It never hurts to ask.
During the technology boom in the late 90s, signing bonuses were commonplace as companies looked for ways to recruit top IT professionals from their competitors. Although the market is not nearly as strong as it was then, signing bonuses seem to be making a comeback. In many cases, all it takes to get one is to ask and to convince the hiring manager that a few extra bucks will be the catalyst that will convince you to take the job. It’s important to realize, however, that you must be in a position where your credentials far outweigh those of your competitors or that you’re extremely comfortable knowing that the potential employer has their sights set on you specifically.
Signing bonuses can be anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your base salary, in extreme cases, however, they could go much higher. Obviously signing bonuses are usually used to lure top talent and with the current IT glut in the marketplace, it may be difficult to find an employer that’s willing to pay one.
There are several segments within the technology arena, however, that are hot. It’s within these segments that we’ll probably see more signing bonuses than any other. Data Security, for example is currently the segment of the industry that’s attracting the most attention. If this happens to be your specialty, odds are you can ask for and receive a signing bonus.
Other skills that can make you extremely marketable are the soft skills that are currently in short supply for companies who are doing offshore outsourcing. An IT professional that speaks foreign languages, has traveled overseas or is familiar with other cultures, for example, is currently a hot commodity to companies who need professionals to manage their outsourcing projects.
Another important factor that may determine whether or not you’ll get a signing bonus is how you present it to your potential employer. A signing bonus is definitely not something you bring up on a first interview. You don’t want to give your employer the idea that the only thing you’re interested in is the money.
The chances of getting a signing bonus increases dramatically if the employer has gone far enough in the interviewing process to know that you are the one they want to hire. In many cases, a signing bonus can make up for a lower salary offer or lack of comparable benefits to your current situation.
The best way to approach the concept of a signing bonus is to let your potential employer know that you either have other companies who have issued similar offers or that the current compensation package doesn’t compete with what you’re already getting. Offer the possibility of a signing bonus as the clincher that will allow you to make the decision in their favor.