Why Candidates Should Bill Organizations for Work Completed Before Hiring

Image of a Red flag on a rocky beach indicating danger ahead and the words Red Flag Warning If the company doesn't value your time as a candidate, they are not going to value your time as an employee. by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

As friends and colleagues transition into new careers or into new positions, I have started to see more organizations asking for original work samples during the interview process. This is disturbing on multiple levels.

To be very clear, not only would I, as a hiring manager or an interviewer, never ask for this, but I also don’t believe it is an accurate way to evaluate a candidate beyond a style test or an editing test IF and only if that is applicable to the position.

More than 10 years ago, requesting work prior to a second interview was common practice for graphic designers and often included a request to show how the designer would redesign the newspaper, magazine, annual publication, etc. This was almost always a red flag and revealed more about the organization than the hiring manager likely intended.

Usually, the end result was the organization would choose the design but ultimately hire someone with little to no experience to “recreate it.”

This practice infuriated me then and it still does now particularly since it has expanded to other communication roles. As a hiring manager, I know in a first conversation if the person is a good fit for the team and organization and as long as the person meets the minimum qualifications I can provide them with the tools to do the job.

That said, I have advised anyone in this situation to respond to the request with a customized version of the following:
“Are you looking for original content specifically around this topic? If so, the timeline and scope are in line with my freelance package X [if you don’t have one make it up based on similar offerings] and will be billed at Y rate [again, check industry standards]. As your requested turnaround time adds what I would typically bill as a rush rate, that adds an additional fee of Z. I am willing to waive these fees if I am the final candidate and am offered a position however if I am rejected I will be sending an invoice for my time and the produced work due on receipt. If you are not looking for original content and would prefer to review my current portfolio it is available at [website]. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.”

Most organizations assume you won’t actually bill them, but you absolutely should.

Bottom line, consider this a red flag, if the company doesn’t value your time as a candidate, they are not going to value your time as an employee and the number of hours you’ll be expected to put in will only continue to increase. 

2 Signs an Interview Went Well — And 4 Signs It Didn’t

Image of an Asian woman shaking man's hand with purple background with the words 2 Signs an Interview Went Well And 4 Signs It Didn’t According to an Interviewing Mentor in black on white background

There’s nothing quite as nerve-racking as the interview process — for both parties. The candidate wants to make a good impression, and the interviewer wants to make sure the person will be a good fit both for the team and for the position.

 Usually, this is the first time everyone involved has met face to face. And other than what’s readily available by searching online, it can be challenging to know whether either party will achieve their goals.

As a hiring manager and interviewing mentor for graduating collegians, there are a few signs the interview did not go well — and a few that it did.

Signs An Interview Didn’t Go Well

The conversation didn’t flow.

An interview should feel more like a conversation and less like an interrogation. The silences should be comfortable pauses, not frigid judgments. It is ok for a candidate or interviewer to take a few moments and pause to think about the answer, but it shouldn’t feel awkward. Even in group interviews, every person involved should feel like the time went by quickly and didn’t drag.

There were no glimpses of personality.

There are no substitutes for laughter and smiles. If the conversation is going well, you should see glimpses of personalities. If the conversation is going really well, there should be lots of head nodding. If you’re lucky, and it is appropriate for the role, there should be laughter. As the candidate, you shouldn’t necessarily try to break the ice by making jokes right away. You’ll want to know the interview style and more about the personalities of the interviewers before you try to interject humor.

The answers are fake or clearly hiding something.

As a candidate, there are a few questions you should ask to gauge the interviewer’s initial reaction. My favorite question is, tell me about “the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful?” Watch the interviewer’s body language and facial expressions, observe how long it takes the person to answer, and listen to get a sense of the company culture and how they define success.

Power moves were on display.

In a group interview, the hierarchy should become clear without one person undermining another. Typically, everyone should defer to the supervisor and there should be no signs of bickering or one-upping.

As a candidate, if you observe this in any way, consider it a giant red flag of deeper organizational issues. If during an interview when everyone should be at their best, you observe anything other than stellar comradery, it is indicative that that behavior is so ubiquitous the team doesn’t think anything of showing that to a candidate.

Signs An Interview Went Well

You talked about professional growth.

Hiring managers want to know candidates are going to not only grow the position but grow professionally. Just as the candidate wants to know what the organization thinks the next five years will look like, candidates want to know there is growth in the position.

Growth may look like supported professional development, professional association dues payment, a defined career track or something else. If the organization is already discussing how the candidate can continue to grow their skills, it means the hiring team has thought through having the person as part of the longer-term plan.

The interviewer wasn’t robotic.

To reiterate, the conversation should flow. The discussion should not be one-sided or feel interrogative. You should not feel like you are competing to get a word in edgewise and the interviewer should ask follow-up questions.

Ultimately, candidates should walk away thinking they want to work with the team or the company. Hiring managers should want to talk to the candidate again, if not already want the person on their team.

Much of determining if the interview was successful and ultimately, if the position is a good fit for both sides, is gut feeling. Your intuition and observations mean as much as the questions and answers.

Remember, your skills and your resume get you the interview. Your interpersonal relationships and fit get you the job. The goal is to make sure you are a good fit for the organization and will integrate well into a team.

This post originally appeared on Fairy God Boss.

I’m a Hiring Manager, and I Always Read Cover Letters — 3 Reasons Why You Should Include Them (Guest Post on Fairy God Boss)

Typeriter on pink background with the words Dear Hiring Manager,

As a hiring manager, if your resume and cover letter make it past the algorithm, I want to see that you can write. I want to learn more about why my organization over anywhere else is where you want to work. I want to see if your skills are a good fit beyond what your resume indicates.

That means I actually read your cover letter.

A supervisor once explained it to me this way: “I can teach a candidate how to use the tools to do the job, but I can’t teach the candidate how to write, get along with people or be curious.”

In a successful cover letter — that starts with why this job and this organization specifically — you are telling me you are not only looking for the title associated with the position but at my organization, which makes me curious and inclined to look closer at what you would bring to the role.

Here’s Why You Should Always Include a Cover Letter

1. You can show your potential employer what kind of employee you are.

Writing well is a skill that takes time, practice and a dedicated process. Often this tells me quickly what kind of employee the applicant may be. If the cover letter is full of run-on sentences, rife with typos and other mistakes, it will give me pause and make me look closer at other performance indicators.

A rushed cover letter isn’t an outright dealbreaker, but it does tell me the candidate didn’t take the time to proofread.

2. It’s a chance to brag about yourself.

A cover letter is an opportunity to showcase big wins and provide additional details about how and why you are the best person to do the job you are applying to do. If you can quantify this information, do so. Being able to share numbers even in a generalized way indicates you are able to quantify your work.

Use the space to highlight objectives achieved and goals accomplished with specifics. Providing details on the results of your work, even if you only had a small part in an overall project tells me you care about what happens after your work leaves your hands.

Better yet, tell me how you impacted your current employer and your designated goals and objectives. Did a process change because you observed an issue? Did you catch a small error before it turned into a bigger error? Did your work help your organization achieve a goal on time and on budget?

3. You get to prove that you’re the right person to join this team.

With your cover letter, you also have the opportunity to indicate you would be a good team and culture fit. My favorite cover letters tell me how the candidate made their current organization, team or process better. Maybe you revamped the script you use when answering the phone to be more conducive for routing the calls to the right person more quickly. Maybe you initiated a task tracking system for yourself or your team to better keep track of who is working on what, when. You have likely done more than your job description and a cover letter is a great time to expound on those job duties.

How to Write a Cover Letter Every Hiring Manager Wants to Read

At a loss for how to start crafting a cover letter hiring managers want to read? Find your current job description or rewrite your current job description.

Want to read the rest? You can view the full post on Fairy God Boss.

Almond Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites

Green background with the words Easy Homemade Cookie Dough Protein Bites Recipe with a photo image of the cookie dough balls with prominent m&ms and chocolate chips.

We love these almond butter protein bites for peanut-free, easy snacks for elementary kids. Great for lunches and snacks.

Easy Cookie Dough Protein Bites

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American


  • 1 cup oatmeal Quick cooking works best but we've used old fashioned as well.
  • 1/2 cup almond butter You might need slightly more. It might easier to use this briefly (20 seconds or less) warmed in the microwave. You can also substitute sunflower butter or peanut butter if you prefer.
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup protein powder vanilla We have also had success using chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt our favorite is kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup m&ms or mini chocolate chips Or both. You can also add more or less depending on your taste.


  • add oatmeal, protein powder, honey and almond butter, vanilla and salt to a bowl.
  • Mix with your hands, it really is easier this way.
  • Add chocolate chips and/or mini M&Ms.
  • Mix again. Form into balls.
  • Refigerate overnight.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Mulan Noodles aka Beef Chow Fun

This dish has become a staple in our house. It’s a variation of a dish in Miss A’s first cookbook: Disney Princess Cookbook (affiliate link) and this amazing recipe from Woks of Life. We’ve made some modifications usually based on what we have on hand and if we need to use up a whole onion or are missing green onions.

Mulan Noodles also known as Beef Chow Fun on a white plate

Mulan Noodles aka Beef Chow Fun

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4 people


Beef Marinade

  • 8 oz. flank steak sliced thin (we often get this presliced from our grocer)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch You can also use arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Rest of the Dish

  • 12 oz. rice noodles we usually use these prepackaged ones (affilate link)
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions split in half or cut into inch long pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger we use the ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh bean sprouts We've previously used canned but it never turns out as good.
  • 1 onion sliced


  • Combine the beef and marinade ingredients and marinate for at least an 1 hour. (There have been times we've only let the beef marindate for a half hour and while the dish is still good, it is better if you let it marinate longer, so plan ahead.)
  • Unpackage the noodles. If the noodles are very stiff and stuck together, boil some water and add the noodles. Let them sit for about 30 seconds to a minute to loosen. Then drain.
  • Heat your wok or pan over high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to coat the wok. Add the beef and sear until browned. Remove the beef from the pan. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons more sunflower or vegetable oil. Add the ginger and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the scallions.
  • Add the noodles and stir-fry on high for about 15 seconds. Add the Shaoxing wine.
  • Add the sesame oil, soy sauces, pinch of sugar and seared beef. Stir-fry. Tip from Woks of Life that is BRILLIANT: Lift the noodles in an upward motion to mix well and coat them evenly with the sauce.
  • Add a bit of salt and white pepper to taste (taste the noodles before adding salt). Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry. Serve hot.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!