How To Ask for a Signing Bonus

It may be easier and harder than you think

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You may want to provide a signing bonus to people you need with hard to find skills and experience.
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You no longer need to be an executive at a top corporation to score a signing bonus—an extra cash boost for agreeing to an employer’s offer. According to the nonprofit human resources association World at Work, sign-on bonuses increased dramatically in the past 20 years. In 2001, 62% of employers surveyed offered sign-on bonuses; in 2021, 79% of employers provided sign-on bonuses.

Due to a tight labor market, signing bonuses are being offered across various employers and positions, including dishwashers, servers, and preschool teachers. In 2022, the U.S. Army offered up to $50,000 to recruits who sign on for six years. Amazon offers $1,000 bonuses to specific jobs and certain shift workers.

A sign-on bonus could convince you to leave your current job or help you choose one employer over another. But before you ask for a signing bonus, ensure you understand what a signing bonus entails and whether it could help or hurt in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  • Employers offer signing bonuses for many reasons, including attracting star talent, making up for lower salary offers, and retaining employees.
  • Many employers provide signing bonuses due to a tighter labor market.
  • To negotiate for a signing bonus, do your research in advance and know your worth.
  • The best time to ask for a signing bonus is when the employer makes a formal offer.
  • Consider the big picture and whether you need the signing bonus, or if there are other reasons you want the job.

Why Employers Offer Signing Bonuses

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, signing bonuses have become increasingly common as employers struggle to find good talent, said certified career coach Hallie Crawford, founder of, in an email to The Balance.

Sign-on bonuses help employers in several ways, according to the World at Work survey and other experts. Employers offer signing bonuses to help:

  • Increase applicants for a position
  • Attract in-demand applicants away from the competition
  • Make up for lower salary offers
  • Retain employees and stem turnover
  • Increase the offer acceptance percentages

Companies often use sign-on bonuses to lure talent away from other companies without disturbing existing internal pay scales, said recruiter John Herd, who works with accounting, finance, and technology employers in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, in addition to some national placement.

Jobs That Offer Signing Bonuses

"In general, the job market is red hot, and everybody's hiring," Herd said.

Because the market is so hot, bonuses aren’t just going to C-level positions, but also roles such as dishwashers and cooks. "We don't think this will remain a trend long term, and [signing bonuses] will go back for the most part to being most common with high-level or executive positions," Crawford said.

Lower-level positions and industries that don't struggle to find employees are less likely to offer bonuses, she said.

Overall, sign-on bonuses are most frequently offered to:

  • Executives
  • Upper management
  • Middle management
  • Supervisor
  • Professional
  • Sales
  • IT staff
  • Technical positions

According to the survey, sign-on bonuses were historically offered less than 50% of the time to customer service and frontline sales and service staff, production/manufacturing and warehouse jobs, and administrative support. However, a tight labor market could potentially up that percentage in some areas.


C-level positions tend to get bonuses as high as $100,000, although the amount may be broken up over two years, Herd said.

When To Ask for a Signing Bonus

Some job search boards allow seekers to narrow the search by whether a position comes with a signing bonus. But if it’s not advertised, in general, our experts said you’ll want to ask for a signing bonus after the manager offers you the job and you receive the hiring package. However, there are a few steps before making your big ask.

Tips for Negotiating a Signing Bonus

Here’s guidance through the process, from pre-interview research to deciding whether to accept or decline an offer—with or without a signing bonus attached.

Before the Interview

Before you even go in for the interview, understand the demand for your skillset and the unique value you bring to the organization, said Jacqueline V. Twillie, founder and CEO at ZeroGap.Co., a coaching organization for professional women. "That's more important than what you say and how you say it," Twillie said.

Read up on various sites and job boards to learn more about what other people are getting paid in your field and city, Herd said. You can also research the specific company and industry to find out what is standard, so you know what to ask for and what’s reasonable, Crawford said. Perhaps bonuses are only offered for some positions.

"It's important to do your research to know what options are available to you, to keep the conversation going towards something that can work for you both," Crawford said.

During the Interview

During the interview process, look for specifics around why you're a candidate and listen for indications around why the interviewer thinks you're a great fit for the company, Twillie said. If you're a candidate that businesses battle over, the hiring company will likely offer a bonus.

When You’re Offered the Job

A good total compensation package usually contains four elements: base pay, performance bonus, restricted stock units, and a sign-on bonus. "A good base salary is the best element of the four, because the cash is guaranteed," Herd said.

Crawford agreed that if a bonus wasn't included in the job ad or offered upfront, ask about a bonus when it's time to discuss salary.

When the job offer is extended, don't say yes or no quite yet. First, ask, "What are the benefits with this position? Can you send me a list of those?" If you don’t see a sign-on bonus included, don’t be scared to bring it up. "Be straightforward and ask if there is a sign-on bonus," Crawford said.


Even if you feel the answer might be no, mull over the offer overnight. Then tell the HR or hiring manager you can't accept the offer if a bonus isn't included, if that’s the case, Crawford said.

"Share your current salary and amount of your complete benefits package if it will help you negotiate for more money," Crawford said. "Don't, if it will not. Determine your current benefits package worth and share that with them, not just base salary."

Often, a hiring company may offer a signing bonus if you're leaving behind an annual performance bonus as a "bridge," Twillie said.

"You don't want to leave money on the table, but you don't want to ask for too much," Herd said—particularly if you're also attracted to how the company treats you and your enthusiasm about the position.


If you're working with a recruiter, the recruiter can help guide you through the process.

“We like to get on the phone and talk to both sides,” Herd said. “We don’t advise outright rejecting the offer unless the candidate is an absolute no. It is a delicate task of balancing the two sides.”

What To Watch Out for With Signing Bonuses

Ask these questions on signing bonus topics suggested by Crawford:

  • Is my bonus a one-time payment or paid over time?
  • Does my bonus depend on completing a trial or training period requirements?
  • Is my bonus taxed?

Bonuses can be offered at a defined dollar amount, at a variable amount (the amount changes according to the company’s need for the role), or both. The sign-on bonus could be given all at once or split so that you receive half of the bonus upfront and the remaining half later on.

In addition, most employers require employees to stay with the company for at least one year; otherwise, they forfeit or have to pay back the bonus. In Herd's estimation, the higher the bonus, the longer you have to stay on or pay it back.


Some of the above may be negotiable, depending upon the employer or position. For example, Crawford pointed out that you could even negotiate a lower sign-on bonus amount in exchange for a preferred employee benefit.

In the end, a signing bonus might not be a deal-killer. After all, you’re not just looking for a number, but trying to find a good fit. Ideally, that’s a job where you want to stay three to five years, Herd said. Weigh the risk and reward, Herd suggested—not just the signing bonus, but work-life balance, the company's trajectory, and your professional prospects.

"If the money's not there instantly, but you're working for a nice, dynamic company, you'll get paid no matter what," he said. “The cream always rises to the top.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is a signing bonus taxed?

A signing bonus is taxed at the federal level and by your state, if your state has an income tax. When you see the bonus amount offered, know that you won’t receive that sum—but the amount that remains after taxation. Consult with your tax accountant to calculate what a bonus might mean for this year’s taxes.

How much is a typical signing bonus?

A typical signing bonus depends on your position. The highest signing bonuses go to executive-level positions, with 40% of companies surveyed giving sign-on bonuses of $50,000 or more. The following are the amounts most often given to the following positions:

  • Upper and middle management, supervisors, and professionals most often received between $5,000 and $24,999.
  • Sales and supervisor positions most often received between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • Professionals, technical, and IT staff most often received between $1,000 and $9,999.
  • Administrative support, production/warehouse/manufacturing, customer service, and frontline sales positions most often received $4,999 or less.
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  1. WorldatWork. “Bonus Programs and Practices.”

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