You've made it to the final stages of the hiring process and received an offer. Congratulations! Now there are several important questions to ask yourself and the hiring manager before signing on the dotted line. 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 coverage and a pension plan might be the only must-haves. Parents with young kids may add the ability to telecommute to the list.
The point is you must know ahead of time 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.
2. What details do you need to know?
Once you've identified the job benefits most important to you, make sure you obtain complete disclosure about them from your potential employer. Think about health coverage: 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.
Ask for a summary of key programs so you understand the finer details of each. If necessary, request 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 an 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 provide up-to-date compensation data for hundreds of positions in a wide range of fields.
More questions to ask
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 coverage?
- 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 over-informed 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 already.