In the November 28, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader interviews for a job at an acceptable salary, only to learn the employee benefits would mean a 20% reduction in compensation.


Well, thanks for hitting me between the eyes… again. I’m talking about your recent column, More Money: What to ask for in a talent shortage. I was rationalizing a pursuit of a job offer. 

benefitsIt’s a great fit. I “did the job” with the Chief Information Officer and Director. The 30-minute phone interview turned into a 90-minute great discussion on where they want to be in 18 months. Now I have the technical interview. 

The problem is that I misunderstood the benefits. Originally I thought it was a wash in salary, and that the cost of living, benefits, retirement, and bonus were going to be a 20% bump. With relocation to a warmer climate, it was a win-win. Then I got the benefits package. 

I completely misunderstood. Once the benefits are factored in, it’s effectively about a 20% pay cut. There is no way I can absorb that. It’s a small shop and moving up would not be possible for a while given the staff they have in place.

(By the way, the recruiter for this company is absolutely amazing. She completely vetted me before she passed me to the company. She asked for my resume and then recommended that I change the wording on a couple of things. She never had me fill out an application. Then she set up the preliminary phone interview. We discussed salary but I think I heard what I wanted to hear. Fortunately, after that first interview, I asked for the benefits package. She sent it to me while I was on the phone with her.)

So here is my question for you. Do I go through with the technical phone interview and see if I can work with these folks? Then, before we put in any more time and money (and airfare), do I see if they can pay what I think I am worth? Or do I call it off now saying that it is a waste of our time if they are going to stick with their current salary range, given that the benefits are actually going to cost me money?

Nick’s Reply

The recruiter tells you: “The salary range is $X-$Y and the benefits are industry-standard.” Once upon a time, that meant you could decide to go on the interview based on the salary range. Today, it’s a common trick to lead you into a series of job interviews that result in a job offer far lower than you expected — after you realize that a lousy benefits package has effectively lowered your total compensation.

There are many other reasons to decline a “job opportunity.” See When job interviews are bad for you.
It seems you learned an important lesson: Get the compensation facts before you dive into a time-consuming interview process. That means understanding all the bottom-line terms, including benefits — up front.

Benefits are compensation

Make no mistake: Benefits are part of compensation. Lame HR managers like to say, “Oh, our benefits package is industry-standard,” as if you should be impressed. Really? A company’s benefits package should be as competitive as the salaries it pays — that’s what gives a company an edge!

(Note to HR managers: Learn to use your company’s benefits as a tool to get the best candidates to accept your offers! That means you must construct great benefits packages. That’s a key part of your job.)

Benefits and bonuses are components of compensation. Until you can tally up the total, you don’t really know what the offer is — or whether the company is worth working for.

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Why are benefits a secret?

But don’t kick yourself too hard. Companies generally don’t hand out benefits details before interviews – though they should.

Many employers consider employee benefits a company secret that’s not disclosed until you show up for orientation. (Imagine a car dealer saying, “We’ll tell you what the warranty is, and how many wheels the car comes with, after you pay for the car.”) As you’ve learned, benefits are a critical part of any compensation package. Meager benefits can undermine a seemingly good salary.

So, ask about the benefits and the salary range before you invest time interviewing.

Look under the rug

When a company’s lousy benefits have such an adverse impact on a compensation deal, there’s probably something wrong with the company. There’s dirt under that fine-looking rug. So turn up a corner and look underneath.

Is the employer a cheapskate? See WANTED: Top talent to work for dog food.
Good employers offer good benefits. And they don’t hide such information. When they do, it’s the oldest sales trick in the book: They count on you to rationalize a bad deal because you’ve already put so much time and effort into it.

I don’t see any evidence that you misunderstood. If you didn’t have the benefits information in advance, how could you really judge whether this was a good opportunity or a waste of time? How could you have judged the whole compensation package?

The recruiter’s role

What’s “amazing” about the recruiter is that she did not disclose up front that the company’s benefits package is lousy.

Is that really a good recruiter? Use these tips to decide: How to Judge A Headhunter.
I assure you, she knows, because other candidates have experienced the same shock you did. While I give her credit for some of the things she did (and didn’t do — like demanding an application), if she’s a really good recruiter, she reviews all compensation components before she recruits people like you. I’d never pitch a company with lousy benefits to any potential candidates. I’d wind up wasting their time and mine. My guess is she’s lost other good candidates late in the process, after all the facts came out.

Ask to see the benefits

Job seekers rarely ask to see benefits, retirement, vacation, bonus and commission details before agreeing to interview. That’s a mistake. Employers don’t like sharing such information until they make an offer, but that’s disingenuous. Any company with great benefits is more than happy to use them to entice good candidates to interview.

One of my favorite HR ruses is this statement: “We offer the same benefits to all employees. We cannot change our benefits for just one person.” People hear that and they shrug. Of course they can’t change their benefits just for me. That would be unfair to all the other employees. Then an applicant rationalizes that there’s no choice. If I want this job, I have to settle for what everyone else gets. Wrong. If the employer really wants to hire you, it can improve other terms of the offer to compensate (remember that word?) for poor benefits. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Companies with lousy benefits hide them, and HR managers try to make job applicants feel it’s “unprofessional” to ask for the information in advance. What’s unprofessional is luring people into dead-end interviews.

Don’t kid yourself

I see it again and again. Job applicants get offended and angry about the details of a job offer at the end of a grueling interview process — because they failed to ask about all the terms before they invested all that time and trouble to interview. Of course the terms matter! Don’t kid yourself! Understand the fundamentals of the deal before you work so hard to get it.

Many career experts recommend proceeding with the hiring process anyway. “Hey, you have a shot at a job! Why blow it by bringing up money?” They will tell you to wait until the offer stage to convince an employer to do what it already told you it will not do. Don’t kid yourself. That kind of advice reveals the advisor doesn’t have an answer for your predicament, because the advisor believes in fairies and miracles.

It’s up to you, but I would not rationalize any more, or move further into this process, now that you know the benefits are a deal breaker. Talk to the recruiter. Tell her your concerns. Tell her you’re very surprised and dismayed at the benefits package.

How to Say It
“Thanks for sharing the company’s benefits package. Unfortunately, it’s not competitive and would represent an effective 20% pay cut. I’d love to continue our interviews, but first I need the company’s commitment to compensate me for the significant difference in benefits they are proposing. It would be a waste of our time to keep talking about the job if the compensation terms — and that includes benefits — aren’t acceptable. Will your client make that commitment?”

What to ask for next

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If the salary range was acceptable and you based your decision to have a preliminary phone interview on that, I think you took a reasonable risk to explore the job. While you should have asked to see all the benefits up front, 99% of applicants don’t ask until after a job offer is tendered. At least you asked early in the process.

What troubles me is that the recruiter didn’t disclose the problem with benefits when she first spoke with you. I put that on her. So I’d let the recruiter know what’s wrong immediately.

Don’t say no to proceeding. Instead, tell her what the terms need to be so they’re acceptable to you. Don’t worry about whether the employer is likely to accept your terms. The point is to establish what it will take before you are willing to proceed. The details are up to you. Here are some possible gimmes:

  • Higher salary, commensurate with the loss of benefits value. I think this is the best offset because it will fund the difference.
  • A starting bonus, but keep in mind this would be a one-time payment that does not affect future pay. I’m not a big fan of this, unless you can’t negotiate higher salary. Then you must decide whether it’s worth it.
  • A higher bonus structure that effectively makes up for the loss in benefits. Just keep in mind that bonuses are not guaranteed. So ask for a guaranteed bonus.
  • Other terms that might satisfactorily compensate you.

Clearly, they are impressed enough with you to go the next step. They want to pursue this with you. That gives you leverage. Don’t be afraid to use it wisely and appropriately. Hey — if they have no qualms about offering you poor benefits, don’t worry that you’re asking for too much! Let them say no, or let them fix the problem.

Manage the recruiter

It seems you’ve found a pretty good recruiter — she’s done a lot right. Take advantage of that.

I’d tell the recruiter that if this deal doesn’t work out, you’d like to work with her again, if she commits to vetting these deals more thoroughly for you in the future, before setting up even phone interviews. Like this employer, she has recognized a good candidate. She is likely to work harder for you in the future because you represent a really good chance for her to impress another client — and to earn a good fee!

Make the employer work for it

Don’t get tricked into dead-end interviews by an employer that uses crummy benefits to effectively lower a job offer.

An employer uses interviews to test a candidate, to determine whether it’s worth proceeding with the hiring process. Job candidates should do the same. Test the employer. Will its compensation package, including benefits, bonus and other terms, measure up to your requirements? Then determine whether to proceed. Make them work for it, just like you do in your interviews.

I’d love to know how this turns out. My comments and suggestions are obviously limited to what I know. You’re the one that must live with the choice you make – so please use your best judgment.

What information do you demand before you agree to interview? We’ve covered only a couple of things here — salary range and benefits. What surprises have you encountered only after you’ve invested a lot of time in an “opportunity?” What else should this reader assess before going any further?

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  1. This sounds almost like the bait & switch one sees at car dealers when buying a new car and the games dealers play if you have a trade-in or they think you do.

    Several years back I was in a contract-to-hire role where I was the incumbent contractor. I had to re-interview for the role after being on board for a year and after the company upgraded the pay-grade and salary range for the position. To keep this short, I lost out to an external candidate (the company, Mars Information Services told me that I would only have to compete against internal candidates which, of course, was a LIE as there were ZERO internal candidates.

    At the end of his first week at Mars IS, the successful candidate/new hire confided in me that because Mars IS hid the cost of his benefits from him UNTIL HE ACCEPTED the offer, all he had effectively done was shorten his commute. The salary and cost of benefits made the offer an effective wash with his last role.

    In the end, losing out on that job was no real loss due to the way Mars treated me as a contractor, the lies they told me and the external candidates and their secrecy on compensation, benefits and even retirement accounts. Although my contract was extended after losing out on the FTE role, I made a full court press to find another job and did so within a month. When leaving, I gave just one week’s notice rather than the ‘customary’ two and moved on to my next role.

    I haven’t purchased any Mars products since and it has now been almost 10 years since that contract assignment. I learned a great deal during that entire process, perhaps the most important being to get ALL RELEVANT information pertinent to the offer UP FRONT and IN WRITING.

  2. Here is an ironic twist…

    Discussing the position and talking about “compensation range.” I always say I am a “full compensation guy.” The HR guy says “standard benefits package.” An offer is made. I ask to see the benefits.

    My reaction was “Wow!!!” Fantastic benefits. Better than I thought…best I have ever had. I could have been totally lowballed on salary. But because HR was clueless about the sorry state of benefits, combined with the “must keep this confidential,” they are putting themselves at a disadvantage. Which is fine with me.

  3. At one interview “Benefits are standard”, I asked to define what “standard” means they said statutory
    payroll withholding. Well, like social security and taxes. The justification was the “convenience” factor of not doing it yourself was a benefit.

    • Sheesh!

    • Holy moly, Eddie, that’s a new one!

    • That is just crazy. How do they even say that to a candidate with a straight face?

      • @J Brennan: The same way they say, “Now, tell me your current salary” with a straight face.

  4. Benefits are “industry standard”??? What an oxymoronic statement. I never knew that an entire industry had the same standards for benefits. Did anyone else who reads this blog believe that benefits had been standardized across entire industries?

    I checked the benefits at the client company where I am currently contracting, a company in the diagnostics part of healthcare. I was stunned to see just how much damage Obamacare had done to employer provided benefits, the costs associated with them and the ever increasing deductibles. It made me glad that I have TRICARE as a retired member of the military.

    The next time a recruiter or HR rep says “benefits are industry standard” I will try not to a) hand up on them immdiately or b) laugh uncontrollably in their face.

    • They have. Across the industry good chance the package is not stellar.

    • I don’t know about today, but 40 years ago, when I was getting out of graduate school, I took a job with Chrysler. The offering letter stated the salary, and in the list of benefits was the statement that “a comprehensive medical coverage package is available.”

      When I started the job a few weeks later, I was told that medical coverage wouldn’t begin until 3 months later, and that was standard among all of the Detroit Big Three. Prior to grad school I’d worked at a major commercial bank, and my medical coverage started the moment I walked in the door — even before attending the orientation session.

      I mentioned this to my dad, who worked in the benefits section of a major oil company. He suggested asking if I could pay the company medical premium on my own, which would have been about $5-10 a month. Nope. I had to buy my own Blue Cross coverage at around $60 a month for my first three months.

      When I moved to GM a year later, I had to do the same. So, there was an “industry standard” benefits arrangement within the auto industry back then.

      • @Robert: Funny how “industry standard” is not defined when they promise it.

        • Maybe you should coin a new phrase well call it “Substandard”

    • Sorry, I have to take exception to the Obamacare remark. Apparently, you were unaware of what was occurring in the healthcare industry long before the ACA. The ACA was the first step to improve the situation. Was it perfect? No. However, I had to purchase insurance on the individual market that was twice what the prevailing cost of the best plans on the Exchange with a horrible deductible of $5,000 and no “preventive care”. This was before the ACA. Employers were shifting the cost and limiting the plans offered long before the ACA. As I said, the ACA was the first step to improve things. Now, due to the games by those in power in DC, the markets have been destabilized and the ACA is having more issues with the pullback in funding. This will only reverse the progress that was being made. It’s lucky you have Tricare.

  5. Maybe it’s different in the pharmaceutical industry but every position I have interviewed for in the last 10 years (during the F2F and after the initial phone interviews) has had me interview either first or second with the junior HR grunt, whose only job is to describe the benefits to me, usually with a pamphlet with all the details in writing. This included relo assistance, temporary housing, retirement, options, insurance, etc.

    It’s getting the salary range out of them that has been the hardest, not to mention the “what are you making now” questions, although these have been waning of late.

    • Consider how stupid that approach by HR is. Without knowing whether a person is even a viable candidate or whether they can do the work, they deploy an HR greenhorn to do a full presentation.

      What does that cost a company each year?

      An e-mail would do it, eh? :-)

  6. I’ve worked with HR (they provide data and details) and now subscribe to their thinking. What is the target compensation,and what are the pieces – especially for bonuses. Industry standard benefits are meaningless especially once you start nearing executive level. Pension – match vs company puts in % upfront. Bonus – is it a bonus or really variable comp (mine has a target range but swings based on company performance. I have seen a 2% bonus and a 35% bonus). Car allowance, co-pays for insurance, etc…

  7. Has anyone seen a formal vacation policy in an employee handbook that is not based primarily on tenure of service? For example one that provides for dual standards, one based on tenure and the other based on the grade or tier of the position held? It has been my experience that when a company is hiring from the outside for other than an entry level position, the candidate is always going to have to negotiate for more than the standard vacation time (if the company’s policy is strictly based on tenure).

    (@Nick, FYI, please note that I’m sending a note via your website email with a couple of items you may enjoy.)

    • Bill – The higher up the food chain and the more you are paid the more time off you receive. Always. Them that gots gets. (My Dad used to say that.)

      If you want lavish vacation time and bennies start looking at the Fed/State/Local levels. The taxpayer paid jobs can have amazing perks.

    • I always want to see the spreadsheet that calculates commissions and bonuses, and I want to see the criteria for earning a bonus — all in advance. Or we know nothing about compensation except the salaray — assuming the employer is willing to share THAT.

      • Nick, I am with you for more transparency from the prospective employer.
        In addition to what you say above, we need to see what that company is really like in public.

        An investigator in the healthcare real estate does research on the last 3 to 5 years in a company’s SEC report on the settlements made to those who sued the company. Yes, the sexual harassment settlements being one of them, etc. She says that the large amount of information gleaned from the SEC reports gives her an idea on how the company treats employees and others.

        Here’s a link to what she outlined in a letter to the editor (Wall Street Journal). She makes a valid point on what you need to know about a company.

    • @Bill: I like to have fun with HR when vacation time comes up in a job offer. “All new employees get X days per year.”

      Oh, really? Do they all get the same salary, too?

      HR likes to rationalize that a job offer is based on the person’s last salary. So why isn’t vacation time based on the person’s last vacation time? Why does the new hire have to start all over again?

      Vacation is a form of compensation, no matter what HR says. If HR is going to rely on a person’s salary to determine a job offer, why doesn’t it also rely on their prior vacation?

      Always negotiate vacation time.

    • What vacation policy? The new trick is to provide “unlimited vacation.” Good luck in taking that unlimited vacation & forget about a vacation payout when you leave.

      • You raise a good point with the companies claiming unlimited vacation time. I’d want to know what I earned to know I wouldn’t lose it if I left the company.

  8. I remember this issue well. Now that I’m the most vilified person in the Country OWG (Old White Guy) just getting to a phone interview has become close to impossible. I no longer have the bargaining power I once had but when I did I was astonished at this very behavior.
    I learned the hard way what Nick is stressing. I started ALWAYS asking a number of questions before I gave the pay range I would consider.
    1. I need to see the benefits package. The cost and quality of benefits have become a major factor in the compensation. May I see the information?
    2. What is the PTO amount and how is it accrued? When does that accelerate?
    3. What are the current paid holidays?

    I found the recruiters fumbling for the answers and unless they really needed me it was a ‘you will find out and you will like it’.

    The car analogy is perfect. Just drive it away and we will send you your payment information and how much we gave you for your trade.

    I can’t stress enough to follow Nick’s advice. It’s time all working people step up to bait-and-switch, stagnant wages, crappy bennnies and vacation.

    • @Jim: “you will find out and you will like it.”

      Wow. How many times have we heard HR or a recruiter offer that answer to the question? It’s actually a good test of how skilled the recruiter is. A good one will know the real answer.

      This all goes back to the social brainwashing employers rely on. “Talking money is bad. When you bring up money, you’re indicating you’re more concerned about money than about the job and our company. We don’t want people who are concerned about money.”

      Tell that to the board of directors.

      Yet job seekers meekly accept the edict that “we should not discuss money til later.” Meanwhile, IT’S MONEY THAT MATTERS. To everyone. The shame in discussing it is a form of brainwashing that kills your ability to negotiate.

      Talk about money early and often.

      • You should listen to the “Career Inspiration by VentureFizz” podcast. The in-house recruiters interviewed on that podcast consider talking about money early to be a “red flag.” Talking about money early makes one a bad “culture fit.”

      • I have been there… after my job of 19 1/2 years came to an end, I interviewed anywhere that called. One place, after a successful 1st interview, provided a folder of all benefits and PTO. I didn’t gey called back. The job I eventually took as a contractor, (after 6 months out of work and a family of 7 to provide for), assured me of great benefits which I would learn about during the onramping, if I took the job. I found out the benefits are horrible! It is cheaper for me to get my own healthcare coverage, and there was no PTO! My teammates and I were able ti negotiate some PTO later on, but it hasn’t been fun… and the benefits still stink! I feel stuck….

        • @Bob:

          Waiter to Diner: “Order your food and eat it. We’ll tell you what the prices are afterwards, when it’s time for you to pay.”

          Diner to Waiter: “No, let’s discuss prices and money first. I don’t like surprises!”

          Waiter to Diner: “Sir! Your focus on money is insulting! We serve only diners who are completely focused on eating our food!”

          Diner to Waiter: “Yah, okay! We’re outta here! YOU eat it.”

      • This reminds me of the idea that a company wants someone who works for them to be tough-as-nails negotiators and to fight for the company in every situation. However, during the interview process the company expects that this same lion of the business world will lie down and simply accept what the company offers.

        I find it hilarious that companies have this huge hypocrisy and are apparently blind to it.

  9. You could write a book on benefits discussions.
    But to the questions what information do you require before proceeding to an interview? and any surprises
    Full disclosure…I admit… all I ever looked at was compensation. In my family my wife cared about, managed, and hence became the subject matter expert on benefits, particularly insurance. One reason we worked this way is I HATE messing with insurance and all it’s related details, and as such, am no good at it While my wife can hold her own or better, with any HR rep on same.

    I also learned if my wife wasn’t happy or insecure about benefits, I wasn’t going to be happy. So benefits transparency would have to be up front. If anyone in the process waffled about talking about it up front…discussion over. I’ve worked for several companies over the years, & like Hank, transparency was never a problem, either as an applicant or a hiring manager. It was SOP for HR to provide them as part of an initial interview, and if asked would send the benefits package with the interview invitation (and some did this on their own). Good or great benefits could trump salary consideration even if salary was seemingly a cut…because you can regain and surpass a lower starting salary way easier than getting a company to bend on benefits packages. I’ve personally gone to work for a small company after a big name Fortune 500 company whose benefits package blew the big guys away.

    For example, at one of the companies I cut to the chase and before I flew coast to coast with my wife (a no strings attached visit/interview with cost including my wife’s trip), I asked if my wife could sit in on the HR piece. No problem. Nice in depth conversation. She got everything she wanted to know real time. And I got a benefit. I got to skip the post visit “did you ask …..”, uh no I forgot or didn’t think of it” benefits debriefing with my wife and the related “look!”. This made a big impression with my wife and that didn’t hurt the company’s chances.

    An unpleasant surprise is to find that while your insurance package looks good on paper, is to find that the insurance carrier your new company uses, sucks. that is your care providers won’t accept that company’s insurance, most likely because they are too difficult to do business with, or are deadbeats etc. If you’re a local hire, shame on you, because just asking the office manager of your doctor(s) will tell you that. If you’re the recruiter or HR rep, definitely shame on you because you should know that. If you’re relocating from afar, it will take some research, phone calls, networking but you can be forewarned. Leaving behind an insurance company that you know is respected by your doctor, for one that de facto really isn’t there, is a non-trivial consideration.

    As to standardization? It all depends on the definition of what And if your definition of benefits covers “anything that makes one’s working life more pleasant, convenient or non-salaries intangibles that make your job more financially advantageous they are negotiable, are negotiated, and even invented on the fly just for you.
    As a recruiter the most common item people wanted to negotiate for, is vacation time. But is casual dress Friday a benefit? How about telecommuting time, all the time, X days a week? flex time? tuition reimbursement and so on.
    Is agreeing to relocate your robust anvil collection a benefit when no other company would agree to it? and so on

    In small companies probably everyone does have the same benefits package. In large corporations…don’t be surprised if there are multiple packages…for different levels. Your VP may have something different and much better than mere mortals.

    Also if you stop to think, much of the same points can be made about employees. There is a lot of benefits related bargaining that goes on after you’re on board as you are presented with transfer opportunities, unexpected situations and such. And this includes the terms of your employee insurance package itself which HR infers is cast in concrete. This is because if you’re working for a mega corporation it’s most like self insured. That is your real insurance cover is from the corporation. That insurance company you’re arguing with…is there to handle the admin work..with health providers, to haggle with you. to manage the contract insurance package. In these cases, HR manages contracts, not employees. The Corporation calls the shots on exceptions.

    Hence the argument that “if I do it for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone isn’t always true”. Much content in any policy has a history, there because a company was presented with a new situation and learned something and felt a need to provide guidance pro or con about how to deal with it in the future.

    Plus…you have the latitude hiring managers choose to take overt or covert about addressing how they want to deal with applicants or new hires. Do managers go outside policy? you bet.

    • @Don Harkness: Your story about your wife’s input on benefits reminds me of my best friend. She is seriously ill, and last year her husband got a new job. He’s an electrician, and while he discussed job duties and other such matters with his soon-to-be new boss, my friend was talking to HR and negotiating health insurance coverage for both of them and vacation time, holidays, sick time, etc. for him. She was able to get the employer to agree to cover some of the treatments that they had previously told her husband that they wouldn’t cover, and even agreed to pay the premiums so she could still be covered while her husband waited for the new health insurance to kick in (had to wait 2 months).

      So everything is negotiable if both parties are willing.

      • @Marybeth.
        I forgot to mention that I didn’t forget letting my wife in the cycle. I thought it was a class act. Over the years I’d offer similar when I could see the obvious with some candidates, that benefits was a BIG deal. Typically as others mention the SOP was to have HR in the loop, usually last to do exactly that go over bennies. But that’s like evading the question. So I’d frankly tell them I wasn’t a good person to talk to about benefits, but if interested, they were welcome to talk to my wife about them…in a way better than HR because she’d give them the consumers view, and better than HR as we’d been through several insurance packages and my wife could offer context and comparisons. This exchange could also include an overview of the health service providers in the area. Most likely HR would gag if they knew I was doing that, but it was appreciated, by in most cases like me, by the spouse who actually handled insurance in the household

  10. Here’s something I’ll bet many candidates don’t consider. I interviewed at a company who designs in California but manufactures in Mexico (not uncommon today). I asked, “Wouldn’t I need to spend considerable time in Mexico just prior to product launch?” The reply was, “Yes, but we provide a driver, and they take a different route every time.”

    I guess you can at least appreciate their honesty.

    Unrelated to this specific topic, but very much related to ATH, I also had a most amusing interview with that company. In the last interview of the day, with the VP, he asked me all the Standard Interview Questions (Where do you see yourself in five years?, What are you greatest strengths/weaknesses, etc.). I gave him all the Standard Interview Answers, like we were using a script from a play. It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

    • Proof that even senior executives don’t know how to conduct interviews.

  11. If the recruiter wad doing her job. she’s been selling the candidate to the company very bit as hard as she sold the company to the candidate. So the candidate rejecting an interview unless the compensation package is reasonable is going to be something that hurts her also. He has a good position since it is not even a case of being “greedy” (not that there is anything wrong with that.) If the company really can’t pay more, they should admit they can’t afford him.
    I think more pay is the only solution. Bonuses are great when they happen, but I wouldn’t bet on them. Plus, raises are based on compensation, not on bonuses, so taking a bonus instead of salary hurts for the rest of your tenure.

    • I’m with you Scott. I tried to offer some alternatives, but more dollars in every paycheck are the best way to offset lousy benefits.

      But, having said that, keep in mind that a company that offers lousy benefits is likely lousy in other ways you haven’t considered… until you’re working there.

  12. Would it be too snarky to respond to the “industry standard benefits” line with “So, they’re not competitive? How are they lacking?”

    • @Lance:: Well, I’d have no problem saying that. But not everyone will go that route. The alternative is to respond, “Great! Can I see the paperwork?”

  13. How’s this for snarky? “The benefits suck!”

  14. This is why the USA needs universal health care like every other advanced (and quite a few not-so-advanced) nation has.

    • Hmm, and wait 18 months or even years for knee/hip replacement surgery while in agony.

      • To the point and succinctly said!

      • myth

      • In discussions like this, plenty of Americans say Canadians have to wait for care and hate their system. And every Canadian says “no we don’t, we love it, and we would hate to live under the healthcare disaster in the US.”

    • Uhhh no MargaretS, we don’t want universal health care. We have it now and it’s called the VA. I had it for 30 years in the military; it was great for trauma injuries and mediocre at best for everything else. I never saw the same doctor twice and in many cases it was an enlisted medical corpsman or a PA.

      Trust me, you do NOT want the government in charge of your healthcare.

      I will take my chances in the private sector 24/7, 365 anytime now and forever more.

      As Thomas Jefferson said: “That government is best that governs least.” That pertains to the regulatory deep state we now suffer under to this day.

      The feds running healthcare??? Count me out.

      • Whatever you call it, there are plenty of different examples of government/universal health care in the world that don’t have you fearing bankruptcy or waiting years for a knee replacement.

        I spent 13 years overseas and got to try out a few other countries’ healthcare programs firsthand. Australia manages theirs pretty well; England, not so much. Asia was delightfully cheap and unregulated. Care standards were equivalent to ours.

        Unless you’re living 100% off the grid, the government is behind the stuff you use and need every day. And Thomas Jefferson never had Big Pharma to deal with.

      • Thomas Jefferson said and did a lot of things, not all of them great. Anyway, he’s dead and it’s almost 2018. Things change.

        • “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.”


          The problem with government and the regulations they foist upon us is “that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

          Benefits were really made universal as a result of WW II when the feds offered tax incentives to companies to offer them in lieu of increased wages (which were frozen for the duration).

          I suggest that those of you who place any faith in the federal government will be disappointed in the extreme. After all, it is this same federal leviathan that now has us more than $20 TRILLION in debt. Government is almost always the problem and never the answer and they prove it every day.

          • And yet, other countries manage to have freedom AND universal health care. Even old Monty’s homeland.

            • Universal healthcare is not about healthcare, it’s about forced compliance by the state. Check out what happens in Canada when individuals try to do deals with Drs. They are prosecuted and so are the Drs.

              This is about benefits in the USA not socialist nanny states. As Nick said, let’s get back on topic.

              I spent 30 years in uniform and saw what the federal government did to our benefits. I advise all here to NOT rely on the feds for ANYTHING.

      • Dude, I’m on universal health care in the US. It is called Medicare and it works great. I had excellent insurance from my employer, but Medicare is even better.
        And we’ve all heard of the Republican senior citizen who said “don’t let the government touch my Medicare!”

      • Paul C – VA benefits are hardly the same as Universal Healthcare or what would essentially be an expansion of Medicare/Medicaid to start. I don’t hear any Seniors complaining about Medicare.

    • Uh, getting WAY off topic… let’s stick to the negotiating issues here, and discuss the politics of healthcare on Reddit :-)

      • Nick: How many strikes are allowed?? There’s are tiresome pattern here :(

        • Ack, and because I made a comment earlier, I’m now receiving each angry, you’re-wrong-I’m-right healthcare response to my inbox, too. *sigh*

    • @margarets – You’re absolutely right. Universal healthcare is the answer and would remove this issue from employers. Any commentary about waiting months for procedures are simply untrue.

  15. Back on track, I always got the benefits description with the job offer, and my daughter has also, since I’ve gone over them with her. Which might indicate that companies who don’t tell you upfront offer terrible benefits.

    • Sometimes even a written description of the benefits does not all the questions. Years ago I hired on with a small company offering, among other things, a 401-K plan. Not mentioned until after I got there, though, was that employees could not enroll in the plan (i.e., contribute THEIR OWN money) until after having worked there one year.

  16. Let’s face it.


    Every day.

  17. to one of the original questions and back on track. ” What surprises have you encountered only after you’ve invested a lot of time in an “opportunity?””

    When I talked to my wife about the topic, she reminded me of a dilly. I don’t know how it slipped my mind.

    Laid off from Company A after 16 years, but with a generous severance. This gave me close to a year’s pay (per an algorithm) and other benefits. But the way it was executed was great. You were kept “on the books” for the designated period, let’s say 9 months, benefits continued as if you were employed, and when the severance period ran out you were severed. But me and some others ended up retirement qualified…so the way it worked when severed, I moved into retirement status per that company. Severance salary of course ran out and stopped, but as a retiree, I had retiree benefits. This arrangement was much better than a lump sum payment which if done, would have spiked my 1994 taxable income, but by spreading it out taxable income from that company was spread over 2 tax years.

    All during the severance period I was of course job hunting, caught some contract work giving me two paychecks for a time. Then I landed in Company B, as a full time permanent employee with (I assumed) benefits. Since I’d been working prior, and after it’s been universally SOP that your permanent employer provides the primary benefits. If retired like me for instance, that insurance would be secondary. Or so I thought. Until Company B did something non standard. They took the position that my retirement benefits were primary & theirs secondary. Company A of course took the SOP position…that like everywhere else in the universe, the primary employer provides the primary benefits.Company B said no way, you’re primary etc. They went back & forth on this…with me protesting to my new company, Company B that Company A was right, because that’s standard operating procedure.

    While they were duking it out, Me & my family had 2 secondaries…de facto NO insurance.

    This was resolved when Company A said screw it and covered me as Primary. I don’t know how they did it administratively, I assume just put my name on the books as far as their insurance carrier was concerned and charged me what employees were charged. Company A was old school and had a human being in the company who was an insurance SME, who was the person who interpreted coverage, unsnarled mess ups, answered questions. Company B outsourced all insurance matters to a 3rd party. HR in Company B managed contracts, not people.

    I can’t begin to describe how upsetting this was. No way would I have even thought of asking for clarification before I was hired, because I couldn’t conceive of it ever being an issue. I never heard of it before…or since.

  18. The technical interview went fine. So I brought up the salary range and benefits for the position during the talk about flying down there. I asked them about the discrepancy between their salary range and benefits. I was told that the salary range was just a guideline and they do not hire at the top of the range. (Ready for it?) Plus I was told the benefits were industry standard. I politely declined the travel.

  19. For those here who have never been a contractor, here is one thing to keep in mind when dealing with your employer (who is NOT the company you work at). Most, if not all offer very few benefits and those that do often offer the most substandard plans you could think of and not want.

    As for PTO. You can forget that, unless you are a Statement of Work (SOW) Consultant, in which case you are not really a contractor, but an employee of that firm doing project work at and for the client company.

    Since the Microsoft decision, most client companies restrict contractors to 18 months to two years on site and then they have to leave. SOW Consultants can often stay much longer as their Statements of Work can be renewed/extended or they are placed on a new project with another SOW, period of performance and pot of money for the project.

  20. I just recently rescinded a job offer due to the benefit package was so substandard it eroded my gains in the hourly rate although I gave three week notice it was two weeks before o was given the full package