Let’s be honest — when evaluating a job offer, your eyes usually drift over to the starting salary right away. It’s easy to become fixated on this figure, too. If you’re considering two different opportunities that you’re equally excited about, you’re more likely to go with the one that pays more. But remember, compensation doesn’t refer to earnings alone.
“Benefits are a significant part of your total compensation. How much the company covers versus how much you pay on a yearly basis varies greatly from company to company,” says Karen Jacks, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Cox Enterprises. Because of this, a higher salary can very easily be offset by a richer benefits package at another company.
But what should you look out for when considering benefits, and where can you get your information? We turned to the team at Cox to find out.
How and When to Ask About Benefits
A lot of job seekers are curious about a company’s benefits from the beginning, but worry that asking questions that are too detailed will come off as presumptuous. Fortunately, you can gather information before you even apply for a position.
In addition to researching a company’s benefits offering on their Glassdoor profile, “some company benefits can be found online on the career site and provide the candidate with an initial glimpse of the type of organization and benefits offered,” says Amy Kakalec, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Cox Enterprises. “We actually have this kind of information available on our career site today.”
If you still have lingering questions, though, there’s nothing wrong with asking the recruiter you’ve been working with about them.
“It’s perfectly fine to ask about the holistic benefits package during your first conversation with a recruiter. Interviews are a two-way street and you should be interviewing the company as much — if not more — than they’re interviewing you,” says Cody Partin, SVP of Total Rewards & People Ops at Cox Enterprises. “At Cox, we know our benefit offerings set us apart from our competition, so our recruiters are well-versed in all our benefit offerings and we encourage them to share that information with potential talent very early in recruiting discussions.”
What to Look for in a Benefits Package
From healthcare to casual Fridays to dog-friendly offices, there’s no limit to what different companies offer in their benefits package. That doesn’t mean, though, that all benefits should be considered with equal weight. Here are a few that tend to be more important to job seekers than others:
Many companies offer health insurance, but the premium amount that you’re responsible for paying each month varies significantly from organization to organization. So when evaluating healthcare plans, “job seekers should evaluate the level of contribution the employer makes toward standard healthcare benefits. Besides the health plan and basic coverages, pay attention to the out-of-pocket expenses and the ratio between what you pay and [what] the employer [pays],” Kakalec says.
At Cox, for example, “employees pay a fairly low per-paycheck contribution for a healthcare PPO, and I have many candidates who are paying $500-$1,000/month for a similar plan,” says Mark Salkeld, Manager of Talent Acquisition. “Our welfare benefits become effective on the first day of employment for the entire family, which ultimately contributed to a much easier transition from my previous employer.”
Today, more than ever, employees want to work when and where it’s best for them. If maintaining work-life balance is a priority in your life, be sure to look at the company’s vacation package.
“We are seeing more candidates are flexible on base pay requirements if they feel the total rewards package meets their quality of life expectations. Cox offers has a comprehensive, flexible time off plan called My Time,” Kakalec says. “This new program provides employees with unlimited time off, so they can manage the amount of time they need away from work to help promote a more meaningful, healthy lifestyle.”
Whether you have young children at home, are dealing with a medical condition or struggle with a long commute, it’s worth looking into whether the company you’re considering provides flexibility.
At Cox, the company has begun “introducing flexible work arrangements, so that employees can choose their setup with their manager, whether it’s working remotely, fewer days for longer hours or maintaining core hours in the office — all of which help balance commutes and responsibilities,” Partin says.
One sign that a company truly treats their employees right is that they continually evaluate their benefits package and adjust it according to employees’ needs and market standards.
“What impresses me most about Cox is that we continue to enhance and add to our benefits package, while some companies have been reducing or trying to streamline,” Salkeld says. “Cox recently conducted a company-wide evaluation to assess what benefits are most important to our employees and the responses included flexible PTO, enhanced 401K with no vesting period, work-from-home opportunities and enhanced medical coverage.”
“Most recently, we added coverage for gender confirmation surgery, to ensure we’re evolving to meet employees’ expectations,” Partin adds.
Negotiation: It’s Not Just for Your Salary
If you get a job offer and it doesn’t contain as robust of a benefits package as you were hoping for, don’t give up! Much like salary offers, there is often room to negotiate on benefits. However, some benefits are easier to negotiate than others.
“Health benefits are covered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), so a majority of them are not open for negotiation,” Partin explains.
“At least at larger organizations, benefits like vacation time and bonuses are typically standardized and non-negotiable,” Salkeld adds.
Still, it won’t hurt to inquire into whether or not there is room to negotiate when it comes to these benefits.
“Other perks, such as telecommuting or flex time, may be open for negotiation depending upon the specific company policies,” Jacks says.
When negotiating your benefits, treat it just as you would if you were negotiating your salary: let your employer know that you are aware of your market worth and present a case to them as to why you deserve the counteroffer you suggest.
This article was originally published on Glassdoor.
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