On the Job

How to compare benefits from competing job offers

If you’re in the enviable position of deciding between competing job offers, kudos! Now comes the hard part. You’ll want to evaluate the organization’s culture and the position itself. But what about benefits?

When two competing job offers are essentially the same, the 401(k) plan, insurance benefits or vacation time can seal the deal. Uncovering the benefits from job offers is a critical step to selecting a job that satisfies you, pursuing a financially stable future and having a good work-life balance.

What to Look for in an Employer-Sponsored 401(k) Plan

Not all employer-sponsored 401(k) plans are the same. A good 401(k) plan will feature a relatively broad choice with a good mix of funds.

“Evaluate a 401(k) offering by looking at the investment lineup, matching contributions and waiting periods,” said Carl Gagnon, director of retirement programs at Unum. “The best 401(k) plans allow employees to participate as soon as they’re hired and eventually should include a matching contribution from the company that encourages participation and helps employees save for their retirement. To make sure you have the best investment options, you’ll want a broad selection of equity and bond investment alternatives as well as a target-date fund option available in the plan.”

Don’t Settle for Less than Standard Insurance Benefits

Think twice about a job that doesn’t provide basic life insurance, short- and long-term disability, accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage, vision and health insurance.

While insurance benefit offerings can be fairly broad, a large employer will offer company-paid life insurance and disability (with buy-up options), along with health insurance benefits. Joanne Abate, assistant vice president of benefits at Unum, says to expect the employer to pay around 70 percent, with the employee pitching in 30 percent of health, pharmacy and dental coverage.

Voluntary benefits may also be included in the total compensation package, such as critical illness, homeowners, auto and additional life insurance. Often, a job that offers additional perks can be the deciding factor between two offers that are similar in nature. Ask about tuition reimbursement, adoption benefits, and discount programs for electronics and dining cards.

Learn to Recognize an Acceptable Vacation Package

The lowest offering you should reasonably consider is 10 days annually. After a few years on the job, vacation benefits should increase. “Employees who are just entering the job market will typically receive 10 vacation days, with another five days added after five years,” Abate said. “In this competitive job market, however, we are beginning to see a starting package of three weeks’ vacation, plus another five to eight ‘floating’ holidays.” In some cases, corporations are offering prospects a three-week vacation benefit right out of the gate.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fever of landing the job; at the same time, however, the rush of excitement may cause you to miss important details.

“Job seekers can overlook the same things they’re focused on – time and money,” Abate said. “They will overlook elimination or waiting periods before benefits are available or active, or will fail to tally the impact of an employer’s contribution to a 401(k).”

In addition, some benefits may be the deciding factor in choosing one job offer over another – especially if you have the long game in mind. Evaluating opportunities like tuition reimbursement programs and pathways to advance in the organization reveal employers’ willingness to invest in your development and growth.

Don’t dismiss the task of comparing benefits from competing job offers. Do your due diligence, and it will pay off in the long run.

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