“Ask,” the old saying goes, “and ye shall receive.” Sounds simple enough, but when it comes to salary negotiation with your boss, it can get tricky. How should accounting and finance professionals ask for a raise?
Don't miss this: How to Negotiate Your Salary Without Alienating an Employer.
Before acting, you need to have three things: knowledge, good timing and salary negotiation know-how. Here’s a proven formula for success when you are ready to ask for a raise.
1. Know your market value
Do you know how much you’re worth? If not, you need to find out. Accounting and finance professionals are no strangers to analyzing data. Apply the same rigor to your salary negotiation tactics. If you go in blind when you ask for a raise, you risk asking for too much or too little — neither of which is ideal.
It’s important to know what professionals with similar skills as you earn in your local area, because compensation levels can vary drastically across the country. For example, our research shows that pay can differ by nearly 35 percent between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Robert Half's latest Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance provides a detailed breakdown of salaries based on position, years of experience and company size. You can customize compensation data even further with our salary ranges for your position in more than 135 U.S. cities. Although these resources list starting salaries only, they can provide a good baseline for you to start from.
2. Realize that timing is everything
Don’t surprise your boss by asking for a raise out of the blue. Schedule a meeting and make it clear you have salary negotiation on your mind. That will give your supervisor a chance to prepare and discuss the matter with those higher up, if necessary.
It also gives you more time to put together a list of points that illustrates why you deserve to earn more. Have you logged significant accomplishments recently? Have your job duties changed? Do you anticipate contributing to the firm in new ways in the coming months? Remember, you need to justify your request if you hope to have it approved.
Also realize that there are good times to ask for a raise, and there are bad times. Take a close look at what’s going on within your firm to determine if now is an appropriate time to start a salary negotiation or if you should wait.
Bad times to ask for a raise include the following:
- There’s an impending merger or buyout
- Annual reporting deadlines are fast approaching
- Last quarter’s revenue was down substantially, or an important client just left
- Your boss is going on vacation soon
- Early Monday morning or late Friday afternoon
Here are some better times to ask for a higher salary:
- Near the end of your performance review — if it was largely positive
- On your work anniversary
- After you’ve successfully completed a major project or brought in new business
- When you’re asked to supervise more people
- When you’re asked to take on responsibilities not in your original job description
What if your supervisor can’t meet your demands at this time or doesn’t think you’ve quite proven yourself? There’s no need to give up. Ask when you should revisit the salary negotiation. And in the interim, brainstorm ways to up your game, add value to the company and show your indispensability.
3. Know when to stop
Throughout the salary negotiation, remain gracious and professional. If a raise isn’t in the cards, consider requesting other benefits or incentives, such as more vacation or a flexible work arrangement. Show the employer you want to reach an agreement that works for both of you.
Be careful about threatening to quit if you don’t receive a raise. Issuing an ultimatum can easily backfire if your boss takes you up on the offer. Only do so if you are prepared for the consequences.
When it comes to salary negotiation, knowing how to ask for more can be tricky. By doing your research, making sure you ask for a raise at the right time, and knowing when and whether to push back, you’ll have a much better shot of getting the compensation you desire and deserve.
For a lighter look at what not do in salary negotiations, enjoy the video below.
Editor's note: The blog post first appeared in 2014 in the Career Insider newsletter from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). It was recently updated to reflect new Salary Guide data.