• The Angus Group

How Bonus Season Can Affect Hiring


by Jason Boehm Vice President & Practice Leader at The Angus Group


The holiday season has come and gone, but we are just entering peak bonus season. As we begin the new year, many organizations will be paying out annual bonuses over the next few months. While some have already received them, the majority of bonuses are paid out between January and late March. Typically, a person must still be employed by the company on the payout date in order to be eligible. If you are trying to add talent to your organization during this time period, it can present a real challenge.


When recruiting candidates during bonus season, we often hear a similar theme. While people may be very interested in a particular role, feel it lines up with their career goals, and that the company culture is a great match, they are hesitant or unwilling to move forward because they’d be walking away from a substantial bonus. This is understandable on one hand because the person worked all year to earn it, but on the other hand, it can be very frustrating when you are trying to fill a key position in your organization. In fact, we are working through some situations just like this right now.

Here are some solutions to consider that have worked for clients in the past when facing this scenario.

  • Provide a signing bonus to match or at least help balance the money the candidate is leaving on the table with their current employer.

  • If a signing bonus isn’t a possibility, consider a stay bonus of sorts that is paid at 30, 60 or 90 days. As a more budget friendly option, you can break amount up into increments as well and even extend those payments over six months. Either way, this gives you some time to ensure the person is performing as expected before paying the bonus up front.

  • Another option is to provide stock shares or equity in lieu of a cash bonus. This can often be easier for an organization to handle from a budget standpoint. While not every candidate will be interested in this type of scenario, it could be an attractive option since the amount can gain value over time as opposed to money in hand day one.

As a last resort, the start date can be delayed until after the bonus is paid out. This comes with risks to consider though. First and foremost, if hiring this person is time sensitive, your company may not be able to wait 1 to 3 months for the candidate to collect his or her bonus. Secondly, you run the risk of the candidate getting promoted with their current employer, being approached about another opportunity, or simply changing their mind as excitement dwindles the more time that passes.

The bottom line is to find a creative solution that works for both sides and don’t be caught off-guard. Bonus season can certainly be a challenge but don’t let it become a deterrent in filling key roles. Attracting top talent and battling other organizations in search for the same people is tough in today’s market. When you find the right match, consider the cost of losing that person and starting the process over versus the cost of a one-time bonus. In the end, if both parties truly want to make things work, you’ll find a way to make it happen.