Applying for jobs can be exhausting. The act of filling out applications, resume updates and submissions, personality surveys, and more can take a toll. It can take such a toll that we sometimes forget to ask key questions about a potential job beyond just new title and salary.
Larger companies may provide benefit package information on their website or as a packet to prospective employees. If you are seeking a job at a midsize or smaller company, this might require some more direct questioning. In either case, don’t hesitate to ask. Benefits are part of your compensation and understanding what is or is not provided is a question you should ask.
"Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot." Ecclesiastes 5:18 ESV
Benefits can make a significant difference in your bottom line. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 1/3 of the average employee's compensation is in their benefits. Remember, that if a benefit you need is paltry or non-existent, you’ll be the one making up the difference. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all benefits you should ask about or even what’s most important to your family’s situation, but it is a good starting place.
All medical insurance is not created the same. Does the company have one plan or multiple options? How much does the company contribute towards health insurance and how much will you be expected to contribute? Be sure to find out answers for yourself and anyone else in your household that you want to be covered. If you have specific doctors you like, this is a time to investigate if they will be included in a plan’s network and covered by the plan. Check prescription drug coverage for any ongoing prescriptions. Also, look out for any ongoing, pre-existing, or expected future treatments to see if a plan has adequate coverage.
What does time off look like in this job? Some companies lump all time away from the office into one category and call it something like “paid time off.” Others will put days into specific use categories for uses like sickness, bereavement (death or funeral of a loved one), vacation, or holidays. Ask questions to understand not just the number of days allotted but how they are able to be used. Don’t forget to ask about observed holidays. Just because your old company took Good Friday off doesn’t mean the new one will.
Preparing for retirement is an issue that will affect your family long after you leave this job. That makes it critical to find out about this benefit. Does this company offer a retirement plan? Who contributes money to the retirement plan? This could be the company does it all, you do it all, or the company contributes some and you contribute some. The more common scenario is for the employee and employer to both contribute in some way, but this can vary tremendously. Also ask if there if is a period you need to stay with the company to retain this benefit. Typically called vesting, this could mean you have to stay at the company for a number of years to retain a portion or the entire benefit.
This one is more difficult to define, and some would argue whether this belongs with some of these other perks. This is an important one though. If your son has a doctor’s appointment, how difficult will it be to take the morning off? Can you work from home? How about coming in a little early and leaving early so you can make it to an event at church? Flexibility, while difficult to define, can have a tremendous impact on your quality of life. Ask about the company’s and your potential boss’s policies and attitudes about this “benefit” to help you gauge what it will be like when you need the flexibility. You want a job that will adapt to your life, not a life that must adapt to your job.
You want a job that will adapt to your life, not a life that must adapt to your job.
What would happen if you were sick or injured and unable to work for some time? This is the purpose of disability insurance. Employers who offer this benefit will typically give you options dubbed short-term disability or long-term disability. They both do what they sound like by replacing a portion of your income while you are unable to work. Ask about the cost and what benefit is provided. Also find out how long you must be unable to work before the benefit kicks in.
Here's few more to think about.
Leave for a new child
If you plan to have a child or adopt, find out about time off for this milestone. What is the policy for maternity or paternity leave?
Dental and Vision
These are less common benefits but be sure to find out if they are offered and the details. If you have someone in your family you anticipate getting glasses or braces, this becomes even more important.
This doesn’t make sense for many jobs, but don’t forget to ask about it.
This list only scratches the surface of possible benefits that a company could offer. If your prospective employer has a unique benefit that catches your eye, then that could be great. Just make sure it’s not at the expense of something that is more important to you in the long run.
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