terse answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Should freelancers bill as time is incurred or at the end of a project?

I have a question about freelance etiquette. Is it customary to bill for my time as it’s incurred — i.e., the hours I worked in the previous two weeks — or to bill when the final product is “delivered?” I have an new, ongoing freelance assignment to work 15 hours a week or so for a company, but my work is editorial, so there’s often some back-and-forth before projects are completed. So if I worked 12 hours on something one week that won’t be finalized for two more weeks, when’s the best time to send my invoice for that work? Maybe I’m overthinking this.

Different freelancers do it differently, but lots of people — including me — will tell you to bill as your time is incurred. Billing monthly is perfectly reasonable, and can minimize the trouble you might sometimes have collecting on a bill once a project is over. Good clients will always pay you without hassle, but not every client is a good one, and they have much more incentive to pay you when they still need you to do more work for them. Plus, if you’re going to have problems collecting, it’s better to find that out sooner rather than after you’ve put in hundreds of hours.

Generally, it’s a good idea to lay out your payment terms with a new client at the start of working with them, but if you didn’t, there’s no reason you can’t send over an invoice now with a note that simply says, “Here’s my invoice for my work in March.”

2. Candidate cried when we asked whether her current employer would make a counteroffer

We just interviewed a candidate for a managerial job at our company. The interview went rather well, particularly during the skill test exercises and the case studies problem resolution process. But when we asked her what would happen once we offer her the job — will her current employer try to retain her? — she reacted emotionally, started crying, and went to the washroom to wipe off her tears.

She said that she got emotional because she and her current employer had a discussion where her manager did not want to raise her salary. According to her, her current employer under-values her worth and had his opportunity to respond to her requests for more recognition (salary-wise), so she suggested that once we offer her a job, her current employer will not up the offer or revisit her request — he simply had his opportunity, according to her.

Nevertheless, why did she become so emotional regarding the question? How do you deal with this as a prospective employer? Do you not continue forward with an offer for employment?

Oooh, this is troubling. First of all, she’s basically telling you that if her current employer did counter-offer, she might take it (but that she believes they won’t). Second, while this reaction might be something you’d overlook for a junior or a non-managerial position, I’d be concerned about hiring her for a managerial job, where she’s going to need to have much tougher conversations with people and remain calm and unemotional. Yes, everyone has emotional moments, including great managers, but this would make me wary.

3. Leaving a temp job earlier than planned

I’ve been consulting part-time on the side for another organization, with the hopes that it would turn into something full-time eventually. It’s a new organization, and they’re still figuring out budgets, etc., and I was told several weeks ago that it would likely be a little while before they could hire anyone full-time. However, about 2 weeks later, their financial situation changed, and they are now more flexible with their hiring timeline. I had just agreed to a temp position running for several months, and reiterated my willingness to continue part-time for the new organization, with the hope that we could work out something full-time after the temp position was over.

I’ve since started the temp position (last week), and it is just not a good fit — not enough work, definitely more basic than I had been led to believe — and I’d really like to approach the first organization and let them know that the temp position isn’t a good fit, and I’d like to give my two weeks notice, if they are still interested in hiring me full-time. (Wording it more eloquently than that, of course.)

Does initially telling the first organization that I had agreed to a temp position, and now backing out of it look really, really bad? And how bad is it/how many bridges does it burn for me to be leaving a temp position much sooner than expected? To be fair, I didn’t sign a contract or anything, and the position with the other organization is one I had been pursuing long before this temp position opened up. But I worry that it looks flaky/will ruin my reputation with the temp agency (although I would be giving the standard 2 weeks notice that the agency requests).

This stuff happens with temp jobs — few people will turn down full-time employment in favor of a short-term temp job. You agency may not be willing to send you out for other long-term jobs if you go back to them in the future, but it’s not a heinous crime.

That said, I’d word your message to the first organization a little differently — don’t talk about why it’s not a good fit. Just say something like, “Things have changed a bit on my side, and I could be available for full-time work within two weeks if you’d like me to.”

4. When a hiring contact changes

I am in the process of sending out last-minute applications for summer internships. I applied to my dream organization about a month ago, and the directions on the website originally told me to send my resume, cover letter, and writing sample to Contact A. I checked the company’s website again today, and noticed that the directions on the website now stipulate that I send my resume, cover letter, etc. to Contact B.

I’m trying to resist my panicked temptation to re-send my materials, but at the same time I don’t want to be disqualified from the applicant pool for not sending my materials to the new coordinator. Advice?

Just be straightforward. Email Contact B with a note that says, “I earlier submitted these materials to Contact A but just that the instructions now state they should go to you. I’d love to talk with you about the opening if you think I might be a strong fit.”

5. Recovering after you bomb a skills test during a job interview

I’m currently going through the hiring process for a communications and marketing position. As part of the process, the hiring company has asked me to complete a standardized test. This test was basically the SATs for business and, like the SATs, I completely bombed the math portion leaving quite a few questions blank and ultimately running out of time. In reality, I’m quite good at crunching numbers, running reports and overall sticking to budgets, but have never been great at taking timed tests. I feel as though my initial interview went really well and I had a great rapport, but now I’m a bit nervous that these results have potentially knocked me out of the running completely. What do employers hope to gain from the results of tests like this?

I’ve toyed with the idea of following up with the hiring manager, via email, to provide a bit more insight into my experience and also how I make adjustments in the real world. My experience to date has always been interpreting data related to charts/graphs that I’ve set up and I can provide insight on the fly, so this really has never been an issue professionally. Is there value in doing this, or would it just serve to annoy the hiring manager? If there is value, any suggestions on how to phrase it? This is definitely one of the better opportunities available in my area so I’d hate to be passed over because of a standardized test that I don’t feel accurately reflects my experience or capabilities.

Sure, you can do that. Say that you had the sense that you didn’t do well on the test, but that while timed tests have never been your strength, you’ve been very successful at using the skills being tested in real-world work situations. Then give concrete examples of how you’ve excelled using those skills. Be specific, and make sure that whatever you offer up speaks as directly as possible to what the hiring manager’s concern is likely to be: that you don’t possess the skills the test was assessing.

6. Negotiating higher severance

I was laid off two days ago. I worked for a major corporation that had financial issues and needed to downsize the workforce. The severance package offered is 2 months paid with full benefits, then a lump sum of cash. I get my tuition reimbursement issued and all of my PTO will be paid out. Two people have advised me to negotiate my severance. In addition to higher payout (or more months of employment), I’d like to ask for copies of my most recent performance reviews (is that weird?).

Also, as an aside, I’m not angry over the whole situation. The company is going through hard times and the decision was based solely off of business needs and nothing personal. I know I had great rapport with coworkers and management and my monthly and yearly reviews were stellar.

To get more severance, there usually needs to be some incentive for the employer to give you more — such as that they want you to agree to stay longer and train a replacement or transition operations, or that they’re concerned you might otherwise sue over a real or perceived legal issue like harassment or discrimination (because you sign a release relinquishing any legal claims in exchange for severance). If you don’t have anything like that to use as incentive, they’re not likely to give you more just because you ask … although you can certainly still ask, because you never know.

You can also certainly ask for copies of your performance evaluations; you may or may not get them, but there’s nothing wrong with asking (and you should explain that you want them to document your performance for future prospective employers, since otherwise they may think you want to use them as ammunition to challenge the layoff decision in some way).

7. Online applications that ask for “additional information to support your application”

When filling out an application form and they ask for “additional information to support your application,” what are they expecting in that box? I’ve already filled in education and employment details, as well as a section on why I want/would be good for the job, and I’m drawing a blank. Am I missing something obvious?

If there’s anything you would include in a cover letter that you didn’t already include in the section on why you want and would be good at the job, include it here. Otherwise, it’s fine to ignore it.

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