Company benefits are a big part of an employee's compensation package, so it's no small wonder that they rank high among the priorities of a job seeker. Here are some ways to assess a potential employer's offerings during the job hunt.
During the initial interviews
The first interview, usually a short telephone call, is never a good time to inquire about benefits. Why? Interviewers will think your rationale for looking for a job is to score a better benefits package — just as talking about starting salary might make you seem money-driven. Instead, focus on the company, the nature of the work and the skills and talents you would bring to the job.
The second interview is often the first in-person meeting. Avoid initiating a benefits conversation. But if the subject is broached by the hiring manager or an HR representative, it's fine to ask one or two general queries, like whether your position will be eligible for bonus pay or how much paid time off new hires typically receive.
When you receive a job offer
At this point, you'll need to gather as much information as possible about the company benefits package before you accept the job. Whether the company benefits will meet your needs is key in determining if the offer is a good one. Ask lots of questions to determine the value of the benefits to you.
Here are some areas you may want to focus on and questions to consider:
- Healthcare coverage — First, find out what kind of plan the firm offers: HMO or PPO. Does the employer offer a health savings account? Then, get into some of the specifics. Ask how long the waiting period is before healthcare benefits take effect and what the cost of coverage is, depending on your family situation. Be sure to inquire about the aspects of the insurance plan that matter most to you. For example, is there coverage for domestic partners? What percentage of prescription drugs costs is covered? This could be important if you have a spouse or a child with a chronic medical condition.
- Professional development — Get the scoop on what you'll be offered in terms of onboarding, on-the-job training, mentoring opportunities and other professional development. Make sure to nail down the specifics about the company's tuition reimbursement program as well, if one is offered and you plan to pursue advanced education. These are important company benefits that many job seekers fail to consider until they’re already on the job.
- Retirement savings plan — Ask if there is a retirement savings plan. If the company offers a 401(k) plan, ask what percentage of your funds they will match, if any, and what the vesting schedule is for company contributions.
- Additional perks — If the hiring manager doesn't bring it up, you might want to inquire about additional company benefits that aren't necessarily typical at all companies. For instance, is there concierge service or free meals when working overtime? Does the employer offer dry-cleaning pickup or on-site child care? Discounts to local retailers? If there's something specific you are looking for, now is the time to ask about it.
By having this frank kind of conversation about company benefits with your potential employer, you're off to a good start in one respect: building open communication. Good luck in your new job!