. Over the water cooler or on a coffee break is probably not ideal.

Sinead adds: “You can ask for a pay rise at any time, but there are certain moments that are more naturally suited to it than others like a performance review or the end of the calendar or financial year.

“However, don’t ask more than once a year as you'll come across as unrealistic, if not greedy in your boss' eyes.”

Do your research

James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO of salesforce recruitment organisation Mason Frank says it’s vital to research first. “If you’re looking for a pay rise, it’s imperative that you do your research first and know your worth. Do you know what your peers in a similar position are earning? If you’re taking home less than those doing the same job as you and you are continuously hitting your targets and working hard, then you can confidently approach your boss.

“It’s important that you know where you stand before making your requests and can back up why you believe you deserve more money.”

Monster have a useful tool that allows you to compare average salaries for your industry in your area.

Be confident

They say to dress for the job you want but you should probably also act with the confidence of the pay grade you want. Sinead recommends: “You'll probably be nervous, but make sure to sit up straight, make eye contact with your boss and don't fidget.

“Confidence is key, so speak slowly and deliberately, and use hand gestures to reinforce your points if this is your natural style.

“Don't giggle nervously or allow your gaze to wander round the room or cover your mouth while speaking – these are all suggestions that you are uncomfortable or insecure about what you’re asking.”

In many ways, a pay rise negotiation should be approached much like a job interview. Sinead says: “Begin the meeting by mentioning a recent project you have completed successfully, this will immediately put you in their good books. Don’t feel the need to fill in any silences or ramble, wait for a response to your questions and business case and put the onus onto your manager to respond.”

Be ready to debate

“Consider why you might get turned down,” recommends Stefan Larsen, from totaljobs. He thinks it’s essential you have a plan if you’re rejected, so you’re ready to debate a boss who won’t consider it.

“Common reasons include: ‘The business, department or project is already over budget; ‘You’re already paid for your performance’; ‘We’ll talk in the future’; ‘Times are tough’; ‘We’ve got other people to consider’; ‘We might be imposing a pay freeze’; ‘Wait for the end of year figures’,” he continues.

“Understand the likely barriers and prepare beforehand to politely but firmly dismantle them as they come up.

“Even if the first discussion doesn’t go as well as you would like, make sure you can schedule another one, within a specified timeframe. At least then you will know when the business may be able to entertain your offer.”

What should you do with the extra cash?

Before you rush off to buy a whole new wardrobe it's important to stop and think about how you can best use your additional income.

If possible, try not to change your lifestyle too much. Instead, try putting the extra money straight into your savings. That way you'll be able to achieve your savings goals much more quickly.

Alternatively, you could use the extra money each month to pay down your debts. Actively paying off your debt, and not just going along with the minimum amount each, could save you a lot of money in interest in the long term.

But if you don't manage to secure the pay rise don't worry. Just remember you're no worse off than before. We'll leave you with this final word from Andrew Arkley, director of Purple CV:

“It may seem an intimidating process to ask for a pay rise – even if we really want one’ says “It’s all about approaching the situation with credible and objective reasons behind your request, maximising the chance for your employer to see your value as an employee. If the answer is no, then don’t let it get you down - you have ‘planted’ the seed for future opportunities and discussions.”

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Written by Frankie Jones


Frankie takes the often confusing world of finance and makes it clear and simple, to help you get your money sorted.