There is no doubt that asking for a pay rise can be a daunting task, one that employees tend to put off. Negotiating a pay rise doesn’t have to be combative, awkward, or tense. Instead, you should view this conversation as a good opportunity to step back from day-to-day tasks, showcase your worth, achievements and successes to the business, and receive feedback. 

For more advice like this, view our candidate advice blog.

How to negotiate a pay rise

Research salary expectations

It’s important to approach the salary negotiation with a clear goal. The best way to define this goal is to research the market and what is currently being offered to candidates within the hiring process. What is the going rate? What equity is on offer? What package and benefits are being included? This can help you determine if you have an initial case for a salary increase (or are you already at the top end of the market?), and help you decide what is important to you. Is it just salary, or would other benefits satisfy your need?

This type of information is readily available on job boards, like Indeed, LinkedIn or on recruitment agency job pages like Intelligent People. Comparing advertised job specifications with your day-to-day tasks can help ensure you are comparing your salary with jobs holding like-for-like responsibilities.

However, information gathered in this way is unlikely to be comprehensive. Some job adverts list the salary as ‘competitive’ with a small list of benefits including holiday allowance on show, leaving gaps in knowledge. The best way to get a feel for the market is to network with similar candidates within your industry or sector, build relationships over time and ask them to share salary information as a trusted ‘salary buddy’.

A specialist recruitment agency within a particular sector could also advise on the very latest salary trends in the market, as well as information about demand for certain skills, experience, and domain knowledge.

It’s worth doing your research.

Gather your evidence

The one piece of advice we consistently give to our candidates, especially about their CV, is to use tangible evidence to showcase their skills, knowledge and most importantly, the impact their work has on the business. For example, ‘Implemented paid advertising to increased marketing qualified leads by 20%, leading to a growth in revenue of £100,000’.

Negotiating a salary increase is no different. You will need to influence the business towards a higher salary through evidence, including:

  • successful performance reviews
  • incremental income generated
  • money saved
  • efficiencies created
  • improved productivity
  • improvements to processes
  • additional leadership or line management duties
  • individual performance metrics – top biller, top salesperson etc

You should also consider the overall company performance within this evidence gathering exercise. The better the company performance, the greater the scope within the business for incentivising staff with salary increases. If the company is making a loss, going through a hard period, or not meeting its objectives, selling yourself for a salary increase is going to be more of a challenge, although not impossible.

Rehearse & present

Once you have researched the market and gathered your tangible evidence of success, you will need to practise the art of negotiation – it is a complex skill that needs to be practised.

You will need to decide how to approach the salary conversation, whether this be at a performance review, within a 1-2-1 meeting or setting up an invite for a separate meeting all together. Once you have decided this, you can practise your approach to the conversation.

The best advice we can give is to think about your audience – how can you get the most out of this meeting? How can you influence your boss? How do they like information presented? What information is most likely to be influential to them? What would their pain points be if they lost you to another business? What are you planning to work on in the future and how will that be profitable and impactful for the business?

How to approach a salary negotiation

Stay positive. Showcase the positive impact you have on the business and why you deserve a pay increase. Try not to show any frustration towards your current salary or how you feel underappreciated or compare yourself to other colleagues and their performance. Instead, concentrate on you and remain positive.

Be succinct. Often nerves get in the way when discussing these topics, leading to lots of blabbering and presentation of unclear information. Be focussed and clear with your delivery.

Key points to cover are:

  1. Why you have asked for the meeting today
  2. The reasons why you deserve a pay rise and the supporting tangible evidence
  3. Establish their initial thoughts are. Do they have any feedback?
  4. Establish a timeline for next steps

Be open to their response. It’s important you allow your boss time to process and respond in the meeting, allowing you to gauge how the message has landed. You are very unlikely to get a decision within the meeting itself so don’t push too hard for an answer there and then. Instead, establish what the next steps are, and the timeline associated with them.

Defining your salary expectations

It is up to you as an individual whether you state the salary that you would like in this process. Often the first question that your employer will ask is – ‘what does a salary increase look like to you?’ or ‘what salary would make you happy?’. If you have a specific salary in mind, you can state this figure to your employer and see where it lands.

However, we often find that going down this route can be limiting. We advise candidates to ask their employer to benchmark them against other skills, competencies, knowledge within the business or market and to present a figure in line with the competition. This can take longer and may not meet your expectations, but in our experience it’s often a successful negotiating tactic that leads to good results.

Follow up salary negotiation

After you have left the salary negotiation meeting, follow up via email with the key points discussed in the meeting, including the tangible, performance-based evidence that you have gathered. This will allow your boss to refer to your achievements later if needed.

Negotiating a pay rise; commonly asked questions

When is the best time to negotiate a pay rise?

The best time to ask for a pay rise is when you have recently been recognised for good performance, you’ve had a successful review, and the business is profitable and growing. You may want to consider the timing of your last pay rise too – it’s unlikely you will receive more than one substantial pay rise within 1 year.

How much higher can you negotiate a pay rise?

The normal salary increase is around 10% but this depends on your starting salary to begin with. Asking your employer to benchmark your skills, competencies and knowledge against the marketplace is a good way to secure a pay rise and also a higher percentage increase, especially if you feel underpaid and have evidence to support this.

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Pay Rise