How should you ask about benefits during a job interview?

You’re nailing the interview, but you still have questions.

You’ve been talking about yourself and the position you’re interviewing for a while, but one thing has yet to come up: benefits.

Can you just … ask? Will the interviewer think you’re more concerned with free lunch and a gym membership than doing your job? Maybe — but much less so if you lead with questions about the necessities, like health insurance, sick leave and paid time off.

Before you even set foot in the interview, you should have some idea of what benefits they’ll offer, because you’re going to research the company, right? Start by looking at the company’s careers section, if they have one. If your interview is with multimedia software company Adobe, for instance, you can see that they offer a comprehensive benefits package including health, wellness, PTO, sabbaticals every five years, continued learning benefits, 401K and stock options. You just don’t know the details and qualification guidelines.

When you should ask, and what you should expect, depends on who you talk to, but it’s widely agreed on Reddit’s r/recruitinghell subreddit: You should know the details of your benefits before you sign an employment contract.

What to expect if you’re new to jobs with built-in benefits

You can expect that if you accept the company health plan, a portion of your pay will be taken out to pay for it. In some cases, your health insurance won’t kick in for 60 or 90 days (ostensibly to prevent people from getting hired, immediately getting surgery, then quitting). Be aware in those situations that the paycheck you’ll get accustomed to in the first couple of months will suddenly drop, potentially significantly, when the insurance starts.

The company may not be able to tell you what your monthly costs will be at the interview stage before the salary is set, but if you ask, they should give you enough information so that you can look up different plans and costs before onboarding.

Another common benefit, the 401K retirement savings account, may not kick in until you’ve passed a grace period, after which the employer may match some or all of your contributions. Your contribution is your money, usually a percentage you choose from your paycheck. If you’re moving from a job in, say, hospitality, where 401Ks are uncommon, to a corporate job where they’re common, be sure to put your 401K deduction into consideration when thinking about your paycheck amount.

PTO, if offered (and it should be for any salaried job), should be fairly straightforward: The company offers a set number of paid days off. That includes holidays like Thanksgiving, MLK Day and Christmas Day, though some companies allow employees to choose their holidays (taking off for Yom Kippur instead of Christmas, for example). On top of these set days, PTO should cover vacation days, sick days, bereavement and personal days. (Family and medical leave are separate.)

Some companies offer no vacation days for the first year of employment, a policy called out on r/recruitmenthell as a red flag.

That said, you will likely start out with a limited number of PTO days when you’re hired, and the number will increase the longer you work there. Some companies “roll over” PTO days left at the end of the year into the new year, but at some companies those days expire.

Some companies have unlimited PTO, a sort of honor system where there are no limits on paid days off. This basically allows total flexibility and the ability for employees to more easily balance work and life while delivering, at least in theory, superior, burnout-free work. If the company you’re talking to doesn’t tell you they offer unlimited PTO up front, they likely don’t have it, because it’s often used as a recruitment tool.

Similarly, if they don’t mention the less typical perks that are used in recruitment, like a gym reimbursement, free lunches or a fancy office coffee machine, they likely don’t have much as far as fun perks or above-and-beyond benefits like paid childcare.

What to say

So, if you get to the “Do you have any questions?” part of the job interview and there’s been no mention of benefits or perks, what do you say without sounding rude?

  • “What does the total compensation package look like?” which covers pay, benefits and perks.
  • “What is the company culture like?” will give you an insight on any food, wellness or break time perks.
  • “The job description said there are health benefits. Can you tell me more?”
  • “I love how close the office is to the train station. Do you offer public transportation passes?”
  • “If I were to get this job, would I be able to bring the 401K from my last job?”
  • “Is the job remote?” (Even if the listing says it is, confirm this if it’s a dealbreaker.)
  • “With this position, would I qualify for the MBA program I saw on your website?”

It may feel uncomfortable asking about benefits, but not getting (or, at the offer stage, reading through) all of the information about your potential new job because you really want the job can lead to not-so-happy surprises later on.


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