When & How to Negotiate a Signing Bonus

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If You Want a Signing Bonus, Try a Little Honesty

Negotiating, in and of itself, can often be difficult and unpleasant for many. But if your financial situation is dire and you desperately need money, it becomes even more tenuous. So what do you do when a company finally shows interest, but you need upfront cash for a variety of reasons? Should you just keep quiet and thank your lucky stars you have an offer, or is it reasonable to attempt to negotiate a signing bonus?

Jack Chapman, our salary negotiation expert, fields this real-life question this week and comes up with an unexpected, yet simple solution.

In 2011 I sent out 30+ resumes in response to job listings, nothing happened. I went on over a dozen interviews, was called back for 2nd interviews, and twice made it to the 3rd round, but did not get a job offer. Six months ago I interviewed at a company that's perfect for me, except for a horrible commute. It came down to two of us, and they selected the other candidate who was 20 years younger with a bit more education.

They just called me out of the blue with an opening and asked me if I'm interested. I find it hard not to act excited since I've been underemployed for 2 years. I also really need the benefits. I want to ask for a signing bonus, because I have very little professional clothing and my car needs work to handle the commute. What do you recommend?

So, you're financially behind the proverbial eight ball and want the employer to come up with some upfront money to make it easier for you to live and work. I suggest you use something I often recommend to clients called called "The Old Truth Ploy."

It's simple---tell them the truth and see if that works.

First, you have to make sure "they have an opening and have asked me if I am interested" means they are actually ready to make you an offer. If it does, explain how excited you are and follow the Salary-Making Rules in my book.

At the END of negotiations, when you have agreed on things, say: "There's one more thing, and if we can agree on that then we have a deal." Tell them about the year of job search, coming in second so many times, taking lower-level work just to pay the bills. Explain that through it all you continued believing in your value to someone offering the right job, and it's this one you found today.

Then say, since the fit is so good and you intend to work above and beyond average, would they consider a signing bonus of (whatever your number is) to help you get started. Be sure to do the "Lockdown Maneuver" first. If you've locked in the existing offer, then the worst-case scenario is they say no signing bonus. But the original offer will still stand and you'll be on your way to smoother sailing.

All the best,
Jack Chapman

Career coach and author Jack Chapman, who wrote "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute," is teaming up with Salary.com to offer a weekly Q & A on all things related to salary negotiation.

Using real questions sent in by actual Salary.com readers, Jack will help you navigate the choppy waters of interviewing for a job, negotiating a salary and asking for a raise or promotion. Remember all those times you desperately wished you had someone to help you answer all the tough questions that invariably surface around negotiations? Now Jack has your back and he's providing easy to implement, real-life solutions to your salary negotiation dilemmas.

Check back every Tuesday for the FREE advice that could prevent you from losing thousands of dollars in unnegotiated pay, get you the job you want and steer you clear of potential pitfalls during the interview process.

If you have a question or need some advice from Jack, we'd love to hear from you. Send an email to salarytalk@salary.com stating your problem or question, and we'll send it to Jack for his expert advice. Although Jack will do his best to reply to your question, the large number of responses we receive make it difficult to address each one.

Jack Chapman is a Career and Salary Coach, and author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute." For more negotiating advice go to www.salarynegotiations.com or e-mail jack@salarynegotiations.com

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