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Careers

Employers Sweeten Signing Bonuses

Workers in demand are demanding (and getting) more cash up front.

Judging from recent government reports, the job market isn't quite as squeezed as it was, and our forecast for the rest of the year is for moderate, instead of sizzling, growth. You get a far different picture from recruiters and want ads. There, you see bosses still scrambling to fill corner offices and cubicles alike, and more candidates collecting a bonus just for agreeing to be hired.

A recent look at the want ads on www.craigslist.org, for example, found a $5,000 bonus offer for a corporate accountant in Chicago, $6,000 for a sales manager at a Dallas retailer and $2,500 for a mammography technician in Seattle.

Ted Henricks, 52, was offered a bonus of 10% of his salary to become a senior-level purchasing manager at a large communications firm in Rochester, N.Y. Because the move was a lateral one for Henricks and he was pretty sure his salary was near the top of the company's pay scale for the job, he wanted a sweetener to take the position. "A cash payment up front is quite a nice incentive, frankly," he says.

Companies often use sign-on bonuses when there's not much wiggle room in the pay grade or to make up for something you're giving up -- such as a year-end bonus or stock incentives -- at the old job.

So don't be afraid to ask for a bonus. But at the same time, don't let a bonus lure you into taking the wrong job. Says Atlanta recruiter Tom Darrow: "Someone swayed by the immediate cash may overlook the real issues of the job."