Job interviews can make even the most confident person feel vulnerable. No matter how well you’ve prepared, there’s no way to know for sure what questions the hiring team will ask, and if you’ll know the best way to answer them. If you’re unemployed during this process, you may have the added pressure of needing to do well in the interview to boost your chances of landing a job and a steady paycheck. These elements combined can contribute to a perfect storm of stress and feelings of helplessness throughout each step of the job interview process, with the stakes escalating each time you jump through another hoop.
As an executive coach, when I help clients prepare for interviews, many express that they feel undeserving of the position — like a fraud in mortal fear of being discovered to be inadequate. This was the case with my client Cliff (not his real name), who came to me for advice when he was interviewing for COO positions in start-up biotech companies. Having founded, grown, and successfully run his own company for eight years, Cliff was eminently qualified for a C-suite role. Why then was he plagued with self-doubt about applying for one?
What Cliff didn’t realize is that imposter syndrome affects almost everyone from time to time, even those who are wildly qualified for a particular job. These anxiety-inducing thoughts about one’s imagined lack of qualification can be particularly severe during times of professional vulnerability, such as when vying for a new job, which makes interview situations a trigger for this (usually temporary) condition.