4 Perks Recruiters Will Pitch You—And What You Should Consider

Who wouldn't want weekly massages?

No one joins a company solely because it has an office dog (though, honestly, we'd respect you if you did). Still, perks and benefits are an important tool for closing top candidates. If you were deciding between two companies with similar opportunities and compensation packages, why wouldn't you take the one with a remote work policy and weekly massages?

In some cases, perks can be a smokescreen that masks deeper problems at the company. Below, we've listed four things you might hear when considering a job offer, and what to ask before deciding if it's actually a plus.

1. We have an unlimited vacation policy

Implemented the right way, unlimited vacation policies are liberating. This article, for example, was written on a plane to London, taking advantage of an unlimited vacation policy. Unfortunately, many companies implement unlimited vacation policies the wrong way, which leaves employees taking less time off than they would with a typical PTO system.

What to consider: Ask how many days the average employee took off last year.

On average, employees with unlimited vacation policies actually take less time off than employees with standard PTO setups. Think of it this way: If everyone else in your office was “too busy” to take a vacation, how comfortable would you feel taking a week off? Moreover, how common do you think it is, in a startup environment, to feel like you have nothing to do for a week?

For some companies, “unlimited vacation policy” is a way to say “no one takes vacations here.” If the average employee takes time off each year, or even better, if the company has mandatory time off, that's a great sign that the policy is legitimate.

2. This company has a flat org structure

Flat organizations are quintessentially startup. Everyone is equally valued, recognition is meritocratic, dogs get a vote on the advisory board. In a flat organization, ideally, there will be nothing stopping you from making a direct impact on the business, and that's an exciting prospect. The danger appears when your hiring manager says “We have a flat org structure,” but they really mean “We have no leadership or focus.”

What to consider: Ask your hiring manager to explain the org chart.

Often, when a startup is a mess, hiring contacts will struggle to map the different teams and their goals. They'll have different teams dedicated to strikingly similar things, with no real delineation or explanation for their overlap. If their explanation raises more questions than it answers for you, their “flat org structure” probably isn't a perk.

3. This salary is just a starting point

You want a job that gives you an upward growth trajectory. Hearing your hiring contact say, “This is just a starting point” certainly insinuates that in this role, you'll have room to grow. What you have to be careful of, though, is that this “starting point” isn't just an excuse for the company to pay you less, with no intention of increasing your compensation.

What to consider: Ask what process exists for granting raises and bonuses.

If a hiring contact is trying to sell you on your future salary, but cannot articulate the process by which you will earn that salary, that's a red flag. It signals that the company isn't looking to move you along; rather, it's looking to pay you as little as necessary. On the other hand, if there is a clear process for increasing your compensation, whether that's semiannual review cycles or just a standard progression for your role, then you can breathe a little easier.

4. Employees get free meals

Free food is awesome in basically all contexts, and if your company offers free meals, take advantage of them. Pro tip: Tally up your takeout orders and add it to your salary at the end of the year to see its impact more clearly. However, at some companies, meal benefits come with strings attached that could undermine the benefit itself.

What to consider: Ask if all employees get food benefits, and at what times of day.

It's common for companies to offer free dinner to employees later in the evening. As a result, you find yourself working late. Your dinner is free, but you might start spending your evenings in the office. If your company has strings attached to your food plan (and no, a reasonable spending limit doesn't count as one) it's worth thinking through.

Decide if perks are make-or-break for you

How important particular perks are to you depends on what you're optimizing for in your job. If you really need a role that allows you to work from home at least some of the time, a flexible work from home policy is a nonnegotiable for you.

However, if you're looking for the role that's going to put you on the highest growth trajectory, or provide the biggest possible salary, you shouldn't be make your decision because of perks—even if office dogs are the best part of any job.