Five-foot-ten blonde Clarissa Ward, international correspondent for CBS News, has mastered the art of blending in—exactly what you want to do when operating in a nation where modesty is the rule of law. Dress codes vary greatly by region and can be complicated to interpret, says Ward, who has reported from all the major Middle Eastern hot spots. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, women — even business travelers — are expected to wear traditional head scarves (called hijabs). In more liberal areas like Cairo and Beirut, business attire isn't all that different from the Western version: "Loose-fitting clothing, sleeves that go down to your elbows, a modest neckline, and a knee-length skirt," she says. Keep a scarf handy, just in case. A Western woman in the Middle East can enjoy "the best of both worlds," says Ward. "You'll get the respect accorded to a woman and the freedom given to a man—but not if you're in a tank top."
The key rule: Don't be swayed by a sizzling first interview. You'll need to meet with a top candidate several times—and introduce her to your team—to get a real sense of how she'll fit in, says Lori Goler, vice president of human resources at Facebook. ("We interview in three stages," Goler says.) At Facebook, applicants are also asked how they'd handle a real-life challenge, like fixing a bug. "We're looking to gauge how they think," says Goler. And don't be afraid to give some homework on a tight deadline, à la Facebook's "Camp Hackathon," which asks applicants to build the prototype for a new product in a single night. After that, the actual job should be easy.
Check out our free career boot camp with LearnVest here.