Ask HR: What’s the Best Way to Ask for a Raise?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP April 29, 2022
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Ask HR: What’s the Best Way to Ask for a Raise?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here. 

 

I've seen a multitude of people take advantage of today's competitive job market to procure better positions, benefits and salaries and even to relocate. I actually love my current position and company but wonder if I'm selling myself short in terms of compensation in today's market. How can I get a more competitive wage without leaving my current position? —Seth

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: While employees are jumping ship for better positions, benefits and salaries, loving your position and organization is priceless. But there also should be room to enjoy your work experience and receive equitable compensation for your work without leaving your current position. You will need to be thoroughly prepared to lay out your case for a more competitive wage.

First, do your research. Examine general salary data and assess how it compares with your own pay. Be sure to factor in variables such as your experience, job duties and education. Review your organization's job postings for any starting or comparable salary information and perks or bonuses being used to attract talent in a tight labor market. Understand your organization's compensation philosophy and pay increase practices, including any pay or merit increase policies. If you have questions, HR can help you better understand the pay philosophy and decisions behind merit increases. Be prepared to confidently justify your request for higher pay. For example, has your workload doubled due to staffing shortages? Have you taken on additional assignments or roles? Learned new skills or technology? Quantify, if possible, the value you have added to the business.

Next, schedule a meeting with your manager, provide the reason for the meeting and a brief agenda to stay on track. Have your talking points in writing for the meeting. Select a time and date when your work is not overly demanding. Be sure to communicate your satisfaction with the job and the organization. Be open to feedback and ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss the final decision. Your manager will most likely need to consult with HR or their manager before making any pay adjustment decisions.

Keep in mind, your employer may not be able to accommodate your request due to budget or other factors. If it is unable to increase your pay, ask if there are considerations for getting a raise in the future. Be prepared with alternative suggestions, such as the company supporting you in learning a new skill or taking on stretch assignments. Be creative.

Regardless of the outcome, be flexible and open to ideas different from your own. You can also consider alternative perks, benefits or variable compensation in lieu of a base pay increase. I wish you the best!


In the past year, I switched jobs twice and was recently approached by another company about a position. I worry about how future prospective employers will view me down the line. At what point will employers see my frequent career movement as a negative? —Rebecca

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: This is an excellent and timely question, as many workers are facing a similar dilemma. In 2021, nearly half of employers (49 percent) reported their organization had experienced much higher turnover than usual in the past six months. The Great Resignation does not appear to be slowing down in 2022.

Thankfully, employees are no longer expected to stay with the same employer for the bulk of their career, and employers are more open to hiring candidates with frequent career movement. Career mobility is a hallmark of this era, and employers do not automatically see it as a negative. Today, employers assess candidates more on the reasoning for changing jobs rather than how long they worked for one employer. The quality and depth of the experience are much larger determinants in hiring.

Employers are looking to see if you have demonstrated a measurable impact with your work. It also depends on the type of jobs you are seeking, as well as the industry you are in. And if you change jobs every few months, employers may be concerned if it appears you didn't have time to be fully trained or adjust to your new position.

If you feel concerned about your frequent career movement, there are a few strategies that may work for you:

  • Write a cover letter. Explain your job movement and keep it positive.
  • Be transparent, but don't bad-mouth past employers.
  • Focus on transferable skills. Pivot potentially negative feelings an employer may have about your career moves to focus on the positive; highlight key strengths such as being highly adaptable and a quick learner.
  • Focus on the job you are applying for. Share why you are interested in this job and how you plan to add value to the organization if you are hired.

I hope this puts your mind at ease and helps you prepare for future job opportunities.

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