To truly assess a job offer, you need to look at the whole package rather than just the size of the first pay cheque. Are you being offered the following perks?

1. Pension provision
The bad press surrounding falling values of pension funds and the ludicrous hikes in property prices may make you feel that a mortgage, rather than a secure old age, is your priority. However the schemes offered by a few of the big employers are still non-contributory, final salary pension schemes. That means you don’t need to pay into a pension fund, which will pay you a percentage of your final salary when you leave the company for every year you’ve worked for the firm. Will final salary pension schemes still exist when you hit 70? Only time will tell. If they do it’s a perk worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

2. Joining bonuses
An unsophisticated approach but one that’s still wowing cash-strapped students up and down the country. According to surveys, 25% of the biggest graduate employers now offer a signing-on bonus or ‘golden hello’. Payments range from £500 to £11,000 with a median payment of £1,500 – and you’re most likely to get one from the financial and legal sectors. Many recruiters see such a provision as altruistic: a way to help with your deposit on rented accommodation – particularly when you are relocating, to help you buy appropriate work clothes or help you pay off some of your graduate debt.

3. Sponsorship for further training
Some of us leave university with the intention of never taking another examination again. But there are undoubtedly big long-term prizes for those prepared to put in the work and study for further professional qualifications. Your employer is effectively paying for you to become more employable.

Most blue chips will encourage staff to take qualifications relevant to their role in, say, marketing for human resources. But those who last the distance in a top-flight management consultancy might be eligible for sponsorship through an MBA. Evening classes and one-year programmes are on offer and could be worthwhile courses. But high fliers might find that within two yeas of joining McKinsey or the Boston Consulting Group, for example, their firm is prepared to sponsor them through a stellar MBA programme at say, Harvard, Stanford or Wharton. Cost of this perk? Up to £100,000 over two years.

4. Company car
Many blue chip sales and marketing roles entitle you to a company car – and your job would be difficult without one. It’s a perk that offers instant one-upmanship – but beware: you may be stung for a truly vast tax bill. In fact, you might be better off opting for a car allowance paid to you monthly like a salary and then buying your own car.

5. Opportunities abroad
One of the joys of working for an international blue chip is you could work internationally early in your career as a secondment or as part of your training. The Foreign Office (obviously), oil firms and some consultancies may similarly stick you on a plane to somewhere exotic – but be aware that your hotel room and the airport lounge may be the only sights you take in.

6. Free food
Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a difference. And some employers are so keen to have you work every hour that God sends that they offer free in-house catering (they charge it to clients), free onsite gyms (keeps you fit – less sick leave), free neck massages and free eye tests, for example. With a pretty basic gym membership costing around £50 a month and a pretty modest grocery bill costing, say £20 a week, these perks are worth around £1,500 a year. And this potentially on top of private medical insurance: BUPA membership for a healthy no-smoking 23 year-old is around £450 a year. Most retail companies will offer staff discount cards. Some will have clothing allowances.

7. Mentoring
It’s a jungle out there – and sometimes you’ll want someone to watch over you. Ask the HR department whether the firm operates a ‘buddy’ scheme pairing you with, say, someone who joined the firm a year before you. Their role will be to offer you friendly advice on dress codes, placement choices and office etiquette, for example. Mentoring programmes, through which you get to discuss your progress or concerns with someone who isn’t a direct line manager, are also extremely helpful and can help you to make key decisions at important stages in your early career.

8. Unpaid leave
By law you’re entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday a year and some employers will offer more. However, human resources departments are becoming increasingly open to staff sabbaticals – allowing members of the firm to take unpaid leave to travel or pursue a pet project for a few months before returning to the fold. As a recent government survey demonstrated, many of us appreciate the opportunity for flexible working more than a pay rise and offering this opportunity can help companies to retain talent.

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