Understanding Imposter Syndrome: what, why, and how to Overcome it

Imposter syndrome is a term that’s been buzzing around a lot lately. But what is it? Why do we get it? And most importantly, how can we deal with it? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a feeling many of us face: that nagging doubt that we’re not really as good as we appear, or that we’ve fooled everyone into believing we’re more competent than we are. Even when we have plenty of evidence of our achievements, that tiny voice in our head says, “You don’t deserve this. They’ll find out soon.”

Why do we get Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter feelings can come from various reasons:

  1. Perfectionism: When we aim for 100% all the time, even a small flaw can feel like a massive failure.
  2. Upbringing: Some of us have grown up in environments where praise was rare or where there was a constant push to achieve more.
  3. New Challenges: Starting a new job, attending a new school, or entering a new social circle can ignite these feelings.

Who gets Imposter Syndrome?

Here’s a surprise: almost everyone! From students to CEOs, many people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. It doesn’t discriminate by job, gender, age, or background.

When do we get Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can pop up at various times:

  • After achieving a new milestone like a promotion.
  • While trying something new.
  • When receiving praise or accolades.
  • Comparing ourselves to others.

How can we deal with it?

  1. Recognise it: The first step is to acknowledge it. Understand that it’s just a feeling, not a fact.
  2. Talk about it: Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or colleague can provide comfort.
  3. Document your achievements: Keep a list of your accomplishments. When doubt creeps in, you have evidence of your capabilities.

Top Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

  1. Positive Affirmations: Reassure yourself with positive statements like, “I am capable” or “I deserve my success.”
  2. Stop Comparing: Everyone’s journey is different. Focus on your path, not someone else’s.
  3. Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback helps you understand areas of improvement and reaffirms what you’re doing right.

How can we Prepare for it?

Imposter syndrome can come and go. Preparing for it means building resilience and a positive self-image:

  1. Constant Learning: Equip yourself with knowledge and skills. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel.
  2. Practice Self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

Tips and Techniques for Handling Imposter Syndrome

  1. Visualisation: Imagine a scenario where you succeed. It helps in rewiring the brain.
  2. Grounding Techniques: If anxiety takes over, ground yourself by focusing on your surroundings or deep breathing.
  3. Seek Mentorship: Guidance from someone who’s been in your shoes can be invaluable.

In conclusion, imposter syndrome is something that many of us will face. But by understanding it, recognising its signs, and equipping ourselves with tools and techniques, we can navigate those feelings more efficiently. Remember, you’re not alone, and yes, you’re as competent and deserving as you appear.


At re:find we have been in Executive Search for over 20 years. We believe that recruitment is not a one-off transaction but rather a long-term partnership. We aim to build long-term relationships with our clients, providing ongoing support and advice to help them find and retain the best talent for their organisation.

In addition, as a business, we understand that every organisation is unique and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to recruitment. That’s why we offer bespoke recruitment solutions that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. Whether you need help with a single hire or a full recruitment campaign, we can help.

We are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality service. As part of this, we ensure that we take the time to understand your organisation’s culture and values, as well as the specific skills and experience needed for each role.

For more information on our executive search practice and our CCS framework please get in touch with our Managing Director, James Cumming.

Discover the tactics that head-hunters are using to source talent (and what could be causing you to miss out when you are direct sourcing!)

Discover new tactics that head-hunters are using to source talent: Never ever do something you can’t afford financially or emotionally.

Like giving away all your top tips on how to do your job… for FREE. People will just copy you and you’ll be out of business in no time!

So, shh – don’t tell anyone…

I am kidding, of course, fortunately/unfortunately, no one has found a silver bullet yet for recruitment and it is still a case of time = reward in many ways when it comes to Exec Search. There are some best practices to ensure you get it right.

A very quick recap for anyone that hasn’t Headhunted! Executive search is about being proactive – rather than passively waiting for people to come to you (e.g. via adverts or job boards.) These tips might help you to get it right… feedback appreciated as always.

The brief

Work out the job brief – this is often the trickiest part and should be anything but brief. The aim is to fully understand what the hiring manager needs from the appointment, the must-haves and the areas for push back.

Culture – if you are internal you are likely to already understand the culture of the business – if you are external, I would suggest fully immersing yourself in their culture (retail is a good example where I would suggest visiting stores to get a picture of what it’s really like!)

The story – WHY is just as important as WHAT. You need to understand the bigger picture and where this role fits into things – this will become useful in our approach stage. Get this wrong and you won’t get the right people interested in the appointment.

Defining the role – a job description doesn’t give a full picture of what a job really entails, It might list tasks, but this just doesn’t cut it. Also, it won’t tell a great story.

The push back – the most important part of taking any job brief is the push back. This is a reality check on their expectations vs what is in the external market. This is why many searches fail – whoever has taken the upfront brief hasn’t said NO to unrealistic expectations. Ensure you have data, benchmarking, and a thorough understanding of the candidate landscape before any briefing meeting.

Where will we find the talent?

I will leave the basics of research to another time and focus on the more strategic side of things.

Personally, I believe that one of the biggest mistakes that can be made when hiring is wrongly assuming that the candidate with the exact experience for the role, is the right candidate for the role.

It is important to determine whether you are sourcing for experience, or whether you are taking a more holistic approach to sourcing for future talent – where it is important to place a lot of emphasis on hiring for attitude and potential.

Some top tips:

Keep an open mind on sector experience – For example, retailers have large multi-site workforces, as do restaurant businesses. Restaurant business might have chefs that work in their kitchens – so might pub groups or business services firms such as Compass group.

During your research ask the right questions – for example, if people aren’t interested: do they know anyone who might be interested? Ask who they rate in business and why? Who are the future stars? Who is the best boss they have worked for?

Sometimes you need to kiss a few frogs – in my opinion, if you are retained on an assignment you need to fill it. This sometimes means approaching more people than you might have ever thought necessary! Keep going when it gets tough.

The approach

There are a variety of options when it comes to approaching candidates – email/LinkedIn/telephone. The most important thing is you must be able to sell WHY someone should join your business and what is in it for them – I will repeat this bit as it is often forgotten. The candidate needs to know what they will get from the business, be it development, a great boss, flex working, career development or whatever, it is just as much about them as it is about you checking that they are right for your business.

People are emotional and everyone loves a good story, in fact, there are significant pieces of research that point to storytelling being one of the most sought-after skills required in business over the next five years.

In today’s business environment, where information is out there and candidates have greater choice than ever, it is vital to get this narrative correct, to ensure you build an emotional connection with candidates from the first contact during the research phase.

The follow-through

It’s important to work on building a relationship with the candidate and make them feel valued and wanted. After all, if they are in demand and have more offers on the table, they are going to be more inclined to lean towards the people that make them feel engaged.

Make sure the process isn’t too one-sided and transactional. Of course, any process needs to be robust, from my experience, I would suggest this isn’t the first time someone comes to meet you. This first meeting should be more informal, sense checking their experience but equally selling the opportunity to them.

Once they are fully committed, then you can assess away.

The offer

The offer is the most important part. You must remember that you are dealing with people. People are emotional and are all driven differently.

  • It is important to make people feel wanted! Telling someone WHY you think they would be great in this role and WHY they were the preferred candidate is a great starting point…
  • It is vitally important that you do a thorough search, to take your time to ensure that you hire the right person for the role. Once you have found that ‘right person’ it is important to move quickly, especially in talent short markets (where people might have multiple offers.)
  • Money can be an important motivator to move but isn’t the only reason people accept a role. It is worth exploring fully someone’s total compensation and what is important to them.

-For example, home working and/or 3-4 days a week is more important to some people than a large bonus for example.
-Conversely, base salary might be more important to someone who is the main breadwinner – they might not be financially able to take a cut.
-Ensure you have a full understanding of full compensation including pension contributions, healthcare, LTIPs and paid bonus arrangements. Especially if your extended package doesn’t add up – you may well have to provide a cash equivalent.

If you would like to find out more about re:find and how we can support you and your business then please get in touch.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch. Connect with him on LinkedIn.