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How to negotiate a pay raise

Written by: Jesse Bullington
Published on: May 20, 2020

How to negotiate a pay raise

Does the thought of salary negotiations give you sweaty palms? It’s understandable — talking about money can be stressful. We all wish our boss would notice our hard work and give us a raise without being prompted. But alas, that’s pretty rare.

If you want more money, you have to be ready to bring it up and negotiate terms.

Whether you’re chasing a raise at your current job or a higher starting pay at a new position, here’s how to put yourself at ease and improve your odds of success:

1. Know exactly what you’re asking for

You work in finance and accounting, so you know the importance of preparation. Don’t talk with your superior until you’ve done all the groundwork. The last thing you want is to be put on the spot before you’re ready.

Start by researching the current job market. What’s the demand for your position, and what’s considered a reasonable pay range for your experience level? Use our online salary calculator to compare the average salaries of CPAs, CIMA students and CGMA® designation holders. If you hunt online, you may be able to find salaries at specific organizations.

This is all crucial information because employers expect you to bring them a well-crunched number. A 10–20% increase is considered a safe request, but weigh the above factors before settling on your figure.

2. Know when to ask for it

Are you starting a new job? Their offer may be negotiable. You won’t know until you ask.

If you’ve held the same position for a while, your annual review can be the ideal time to ask for a raise. If you don’t have annual reviews at your company, ask your boss if you could start — it demonstrates you’re serious about your career development.

Other opportunities can arrive at unexpected times. Pay attention to how well your company is doing and wait for an uptick. Coming off the success of one of your major projects is another chance to make your pitch. Patience is key, since asking for a raise at the wrong time can be an automatic no.

3. Know how to ask for it

You want to be as relaxed as possible during negotiations. And you should negotiate in-person since tone doesn’t always come across in email. You also want to capitalize on the relationship you’ve built with your boss or recruiter by speaking one-on-one.

Minimize anxiety by practicing your pitch. What questions do you anticipate being asked, and how will you address them? If you want your boss to feel confident about giving you a raise, you have to give confident answers.

4. You don’t want a raise; you deserve a raise

When you begin negotiations, open with your past accomplishments. You’re in a profession that prizes accuracy and hard numbers, so get specific with how your actions have made or saved your organization money, but also play up your non-financial contributions. Tie these wins into your long-term goals, and ask for feedback — you want to demonstrate that you’re independently motivated but also value your superior’s guidance.

Do you possess specialized skills or training? Bring it up.

Are you in a leadership role, or do you want one? Bring it up.

Do you have any credentials, or do you plan to pursue them? Bring it up.

Be matter-of-fact, not cocky. Employers will recognize the value of your unique qualifications, but overconfidence can be off-putting.

You might be tempted to share your personal reasons for requesting more money. Don’t. You’re asking for a raise because the work you do warrants a higher salary, period. Your boss needs to be convinced that you’ll offer a return on their investment. You do that by spelling out your value and ambitions, not by mentioning that your rent is going up or that you’d like a new car.

5. Hope for the best; plan for the worst

Even if you do everything right, your boss or hiring manager may not give you what you want — at least not immediately. If you’re turned down, ask how you could earn a raise in the future, and on what timeline. As long as you’re patient and gracious in the face of disappointment, you’ll be remembered favorably the next time you ask.

And there will be the next time because when it comes to life’s certainties, negotiating pay raises is right behind death and taxes. At least our line of work prepares us for two out of three.


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