Hays UK blog


Want a pay rise? Here’s how to build your case

By Geoff Fawcett, Director, UK & I

Asking for a pay rise can be unsettling. It can be frustrating and disheartening if the answer is no and you may worry how it could affect your relationship with your manager. However, the more research and preparation you do, the more likely the outcome will be a positive one.

Making sure you’ve prepared properly for your meeting is crucial to your success. This includes choosing an appropriate time and having done your research.

What’s most important though is constructing a watertight business case. Developing a clear and coherent business case will help your boss make an informed and sensible decision. Your case needs to be focused on demonstrating, with tangible evidence, how much of an asset you are to the business.

Here are some things you need to make sure you cover:

Research is key

It’s important to know the going rate for your role; otherwise you’ll be in the dark about how much you can feasibly ask for. One way you can research this is with the Hays Salary Checker. If you discover the industry average wage for your role is higher than your current wage then you have every right to bring this information into the pay rise meeting with you.

Similarly, if you have been headhunted for such a role that promises an increased salary then I would advise mentioning this to your boss. They will appreciate your honesty and the fact that, despite being offered an increased wage in a new role, you have demonstrated loyalty by offering your employer a chance to retain your services.

Familiarising yourself with whether your employer has a common procedure for salary increases will also help ensure you aren’t caught off guard. If not found on your company’s internal systems, then make a general inquiry to the HR department. The HR department could also help you to establish when your manager’s budget is finalised; scheduling your meeting just after budgets have been confirmed puts you and your boss in a very tricky position!

Delivering your case

Detail a robust agenda for the meeting and take control. Not only will preparing an actual sheet of paper with the agenda on it help you to keep your boss from altering the trajectory but it will also be useful in helping your boss go away and consider the matter. Hard facts and figures visible on a piece of paper cannot be disputed; whilst they’ll also help your boss articulate your case to HR, who will likely also have to approve it.

How well you present your case is just as important as the content you include. You should have agreed upon a time slot with your boss at least a week in advance of your meeting. Catching them unawares with demands for a salary increase is unlikely to garner you any success. Book a quiet and private room during a free afternoon where you and your boss can discuss the issue thoroughly without distraction.

Show your worth

In order to achieve a raise you can’t just want one, you need to deserve one. Throughout your presentation your boss will be assessing your presentation the same as they would an investment. Your fundamental objective is to prove you’re an asset to the business, so structure your case around this idea.

Write down all the things that you’ve achieved individually or contributed to significantly as part of a team. Build your whole case around two or three of these projects. Back up your claims with real and irrefutable evidence e.g. money earned as a result of your success, relationships with clients improved, processes improved and savings made.

You need to have answered a few basic questions when building your case for a pay rise: 

  • Are you going above and beyond the stated responsibilities in your contract?
  • Do you offer greater value than your colleagues who are being paid the same or more handsomely than you are?
  • Have you taken on extra responsibilities recently?
  • Have you improved since the last performance review with your manager?
  • Have you added tangible, demonstrable value to the business?
  • Usually a pay rise will mean a promotion, so make sure you’re ready for this eventuality

If you answered yes to most or all of the above then you have a strong case, it’s just now just a matter of structuring and presenting it in an effective and comprehensive manner.

Prepare for some tricky questions

Asking for a pay rise can be an awkward situation for your manager, and as a result they might ask some trying questions. Make sure you’re prepared for them in advance by preparing an answer for each of the following:

  • How much of a raise do you require?
  • Will you leave if your boss can’t meet your expectations?
  • Do you think, considering the economy, it’s an appropriate time to be asking?
  • Are you truly deserving of such a raise?

Being fully prepared for tough questions such as these will help you retain control of the meeting whilst making your clear and cohesive case.

End on a positive note

Don’t put your boss under too much pressure at any time in the meeting – you want to avoid a confrontation. If your case is logical and well-reasoned then allow them the time to digest it fully rather than asking them to make a snap-judgement. Agree a date and time to meeting again and come to a final verdict.

You need to be prepared for all eventualities, as there’s no guarantee that your proposal will go well. If you’re not successful you need to decide on whether you plan to stay on or not.

If you are looking for support with your employment needs please contact your local office.

About this author

With over 20 years experience within the industry, Geoff’s previous roles providing integrated recruitment solutions to the financial markets has lead him to partner with a range of corporate clients. His position is pivotal to ensure Hays deploys the right recruitment solutions for businesses within UK & Ireland; RPO, MSP, SOW. He manages the internal sales strategy in addition to leading the Hays Consultancy Service (SOW solutions).


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