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My bonus is on its way but so is a new job offer. How do I manage this?

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Et Halstead, Managing Director, New York.

It’s that time of year when bonuses are about to be paid and the job market is hot. Unfortunately, these two events coincide every year and many people often find themselves delaying a job search or turning down new job opportunities altogether through guilt or fear of missing out on their bonuses entirely. 

Around 75% of the financial services sector complete their annual budgets for the coming year in December. Headcount approvals are then released to hiring managers in the new year and they head out to the market desperate to fill that vacancy that’s been a thorn in their side for a while. Most interview processes take around 6 - 8 weeks which means that March and April are extremely busy job offer months. 

If you find yourself in the interview process but want to keep your bonus, there are steps you can take to ensure you handle the situation as constructively as possible.

1) Your bonus is a reward for a job well done more than it is an incentive to stay on

Whilst you won’t be able to please everyone, the first thing you need to bear in mind is that your bonus is your reward for a job well done across the course of the year. By putting in the effort and producing the results - you’ve earnt the money that your employer is about to pay to you. Whilst some would argue that your bonus is also an incentive for future hard work, that logic doesn’t really hold up when you consider that your bonus is based on you and your company’s performance throughout the previous year. You’ve earnt it, you don’t have to forgo the pay-out and you'll need to be confident in this belief during negotiation and exit talks to get everyone on board. 

2) Ambiguity is the enemy of progress

Your recruiter and prospective future employer are both aware it’s that time of year and are expecting to have a negotiation on their hands. Whilst some employers are open to bonus buyouts many prefer to wait for you to receive your bonus before handing in your notice. Employment contracts and bonus schemes come with terms and conditions. Learn what they are and tell your recruiter so they can manage the process and expectations of your new employer accordingly, as well as help you manage your exit strategy with your current one. You’ll need to be crystal clear with yourself as well as those in the process on the following:

  • Expectations: are you expecting to be reimbursed for the full bonus or would you be satisfied being paid out on part of it?
  • Timeline: when is the bonus paid out? What is your notice period and when are you able to hand in your notice following the payout?
  • Bonus size: if you’re comfortable clarifying the figure it’ll make a prospective employer’s job of deciding on a plan for reimbursement simpler.

The more information you can give to those involved in the process the better off you’ll be. Remember, prospective employers want good people and they expect good people to come with bonus ‘baggage’ and some form of negotiation war.

3) State it early, state it often

Everyone involved in your job search has a lot going on and unfortunately things slip through the cracks. It’s a bad idea to mention your bonus once at the start of your interview cycle and assume the information has been absorbed. It’s an even worse idea to wait until the end of a job interview process to address the topic. Talk to your recruiter about it from the start and get feedback on the issue regularly throughout the process to ensure the issue has been addressed and that the employer has taken your needs into account.

Wrapping it up

If you follow the steps outlined above, you should have an answer on the intended plan before an offer is forthcoming. The same methodology can be applied to stock options, benefits, pay rises and more -irrelevant of what time of year your interview process is taking place. Whilst we can never guarantee you’ll get the full pay-out; by being clear, open and honest about your needs you should end up with a positive outcome. All that’s left is to hand in your notice – something we’ll be addressing in our next blog post…

Et Halstead, Managing Director, NYC

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