EXCERPT: 'The Trump Card'

Cover your shortcomings. If your hands are clammy, don't shake hands. If you're worried about your breath, don't stand too close—or, even better, suck on a breath mint before you start the meeting. If you tend to stammer when you get nervous and can't think what to say, write out a few simple declarative sentences about your goals or experiences and commit them to memory. Some people are natural interviewees, while others are overwhelmed and intimidated. If you fall into the latter group, find some ways to bolster your confidence before the interview. Once you get going, it's difficult to regroup from an awkward start. One good way to do this is to actually stage a mock interview with one of your friends, to help you get comfortable. It might seem goofy, but it's just another version of the trial run I wrote about earlier. Also, tell yourself that the person interviewing you was not up at two the night before worrying about this meeting. She didn't leave early to make sure she would be on time. She probably wasn't even thinking about the interview at all until a few minutes before it started. At the same time, remember that she is interested in what you have to say, and concluding that you are indeed the perfect candidate for the job would certainly make her life at work a little easier. Knowing these things should help you to relax and keep the interview in perspective. You might have all the potential in the world, but if you're unable to communicate your abilities confidently and coherently in the alloted time, you won't give the interviewer a reason to hire you.

Dress the part. What you wear will have "first impression" written all over it, so choose wisely and sell the image you want. Personally, I think less of a candidate when he or she is dressed too casually. An interview is a formal process, so dress accordingly. Guys must understand that unless they are applying for a job in professional sports, they should not wear sneakers. For women, it's a mistake to wear flip-flops, tank tops, or short skirts. It doesn't matter how hot it is outside; those pieces are never part of an appropriate interview ensemble. Like it or not, your physical appearance will say an awful lot about you—and you don't want it to say anything awful. Some guidelines:

• For women, I'd recommend a nice dress or suit, with heels or fancy flats. Basic black is always appropriate. Stay away from short hemlines and exposed cleavage. Also, make sure your hair is presentable (no sloppy ponytails!) but not too done up. Any makeup should be light and professional.

• For men, be clean-shaven and well groomed. Wear a suit. A classic charcoal gray, navy blue, or black suit is always a smart choice. Don't try to stand out with noisy pinstripes or wonky colors. Your goal should be to appear subtle and sophisticated, not loud or flashy. In the it-goes-without-saying department, make sure there are no holes in your socks, buttons missing from your shirt, or anything to suggest an unkempt, unpressed appearance. And leave your jewelry at home, other than watches or wedding bands.

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