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Signing

Bonuses

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As the pool of available veterinarians and licensed technicians shrinks, referral and signing bonuses have become commonplace. While both have been around for many years, there are dramatic increases in the amounts offered for each now that technicians and doctors are harder to find. Let’s review what is seen as the standard for each of these bonuses.

Referral Bonuses

A referral bonus is a sum of money paid to a current employee for referring a friend/acquaintance to the practice for employment. Some hospitals have strict rules regarding how closely related a person can be to work with another family member. For instance, some hospitals say no immediate family members can be employed, or perhaps no spouses. Others extend this to any family members and even to friends. However, there can be some downside to limiting these referrals.

Research shows those team members referred to a company by a friend or family member are often better qualified, higher performers, and more likely to be loyal to the company. This happens in part because a team member is unlikely to refer someone they aren’t confident in—and the referred person won’t want to let their friend down. This equates to a win for the hospital.

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Two Suggested Structures for Referral Bonuses

Two Suggested Structures for Referral Bonuses

Option #1 (Most common)

  • Employee accepts job offer: 50% of bonus paid on the first check after new person’s start date
  • 25% paid at three months
  • 25% paid at six months

Option #2

  • Employee accepts job offer: 25% of bonus paid on the first check after new person’s start date
  • 25% paid at three months
  • 50% paid at six months

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There are hospitals that will pay a referral bonus just for applicants. This means they pay a referral bonus if someone an employee referred applies for an open position. These bonuses are typically small ($250 or less) and are sometimes only paid if the candidate qualifies for an interview.

Many hospitals also have conditions in order for bonuses to be paid. For example: the new team member must have X% attendance during the bonus period (first three months or six months), or they must not have any client complaints or any written warnings for performance deficits. We strongly recommend putting a clause in your policy that the remaining referral bonus will not be paid out if the referring employee leaves the practice.

Referral bonus amounts vary widely. Often, hospitals in areas with a more challenging time recruiting will pay a much higher referral bonus. Contrary to popular belief, these areas are not simply based on geographical location (i.e., rural versus urban). Instead, it is more based on the availability of candidates in the area.

Example: San Francisco can be a tough place to find veterinary technicians. The cost of living is so high that candidates must consider a very long commute in poor traffic to work at hospitals with limited parking in the city. Similarly, some rural areas may have difficulty finding applicants who don’t have to drive long distances. In both cases, referral bonuses will be substantially higher than in areas (such as the suburbs) with a larger pool of local candidates.

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Common Referral Bonus Rates

Common Referral Bonus Rates

Common Referral Bonus Rates

In areas with smaller local candidate pools:

  • Technicians (CVT/ RVT/ LVT): $1500-$3000
  • Technicians (non-certified): $500-$1500
  • Veterinarians (New/ recent Grads): $1500-$3000
  • Veterinarians (experienced): $3000-$8000

In areas with larger local candidate pools:

  • Technicians (CVT/ RVT/ LVT): $500-$1500
  • Technicians (non-certified): $250-$1000
  • Veterinarians (New/ recent Grads): $1500-$3000
  • Veterinarians (experienced): $3000-$8000

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While these seem like large sums of money, these referral bonuses are a small investment in the future of your practice. Remember: we do not recommend the total bonus be paid at the time of hire. Instead, stagger the bonus so there is a benefit for the referring team member if the new employee chooses to stay.

Signing Bonuses

Signing bonuses for veterinarians and veterinary technicians are another way to incentivize and lure candidates in today’s much more competitive hiring market. When a candidate has multiple offers to choose from, a signing bonus can tilt the decision in your favor.

Unfortunately, corporations have an edge here as they have the resources to offer generous, and in some cases, enormous signing bonuses. Here are a few examples of corporate signing bonuses available for veterinarians right now:

  • San Francisco, CA: $100,000
  • Los Angeles, CA: $75,000
  • New York: $75,000
  • Miami, FL: $50,000
  • Tulsa, OK: $10,000
  • Chattanooga, TN: $20,000

Of course, most non-corporate practice owners look at those numbers and think, “there’s no way I can afford that!” We completely understand—but don’t be discouraged. Most candidates look at more than just money when they are considering a place of employment.

Our experience is that potential employees are also swayed by practice culture, work schedules, the team in place, the opportunities to grow, and the quality of life in a location. Also—corporate hospitals are, obviously, corporate in the medicine they allow their doctors to practice. As a result, privately-owned hospitals can have an advantage.

These days, the fact is that most practices will struggle to hire a veterinarian or certified technician without a signing bonus in place. We recommend considering the following when determining the size of your signing bonus:

  • What can your hospital afford? We advise offering the highest signing bonus your hospital can afford.
  • What can you afford to lose? This might be an even more critical question. If getting a doctor is not essential to your operations, a smaller signing bonus might be appropriate. However, if your hospital is facing closure on certain days, or overworking your other doctors, then once again, we recommend offering the highest possible signing bonus.
  • What are other hospitals in your area offering? It is relatively simple to see what other local hospitals are offering for signing bonuses, as many of them list it in their ads. Look at Indeed, Google Jobs, and LinkedIn to see if other hospitals advertise their signing bonuses.
  • What is the potential for this individual? Some hospitals will have a loosely defined signing bonus in mind, but when they interview a candidate with very high potential for the hospital (can perform ultrasounds, could take on leadership responsibilities in the future, etc.), they will increase the signing bonus in their offer.

We can’t say that any specific dollar amount works best for signing bonuses, as it is highly dependent on many factors. We have seen the following ranges:

  • Experienced Veterinarian: $20,000-$100,000
  • New Grad/ Inexperienced Veterinarian: $10,000-$50,000
  • Experienced Licensed (LVT/ RVT/ CVT) Technician: $5,000-$25,000
  • New Grad/ Inexperienced Licensed Technician: $1,000-$10,000
  • Experienced Unlicensed Technician: $3,000-$15,000

Moving Expense Reimbursement

This is another common expense that is now part of many offers. Moving expense reimbursement can be a great incentive if your hospital is targeting candidates from well outside your region, as it offsets the candidate’s cost of relocating to accept a position. This can be especially helpful for hospitals in desirable areas (highly-touristed, lots of nearby activities, great climate, etc.) trying to get candidates from less-desirable regions to work for them.

Moving expense reimbursement should never be open-ended, however. Instead, it should be a specific amount agreed upon when making the offer to the candidate. The most common range for moving reimbursements is between $1,000 and $5,000.

If a candidate is moving across a distance that will require professional movers (across an ocean, across the country, across an international border), you may want to offer a higher moving expense reimbursement, as that can be very expensive.

One last word: we do not recommend offering moving expenses for all candidates. This specific incentive should be reserved for veterinarians or experienced/licensed technicians. Since most corporate locations do not offer moving expense reimbursement, this can give you an additional way to outshine the competition in the eyes of potential candidates.