How to ask for a raise or promotion

When and how can you ask for a raise or promotion? Irina Taran, executive coach with HR experience, shares her thoughts.

Irina Taran, executive coach with HR experience

— The topic of salary appears, of course, at the very beginning of an employment relationship: when a person is either looking for a job or has come for an interview. It may be trite, but let’s just acknowledge up front that a person needs money to live. A specialist wants to focus on succeeding and moving forward in their profession, not worrying daily about financial issues and struggling to feel comfortable. It is normal that a specialist who wants to be hired has certain salary expectations. It is also important to remember that with each month in the company, the employee masters and improves their professional skills. Accordingly, self-assessment of expertise today, then in 3 months, six months, and a year will all be different.

When to ask for a pay raise

Step 1

— Let's say you come to an interview and expect that an offer will be made to you. You can talk about the possibility of a salary increase right at this stage. This is a very important building block in your career. In the future, a situation may arise when you are very good at the tasks, requirements and expectations associated with your position, or your manager/HR notices that you have the ability to do something else. If you have not already laid the groundwork for a promotion, discussing the topic at that time will be more difficult. But if, even before you are hired, you express an interest in what will happen if you or the company grows, and ask about the processes for increasing remuneration, your employer will understand that you are an ambitious person who is striving for professional development. It is natural that, in the future, it will be much easier to ask for a raise if you take this position at the start.

Job seekers often sell their skills but forget to “buy the company.”

When you are considering where to work, be clear about the structure and hierarchy of interaction within the company, know the person with whom you can discuss professional growth and salary changes.

Imagine yourself in a year: you have already mastered the position that you were hired for, everything is working out for you, maybe you see additional opportunities within the company — ask the employer questions about promotion now on behalf of that future self.

Step 2

— What if the conditions for an increase were not agreed upon at the start? Perhaps you came to the company as a junior, everything suited you, and then it turned out that you have more abilities than everyone expected. There is such a thing as an individual development plan (IDP) — one of the elements of employee development. In IT companies, an IDP is usually implemented. You may need to clarify with HR how certification takes place. How and when will a report assessing how you cope with the requirements and expections (the functionality) of your position, and what you do that goes above and beyond, be prepared? Based on these data, you can apply for changes in salary/position.

If the company does not have an individual performance review (IPR) process, it is worth asking how feedback is given, when that happens, and how you can apply for a review of the salary if everything works out.

Do you feel that you are capable of more, or do you see that you are taking on work that goes beyond the agreed upon functionality of your position? If so, you can raise the issue. First, though, you need to find out who is responsible for the process of changing salaries, then learn about the available opportunities, and after that you can move forward.

An IDP, as a rule, includes a scheduled review. After 3–6 months, for example, a one-on-one meeting is held, where pre-determined points A and B on the employee's career path are reviewed. Depending on whether the employee has come to a new point of growth, an analysis and conclusion is made, and new goals are set.

I often work with people in small IT companies who have roles that combine several positions. The result is that there is a mixing of functionalities, and questions about remuneration. It is important that management understands that a person who can and does go beyond their expertise should be rewarded.

When and how to ask for a promotion

— It is important to realize that a certain functionality is associated with a certain salary. If you perform the functionality for the given salary, then you are already getting what you deserve. If you have different interests, and want to learn something new, you should boldly discuss this with your manager or the appropriate person in your organization. In IT, such initiative is usually welcomed. Often, your employer will be willing to pay for your training, for example, after which it will be possible to agree on an increase.

To answer the question of how and when to ask for a raise, you need to clearly and objectively assess your achievements. We come to a company with a certain level of experience and skill, then we adapt, we work. It's hard for us to see ourselves progressing. It is important to prepare and notice your progress. Take the time to remember how you were when you came to the company, and where you are today. You can simply take a sheet of paper and fill in those two columns. Try to quantify your abilities and expertise using numbers and metrics when possible — do this in the same "before" and "after" format. Determine whether your achievements and growth correspond to the tasks and KPIs that were set for you. Are there things that go beyond these tasks? Please note that the way in which you exceed the benchmarks can be in your expertise as a specialist, and in the development of your personality.

If the company has deadlines for progress in your IDP, then the time has already been chosen for you and you will know what you need to prepare for, and when. If this time is not established already, you can set it yourself.

Knowing what the raise ceilings are will also help answer the question of when to ask for a raise again. If the company has 10-15% allocated, and your salary has been increased by 5-7%, you can ask how, for what, and when you can get the full amount.

What to do if your promotion or salary request is not met

— If your promotion or salary plan doesn't work, there are several ways to proceed.

  • Go back to step 1. That's why it's important when you "buy a company" to identify the limit of its resources. After all, there are companies that simply do not have the ability to raise wages. If you initially agree to this, then asking for a raise after you are working there will be inappropriate. And there are many reasons, in addition to potential growth, why you chose the company: a good team, convenient schedule, skills development, etc. You need to soberly assess this and establish how long you will stay with this company: perhaps a couple of years with the goal of moving on later. If growth opportunities were discussed, but they did not come to fruition, naturally, you need to understand the reason, eliminate it, and revisit the issue again.
  • Try to evaluate what, in addition to promotion or raise, might be interesting for you in this company. Very honestly and very accurately find the reasons and the motivation within yourself. Then, you will be in harmony with yourself and you will not have internal conflicts. Of course, this solution will only last for a certain period. After that, you will need to think about your development prospects and quietly look for another place. But it is possible that while you, having agreed with yourself to remain, continue to work in the company, something changes and resources for growth appear: this happens often.
  • Look for another job. If you understand that there is no reason to stay, leave.


— I repeat once again that it is best to find out the answers to all these questions upfront, before you accept the job: how much it is possible to increase wages, when, how does it happen, for what functionality, what bonuses are provided, etc. But if you didn’t do this at the beginning, you need to find out how this process happens as early as possible after you have adapted to your new surroundings.

You can discuss this article, and share your experience about asking for a promotion, in our Discord channel.

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