Impostor Syndrome: The Job Interview version
March 22, 2016 11:21 PM   Subscribe

I recently got invited to interview for what appears to be a dream job a couple of days after applying. Intellectually, I know that they've seen my resume and liked it enough to invite me in. In my heart, I'm feeling ridiculously intimidated and anxious about it being a job I'm underqualified for.

The job is a senior position in a field I will be finishing grad school for in May. It pays about twice as much as my current job, and it is honestly the sort of job I thought I would be in line for in about 10 years in my current field.

I am a 30-year-old woman, and I do have some relevant experience - while I don't have any experience being a program coordinator exactly, I do have experience in the fields that the position works with (namely, political organizing, substance abuse treatment, and working with young people).

I want this job, and I think I could be great at it, but I also worry that my own insecurity is going to get in the way of me doing well at the interview. Confidence hacks, advice, relevant experiences, or anything else you can think of would be helpful. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Your mantra for the interview shall be
I want this job, and I think I could be great at it.
Intellectually, I know that they've seen my resume and liked it enough to invite me in
You can either own your qualifications or you can denigrate them, but I think a little humility is actually called for here: they know what they want in this position better than you do, and you should probably take seriously their belief that hiring you on is a good organizational decision.

If you weren't the applicant, but the advocate for the applicant, how would you approach the interview? Do that.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:02 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sometimes helps me feel bolder if I tell myself that women are much more likely to feel imposter syndrome than men, and so doing stuff like this is a meaningful feminist act - Lean In and all that.

Somehow helps me to suppose that the fear I'm feeling is Because Teh Patriarchy rather than because I'm actually out of my depth. Good luck, sister!
posted by penguin pie at 3:02 AM on March 23, 2016

The last time my employer was hiring, we seriously considered a candidate who was much more junior than we had initially expected to hire. In her case despite less practical experience she had a stronger foundation than many of the more experienced candidates, and the likelihood was she would outperform them after a bit of time on the job.

It may be true that if hired there would be a learning period in which you weren't at the level of a more experienced employee. I would say you can assume the company knows this and is thinking about your long-term upside. So focus on how you make sense as an investment to the company. You can encourage this by dropping hints about how you plan to stick around, how you are looking for a place in which you can grow and build something -- emphasize the long term.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:40 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mantra, mantra, mantra. If the one suggested by Emperor SnooKloze doesn't do it for you, try a variation of the one I use when meeting with prospective clients:

I don't need your business, and what's more I'm not certain I want you as a client.

What's important here, I think, is to choose a mantra that bypasses your imposter syndrome and puts you on an equal playing field with the interviewer. A job interview, after all, is a two-way street.
posted by DrGail at 5:23 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is your dream job, so I assume it's at a good organization. That good organization didn't get there by wildly overestimating the quality of potential hires. The people they have in place are good at assessing, screening, and hiring good applicants. They see something in you that makes them want to know more. Show them that you are even better in person than you are on paper.
posted by Etrigan at 6:34 AM on March 23, 2016

When my employer hired me, there were considering three candidates after interviews. The other two candidates had 15+ more years of experience than me and had both been heads of their groups at different jobs. But my boss told me that they selected me because wanted someone who was earlier in their career, and I had some particular experiences they valued. The impostor feeling is coming from your expectation of how your career would go and how employers look at you, which is a simulacrum, and does not perfectly represent reality!
posted by benbenson at 7:12 AM on March 23, 2016

If they cared about the amount of experience you had, they would have already filtered you out at the pre-interview stage. You have already passed that stage, so the remaining things that they want to evaluate aren't to do with that. So don't feel the need to be defensive about your level of experience at the interview, unless they specifically ask about it.
posted by Jabberwocky at 7:26 AM on March 23, 2016

Not to pop your balloon or anything, but most organizations run at a much lower level of sophistication that you might think, certainly, much lower than they would like the general public to think. For most people in most jobs, the ordinary skills of getting along with people, managing subordinates, being careful, getting tasks to the finish line, etc are as important as any technical skill.

Also, in technically intense fields, the new hires bring new technology out of academia. The folks at the bottom do all the really technically intense stuff. So they might want you because of you are fresh blood, not in spite of it.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:55 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do some Power Poses!

Amy Cuddy's research shows that job interviewees who performed a 2 minute power pose prior to interviewing, were more likely to be hired.

In case you don't have time to watch the (excellent) Ted talk (and you totally should) Here is a buzzfeed-style breakdown of it instead.
posted by rubyrudy at 10:37 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

The irony of the impostor syndrome is that you believe that you are not qualified to work for these intelligent people, but these intelligent people are somehow too dumb to realize that.

Also realize that you aren't necessarily being considered because you are a perfect fit right now. It's equally likely that you have a lot of the characteristics they are looking for and assume that you'll grow into the position, learning what you need to know as you go.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the most apt and useful job application nuggets that was ever sent my way was: ignore the experience/"this position requires XX years of ABC experience" info in job postings. That's describing the desired candidate in his/her perfect, ideal form.

Having helped many friends and relatives find jobs, I'm always shocked at how (talented, smart) people are quick to dismiss a job they're interested in because of the "requirements."
posted by eggman at 12:38 PM on March 23, 2016

I go in as if me and the interviewer are discussing a third person, "the candidate". I'll even practice thinking of myself by a different name to get into a groove. Then just make sure you answer in the first person so the interviewer doesn't know how you're psyching yourself up :)
posted by wwartorff at 8:09 PM on March 23, 2016

I think I worked for several years in the industry you're talking about. You went to college? You went to grad school? THIS IS YOUR DREAM JOB? You are already like 100% up on almost every program director/coordinator I've worked for. Don't discredit yourself. You've got this!
posted by Marinara at 10:14 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Posture!! You may think that your posture has nothing to do with the way your voice sounds but you are so wrong. There is a reason why vocal coaches encourage proper posture for singers; your posture effects the way you sound. Hold your head up high to exude confidence and keep your shoulders back to leave yourself open during the conversation. Having excellent posture will also help you to have more control over your breathing. Also have a friend do a practice version of the interview before so you are fully prepared. Good Luck!!
posted by Courteous Answering Service at 12:53 PM on March 24, 2016

Thanks for this timely question, and all these great suggestions! (I'm not the anon OP, btw.)

I just had an interview that I didn't think I'd get (I applied, thinking I wasn't qualified enough). I went in with an open pose (thanks rubyrudy) and a positive attitude, and even though I didn't know the answer to a couple questions, I feel pretty good about my chances.

Don't say no for someone else - let them decide if you're qualified or not. This is a good idea for many interactions - approach it with confidence and the belief that you're already good enough.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:47 PM on March 24, 2016

So, I am the anon poster. Y'all, the interview was today, and it went GREAT (one of the people who was interviewing me told me how great it was as she walked me to the door). I won't hear back for a few weeks, but I wanted to thank everyone for the much needed perspective and awesome advice - it really, really helped!
posted by superlibby at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yay superlibby! Eponysterical! Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 3:40 AM on March 25, 2016

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