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The Fine Art of the Raise Request

If you’ve proven yourself to be a go-to team member with a track record of success, you should feel comfortable and confident when broaching the sensitive salary subject.

June 17, 2010
from Robert Half Finance & Accounting

During the worst of the Great Recession you hunkered down and diligently kept your nose to the grindstone, doing everything you possibly could to secure your job and help your employer through an unprecedentedly difficult period.

But now that the economy has started showing signs of improvement, you’re wondering if it’s time to approach your manager about being recognized and rewarded for your contributions. Here are strategies for strengthening your case for a raise:

Clearly Convey Your Value

Many employees get off on the wrong foot when initiating salary discussions. “I deserve a raise because I’ve worked incredibly hard” is not particularly persuasive, even if the statement is 100 percent accurate. Before setting up a special meeting with your boss or going into your annual review, take the time to develop a compelling pitch that emphasizes results.

Document your most notable accomplishments in detail; leading with those that had a quantifiable impact. Did you bring in new clients or offer business-building ideas that boosted the bottom line? Did you come up with innovative ways to cut departmental expenses while increasing productivity? You’ll bolster your case by attaching hard numbers to your achievements.

Put Your Job Description Under the Microscope

Are you doing what you were hired to do? Or are you now doing much, much more? For many of today’s professionals, their day-to-day work no longer resembles the duties outlined in their job descriptions.

Traditionally, taking on additional responsibilities translated into more money. But during the downturn, your company may have instituted a salary freeze — or even reduced your pay despite adding to your workload. Assuming your organization is now on more solid footing, it’s unlikely your manager will fault you for inquiring about a raise or title change. If, for instance, you took on the work of a colleague who was laid off, you can point out the savings the firm has realized thanks to your ability to successfully perform two jobs.

Research Current Compensation Standards

Speaking of numbers, do you know where you stand compensation-wise? The last thing you want is to go overboard and appear out of touch by seeking a salary increase that puts you in a range far above the going rate.

Arm yourself with knowledge by researching current compensation standards in your area of specialization and geographic location. Consult publications such as Robert Half’s 2010 Salary Guide for accounting and finance professionals and Salary Center,as well as the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Visit other salary data websites and check recent job postings to see what competing companies are offering for comparable positions.

Salary talks can be uncomfortable in even the best of business environments, but asking for a raise in still-uncertain times is even harder. That said, good managers know that retention of their best employees is key to the firm’s ability to gain competitive market advantage. In fact, a recent survey by our company found that 40 percent of hiring managers would be willing to offer more money to keep top performers when the economy improves.

If you’ve proven yourself to be a go-to team member with a track record of success, you should feel comfortable and confident when broaching the sensitive salary subject.

Going Beyond Money Matters

Despite a strong pitch for a higher salary and regardless of how receptive your manager is to the idea, he or she may be facing strict budget constraints. If your boss is unable to act right now, ask when the topic can be revisited.

In case a pay hike isn’t possible, come to the table with alternative ideas that would be easier for your manager to implement. If work/life balance is a priority, ask about telecommuting options or a more flexible schedule. If you want to enhance your value and become even more marketable, seek reimbursement to pursue a degree, professional certification or specialized training. Conduct research and offer a list of conferences or courses that will help you build skills to advance your accounting career and do your job even more effectively.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com.