These days, benefits mean everything. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed up to 61% of Americans are willing to switch jobs to get better benefits.
Considering how important benefits programs are for most employees, smart employers have started upping their benefits and perks. But this increase also means an uptick in the number of employers that deliver tons of workplace perks without any meaningful benefits to help employees with their long-term goals.
In other words, many job-offers come with cushy office perks (like catered lunches or fully stocked break rooms), but they don’t deliver when it comes to retirement plans, health insurance, or tuition reimbursement.
The trick is knowing how to appropriately weigh these perks in comparison to other benefits—and not get swept away by benefit offerings that ultimately don’t matter to you.
Here are a few ways to keep your feet on the ground while evaluating benefits for a job offer.
Overview of benefits
Evaluating prospective employers’ benefits packages can be difficult because they often look the same at first glance.
For instance, if two different employers each offer medical, dental, vision, and 401(k) plans, it’d be easy to simply say they offer the same benefits. But there can be a lot of variance between the quality of these benefits—and how much you pay for them.
So before we move onto ways to evaluate benefit packages, let’s get on the same page about the most commonly offered benefits and the details you need to consider about each:
Factors to Consider: premium costs, employer contributions (how much of your premium is covered by your employer—if any), spouse and family coverage, deductible, co-pay amounts, prescription coverage, maximum out-of-pocket limits, covered network.
Factors to Consider: premiums, employer contributions, spouse and family coverage, co-pay amounts, deductible, spending caps, orthodontics coverage (not all dental plans cover braces, and those that do may have a limit to the amount they cover).
Factors to Consider premiums, employer contributions, spouse and family coverage, co-pay amounts, deductible, and yearly allowances for eyewear.
4) Workers’ compensation
Factors to Consider: medical coverage limits, percentage of lost wages covered, reasonable accommodations for your work.
5) Disability (short-term and long-term)
Factors to Consider: premiums, employer contributions, percentage of lost wages covered, coverage period.
6) Life insurance
Factors to Consider:: type of life insurance, premiums, employer contributions, spouse and family coverage, maximum coverage amount.
1) Retirement plan
Factors to Consider: type of plan (401(k), 403(b), IRA, Roth IRA, etc.), employer contributions/matching, fees.
2) Health savings accounts
Factors to Consider: employer contributions, fees, investment options.
3) Tuition assistance
Factors to Consider: tuition reimbursement caps, GPA requirements, qualifying expenses, other company-imposed conditions.
4) Profit-sharing, stock options, and ESOP
Factors to Consider: type of profit-sharing arrangement, contribution amounts, conditions for profit-sharing contributions (annual profit goals, for instance).
5) Student loan repayment
Factors to Consider: maximum loan repayment contributions, conditions (e.g., one year of employment).
6) Employee assistance programs
Factors to Consider: qualifications, maximum assistance available.
1) Sick leave
Factors to Consider: days allowed (if tracked), accumulation rates, consequences if maximum days allowed exceeded (in some cases, employers apply for your short-term disability coverage after you hit your maximum number of sick days in a year).
2) Vacation days
Factors to Consider: number of days per year (if tracked), accumulation rates, end-of-year rollover, floating holidays (if any), additional days available after a set term of employment, paid holidays.
3) Parental leave
Factors to Consider: number of paid weeks, paternity leave, qualification date, flexible work options post-birth.
4) Flexible work options
Factors to Consider: work-from-home options, shortened work weeks, flexible hours, remote offices.
Factors to Consider: daycare allowance caps, on-site childcare, child-friendly offices.
2) Transportation assistance
Factors to Consider: free/subsidized public transportation, ridesharing, company car, mileage/gas reimbursement, travel stipend.
3) Moving assistance
Factors to Consider: covered moving costs, total stipend.
4) Wellness programs
Factors to Consider: health coaching, exercise classes, on-site gym, gym membership, mental health counseling, financial planning, biometric screening.
5) Professional development
Factors to Consider: conferences, workshops, online learning, mentorship.
6) Workplace amenities
Factors to Consider: free/subsidized coffee, snacks, meals, meal subscriptions, and more.
Factors to Consider: off-site workshops, team lunches, birthday celebrations, weekly/monthly/quarterly team bonding activities, retreats, company parties.
Set your priorities
The best benefits package will depend entirely on your personal needs and long-term goals.
If you’re a young, unmarried grad student, you may be happier with a benefits package that skimps on health insurance but offers tuition assistance and valuable work experience.
But if you’re a working parent, a benefits package that includes parental leave, flexible scheduling, and on-site childcare may be a must, but you may not need catered lunch every day.
The key is to identify the benefits you absolutely need, the benefits that would make a significant positive impact on your life, and the perks you can do without.
You should also identify if there are any deal-breakers when it comes to your benefits.
For instance, if you regularly see a medical specialist who works with only Blue Cross Blue Shield patients, then a Blue Cross Blue Shield medical plan may be a must-have as part of your benefits package.
Finally, it may be helpful to determine how much you’re willing to pay out of pocket for your benefits. That way, you can eliminate offers from employers who don’t provide the baseline benefits you need.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many professional development courses and in-office massages you get if your employer isn’t delivering the necessities you need.
Figuring out your limits and priorities first will help you put the rest of your benefits package analysis into perspective.
Every company wants to present a good face to job candidates—after all, they’re trying to convince you to work for them.
But sometimes, job seekers find that the benefits employers promised don’t quite line up with reality.
Fortunately, you can often save yourself the trouble with a little up-front research. In addition to the job-specific and general company research you do during the hiring process, consider spending a bit of extra time researching the company’s track record with its former and current employees.
Check out social media to see what others are saying about their work experience (and which benefits they enjoy). You may also want to check job boards and other employment tools to read employee reviews.
While researching, you may discover that the 100%-covered medical plan the company brags about on its hiring page is available to only full-time employees after a year-long trial period—hardly ideal if you need a benefits plan with immediate medical coverage.
You may also want to research current trends in benefit offerings. If you know what other companies in your industry are offering, you can easily eliminate prospective employers that aren’t up to par.
Doing this initial research as part of your application and hiring process will help you eliminate unsuitable employment opportunities early. That way, you can focus on companies that care about your health and well-being as much as you do.
It’s pretty standard practice for employers to advertise their benefits, but it’s rare for companies to divulge all the details about their benefits package upfront. So during the hiring process, it may be advisable to ask questions about the company’s benefits plans.
If you feel comfortable doing so, try bringing up health insurance and other benefits. Most hiring managers understand that evaluating benefit packages is an important part of the job search process and are happy to provide more details.
Keep in mind, though, that hiring managers may not be familiar with specifics about the company’s health benefits, so it’s also important to ask plenty of questions after you’ve received a job offer.
Job offers are usually issued via an employer’s human resources department—the same department that employs the company’s compensation and benefits managers.
That should give you an easy way to ask clarifying questions about health benefits, retirement plans, and other perks available to part-time or full-time employees.
Asking specific questions about the benefits offered by an employer can give you the complete picture you need to thoroughly evaluate your job offer and determine whether you want to accept it.
Run a financial breakdown
Job seekers often gravitate to jobs with higher pay.
It makes sense—after all, you want to choose the job that provides the best possible standard of living for yourself and any dependents you may have. But if you’re evaluating a job offer properly, you’ll also take the financial pros and cons of your benefits package into account as well.
Consider this: you’re trying to choose between two job offers. Company A offers a $55,000 annual salary while Company B offers $53,000 per year.
At first glance, Company A seems like the obvious choice—that is, until you realize that Company B covers 100% of your medical premium and offers a health plan with a lower deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.
|Annual medical premium costs|
|Medical premium covered by the company|
|Medical plan deductible|
|Medical plan out-of-pocket maximum|
Once you factor in the financial costs of the employers’ health plans, it’s clear that Company B actually offers a better deal.
Our example above is pretty elementary since it factors in only the basic costs of a health insurance plan.
But you can apply the same strategy and analyze employers’ flexible spending accounts, sick leave and vacation days, childcare allowances, and pretty much any other benefit you can think of.
This type of analysis is extremely helpful when you receive offers from multiple employers with similar benefits programs, but it’s also a great tool to jumpstart your job search.
Running a financial breakdown on your current job and benefits gives you a better idea of your current compensation, so you can determine whether a job offer is actually a step up from your current position.
Not all benefits plans are equal, so if you’re considering a change of employer, it’s important to dive into the details before committing to a new job.
While high starting pay and workplace perks are great, it’s also important to prioritize the benefits that make the most sense for your life.
That often means taking a deeper dive into the details around your employer’s dental, vision, and health insurance offerings (not to mention retirement and scheduling benefits) to make sure they offer the coverage, care, and flexibility you need.
During the hiring process, be sure to research your prospective employer to see what other employees have to say about the benefits offered by the company. And don’t be afraid to ask hiring managers and human resources contacts for more details about benefits and costs.
In the end, your research and analysis of benefits will go a long way toward helping you find the best job for your situation—which enhances your health and well-being long-term.