Free lunches and an endless supply of gourmet coffee everyday at work sound pretty sweet on their own, right? Well don't settle - more and more companies are offering unique perks when extending job offers.
For instance, Boxed CEO Cheh Hiang recently announced he's going to pay for employees' weddings, up to $20,000. He told the Huffington Post, "Free snacks get old. I just want to do the stuff that really matters."
So, when it comes to what really matters to you, what perks do you want to receive from your employer? Although many job seekers go into job interviews focused on salary and bonuses, it's also an ideal time to explore other perks in terms of what they could realistically offer.
Consider your stage of life. That wedding perk sounds incredible, but if you're already married or have no interest in tying the knot, it won't actually benefit you. However you may be experiencing another lofty cost in your personal life. For instance, if you're a recent college graduate looking to hit the books again soon for your master's degree, a perk like tuition reimbursement would be appropriate. Giving birth soon or planning on expanding your family? Paid leave and a daycare reimbursement or stipend would likely be helpful. Or if you're helping an elderly parent navigate the last chapter in their life, an elder care subsidy would be appropriate.
Before going into negotiations about your offer, do your homework - and not just on salary - you need to prioritize what matters to you most right now. Yes, it's great to have a conversation about a potential perk down the road like a great pension, but it could be more realistic to look at what your life will entail over the next two years. You may not even be working at that employer five years from now, so focus on the short-term.
Once you've set your priorities, ask the potential employer about what they currently offer employees. Some companies may offer a one-time sign-on bonus to cover cost-of-living associated events, but would that really measure up to something like the $20,000 wedding perk at Boxed? Probably not.
Aside from the costs associated with things like childcare, weddings, tuition and elder care, you also need to take into account one of the most valuable commodities of them all: Time. Does the company have a generous flexible work arrangement policy? If they don't offer a reimbursement policy or spending allowance related to a specific perk like childcare, maybe they provide generous time off so you can still take care of things in your life without worrying about your job.
Do they have flexibility for the amount of personal time off they can add to your contract? Always ask for more! While it's extremely difficult to successfully negotiate for things like better monthly deductions for medical or a higher employee match for your 401(k), hiring managers do have room to negotiate time off. Plus, I've seen additional vacation time get approved on the spot. At least at companies where I was formerly employed as a recruiter, getting additional approvals for PTO were unnecessary.
During the job interview, ask what their standard PTO policy is and how long it's been in an effect. Some employers may tell you it's determined on a case-by-case basis. So explore the conversation further with your potential boss. Of course, I've worked in conservative environments with less-then generous policies. But I've also seen some extremely flexible hiring managers with the philosophy that, "As long as the work gets done, I don't care where or when you do it."
Above all, it's important to evaluate a job opportunity and prospective employer in terms of what they offer you, not only in terms of career growth and salary, but perks as well. Remember: In the war for talent, job seekers hold the power, and employers are willing to get creative with their job offers. Do your due diligence to figure out how much your number one priority would cost or what it entails and then see if the employer has any flexibility to make it happen. Will free snacks put a spring in your step? Sure, but something meaningful like a wedding fund will have greater impact on your life, and probably also give you the sense that you're working for an employer that truly cares.