Salary Folder with Bonus

Why You Should Look Beyond Salary When Making a Career Move

You’ve probably felt the frustration of finding a great job posting online only to realize it doesn’t list the salary. Or maybe you’ve applied to your dream job but later learn the salary isn’t in your desired range. You’re not alone: 44.6% of job seekers struggle with finding jobs that meet their salary requirements, and 61.9% want employers to specify the salary range for the position in their job postings, according to iHire’s 2021 State of Online Recruiting Report.

Salary is a major determining factor when applying for and accepting a job, but it’s not always as straightforward as you might think. While it can be disheartening to find out the position you’ve been interviewing for won’t pay as high as you’d like, there are supplements to a salary that could make the position worthwhile, or even better in some cases. It’s important to look at a company’s total compensation package, not just the salary, when deciding on a position.


What is a Total Compensation Package?

You may wonder, what is a total compensation package, and how does it differ from salary? Salary is what you’ll be paid for the job, but that’s not all a position or company has to offer. A total compensation package includes salary, plus all the other perks and benefits you’ll gain by accepting the job. The total compensation package can be a key bargaining chip in salary negotiations. Below are common benefits that may be included in a company’s total compensation package.


Salary and Benefits with calculator


Monetary Benefits

The easiest benefits to see the added value from, monetary benefits can serve as supplements to salary without being included in the actual number. Some benefits, like a 401(k) match, are essentially free money! These are a few monetary benefits you might find in a total compensation package:

401(k) and retirement contributions A 401(k) match and similar retirement contributions are some of the most well-known benefits for a job, and for a good reason. Achieving your retirement dreams won’t happen by accident, and if your job helps you save up for retirement by matching your individual contributions, it’s like the company is paying future-you in advance!

Bonuses based on performance – Bonuses usually aren’t counted as part of the salary for a position, but some job postings will mention the company offers bonuses based on performance. Naturally, this will increase your overall income for the year. While the obvious benefit of a bonus is the extra cash, you can also leverage the knowledge that you’ve earned a bonus for doing great work into a future discussion about a raise.

Insurance benefits – Another common benefit many companies offer is insurance. There are many types of insurance benefits, from health insurance to dental and vision, and even life insurance, all of which should be considered when looking at a job. If the cost of the coverage is lower than what you’re paying now, or if it has lower deductibles than your current plan, you could save money.

Tuition reimbursement – Continuing their education to further their career is important for many job seekers, and some companies offer tuition reimbursement to help with that. Some employers are even experimenting with helping employees to pay off their student loans. If you’re considering getting a higher degree or are paying off student debt, having that degree paid for by your employer can be a huge benefit.

Health programs or gym reimbursement – Many companies offer a wellness program as part of their total compensation packages. Some programs are in the form of a reimbursement for a gym membership, but a wellness program can consist of any number of initiatives – on-site yoga classes, a company-wide “steps” challenge, a Wellness Spending Account (WSA), and more. Staying healthy has the added bonus of cutting down on other health-related costs, too!

Internet stipend – A relatively new benefit that some companies have started rolling out is an internet stipend for remote work. If the position you’re applying for is fully or partially remote, it can be very helpful to have your internet bill paid for you.


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Lifestyle Benefits

Monetary benefits are the easiest to quantify in addition to a salary, but you shouldn’t discount lifestyle benefits when making your decision either. If a position can make life easier or more enjoyable for you, that can sometimes outweigh a lower salary.

Company culture – A company’s atmosphere can make a huge impact on how much you enjoy your job.  If you can find a company that aligns with your values, it is night and day compared to working for one that doesn’t. Money can’t buy happiness!

Remote work – Working from home can be a huge selling point for a position. In addition to the benefits of working in your comfy clothes, remote work also means you won’t be paying for gas or other transit costs you’d normally incur on your commute.

Flexible hours – Similar to remote work, flexible hours can make life much easier. If you need to step away for an hour to go to the dentist or come in a little later after dropping off the kids at school, knowing that you won’t have to use PTO or sick leave will alleviate scheduling headaches.

Extra PTO – More days of paid vacation may not be counted as part of the salary, but it’s certainly a great benefit. Everyone needs a break every now and then, and knowing that a company provides a generous PTO plan is a very attractive benefit.

Volunteer Time Off (VTO) – VTO is an emerging perk that helps you give back to your community. If you’re passionate about volunteering, a position that lets you take a day to volunteer without making you use PTO can be appealing.

Maternity/paternity leave – Taking care of a newborn is hard work, to say the least. If your position gives you more time to bond with the newborn and care for your child in the first months, that can be invaluable. It can also mean you won’t need to pay as much for childcare, which translates to extra money in the bank anyway.


Two people negotiating a contract


How to Ask About Total Compensation

Now that you know what a total compensation package is, you might be wondering how to ask about total compensation without putting off the hiring manager. The first step is to do your research. There’s a chance the information will be available on a company’s “About” or “Careers” page on their website, and some benefits might be listed on the job application.

Once you’ve learned all you can online, it’s vital to remember not to bring up salary and benefits right away; you want to wait for the interviewer to approach the topic. Sometimes, the interviewer will have a prepared document or brochure that goes over the company’s benefits. If that’s not the case and the interviewer only mentions salary in an offer, then you can ask about benefits directly before making a decision. Regardless, be prepared to negotiate a fair salary, including benefits.


It’s unlikely that you’ll find a company that has every single benefit on this list in its total compensation package, but even just some of them can offset a lower-than-expected salary. Remember to take these items into consideration when evaluating a job and then make a decision based on what’s most important for you.

By Doug Atkinson | September 01, 2021
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