How to Evaluate Job Benefits When Weighing an Offer

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You've made it to the final stages of the hiring process and received an offer. Congratulations. But there are still several important questions to ask yourself and the hiring manager before signing on the dotted line and ending the job hunt. Prime among them, perhaps: What does the compensation package look like, and what job benefits can you expect?

Here's how to evaluate the employer's proposal:

1. What's most important to you?

Your values, goals and lifestyle obviously aren't the same as anybody else's, so there's no cookie-cutter approach to determining which job benefits are essential. For some, health insurance and a 401(k) plan might be the only must-haves. Parents with young children may add the ability to telecommute to the list.

The point is that you must know ahead of time — even during the job hunt — which aspects of the compensation and benefits package are most important to you. If all of these elements are present, you're in good shape. If not, now's the time to talk to the potential employer about what's missing and why a particular perk is a deal-breaker for you.

Gain more insight into assessing company benefits while on the job hunt.

2. What details do you need to know?

Once you've identified your most important job benefits, make sure you obtain complete disclosure about them from your potential employer. Think about health insurance: We all know that offerings can vary greatly from one company to another; just because the firm provides coverage doesn't mean it's the right plan for you. This is especially true in light of the Affordable Care Act, which is causing many organizations to adjust their health plans.

Ask for a summary of key programs so you understand the finer details of each. If necessary, request policy documents so you can read through them in full. You don't want to be caught off guard after you've started your new job.

3. What are the eligibility requirements?

Bear in mind that you may not be eligible for all job benefits and perks the employer offers. Some programs are open only to employees who have reached certain tenure milestones. Others, such as tuition reimbursement, may be dependent on your manager's approval. Again, you want to be clear on these details before you accept the employer's job offer.

The good news is that you may be able to negotiate in this area. If you're currently working toward a certification or advanced degree, for instance, one condition of employment may be that the company pays for the rest of your education. Ask about how much flexibility there is to adjust the eligibility criteria.

4. What’s your benchmark?

It's difficult to evaluate a job benefits package without some kind of standard of comparison. Look up relevant benefits data in government and association reports — many of which are available online for free — and in reports based on surveys of your industry. To get a reliable benchmark for your starting salary, for example, check out Robert Half's annual Salary Guides, which you can download free of charge. The Salary Guides provide up-to-date compensation data for hundreds of positions in a wide range of fields.

Download the most recent Salary Guide for your profession, be it accounting and finance, administrative, technology, legal or creative.

More questions to ask about job benefits

Depending on your circumstances, you may also want to consider questions like these:

  • What are the out-of-pocket costs to access a benefit — for example, health insurance?
  • If you're in a same-sex or domestic partnership, do benefits apply to your partner?
  • At what intervals will your performance and salary be reviewed?
  • What career development programs will you have access to?

The list is virtually endless, but the point is that you can't be overinformed when it comes to the compensation and job benefits package the employer is offering. Keep in mind, though, that, ultimately, your job satisfaction depends on more than the perks you'll receive. If a company's business ethics and corporate culture align well with your values, you're off to a good start with a high likelihood that things will get even better.