Online exclusive

Pay raises not out of the question

With the right preparation, employees can negotiate higher wages

  • Share
I recently got a nice pay raise. I didn't have to negotiate for one because my salary increase was guaranteed under a contract.

But how many of you think you deserve a raise, only to hear these words from the boss: We can't afford it. Workers cited getting a raise as their No. 1 priority this year, according to a New Year resolution survey by Adecco Staffing North America.

Here's the bad news: Next year, increases for salaries are expected to remain relatively unchanged at 3.7 percent, according to Hewitt Associates, a global human resources firm. Salary hikes have not generally kept up with the rate of inflation -- 3.8 percent in the past 12 months ending in August, according to government data. (Feel free to complain now.)

Complicating matters is some companies have replaced across-the-board salary increases for performance-based pay.

But that doesn't mean you should settle for little or no raise if you believe you're worth more. You could snag a raise by making a strong case to your boss, especially now when the labor market is tight, experts say.

Here are some tips:

  • Do your homework. Research the market salary for your position and experience. There are plenty of salary surveys and data out there. Job search engine recently launched a new function where workers can retrieve salary data by titles and certain skills, such as foreign language or certification.

  • Get prepared for the meeting by putting together a list of your accomplishments. Give specific examples of successful projects or better-than-expected sales. Steve Schneiders, a director at Sudina Search, a Timonium-based recruiting firm, says workers need to show the value they bring to the organization.

    "You have to have concrete evidence," he says. "You can't just say, 'I deserve it because I worked hard.'"

  • In some cases, an alternative job offer or interest from other recruiters can help boost your case. But be very careful in how you use this potential leverage because it can backfire. Paul Forster, chief executive officer of, says you don't want to come off as blackmailing your employer.

  • And if you still don't get a raise, Forster suggests asking for other perks, such as more vacation time or further training and education opportunities. Forster says additional skills and training will increase a worker's value and "justify a raise when the company is in a position to pay it."

    From the mailbag: Tracy, a reader from Philadelphia, wrote about a work quandary.

    She was fired from a job a year ago for not working an event that was mandatory because of an emergency.

    Now, Tracy says she has an interview with the same company but different department. Should she go on the interview? If she does, should she come clean about her employment history with the company?

    Eileen Levitt, president of the HR Team in Columbia, who frequently interviews job candidates, questions why Tracy wants to work there considering "apples -- in this case managers -- don't fall far from trees."

    But Levitt says Tracy should be honest if she goes on the interview.

    "That way, when she runs into her old boss, her new one will have all the details, and it will take away the old boss' ability to diminish her in the eyes of her new manager," Levitt says.

    Have you been successful getting a raise? And what else is on your mind about life at work? Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

    Subscribe to Hanah Cho's podcast
    • Share
    Baltimore's top properties for August [Pictures]

    Baltimore's top properties for August

    Find out where Baltimore's most expensive homes on the market are and how much they are worth. Here's a list of most pricey new properties...

    Pictures: Ins and outs of the new iPhones and Apple Watch

    Ins and outs of the new iPhones and Apple Watch

    Everything you need to know about Apple's new products and gadgets.

    Which stores have recently opened or closed in the Baltimore region?

    Which stores have recently opened or closed in Baltimore?

    Keep up with the latest news about store openings and closings in the Baltimore area.

    Baltimore's 100 Top Workplaces

    Baltimore's 100 Top Workplaces

    The Baltimore Sun proudly presents Baltimore's Top Workplaces, listing the region's top companies based on confidential surveys of their...