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Is My Job Offer Really The ‘Total Package’? How To Know

Sophia Surrett  |  August 23, 2021

You’ve got a new job offer. Congrats! But is the benefits package up to par? Here’s how to make sure you’re getting what you’re worth.

Anytime you head into a job interview, you’re probably more than ready to dive into a salary conversation. By the time you’re sitting across the table from the hiring manager, you’ve read all the advice, you’re armed with stats + industry information + a whole lotta confidence… But are you ready — really ready — to discuss the benefits? 

Yes, the amount you receive as part of your paycheck is incredibly important, but it isn’t everything. You’ve got to consider health benefits, retirement benefits, company culture, and so much more. Over 60% of employees rank benefits as one of the most important contributors to job satisfaction, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. But that’s not just the warm fuzzies that come from knowing your employer is giving you a 3% 401(k) match talking — the average benefits package make up about 32% of an employee’s total compensation, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, benefits are big. So even if your new boss is flashing big $$$, bite your tongue on saying ‘yes’ until you’ve inspected everything on the table. 

Calculate Your Benefits Value

Let’s start by getting down to brass tacks, shall we? One immediate (yet completely numbers-based) way to see your benefits value is to calculate your benefit package load — essentially, you’re assigning a dollar amount to all the benefits you’re being offered, then you add all of that up + your salary to arrive at a final number. To do this, you’ll add up everything the company is giving you. Like: contributions to your healthcare, a 401(k) or 403(b) match, contributions to a pension (rare, but it happens!), a company car, a cell phone, and anything else that has an assignable dollar value. 

Benefit calculators, like the one at Salary.com, can easily help you do this, no math required on your end — just plug in your numbers under the “benefits” tab. And keep in mind that the 32% figure we mentioned earlier is just an average — some companies offer incredible benefits that can really sweeten a gig with only a “so-so” salary, says Lori Lucas, CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Association CEO. 

Once you’ve got your financial calculation in hand, it’s time to look at the things you simply can’t put a dollar value on. For example, flexible schedules, the number of days PTO or vacation you’re being offered, company retreats, and corporate culture. 

Years ago, company benefits were pretty much limited to health insurance and a retirement plan, but that’s not the case anymore. Companies want to find ways to keep their best, most productive people happy, so don’t be shy about asking for what you want. 

Size Matters — But It Isn’t Everything 

Oftentimes, the benefits package at larger organizations can be better — but that doesn’t mean you should immediately discount a smaller firm. Essentially, larger companies are often able to secure better deals on things like healthcare costs because they have more buying power — the more people at a firm, the deeper the discount they’re able to secure from insurance companies, which makes it more likely that they could cover 100% of your insurance premiums. Larger firms are also more likely to offer things like disability insurance, on-site childcare or a low-cost (or free) gym in the building. But smaller companies often go to great lengths to stay competitive — offering flexible schedules, or reimbursements for things like insurance costs or health and wellness classes. 

The only way to know for sure what you’re getting is to dig deep with your HR rep and hiring manager and ask them for an extensive run-down on exactly what benefits will be provided to you, and when you’re eligible for each of them (For example, there’s sometimes a 90-day waiting period before health benefits to kick in, and a 1-year waiting period before you’re eligible for the 401(k) matching program). 

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate 

Negotiation shouldn’t just be something that you do if you feel you’ve received a low salary offer — negotiation should be a part of your job-securing process, for every role you take over the course of your lifetime. Whether you’re negotiating for salary, a flexible schedule, a stipend to cover your health benefits, or high-speed internet for your home, it’s always time for an open discussion with your prospective employer. The more research you can do on the average salary and benefits for the position you’re after, the better off you’ll be, explains Jennifer Chang, a management knowledge advisor for the Society for Human Resources.


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