Any of these sounds familiar to you as a non-native English speaker? You might have the double burden of imposterism.
The idea of a job hunt was a scary and blurred future event back in March 2021, when I graduated from the IDOL Courses Academy® sixth cohort. I couldn’t start the application process right after the cohort ended, but when I started the job search process eight months later in November, I began by reading all the related materials in the IDOL Courses Academy® Interview section, starting with Jay Lash’s The Resume Game. I deep dived into instructional design blogs, journals, the Become an IDOL® Podcast, and the latest research and best practices, such as the Learner Engagement Summit organized and facilitated by Anna Sabramowicz, in the field. I got hooked on Janette Wilcken’s The Job Search Journey on IDOL Blogs, in which she shares three practices that she found helpful during job hunts. I found her idea of writing a reflective journal extremely helpful, not just because I’m a highly reflective person, but also because this way, I could track, analyze, and adapt my performance.
Preparing for job interviews was a stressful process, one exacerbated by the fact that I’m not a native English speaker, even though I’ve lived in the US the past three years and my English is fluent.
Looking back, the processes and steps in preparing for an interview as a non-native English speaker are almost the same as when you’re a native English speaker, with a little bit of spice added. Now let’s get to my tips.
Forget about proving that you (1) do not have an accent if you do or (2) that you’re a native speaker if you’re not. The biggest lesson and takeaway I have from the interview preparation process is that I must be me. This is my strength. Being bilingual means I can use another language other than my mother tongue to express myself and navigate among various personal and professional life realms, my profession being one of them.
Being able to think quickly and answer questions promptly gives you self-confidence and strength, and requires learning some answers by heart, which can eliminate the anxiety of looking for certain words in the first place. Being able to speak for two minutes without saying “um” or filler words demonstrates that you’re a competent speaker and a professional applicant. It also helps you provide short and prompt answers to questions.
There are many interview questions besides the 50 IDOL® questions, so watch the videos, read the materials, and use the search function. It took me a long time to write down the answers and learn them, but it’s worth the effort. The answers pertained to general, behavioral, and experience-related questions as well.
Academy members use the IDOL® Cheat Sheet not only because it can help you narrow your focus, but also because it’s a useful resource for collecting questions you want to ask after interviews, and for reminding you to write thank-you emails. This is particularly true if any of the parts are new to you. For me, writing the thank-you emails to every person at the interview afterward was a new thing, and even though I had the Cheat Sheet on my table as a reminder, I still forgot to send it right after the interview.
Be open to cultural differences and prepare. Maintaining eye contact for a long time, with occasional smiles, is not common behavior in my native culture, so I had to work on this on my own, and with the help of technology and my peers. To overcome what seemed like a disadvantage or a lack of skills, I used Zoom to record myself and later analyze myself critically both on my own and with my significant other. I remember recording the powerful introduction I came up with about 230 times. It was painful to watch the first few times, but it eventually improved. I constantly asked myself: Would I hire me? Until the answer was 100% yes, I kept going. I also prepared for any small-talk, which is also not a common thing in my culture, that might occur during the interview by reviewing topics and questions.
I’m a big believer in self-reflection, but sometimes another pair of eyes doesn’t hurt. I carefully chose some people in my life to provide feedback. Local communities could help a lot too. I’m a member of a Boomer Storytellers International Toastmasters Club that aims to develop members’ communication, mentoring, and leadership skills, and my friends in the club helped me a lot. Dr. Luke Hobson’s tips about how and why to use LinkedIn to build networks were invaluable in terms of new connections and collaborative knowledge sharing.
This is always a good idea because the “Tell me about yourself” question often is the first one asked at a job interview, and you can prepare for it. It took me several days to write a short introduction – then more days to record several videos of me speaking it until I got it right.
Sometimes it just seems that I need to make an extra effort to demonstrate my strengths and career highlights, while avoiding the dreaded imposter syndrome. As a non-native speaker of English, the imposter syndrome had a double burden: feeling inadequate professionally and not being able to express myself in English. I tried to strike a balance by sticking to the facts, but also telling the story behind the facts.
I had a professional third party check some of my prepared answers because I was almost certain I would need them. Having someone look at your answers both from language-use and professional perspectives is always helpful.
You might wonder how my job search process ended. My first interview landed me the job I wanted. Both the employer’s and my needs and expectations corresponded perfectly. I felt like I already was a member of the team during the job interview. Everyone seemed familiar, and I was relaxed and confident in the Zoom interview room, which felt like a safe space.
The most important thing I learned from my instructional designer job search journey is that when you’re prepared, it’s easier to feel confident. I also developed a growth mindset, and I used it as a mantra: Practice-Growth, Practice-Growth.
Written by: Orsolya Kereszty
Orsolya is IDOL courses Academy alumni who works as an Instructional Systems Designer for higher-ed. She loves running, yoga, reading, gastronomy, pottery, and spending time with her family. Connect with Orsolya on LinkedIn, or have a look at her portfolio.