What to Know About Benefits Before Accepting a Job
One of my responsibilities here at Viget is benefits administration, so I often speak with candidates during the interview process about our benefits offering. During our discussions, I sometimes ask candidates how our benefits compare to those at their current employer or those at other firms at which they are interviewing. I am surprised by how frequently I encounter blank stares. In my experience, many people have a surface knowledge of “benefits” and, therefore, have a hard time recognizing really good benefits -- and really poor benefits.
I’d like to offer a few tips to candidates on benefits questions they should be asking.
- When will coverage begin? Is there a waiting period?
- How much will the employee be expected to pay towards their health coverage?
- How much will the employee be expected to pay towards coverage for dependents?
- Are there multiple plans from which to choose?
- Who is the healthcare provider?
At Viget, for example, we offer two healthcare options -- both with Cigna. Coverage begins with date of hire, so there is no waiting period. And, most significantly, Viget pays 100% of all monthly premiums -- for employees and dependents. Additionally, if employees enroll in our HSA plan option, we fully fund their annual deductible. This level of coverage can be equivalent to ~$15,000/year. Make sure when you evaluate various job offers that you take into consideration what your cost of coverage will be.
- Is there a retirement plan? (often called a 401(k) plan)
- When can you participate?
- Will the employer match your contributions? To what percentage?
- Is there a vesting schedule?
- What type of plan is it?
- Who is the retirement plan with?
- Will it accept rollovers?
- Can you take out loans?
We offer a retirement plan at Viget through Fidelity Investments. We actually have two 401(k) plans to choose from: a traditional 401(k) and a Roth 401(k). Regardless of plan chosen, Viget matches up to 4% of employee monthly contributions. There is a mandatory two-month waiting period until new hires can begin participating in our retirement plan; however, once they are eligible to join the plan, they are immediately vested at 100%. Our plans both accept qualified rollovers and allow participants to take out loans against their balances. The two most important aspects to think about are: 1) the employer match amount; and 2) how long it takes to become 100% vested. You want to know how much potential free money is at stake as you evaluate competing offers.
- How much vacation time (i.e., PTO) will you earn?
- Are there restrictions on when you can begin using it?
- Will it ever increase?
- Will PTO roll over from year-to-year or is it “use or lose”?
- Are there company holidays as well?
Here at Viget, newbies begin with three weeks of PTO, which is accrued monthly. When they begin their third year here, they begin earning a fourth week. PTO rolls over from year-to-year; however, we encourage folks to use their PTO! It’s there for a reason -- go enjoy yourselves and take a break! We also allow employees to “go in the hole” or take more vacation than they actually have on the books, knowing that they’ll earn their way back out of the hole in no time. Holidays are a separate benefit and we recognize nine official holidays each year. As you evaluate job offers, find out if you’ll be able to take that dream vacation you’ve already booked and paid for!
Life Insurance and Disability Coverage
- Is life insurance offered? Do employees contribute to that cost?
- What is the coverage limit?
- Is there the ability to “buy up” additional life insurance coverage?
- When is coverage effective?
- Is disability coverage offered? Short-term or Long-term or both?
- Do employees contribute toward disability coverage?
- When is disability coverage effective?
- What is the weekly benefit? What is the weekly maximum cap?
This may be one of the least interesting topics and one that most people never consider -- until one has a need. So, it’s important to know, first of all, if both life and disability coverage is offered (these are typically bundled together on the same policy which is why I’m addressing them together). At Viget, we pay 100% of all life insurance and short-term and long-term disability premiums. You never see those as payroll deductions, for example. In addition, they are all effective on date of hire, so there’s no waiting period. These are the classic “it’s there if you need it” benefits that one appreciates if disaster strikes; but, otherwise, one never thinks about. Make sure it’s something you ask about because many small companies do not include these in their benefits packages.
- Is casual dress an option?
- Is there free or subsidized parking?
- Are there any atypical benefits they’d like to tell you about?
- Do they support conference attendance or other professional development opportunities?
We do all kinds of things here at Viget which don’t fall into any specific category other than “other”! We know other companies offer unusual benefits as well. It never hurts to ask. Just some examples of the types of things you’d find at Viget:
- Free lunch every Friday (and other days of the month, which vary based on group)
- Free fruit, cereal, beverages, and snacks
- Casual dress every day
- 2 community service days each year
- Ping pong, Wii, or darts (each office has its own stress-relieving activity)
- Extra PTO for new moms and dads and a supportive, family-friendly culture
- The ability to go to at least one big conference in your field each year, on us
- Viget Spots You
- Cell phone subsidy.
I hope I have provided some food for thought with respect to learning more about the benefits you currently have, as well as expanded the way some of you evaluate total compensation when fielding job offers. Here at Viget, we’re always happy to talk with promising candidates about the specifics of our benefits because we’re proud of our benefits offering and feel that they reflect our values.