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Remember when I helped my nephew Freddy find a résumé service? Now, he’s getting called for interviews but still not landing the job. “Help me, Aunt Eve,” he entreated. “I need something more — some kind of edge.”

Enter Image Consultant Lauren Castle, owner of Impress Express (858-459-7400, impress-express.com). “The résumé is about the words,” she told me, “so is the interview — but there are other subtleties. I help people focus on nonverbal communication — help make them aware of the whole picture [seen by the potential employer]. For many people, it is the image they present that will take them the extra step or hold them back.”

For some, “It could be something as easy as smiling more frequently or making more eye contact. Others may need something as simple as updated hair, eyewear, or wardrobe. It might be a matter of grooming — bad breath, body odor, chipped nail polish, a generally unkempt look. And sometimes it has to do with body language, behavior that you can control, such as tapping a pencil, twirling your hair, or letting your eyes dart around.

“I’m not trying to make people conform to the way I think a person should look. I want people to feel comfortable with themselves — because when they feel good, they will feel confident, and they will perform better in an interview.” Still, she said, “You have to make yourself appropriate to the situation. Some looks are appropriate for one place and not for others. Sometimes, a look is too casual for a certain sort of workplace — or even too preppy. Some people cultivate an eccentric look because they want to prove their artistic bent. Others won’t wear a sports jacket. But prospective employers see how you dress before they even hear you speak. You’re marketing and packaging yourself, and you’re never going to lose out by looking better.

“I can’t help my client unless I’m up on everything, so I’ll research a prospective company, find out about its culture. I talk to hiring people all the time, asking them what’s currently acceptable, what’s changed in the last four to six months. Then I’ll go over examples with my clients. We might look in their closet, maybe take a shopping trip. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; I might say, ‘We’re going to Neiman Marcus for this, but we’re going to Target for that.’”

After everything’s been laid down, clients are ready to start practicing. “We’ll do verbal role-playing,” said Castle. “I try to teach people how to think on their feet so that they’ll have a high comfort level when answering questions. They need to realize that it’s not always about the actual answer to the question but about their comfort level in talking to a stranger.

“I get a wide range of clients — a mom reentering the workforce, wanting to fit into the professional environment after ten years at home; a teacher who looks young enough to be a student and needs to adopt a more authoritative look; an executive who is getting ready to open a restaurant and wants to come across as friendly and approachable; a musician who needs a day job — and on and on. Also, more and more, I am called on to help older people compete with younger applicants. I can’t make them younger, but I can make sure they aren’t doing things that make people perceive them as being older.” Call for prices.

Next I contacted Debbie Lousberg of Lousberg Unlimited Career Services (760-941-5166, lousbergunlimited.com). Lousberg, a career coach and transition consultant, told me she provided “a variety of services, such as individual or group coaching to people who have been laid off or who are voluntarily looking for a career that will be a better fit for them. I offer either one-time consultations for interview prep [$150 for 60–90 minutes] or four- to six-week coaching packages [$450–$600], but I begin every relationship with a complimentary consultation to ensure I can meet a client’s needs. A lot of my clients these days are out of work and trying to maneuver through the complicated job market. I’m an objective party that they can bounce ideas around with, and I can give insight as to how to find more fulfilling, suitable work.”

Lousberg urges people “not to get caught up in unemployment facts and figures. Maintaining a positive outlook is mandatory for success. Companies hire people with good attitudes, people who can show enthusiasm for a job. When faced with a career change — voluntary or not — it is so important to take time for self-assessment. Even if finding a job is an urgent matter, still take time. Go after the job that will provide some satisfaction.”

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