August 6, 2012

Why do companies hide the benefits?

Filed under: How to Say It, Q&A, Readers' Forum, Salary, Stuff I worry about, The job offer

In the August 7, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants to why an employer refuses to disclose what the employee benefits are until the offer has been accepted:

I’ve been offered a job by a very large company. The salary is fine and the job sounds good. The offer letter states that I am eligible for benefits, but it doesn’t say what the benefits are.

I asked the headhunter who was working to place me, and he said the company’s policy is not to disclose the benefits until after I’ve accepted the position. This sounds really bizarre. The headhunter has assured me that the benefits package is very good and I shouldn’t worry about it; I’ll be happy with the package.

Should I take his word for it and accept the job, or should I run the other way?

My Advice

You’ve run smack up against one of the most perturbing and ludicrous practices of many companies: They will not divulge the details of their benefits package and/or their employee policy manual until after you have started work.

Why? Honest, this is the usual answer: “Our benefits package is considered a competitive secret, and our employee manual is confidential.”

You are right to be skeptical.

They invite you to join the game, but you can’t see the rules in advance. You may make an investment in the company, but you may not see the financials. You may buy the house, but you may not do an engineering inspection first.

Did you ever ask to see a menu at a restaurant only to be denied?

Please rest assured, the company you’re dealing with is behaving stupidly. You may be tempted to run away, but don’t. Take some control of the negotiation.

Call the office of the CEO and very politely explain that you are sitting on a job offer that you’re ready to accept, but you have a question no one — including the HR department — seems able to answer to your satisfaction. Decline to say what the question is until a staff member from the CEO’s office (someone who is not in the HR department) agrees to talk with you. I’ll bet you dinner (I’ll even show you the menu) that the CEO’s office has no idea that HR withholds such basic information from potential hires.

If you get to talk with a sensible company representative, here’s How to Say It:

“I’m impressed with your company, and I’m eager to come to work with John Jones, the manager of your finance department [or whichever department]. However, I cannot accept this offer without knowing all the terms of employment. I could no more sign an employment agreement without knowing all the terms than your company could sign a contract without knowing what it was committing to. I’m sure you understand. Could you please send me your employee manual, benefits package, and any other documents that would bind me after I start the job? Once I have these, I will promptly respond. I look forward to accepting your offer, and to making a significant contribution to your business. Please don’t ask me to talk with your HR department — they have already refused to provide these basic documents. I hope I can count on your help so we can all get to work.”

Although I think a company’s refusal to disclose benefits is sufficient reason to decline an offer, I should warn you that the more serious risk lies in taking the job before you’ve seen the employee policy manual. This is where things like non-compete rules, prohibitions against moonlighting, surrender of invention rights, and other important terms are sometimes hidden.

If you balk at these rules after you’ve started the job, your only option is to quit — without the freedom of being able to fall back on your old job. Moreover, be aware that those rules may still apply after you quit. A job offer is a contract, and certain terms of that contract may survive your resignation or termination. Get it all in writing. A company’s employee manual is usually incorporated by reference into a job offer. When you accept one, you accept the other. But don’t stop there: Beware the cause clause.

Be very careful. Question authority. Question such policies. They stink, and there’s good reason to say so. You risk getting the company upset, but as I asked earlier, would you agree to pay for a meal at a restaurant before you know what’s on the menu? (In some European restaurants, they go a step further and graciously invite you into the kitchen where you can see how the food is prepared and check out the bubbling pots for yourself, before you even sit down!)

Not all companies have such policies about benefits information. I discourage you from signing a contract (a job offer) from a company that will not divulge everything you need to know. I’d tell the headhunter you have your own policy: I need to know what the entire offer is — including the benefits.

Have you ever taken a job without knowing the employee benefits? Have you encountered a “gotcha” too late? What else do you need to know before quitting your old job to accept a new offer?

: :

44 Comments on “Why do companies hide the benefits?”
By Silvie
August 7, 2012 at 2:17 am

I did so in my first job post college, with a Fortune 100 firm, when I did not know any better. I was placed there by an external recruiter and no one would give me the benefit package info or employee manual prior to accepting the job offer. The recruiter firm, HR and even the CEO’s office refused to hand over the information, stating it was policy and their secret “competitive information.” I really wish now I listened to my intuition and turned down the job. The employee manual had a lot of restrictions on what one was allowed to do outside work in your free time and I discovered there were direct conflicts with many things that I was told in my interview by the hiring manager.

I have found that this practice of withholding such information is far too common unfortunately, and just dumb.

By rkc
August 7, 2012 at 5:33 am

I would ask the hirng manager that you interviewed with before calling the CEO’s office.. Certainly he/she has the employee manual and know the benefits. And the hiring manager has the most incentive to get you to work because he/she has a job to get done.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the hiring manager, or the hiring manager plays ridiculous rules so tightly (or is forced to), do you really want to work at this company?

By jim jarvis
August 7, 2012 at 6:02 am

Any company who won’t provide benefits details is hiding something, plain and simple. While it MAY be that the CEO is aware of it, they may not be.

A telling question: You’re considering me for a responsible position; would you expect me to commit the company to agreements without fully researching them?

If there is a headhunter involved, USE them. Be clear that you can’t accept an offer without knowing the full scope. Let THEM do battle with the company; using your key question.

By Patty
August 7, 2012 at 7:20 am

A number of years ago I read that the Disney companies would not even allow someone to fill out an application UNTIL they had read the employee manual (I don’t know if this is still true)and I was greatly impressed. To me this meant that they wanted to be certain that you bought into their culture and rules before they spent any time on you- a great attitude for any company that wants to hire and keep top tier employees.

By dlms
August 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

I have never heard of such a practice. When I interviewed for positions, the HR person was the one who told me about the benefits.

Not sure I would be willing to work for a company who treats their benefits info like a state secret.

By John Zabrenski
August 7, 2012 at 8:03 am

Rest assured that the competitors know the benefits and contents of the employee manual. It’s just wishful thinking that they try to keep these things secret.

By Greg
August 7, 2012 at 8:07 am

How hard you push is determined by how badly you need “a job.” Switching from a good job to a better job is much different than switching from unemployment to employment.

If you do call the CEO’s office, ask to speak to their assistant(if you can find out the assistant’s name, even better). The assistant might even go ahead and send you the info, deciding it is not worth the CEO’s time to deal with this.

Finally (and I would defer to Nick’s judgement on this), be open to signing a non-disclosure about the benefits and employee manual.

By Dave
August 7, 2012 at 8:43 am

@Greg – I think the NDA thing is key. I remember when I was interviewing at a R&D lab when I was in grad school, I had to sign an NDA before I interviewed.

But to Nick’s points, he is spot on. I would even go as far to say to ask about benefits/policies even before you interview.

By Charles
August 7, 2012 at 8:48 am

Years ago I was recruited by a large fnanical firm as a advisor with a very large signing bonus. I was told by everyone including the recruiter that it always comes in 10% cash and 90% stock.
I turned it around on them saying that they would probabably fire anybody who would advise their clients to have 90% of their invesyments in one stock so why would they want to hire someone who would do that to themselves. Plus there was a vesting period for the stock (which went down)but not the cash.
I received the 90% cash. The recruiter was shocked.
For the benifits: turn it around and ask the HR person if you signed a contract on behalf of the company without reading all of it would that give them cause to fire you? If so, why in the world would they hire someone who starts there longterm relationship by doing the exact thing that you would fire them for?

By Bob
August 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

@Greg,
I searched for a job for more than a year, during our recent ecnonmic recession, and finally had an offer. But the Non-Compete was restrictive and basically said I couln’t write the type of software I had a lot of experience writing for 2 years.

So I asked to meet the HR lady and asked her some hypothetical questions about the ramifications of the Non-Compete. She couldn’t answer them but pulled in the in-house corporate lawyer (who had probably come up with all this bs in the first place). So I asked him these questions and when he answered in the affirmative that the Non-Compete was very restrictive, I didn’t say anything for about 1 full minute. I just stood there looking pissed.

So he caved and said that the non-compete could be amended to just the known competitors of the company. So I had him amend the contract and I took the job.

So even if you are looking for work for a long time, you can negotiate, and make the contracts more reasonable.

By Kimberley
August 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

This is great advice! When we take on new clients we will not start sourcing for them until we have all of the information about the role inlcluding detailed information on salary and benefits. You would truly be surprised how few people (Hiring Managers and HR alike) have no idea what their benefit plan includes, nor what the cost is to the employee.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

@Silvie: Companies withholding benefits and rules when they make an offer isn’t just dumb. It borders on fraudulent. Caveat emptor is potent advice.

@Jim Jarvis: I didn’t suggest turning to the headhunter in this case because the headhunter made it clear he wasn’t going to help. The headhunter is a wuss. It should take just one request from the candidate to get the headhunter to deal with this. Time to go to the top. The company made the offer; calling the CEO is natural. That’s how deals are done. When the company negotiates a big deal, it doesn’t go to some clerk to negotiate terms. It negotiates with the decision maker. It’s time CEOs realized they are the decision makers.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 9:52 am

@dlms: Good that the HR rep told you about the benefits. But that’s different from giving you the benefits in writing. When you sign up for the job, you’re signing that you accept the benefits, too. How can you sign until you have the doc in hand? This is an HR racket in many companies.

@rkc: I see your point about going to the hiring manager first, but in my opinion it’s too late for that. The manager should know the deal already. I’d question his or her management acumen if they don’t know how HR makes offers.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

@Greg: I see your point, but the fallacy is that “if you really need the job, you have no choice.” Jump ahead. You take the job out of desperation. You find out the medical coverage is too lousy to pay your bills. That’s like taking a salary too small to cover your rent. Benefits are part of compensation, and not knowing what they are is tantamount to taking a job you can’t afford to do. I urge people to study the benefits carefully. Health coverage is one of the most controversial topics in America today. Don’t get screwed.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

@Dave: YES! Ask to see the bennies package before you interview. They want to see your resume first, right?

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

@Charles: HR policy in most companies contradicts other company policies and practices. It’s often assumed that HR’s policies are sacred, handed down from a diety. You’ve shown that anything is negotiable – especially indefensible policies. Thanks for sharing that you got them to convert the 90% stock to 90% cash. Please, folks – pay attention! You can and SHOULD neogiate. Most of the time, the employer’s position is downright stupid, formulated by dopes who can’t defend their positions. They’re lazy. Poke around, prepare a solid, logical position, and use it to get what you want!

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 10:02 am

@Bob: Thanks for another lesson in negotiating. Those “fixed terms” are almost never fixed. When I license Ask The Headhunter features to other publications, they almost always have non-compete clauses. For example, if I license to them, I can’t license to their competitors. The restriction is absurdly broad. Most writers accept it. I always negotiate like you do. I point out how nutty it is, and I offer an alternative: named competitors. I won’t license to them for the term of our deal. They always accept, because it makes sense. The lawyers who write the boilerplate always want to get their company (or client) the most they can. Your job is to get the most you can get. Nothing prevents you from negotiating. My compliments for going head to head with the lawyer and knowing how to handle it! Sometimes silence is the best offer to make – let them deal with it.

By Steve Amoia
August 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

Nick C: “This is where things like non-compete rules, prohibitions against moonlighting…”

I once accepted a position only to learn on my first day that outside employment of any kind was prohibited. Even outside of this particular industry.

The HR director mentioned that the hiring authorities should have told me. Then I asked if there were any exceptions:

“Yes, I have an outside business.”

Touche. :)

By Kim
August 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

@Greg, I disagree totally. There’s no reason to see the benefits package before you interview, because it’s part of the offer process… just as you negotiate salary, you can negotiate benefits. If a candidate wanted to see our benefits before even interviewing, I would find that to be pretty presumptuous, and it would reflect on their candidacy. Obviously, I would allow them to see the benefits before accepting an offer, though.

By Dave
August 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

@Kim

The issue I have run into is that I’ve wasted my time going to interviews and having phone screens where the pay/benefits/policy package isn’t worth me to consider switching jobs. I would like to know this up front in order to save everyones time up front.

I’ve had HH’s/Recruiters come to me with oppurtunites where the pay wasn’t that great (or I’d probably want/am making the top end of the range). In that case, I want to know about the benefits (i.e. vacation) and policy (i.e. raise and promotions, telecommuting, etc.).

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 11:46 am

@Kim: Your company negotiates benefits like health insurance?

In most companies, some if not all of the benefits are standard and not negotiable. (Good for you if yours is.

I’m with Dave to the extent that benefits that apply to all employees are a starting point for any interviews – just like the applicant’s resume is. You wouldn’t interview someone without knowing the basics about them. Dave doesn’t want to interview unless he knows some of the basics about the benefits. That seems reasonable to me. Can you tell us more about how your company handles this? Thanks for commenting as an employer.

By Peter
August 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

Years ago candidates were advised to never ask about vacations, days off, or other benefits in an interview – somehow it was assumed to indicate a ‘bad’ attitude, a lack of enthusiasm for the actual job. It’s still not bad advice – you have a lot more to cover in an interview than these basic aspects ts of compensation
If you are working with an experienced headhunter you will have a pretty clear understanding of benefits before you go to the interview.
In any case, never accept a job where the benefits are “confidential” that probably translates to “lousy.”

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

@Peter: I get your point. But I started headhunting many years ago, and I’ve never been able to understand employers’ attitudes about candidates asking about benefits, time off, vacation, etc. What’s the big deal? Why do questions about these topics indicate a problem?

If the problem is “appearances,” then the employer should just hand the information to each applicant on a sheet before the interview. Just like the applicant hands over his or her resume. I really think this is a silly omission. What’s the big secret about vacation days and health insurance? Dave makes a very valid point – why waste time interviewing with a company when the most fundamental benefits might not be acceptable?

Honestly, all I see in this is a long-standing but indefensible HR policy (and attitude) that very basic information must be withheld and protected from applicants. Yet HR has no problem requiring candidates to submit to background and credit checks prior to interviews — information that really is personal and confidential.

I’d really like to hear from some employers and HR folks about this. Convince me. :-)

By Dave
August 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

@Peter…

I can see the logic in that.

But, if one is currently employed, I think it’s fair to ask some general questions up front. To me, it’s seeing if continuing is worth it.

For example, if someone makes $75K (wants $80-85K) and a HH comes along with a job that offers $60-85K – I think it’s worth saying to the HH that they already are in the top half of the salary and want the top end of the budget – but are there any other benefits that would make the decison easier? Also, if the perspective employer offers the employee $85K, are there no raises beyond that?

By Don Harkness
August 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

When told you wouldn’t be told benefits before accepting the offer, you had all the info you needed….don’t walk, run away. Unless you want to have fun it’s not worth the time to talk to a ceo about it.
I recruit for a small company. For a small company the pay is reasonable, but not competitive across the board with the big guys.
We posted starting salary ranges and the benefits up front in the job description. We want candidates to have essential information to assess our worth.If you show interest I can assume you’ve taken that into account and are serious about interviewing.
(it doesn’t work 100% of the time, because as my wife says..grown men don’t scroll..see job title hit send button with a resume). So we’re not secretive.
It saves everyone time. What a waste to go through the whole drill to find there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but a puzzle and some litmus test that says if you really love me you’ll join up.
Trust me, if a company won’t reveal benefits, that’s not the only thing they’ll hold back from you, as an employee. Say for instance the salary structure, job openings.

By Erika
August 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

No info on benefits upfront = really lousy health insurance with employees paying ridiculously high premiums. It also indicates a culture where no decision will be transparent. Run away unless you are desperate. You may also check http://www.glassdoor.com in case someone has spilled the beans on the mysterious benefits publicly.

By Peter
August 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

@Nick.I couldn’t agree more. This attitude is silly but, but – it still exists in HR departments. Your idea of a simple handout to interviewees is common sense.The fact that it is so reasonable is probably why HR folks resist it.
I still think an experienced headhunter will know the benefits associated with a job. Why would an intelligent recruiter work with a firm that has a secret compensation program.

By Larry
August 7, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Another way to approach negotiating the benefits is to say, “Here’s what I have (or had) in my last job — 4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks sick leave, X% 401(k) contribution, 80% coverage of health care for $x/month, no non-competes, etc.. How does your company compare? In evaluating the offer, should I assume your company is better or worse.”

Also, as you’re considering a job, remember that many benefits are fluid and can be changed in a whim. Just because your current or future company has a great health care plan this year, doesn’t mean it won’t be significantly diluted the next year, and the year following, and the year following…

By Don Harkness
August 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

In my view, much of the reason why HR organizations and their related process fail is because they fail to understand, that in many respects they are a Sales Organization. In dealing with candidates and the internal and external communities they do have one important role…their job is to sell the company. Not sell jobs…that’s the hiring manager’s task, but the company.
They are the first contact for many many people in the form of potential employees. Candidates are in many ways customers of HR, people who can provide value to the company, if they join. If HR is job focused they miss the point.
First impressions are lasting, and whether a candidate is the right candidate or not, or they fail to get the job, they should leave so impressed with their contacts, they’d really really like to be part of that company.
It’s a very small world, and today’s candidate is tomorrow’s customer, advocate, competitive hiring manager.
Sales is all about differentiation. You can differentiate by demonstrating the company is home territory for buttheads, or conversely efficient and considerate people. And it doesn’t take quantum leaps to be different.
From a sales standpoint, refusing to provide common sense & critical information from a candidate to make a decision is stupid. An old saying comes to mind about “buying a pig in a poke” Why would they want to employ someone who would do something like that?

By Greg
August 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

@Don: You bring up a great point about HR. Specifically, recruiting (real recruiting). A good HR person is not necessarily a good recruiter, just like a computer wiz is not necessarily the person you want at the Help Desk.

I wonder if recruiting should fall under the Marketing department’s domain.

By Helen ODonnell
August 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I took a job where there was a 2 month wait for health insurance. That was OK. I went without it for 2 months. Six months later I was recruited by a much larger company. AFTER I signed on, I discovered that to be covered by their medical insurance, I had to prove that I had been covered for the prior 12 MONTHS. Well, I wasn’t because I had gone those 2 months w/o coverage. I couldn’t go back and get insurance for those 2 months then. So my new insurance didn’t cover any preexisting conditions, which is basically all that I go to the doctor for. I finally got it waived. It took about 4 months to straighten out; it called a lot of unwanted attention to myself w/ my manager and the benefits and HR people in order to get it done; and it kept coming back up all year. They’d refuse to pay a bill and I’d have to go through this all over again. I’ll never do this again w/o knowing what is and isn’t covered up front.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm

@Peter: While we’re talking about the handouts HR should provide to job applicants… let’s include one that lists the salary range for the job.

What’s the big secret? “This position pays between $80,000 and $100,000. But that’s no guarantee. Please be aware that we will make an offer that we believe our best candidate is worth to our business.”

So what if the candidate knows what you’re planning to spend? Afraid that’ll adversely impact the employer’s ability to control costs and negotiate? So does the candidate’s salary history — but employers don’t hesitate to ask for that.

So this got me to thinking… What else should employers hand out to you before you even interview for a job? It’s worth another thread: We could start a dangerous new trend! “Handouts: What information should employers give to job candidates prior to interviews?”

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos – Handouts: What information should employers give to job candidates prior to interviews?
August 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

[…] What information should employers give to job candidates prior to interviews?Why do companies hide the benefits?How to negotiate salary through a headhunterHiring Manager: HR is the problem, you are the […]

By marybeth
August 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Wow. I guess I’ve been fortunate in that in all of my previous jobs, they’ve been upfront about benefits, including the jobs that had no benefits.

I don’t get it–what’s the big secret with benefits? I consider benefits to be part of the overall compensation package, and I take benefits into account when considering jobs and employers. My brother never used to think benefits were important–salary was the only thing that mattered. He used to say “you can’t eat your benefits”. But…that changed when he took a job that had the “basic” benefits package (health insurance, some paid holidays, vacation time, etc.) and after he had been there 18 months, the company decided to drop health insurance coverage for employees’ dependents (spouses and kids). My brother is married and has two young kids. His wife does not work, and when she did work, she free-lanced (meaning no benefits for her). He started researching how much it cost for him to cover his wife and kids, and when he saw the out-of-pocket costs for basic coverage, he started looking for a new job immediately. He researched companies and didn’t bother to apply to any that didn’t offer health insurance to dependents, and if it wasn’t mentioned on websites or through other information, it was something he asked about upfront at interviews. If a company thought less of him for asking, he came to conclude that he didn’t want to work there–or anywhere that didn’t offer health insurance coverage for him and his family.

@Nick: yes, I’m with you re companies being open about salary ranges too. I shouldn’t have to have Top Secret security clearance to get this info. Either the company knows within a range how much the job pays (a range because someone with more experience might be able to negotiate for a higher salary) or they’re playing games. Surely when companies decide to hire people, they have a budget in mind–for the company overall, for the dept., and for the position. To demand that job hunters turn over their previous salary information and to use that as the basis for their offer is silly at best and idiotic at worst. The same job in different parts of the country (or even in different parts of the same state) often pay different salaries. The salary for a job in the Boston area is likely to be overinflated to take into account the high cost of living in that area. The job itself might only be valued at $40,000 per year, but you can’t live on that in the Boston area (or in Massachusetts in general), so they need to increase salary in order to draw applicants who can then afford the rent/mortgage and other living expenses in that area. $40,000 for the same job in rural Iowa might be considered high while in Boston the job will go unfilled.

Salary and benefits are important–if I’m looking at a job and considering applying for it, then salary and benefits are a huge consideration. I might like the job, but it doesn’t mean anything if the job pays worse than peanuts and taking the job means I won’t be able to afford my rent, pay my bills, and eat. Health insurance, vacation time, sick time, paid holidays, and other benefits are also important. If the company gives me 1 week vacation and no sick time (employees are expected to use vacation time when they’re sick, or, show up and work anyways), then that’s another concern. Ditto for health care. I’m healthy, but even for a healthy person, private, individual insurance is quite costly, especially for women (we’re considered to be one walking pre-existing condition). If the employer doesn’t offer health insurance, or if the employee contribution is high and gets higher every year, then it means I have less money for living expenses and may not be able to afford to take the job.

Wouldn’t it be better for both parties to be upfront with this information so a candidate can decide whether to continue to go for the job or not? And it saves time and money for the employer too, who can then not spend time interviewing candidates who can’t afford to work there either because the salary is too low or because they can’t afford to pay for health insurance themselves or really need vacation and sick time and holidays.

@Helen: Your tale of having to wait for your health insurance coverage to kick in is familiar to me. At my last job (a large state university), I had to wait 3 months before my health insurance coverage took effect. I remember thinking–just don’t have any accidents, don’t break any limbs, don’t get sick. I didn’t sign up for Cobra with the previous job because Cobra is just too expensive. But if something had happened, it would have been even worse. I don’t understand why there’s such a long waiting period. With some employers, you’re covered immediately. With others, like my last employer, there was a 3 month wait. My brother now works for another branch of the same university, and when he started his new job last year, he was furious to learn that he had to wait 2 months for health insurance coverage for him and his family. He tried to negotiate with them to get it to apply sooner, but they refused to negotiate (or maybe they couldn’t–which is more likely). He did sign up for Cobra with his previous employer, to a cost of $4,200 per month for family coverage. Ouch.

Another thing some employers are keeping secret is hours and amount of travel. I saw a job that said “some travel” required, but when I researched it further I found that the job entailed extensive travel all over the state, from Pittsfield to Springfield to Worcester to Buzzards Bay to Falmouth to East Bridgewater to Lawrence to Medford to Malborough to Fall River and more. I dug a little deeper, found out who the hiring manager was and called her. She was shocked that I found the list of the towns and cities and said “oh, that’s not supposed to be posted on the website; I’ll have to get that removed” and was reluctant to tell me how much “some” travel meant. Once again, what’s the big secret? The job requires travel. It is reasonable to ask how much travel (how often would the employee have to travel out to those sites–once per year, once per semester/session, once per week?) because the answer to that is important. Would I be on the road most of the time? If there’s that much travel, then I have to think about getting a newer car, which is an added expense, which then leads to the question of salary range, and if you’re hiding that too, then how am I supposed to know if I can afford a new car (if the salary is too low) and if the whole thing is feasible (too low salary and too much travel)? The job was listed as “exempt”, and stated that the base number of hours per week is 35 but can increase as needed. Well, that’s clear as mud. What does that mean? Does that mean that the employee might (probably) work 65 hours during the “busy” time, but then what’s the “busy time”? Is that just once per year or is it a couple times per year or is it a year-round thing? Employers require honesty on the part of applicants, subject them to background and credit checks (even when it isn’t warranted), but then aren’t honest with applicants. How can they expect to find a good fit for the job if they’re dishonest about things like salary, benefits, number of hours the job requires, amount of travel, etc.?

By Shirl
August 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

Nick, sometimes you give hiring managers to much credit for knowledge they should have. My experience indicates hiring managers know very little about benefits, the process or what they can even offer a person. I’ve actually had to sit down a director and state that he is in a different hiring class and cannot offer the things that he was granted at hire. When we bring a person in for a face to face interview time is set aside with the office manager during the day to go over benefits, processes and what is required by the person and especially timelines associated with HR. I’ve always looked at it as “what would I want to know about a new place” and have even given additional information that I wish I had asked.

By Don Harkness
August 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Shirl’s spot on. When I was a manager I left benefits explanation to HR..or my wife. Insurance bores me to tears. And in my house, my wife handles the benefits for us…in the offer, while employed, and post employment (e.g retirement) She’s a SME, subject matter expert and HR depts in companies I worked for soon learned not to match wits with Karen on any benefits discussion. She knew the package in great detail, better than they did. So in this topic, life would stop if a company held back that information…
In one company, to cut to the chase when the right time came, I just asked the HR mgr if my wife could join in..so I could skip all the “did you ask?””” or ask this etc. I wanted to cut out the middle man (me) He said fine, and they had a merry beneftis chat, she gave me the green light and I signed up. By the way the very fact that he’d talk to “the spouse” made a super impression. He sold the company well. It wasn’t a warm and fuzzy company. It was hi-tech and they played hard ball, but they had this nice quirk..when it came to benefits, they were very good about it. For instance they had a human being in Benefits who handled issues and damn well.
I remembered that. And when I was a manager from that point on, when recruiting, if the candidate or spouse signaled benefits were really important, or the spouse had some angst, I’d talk to them too, and in some cases had my wife talk to the candidates wife to tell her how it really works. (I didn’t tell HR I was doing that as they’d have had some kind of hissy fit)

By Jason
August 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm

You’re absolutely right about advising people to refuse an offer until they know the benefits package. My company has a ONE YEAR waiting period for health insurance — and the coverage is expensive and crappy, with a prescription carve-out. Furthermore, they only match on the 401k at the end of the year if the CEO feels that he’s made enough money for the year.

The only reason I’m still working there is the economy and the fact that I can come and go basically as I please.

By marybeth
August 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

@Jason: a whole year’s waiting period before your health insurance kicks in? Oy vey. I can understand why companies and government have a waiting period–usually it is the duration of your probationary period. So if you make it through then they put you on it, but I’ve never heard of a company that made its employees wait a whole year. Three months, two months, yes. I know of someone who got a job and said that with her new employer, her insurance kicked in on her first day, but making you wait a whole year seems bad. You could get sick (or your wife or kids could get sick) and you could easily wind up with a huge bill that you can’t pay and that your insurance won’t cover retroactively.

By Jason
August 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm

@Marybeth – You’re right, but please understand that my boss has to make up the extra costs of the Bentley and $7 Million apartment overlooking Central Park that he bought this year.

By Mika
August 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm

This discussion has been really informative. I had something of an opposite experience. The startup I interviewed with provided an offer letter that spelled out the benefits which were an improvement over the previous startup I had been with. I accepted the job and by the time I started 3 weeks later, there were essentially no benefits. Because they only had a few employees in the US, they had contracted with an outside firm to provide them. A few days before I started, the benefits company dropped the startup. It took them 2 months to get payroll straightened out and 6 months to get health insurance in place. In the interim I got them to pay my COBRA premiums because of the snafu. One year later and we still don’t have most of the benefits that had originally been promised. If the pay weren’t so good and the work so interesting, I would have bailed.

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos – Deal-breaker questions to ask employers
April 21, 2014 at 8:22 pm

[…] Here’s another make-or-break question to ask the employer, after an offer has been made to you: “May I see the complete benefits package so I can study it along with the rest of your kind offer?” Many employers will decline to share the benefits details. Find out Why companies hide the benefits. […]

By Azhra
April 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm

I once was invited to interview for a position in a large department (of 27 people). I was flown to the location of the employer (about 2,000 miles away) and offered a few nights at a nearby hotel, with my travel and accommodation/food expenses reimbursed to me. I interviewed with several people in the department and also met with a couple of people in the Human Resources Dept. The woman who had invited me to the interview (she was the assistant director of this department) invited me to lunch along with another woman. The assistant director did not tell me that this other woman would be my supervisor if I accepted their future job offer. I stupidly assumed that the person who invited me to the interview (the assistant director) would be my supervisor. My job there did not turn out well, and I left after almost 2 years. You can be sure now that I always make sure I know who my supervisor will be, before I accept a job. If I had known that the other woman (at lunch) would become my supervisor, I would have asked to spend more time talking with her during the interview process. I learned this lesson the hard way!

By Ask the Headhunter: Why should the employee handbook be a secret?Breaking News Today | Breaking News Today
August 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

[…] Of course, you’d be putting your aged employer in a bad mark since afterwards you’d have to leave though providing any suggestive notice. That’s not good. But I’m perplexing to assistance we know usually how toilsome a use it is for an employer to secrete papers we need before we can make an sensitive preference about usurpation one pursuit — and quitting another. (See “Why do companies censor a benefits?”) […]

By Ask the Headhunter: Why should the employee handbook be a secret? – PBS NewsHour | Latest News Portal Info
August 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm

[…] Of course, you’d be putting your old employer in a bad spot because then you’d have to leave without providing any meaningful notice. That’s not good. But I’m trying to help you understand just how onerous a practice it is for an employer to withhold documents you need before you can make an informed decision about accepting one job — and quitting another. (See “Why do companies hide the benefits?”) […]

Post a comment