You do not think that your successes were down to you. Your internal narrative tells you that you may never be that lucky again. You over-prepare for presentations and meetings in fear of being exposed for your lack of knowledge. You think that everyone around you is more qualified and secretly sense that they know it too.
These feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy are debilitating, but for more people than we might realise they are very real. According to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, over 70% of us experience these feelings at some point in their lives.
Imposter syndrome tends to limit our courage when it comes to making changes in our life, but it is potentially even more damaging when the internal narrative is revealed to people who barely know us and take our self-deprecation at face value.
If (in the name of authenticity and pseudo-humility) we let these lapses in self-esteem dominate our job search interviews, potential hiring managers won’t leave with the best impression of our impact on the world.
When we walk into an interview, we have one chance to make an impression. It will be hard for an interviewer to guess that we have a tendency to make light of our
impact – they have probably never talked to us before and they assume that we will take the opportunity to present our career achievements in the best light.
If we downplay our impact, that is the message that they will remember.
So, in my view, a candidate has two choices.
They can either make a superhuman effort to be positive or they can gently mention the fact that they find it hard to talk positively about themselves in such a situation.
The second approach is not such a bad idea.
Interviewers understand that an interview is not a natural setting, and most are supportive of mental health issues. If you mention that you find it hard to see yourself as the hero of the day, you can simply recount what you have achieved, and any inadvertent downplaying of your role will be understood in the new context. If you are to be natural in an interview (and that is so important), giving people a heads up on your issues with self-esteem shows honesty and courage.
For them it is most important that you can do a great job – it is a shame that you do not see these successes as yours, but the most important thing is that you can shine in your role. If you prove that, who you think “owns” the successes is immaterial to the interviewer.
As neurodiversity takes a more central role in the interview process, bringing such things into the open is going to become more common. It might seem a strange thing to suggest that you should openly admit issues with self-esteem to a future employer, but better that then them doubt the impact that you can make because they don’t understand what is going on inside your head.
Remember. You are in that room for a reason. The interviewer hopes that you can do a great job. You have done a great job in the past, and you have to tell yourself that much of that was down to you. Focus on how you made your difference and try to own your successes. Then tell the interviewer all about them.