Congratulations! You’ve nabbed your first professional job that comes with a potential signing bonus. Before you try to negotiate for your signing bonus, there are some key points you need to keep in mind. Scroll through the following paragraphs to learn tips on how to negotiate a higher signing bonus.

A signing bonus is a financial incentive a company offers to a prospective employee so he/she joins the company. They may be cash payments or stock options and are typically offered to highly skilled workers that are receiving multiple employment offers from other companies. Signing bonuses are often used in professional sports and professional recruitment.

Research

You will need to do some research before you begin negotiating. 

Start by looking at industry salaries for the position you applied for. Ask yourself the following questions: Are my skills or expertise in high demand? Did I receive a job offer from a competing company? Are signing bonuses common for the company that has made you a job offer? 

Create a list of your achievements and awards. Add anything that makes you stand out from other candidates. Do you have any unique skills that set you apart? Are you fluent in a foreign language? Do you have a graduate degree? Any of these qualifications set you apart from  the competition. Companies are more likely to be open to negotiations if you have something to offer THEM.

Choose the Right Time

Pick the proper time to begin negotiations. A hiring manager’s job is to rule out candidates with unrealistic salary expectations. Defer conversations about your compensation package until after you’ve received a job offer. You can respond to any questions during an interview by saying, “I am sure the company compensates its employees fairly.” Hold off on any signing bonus negotiation talks until you receive your job offer in writing. Any negotiation talk may affect your salary compensation package. 

Bring up a signing bonus after you have received a job offer in writing.

Thoroughly read through the details of your compensation package. Make sure you understand the numbers. If you have questions about the fee structure, feel free to ask. Some employers may give a lower annual salary than competitors, but make up for it in bonuses. Your full compensation package may include extra vacation time, educational costs, medical/dental benefits, disability insurance and more.

lf the compensation package is not as high as what you currently have, you will need to consider how you will break down the differences. Break down any expenses you may incur if you accept your new offer. Will you have relocation costs? 

After you’ve received your job offer and salary compensation in writing you can bring up the subject of a sign-on bonus. Now is your go time! 

Talk over any other points in your contract before you negotiate a signing bonus. Remember, some companies will not bring up a signing bonus unless you ask. The hiring manager may also ask you for the amount range you are looking for. Consider your expertise level and skill set when you come up with the amount you give. Explain to the hiring manager any benefits you would be losing out on if you accept the job offer. If you are offered a lower than ideal signing bonus, feel free to say, “Thank you. Is that the maximum amount you offer?” You want to receive the maximum amount your future employer offers. Finally, get the total sum of the bonus and how it will be paid in writing.

Signing Bonus Tax

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) implements a signing bonus tax. The amount withheld from your bonus depends on how your employer pays out the money. The IRS will consider the signing bonus as supplemental wages if it is paid in a separate check. The IRS taxes supplemental wages at a higher rate than a regular paycheck.

See if you can get your bonus added to your usual paycheck. Your bonus will be taxed at a lower rate, and you’ll get to keep more of it. 

Terms of a Signing Bonus

Sometimes, a signing bonus has terms. You may not get it before a certain length of time with a company. You may have to pay it back if you leave before a specified length. Keep in mind that it may be more beneficial to negotiate a higher salary than a one-time signing bonus. 

A Negative Answer

It’s time to negotiate other parts of your compensation package if your request for a signing bonus is turned down. You can always bring up extra vacation time, stock options, telecommuting options, or other benefits.

Negotiating a sign on bonus is a tricky course to navigate. It’s important that you understand your worth to an employer and that your complete benefits package reflects that.

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