How to hire during bonus season

The fourth quarter is when many organizations make important hires for the coming year. It’s also the time when candidates anticipate sizable bonuses, which can create complications for organizations looking to land top talent.

At Charles Aris, we’ve seen scenarios play out where the perfect candidate turns down an offer for fear of missing out on their bonus, which, for A-players, tends to be a healthy sum of money. These payouts can be hard to compete with as a hiring organization, but we have seen many creative solutions to help reach a successful outcome.

Here are three incentives that will convince candidates your offer is more attractive than their bonus:

Offer a signing bonus to offset the money your candidate is leaving behind

Even if your opportunity is better in every way than the candidate’s current role, it can be difficult for them to turn down a year-end bonus.

Candidates have earned this bonus throughout the year, so walking away from that can be especially difficult. This is where a signing bonus can give your offer a competitive edge. The easiest and most straightforward solution that we see is for hiring organizations to offer a signing bonus that matches the bonus their candidate is leaving behind.

If that isn’t in your organization’s budget, consider a signing bonus that is broken into multiple parts – for example, a portion paid now with the remainder in six or 12 months. In our experience, candidates will be flexible on how the bonus pays out if the role is truly a good fit.

Provide a signing equity package

If a lump sum signing bonus or payment plan isn’t feasible for your organization, consider offering a comparable amount in the form of equity. Our clients often find this method to be a good solution if the cash option isn’t in the budget, and future-thinking candidates tend to appreciate your investment in their abilities.

Additionally, offering a candidate equity early in their tenure will make them feel more responsibility and camaraderie towards your team because they are now financially incentivized to produce good results.

Delay the start date until their year-end bonus pays out

The fourth quarter is an important time to hire when planning for the year ahead, but these hires don’t always need to start before January 1. If you can afford to schedule your new hire’s start date for the following year, you will allow the candidate to both collect their year-end bonus from their current organization and have ample time to prepare for their new role.

In certain cases, this has been a win-win for the hiring authority and candidate because of the busy schedules associated with the holiday season. The first weeks of the new year are generally a better time for the hiring organization to complete onboarding tasks, and the candidate can resign from their current role only after they’ve completed all responsibilities for the calendar year.

The takeaway:

Bonus season does create additional hurdles when hiring top talent, but it shouldn’t be a showstopper when trying to land the right candidate for your role. If a candidate really wants the role and an organization really wants that candidate, there’s usually a solution that can work for both sides.

The most important takeaway is that the candidate feels the organization is trying to find a creative solution that will work for both sides.

To learn more, contact Jill Jitima at (336) 217-9115 or