Here at BHP Towers we’re recruiting. Hiring writers has always been fiddly – do you pick applications like ‘CV attached’ or the handmade sponge dinosaur in cheery green that shows the applicant’s crazee side? In the creative industries, everyone wants to look intr’sting. (Mind, everyone who really makes a living by the pen looks like a crystal meth After picture, takes hyphens seriously as a dinner-party topic and falls asleep after two pints, but that’s glamour for you.)
These days the quest to be personally fascinating applies to more careers than creatives – The Telegraph tells us that a careerbuilder.co.uk survey found that most recruiters now check potential staff online. Farhan Yasin, who runs the site, explained, "Social networking is a great way to make connections with potential job opportunities and to promote your brand across the internet."
You don’t say. Shaping your personal brand is the big deal, given that the first place recruiters look is your private life. Mr Yasin’s survey revealed that, apparently, recruiters are after digital dirt – half promptly rejected people for boasting about drink and drugs or faking their qualifications. Nine per cent hit the shredder because their weekend pictures were a little too recreational. While that sounds awfully saucy, it’s entirely
reasonable; recruiters just want to weed out applicants who are liars or likely to scuttle home with hangovers.
Assuming you have the brains to turn your PC on, you probably have the wit not to upload your latest fantasy shoot or your Priory records. Maybe you even remembered to set your friends with tattoos to Private. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Assuming you’re not looking for a job in the adult industries, how do you look appealing to employers while also appearing, er, alive?
Being authentic in public is your new career challenge. With a face of deep woe, my flatmate said to me last night: “I didn’t offer that guy the job because their facebook was too dull.” He is a civil servant. That’s a worry to us all.
The Telegraph reveals Mr Yasin’s key advice is to stay light, bright and upbeat online. “Keep your gripes offline” said Mr Yasin, who pointed out results showed that no one likes a moaner. Don’t bore readers senseless with endless updates on a bitter break-up, or worse, a discouraging sandwich. Avoid making stuff up about how wildly wacky you are – facebook-fakers are easily spotted.
You are earnestly entreated to “highlight specific accomplishments inside and outside work" which is admittedly cringe-making, but apparently works. Use privacy settings, all the time. On chat sites, set alias usernames and change them regularly. If you use LinkedIn, bear in mind your entry and its connections probably belong to your employer, so, ironically, you may want to think again about making contacts with people you actually need as, er, contacts in your career as opposed to one job. Tweet from work as a worker, and from your life as you – have two accounts. But here’s the rub – don’t be too bland. The personal sells you better than anything – so add a dash of your individuality into everything whether it’s humour, news you like, or, vitally, your own career expertise. Mind you, I just want a colleague who will go out for frothy coffee.
Georgina Harris, Law Donut editor
From next year, employers will have to pay part of their staff’s pension contributions. David Impey explains what you should know – and do
From 2012, employers will need to start enrolling their employees into either a ‘qualifying pension scheme’ or the new state NEST scheme. Designed to make sure that more low-to-medium earners save for their retirement, the new Government scheme will be funded mostly by employees, with the rest paid by the firm in a contribution that will eventually rise to at least 3 per cent of each salary.
At the moment, employers do not have any legal obligation to contribute to an employees’ pension scheme, so firms nationwide will face more expense when the new law kicks in. That’s why the new rules are being phased in for different-sized businesses over four years from 1 October 2012. Businesses with under 250 employees start contributing in 2014.
How much will it cost?
Costs will vary for each business. The Government estimates administration will cost £46 per employee – but the Federation of Small Businesses puts the expense of admin and contributions for a small business with four workers earning £25,000 at £2,550 a year. Your budget should cover both setting up and running a scheme, and your monthly employer contributions.
When the scheme starts for your size of firm, your first job is to work out who among your workforce needs to be enrolled. Any employee over 22 but below the state pension age who earns between £5,035 and £33,540 should be signed up. These earnings include salary, bonuses, commission and overtime, so you may need to spend time totting up the exact pay of all your staff before you finalise the list.
You then need to make your main decision – choosing the right pension scheme. To be a valid ‘qualifying’ scheme, the pension you pick must be:
To show you comply, you must register with the Pensions Regulator. Contributions must be made starting at two per cent of qualifying earnings in total, and rising to at least 8 per cent by 2017 - when at least 3 per cent of that must come from the employer. Employees can opt out within 30 days, but are automatically re-enrolled every three years, when they must decide whether to opt out again.
How do I get pension that does well for the staff?
For businesses, finding the right pension could be tricky - different employees have such different needs. Your job is to make people of various ages, with different attitudes to risk and varying financial literacy, happy. Many employees may already have made their own retirement plans. However, recent Government announcements mean employers can start thinking sensibly about what to choose.
Now the universal basic state pension for all has been put in motion, it’s less likely that employees will opt out of their firm’s scheme. Your employees will get a flat rate payment of £140 a week in retirement. This won’t be means-tested (as pension benefits are now), so it won’t put people off saving for themselves. And your employees should be able to tell you know how much extra above the state pension they will need to put into their pension pot to meet their retirement aims.
More importantly, last month NEST announced its investment strategy and targets. The default state-run scheme has immediately run into trouble. NEST proposes to aim for growth equivalent to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 3 per cent. The industry norm is more like CPI plus 5 per cent. For employees paying into NEST for several decades, this could cut their retirement income by tens of thousands of pounds. Your employees won’t thank you for enrolling them in a scheme like that.
However, some pension pundits are suggesting that NEST will become the benchmark for other pension schemes, so that private providers may gradually downgrade their existing investment targets to low NEST levels.
NEST also says it plans to invest younger savers in low-risk assets at first rather than, as is more usual in the pensions industry, starting them on higher risk assets (because, if losses are made, it’s better to make them earlier when the scheme has longer to recover them). NEST say this is because their research shows that younger employees are likely to opt out if they see the value of their pension pot fluctuating/dropping, so it’s better not to do anything risky in the early years.
Nearer the time, you may also need to consider these issues:
So start thinking – and get advice from your pensions adviser so you’re ready with the answers when the workers cotton on to their smaller wage slips. Which won’t be long.