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The jobs that pay the best ‘golden hello’ bonuses – and why they’re getting rarer

golden hello job s
golden hello job s

There is nothing sweeter than starting a new job and immediately being welcomed with a five-figure bonus, simply for walking through the door.

In the past “golden hellos” were often reserved for executive level positions in the City, but an incredibly tight labour market following the disruption caused by the pandemic recently saw an explosion of sign-on bonuses as employers fought for staff.

The number of job vacancies has fallen over the past 12 months, meaning jobseekers aren’t in the same position of power as they once were – yet there were still an estimated 932,000 vacancies between November and January this year, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics.

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And this is reflected in the jobs market. Last month there were almost 7,000 advertised vacancies offering “golden hello” deals of up to £40,000, according to research by jobs search engine Adzuna.

While this represents a 24pc decline from January 2023, when 9,055 vacancies offered these bonuses, numerous sectors with “dire talent shortages” are still having to resort to the incentive to entice prospective new staff, explained Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter.

So, which careers and companies should you consider to earn the greatest welcome bonus? Here, Telegraph Money picks out all the best incentives on offer right now, and why you might need to act quickly to take advantage.

3,000 healthcare jobs offering sign-on bonuses

Of the 6,920 vacancies offering sign-on bonuses, more than 40pc of these were for healthcare jobs, according to Adzuna, which analysed 900,000 jobs advertised on the platform in January.

The most lucrative of these was a £40,000 “welcome payment” for a child psychiatrist role at an independent hospital in Staffordshire, in addition to a salary of up to £190,000.

The NHS has also resorted to offering substantial bonuses for “hard to fill” specialist roles.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is currently advertising a £20,000 sign-on bonus for a consultant oncologist at Ipswich Hospital. It also offered a £13,000 incentive for a histopathologist role, which came with a £7,000 relocation fee to move to Colchester Hospital last year.

A spokesman said it offers a “very small number” of golden hello deals and, where it does, this was a reflection of a “national shortage of colleagues”.

Optometrists also appear to be in short supply. At the time of writing, Specsavers was offering a £10,000 welcome bonus for a newly qualified optometrist, on top of a £45,000 annual salary at its Walworth Road branch in south London. Equally, Boots had been offering a £10,000 incentive for an optometrist to join its opticians in Rainham, east London.

However, it’s not just specialists who can command sign-on bonuses. Adzuna found 2,940 jobs in healthcare and nursing which offered the perk, and the average bonus paid £3,832.

This was echoed by research conducted by hiring platform Indeed. It found the percentage of nursing and dentistry jobs listed on the platform offering signing bonuses was up nearly threefold since 2020.

In January 2020, 1.4pc of nursing jobs posted on Indeed offered a sign-on bonus, but this rose to 4pc last month.

Jack Kennedy, senior economist at Indeed, said: “Despite the NHS recruitment crisis, most of the jobs offering bonuses are in the private sector – particularly care homes seeking registered nurses.

“Employers are offering up to £3,000 as bonuses for nurses, and in the case of dentists, there are many job postings marked as ‘urgently needed’. This comes as no surprise, given acute shortages in both professions.”

Engineers and teachers can also cash in

After healthcare, jobseekers in the engineering sector are most likely to be rewarded with sign-on bonuses. There were 1,361 advertised engineering vacancies on Adzuna specifying a welcome bonus, which marked a 160pc increase year-on-year.

Aerospace and defence company L3Harris, which supplies management systems for Royal Navy submarines and surface fleets, is offering a £5,000 sign-on bonus for a systems engineer to join its Bristol campus. Other systems engineer jobs at the firm offer a 15pc sign-on bonus.

Fancy working with chocolate bars? Mars Wrigley is offering a £5,000 welcome bonus for an electrical maintenance engineer to oversee the machines which help produce three million Mars bars every day.

Elsewhere, there were 465 teacher vacancies offering welcome bonuses averaging £1,867. State school teachers in England were given a 6.5pc pay rise in September meaning the starting salaries for new teachers is at least £30,000 across the country.

Given the Government has agreed to an average 12pc raise for teachers over the past two years, private sector teaching jobs offer the best route to sign-on bonuses.

However, one academy school in Sheffield offers a £5,000 welcome bonus to senior staff. It’s currently offering the incentive to prospective heads of department for design and technology and modern foreign languages.

It pays to know people

While not all jobs offer sign-on bonuses, that is not to say you could not still pocket a lump sum for not much extra work.

Employers are increasingly turning towards referral bonuses as a way to attract top talent and retain their existing staff.

Referral bonuses are awarded to members of staff who successfully put forward suitable candidates for vacancies from within their own networks – helping out struggling recruiters who may be finding it tough to find the right people.

There are almost five times as many referral bonuses as there are sign-on bonuses, according to Adzuna. It found 29,419 job listings which referenced a referral bonus. This was highest in teaching (7,277) followed by social work (5,936), and then healthcare and nursing (5,611).

Some sectors appeared to have completely shifted to this method of awarding bonuses. There were only 20 IT jobs offering a golden hello to new employees, but 573 of them advertised a referral bonus.

It was even more stark in the hospitality and catering sector where there were 5,147 jobs promoting a referral windfall, despite just 131 jobs advertising a welcome bonus.

Why are companies turning away from the golden hello?

The blunt reality is the labour market is cooling down. The total number of vacancies are falling, and it’s a trend that’s set to continue. The Bank of England expects unemployment will rise from 3.8pc currently to approximately 5pc by the end of 2025.

Mr Kennedy said: “On Indeed, we’ve seen a dip over the past 12 months in the amount of jobs offering signing bonuses, from 1.2pc to 0.8pc of all UK job postings.

“This reflects a gradual cooling of the labour market and easing hiring conditions in some sectors, as vacancies have fallen from post-pandemic peaks back towards normal levels.”

Julius Probst, European labour market economist at Totaljobs, added: “It’s not surprising to see there has been a stark decrease in employers offering sign-on bonuses – these incentives are short-lived and don’t benefit businesses in the long run.

“With 2024 being an employer-led market, employers are instead focusing on employee retention to both keep and attract talent to their businesses.”