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Dear Corporate Governess
My boss is having an end-of-summer pool party, but I'm uncomfortable having to mingle with colleagues in a bathing suit. I think it would seem odd if I don't go, but is there a graceful way to keep my dignity?
Jessica M., Ottawa

Dear Jessica
There's nothing in the invite that says you have to get wet if you go to the party. You don't even need to strip down to your bathing suit. That's where flowing caftans or lacy cover-ups save us. Treat yourself to one of the many elegant options out there. Then add sunglasses and some jewelled flip-flops for your freshly manicured feet to boost that poolside confidence.

If busybodies ask why you're not swimming, invent an allergy to chlorine or simply say, "When I'm ready." Which of course will be never because you'll be too busy chatting with everyone or sipping peach margaritas. Now that's team building—without turning your hair into a sodden mass resembling kelp.

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Bosses might also want to reconsider those well-meaning invitations to share their pools with staff. Most of us would rather trod over burning coals than expose our naked flesh to colleagues. A barbecue at your country club would be kinder.

Dear Corporate Governess
Everyone says we need to hire top talent, but we're a young tech company on a tight budget—so no fat salaries or free lunch. What else could give us an edge in this competitive market?
Carson B., Vancouver

Dear Carson
Fortunately, money—or a full-time barista—isn't the only driver for attracting top young talent. You need to find the ones who are passionate about what you're doing. I asked Ed Quilty, founder of Aquatics Informatics Inc., a company that provides software solutions for water data management, how he did it when starting out in Vancouver.

"We competed with all the big dogs in town, largely based on two things," Quilty says. "One is our appealing culture [yes, espresso machines, yoga and organic food delivered weekly are a few of the company perks]. The other is there's a bit of soul to protecting the environment and flood forecasting. People can make a difference. We found that was really our competitive edge to attract people." Another of Quilty's tips is to be thorough but move quickly through the hiring process. "A candidate will go through multiple interviews with quite a few people, but we try to do it within one week. It's very competitive, so people don't stay on the market long. They're snapped up quickly, particularly in software development, so we move fast." Ultimately, a great cultural fit matters as much as the degrees in the resumé. Quilty uses the beer test for the final interview. If this is someone you would have a beer with then you've found your hire.

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