Q & A Table of Contents
How Much Of A Signing Bonus Can I Expect?
From: Frank, New York City
Question: I am considering accepting an director's position for a large accessories company in New York City. My starting salary will be around $150,000 per year.
My headhunter recently informed me that I should negotiate a signing bonus as well. Is there a standard percentage rule for signing bonuses, or is there another table I should use to come up with a number?
What do you think would be a fair number?
Response: I begin by answering your question with a series of questions: Does the amount your headhunter gets paid for getting you this job change if you get a signing-up bonus? Does the headhunter's commission increase if you get an end-of-year bonus? How much of your total compensation package do you get to keep (before taxes, of course)?
I have no personal familiarity with the signing-up bonus in the accessories business. You should do homework with other people more familiarity with that business sector to find out whether such bonuses are normal -- and if so, what kind of percentage of the first year's salary is considered an appropriate bonus for accepting the job. You should also do your best to find out the practice or history of your new employer. It would be awful if, by asking for a signing up bonus, your job offer were to be withdrawn.
Since, as you indicate, the idea of a signing up bonus came from your headhunter, it would not be inappropriate to ask the headhunter for guidance. Your headhunter should offer you defensible data -- not to convince your new employer, but to give you confidence that you are not over-reaching should you decide to make the request.
It may be that in your negotiations with the new employer it would make better sense to be honest, to say "I am curious how your firm handles such issues as salary reviews, signing up bonuses, year-end bonuses, retirement plans, and other elements of the total compensation package." By taking that approach you are not being 'in their face' with your pursuit of a signing up bonus. Rather you are undertaking the legitimate job of learning more about the 'wages, hours, and conditions' that come with the new job.
If you ask for a signing up bonus you might get it. But it may go into your personnel records as an element to consider when it comes to year-end bonuses, salary reviews, etc. Look before you leap.
Good luck with this.