Financial professionals: Before asking for a raise, ask yourself this

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a man rising coinsBy Robert Half International

Who doesn’t love a raise? Who doesn’t want or need one — or at least think they do? Unfortunately, it’s not all about you when it comes to asking for more pay. You have to establish for your employer why giving you a raise is necessary. And that’s where it can get a little tricky.

So, before you march into the boss’s office and make your case for a higher salary, ask yourself these six questions:

1. Am I being paid below the market rate? If you can demonstrate that your salary has not kept pace with comparable positions at other companies, you can make a more persuasive case for a raise. Research the marketplace by reviewing salary ranges for recent job postings, checking resources such as the annual Robert Half “Salary Guide for financial professionals and gathering information from industry associations. Also, talk to people in your network, specialized recruiters and others who may have inside information on pay trends in your area.

You may even want to compile a “comp list” of similar positions and salaries. You can commit this information to memory or present it in printed form in case your manager wants to review your findings when you have your salary discussion.

2. Have I taken on new responsibilities? Maybe you absorbed duties from colleagues who have left the organization. Or maybe your job description has steadily expanded as business has picked up in lieu of your company adding new staff.

If this is the case, you may need to remind your boss how your role has changed. For example, maybe you were hired as a payroll clerk, and your position has evolved to include most of the responsibilities of a payroll supervisor. The change can sometimes be so gradual that your supervisor may not realize its true extent.

3. Can I document my accomplishments? Although it’s important to show how your responsibilities have expanded, it’s even more critical to highlight how well you’ve succeeded with the new tasks. Be ready to clearly present your accomplishments and attach numbers or other qualifiers to them.

If you’ve re-engineered how your department conducts the monthly close and reduced by half the amount of time it takes to close the books, point this out. In addition, if you’ve received notes of praise from internal or external clients, share them with your boss.

Don’t assume your manager is aware of the impact you’re having. Your ability to quantify and characterize the results of your efforts can be a strong selling point and a way of ensuring the discussion remains focused on the value you’ve brought to the company.

4. Are my skills in demand? Highly skilled accounting and finance professionals are in demand despite the relatively high overall unemployment rate. Talent shortages even exist for financial analysts, senior accountants, business system analysts and other positions.

As the job market improves and recruiting challenges persist, companies are becoming more focused on retaining professionals in these and other sought-after specialties. In fact, 38 percent of financial executives interviewed recently by Robert Half said retaining valuable employees is their biggest staffing concern in the coming months. If you have highly marketable skills or experience, you may be in a strong position to request a raise.

5. Am I willing to compromise? Consider what your compensation goals are and also how flexible you are in terms of what you will accept. This isn’t to say you should storm out if your request isn’t met. But you should have other options ready if your manager can’t grant the pay increase you seek.

For example, if your goal is a 5 percent raise, maybe you would be willing to accept a 3 percent increase now and an additional 2 percent in six months if you meet certain performance targets. Or you may be willing to negotiate for other benefits or perks, such as a loftier title or additional vacation time. Think through various scenarios ahead of time.

6. Is the timing right? Give as much thought to when you initiate a salary discussion as the case you’ll make for it. If possible, find a time when both you and the firm are at a high point. For instance, you might want to initiate a pay discussion to coincide with the successful completion of an important project or the expansion of business with a key client.

If you can answer affirmatively to most of the questions above, you may have a strong case to present that the value you bring to your company deserves to be recognized.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.

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