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Employer Use of Hiring Incentives Grows

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Job seeker searches for bonuses have surged.

Key Points:

  • The share of job postings advertising hiring incentives, such as signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and cash incentives, has doubled since last July.
  • Many sectors have seen growth in these incentives, including childcare and driving.
  • Job searches for hiring incentives have jumped 134% since the beginning of the year.

As labor demand strengthens, businesses are finding it difficult to recruit workers. As a result, many employers are turning to creative ways of attracting job candidates. One avenue some are pursuing is to offer hiring incentives, such as hefty signing bonuses, retention bonuses, or one-time cash payments on being hired.

When advertised in job postings, these incentives can quickly get jobseekers’ attention. And the share of job seeker searches for bonuses has steadily climbed since mid-spring. But incentives are also attractive to employers because they are a one-time cost that doesn’t require increasing wages or paid time off for all employees.

 Use of bonuses in job postings has doubled 

Line graph titled “More postings are advertising hiring incentives.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 5%, Indeed tracked the share of job postings that advertise hiring incentives along a horizontal axis ranging from July 1, 2020, to June 13, 2021. As of June 13, 2021, 4.0% of Indeed job postings advertised hiring incentives, more than double compared to July 1, 2020, when the share was 1.8%.

Through the seven days ending June 18, 4.1% of Indeed job postings advertised hiring incentives. That’s more than double the 1.8% share in the seven days ending July 1, 2020. 

A few job descriptions have gone a step further by mentioning state return-to-work programs. Others have noted that expanded federal unemployment benefits are ending soon. A few are offering additional bonuses to those vaccinated against COVID-19. 

To be sure, these kinds of postings account for only a small minority of job ads on Indeed. Nonetheless, recruitment gambits like these underscore how some employers are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. 

Most sectors advertising more hiring incentives 

Table titled “Hiring incentives rising among most sectors.” Indeed compared the share of job postings on Indeed with hiring incentives, across various sectors, listing the share as of January 1, 2021, June 13, 2021, and the percentage point change between the two dates. The rise of hiring incentives is relatively widespread across sectors.

The rise of hiring incentives is spread relatively widely across sectors. Driving has the highest share, with 16% of driving-related job postings mentioning signing bonuses in the seven days ending June 18. While most driving incentives are related to long-haul trucking, there’s an uptick for delivery drivers as well. 

Hiring incentives are also appearing more often in the personal care and home health sector. Postings in this field noting incentives jumped to 9.1% in the seven days ending June 18 from 5.9% in the comparable period ending Jan. 1. Surprisingly, only 1.8% of hospitality & tourism and 3.1% of food preparation & service postings mentioned hiring incentives despite well-publicized stories about worker shortages in these areas.

Interestingly, among job postings that spell out a hiring incentive dollar amount in the job title, the value can vary widely within a sector. In the month ending June 18, nursing jobs offered incentives ranging from $100 to $30,000. In food preparation & service, incentives ranged from $100 all the way up to $2,500. Of course, geography and job type influence how much an employer is willing to offer. 

Searches for hiring incentives on the rise 

Line graph titled “Job seeker searches for hiring incentives spike.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 250, Indeed tracked the share of searches per million for hiring incentives along a horizontal axis ranging from January 1, 2021, to June 14, 2021. As of June 14, 2021, searches for hiring incentives per million job searches on Indeed jumped 131% compared to January 1, 2021.

With more employers advertising hiring incentives, job seekers are on the lookout. In the seven days ending June 18, searches for hiring incentives per million job searches on Indeed jumped 134% from the seven days ending Jan. 1. Most of these searches were for hiring or signing bonuses. This trend indicates the labor market is recovering and that at least some job seekers believe they are in the driver’s seat. These workers are holding out for better deals rather than taking the first opportunity that comes along. 

Conclusion

The rise in the share of job postings advertising hiring incentives shows employers are exploring new ways to attract workers. This is happening across a large swath of sectors, including driving, dental and nursing. Signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and cash incentives are being advertised more often on Indeed. But, even within sectors, the dollar value of hiring incentives ranges widely. 

For their part, job seekers are searching more often for positions that mention hiring incentives, particularly bonuses. For employers struggling to find workers, now may be the time to consider offering candidates something upfront.

Methodology

We define hiring incentive job postings as those which have terms related to signing bonuses or retention bonuses, or contain “bonus,” “bonuses,” or “incentive” in the title of the job posting. Signing bonus job postings are defined as those that include terms like “signing bonus,” “sign on bonus,” “signing incentive,” or “bonus for signing on” in the job description. Retention bonus jobs are defined as postings that include terms like “retention bonus” or “longevity bonus” in the job description. US Armed Forces job postings are excluded. 

Searches related to bonuses are defined as those that include “bonus,” “bonuses,” or “incentive” in the query.