How can you shine during your interview? Meaning how to be the confident professional, who knows what they talk about, convinces your future boss of your value and asks interesting questions?
For sure, preparing your powerful professional story and knowing the interview questions are important. But equally important to knowing WHAT to answer is HOW you answer.

Read on to learn how you can develop mental toughness for your next interview by using the Alter Ego technique. A technique by Tod Herman who coached dozens Olympic Gold medalists, business executives and even billionaires.

Why you play Small In Your Interview

Interviews can be intimidating and sometimes simply overwhelming. Maybe you prepared all the important questions (See the 7 most important interview questions), did thorough research about the position and even talked to people within for insider information.
Then on the BIG day you listen to your favorite song, envision all the money you can earn and do last minute CV checks.

But when it’s time to shine - when you actually need to convince your future boss why they should hire you and have to answer the tricky questions - you struggle.  

You can't find the right words, feel you were too nice and wish you talked about your achievements with pride.

This is completely normal. 

The problem is that when we try to perform, we often show up with our ordinary self. This 'lower-self', however, brings all the mental chatter, negative stories and limiting beliefs when we have show up. And it drags us down.

For example, when you try to do something great, you'll find that your inner voice will say things like "who are you to think that" or "this wont work for you".

We therefore need to create space. In short, realize we have the freedom to play different roles in our life and can choose the role that helps us play big.

That is where the Alter Ego Technique comes in.

How to Step Up By Creating Your Best Professional Self With 3 Steps

The solution is to create a Secret Identity (Alter Ego) and use it when you need to switch from normal everyday life to a high-performance situation. Your Secret identity has clear guidelines of what you do so your most evolved/ professional version shows up during your interview.

This is not some guru BS or faking it until you make it. But it builds on the behaviors you value right now.

And by acting the way you want to, you become the person you look up to. Simply but: Your Intentions don’t count but your actions.

Here Are 3 Ways How You Can Create Your Alter Ego To Shine In Your Next Interview

Step 1 - Create Your Alter Ego

Select one person you look up. It can be a mentor, role-model, friend but also someone you don’t know, such as a famous bz. Person, star or even a movie character.

Take a piece a paper and simply write down:

  • Why do they care (their values, e.g. quest for knowledge, make an impact, create something new),
  • What do they feel when they are challenged (excited, stay calm, proud, fierce)?
  • How do they behave (talk quiet/ loud, look someone in the eyes, sit tall)
  • Don’t worry about having it right. Your mind will say “you are so not this person”, that’s great because it just a small exercise.
  • Give her/ him a name (Beyoncé uses Sasha Fierce as an alter ego onstage)

Step 2 - Know your Moments of Truth

These are the moments that count in your playing field - when you don’t want to your small self but your most evolved self to play

  • Brainstorm a few of moments of truth that mattered for your interview but you struggled (e.g. talking about my CV gaps, salary question, hearing a rejection, entering the room)
  • Select 3-5 of truth and write down how your Alter-Ego would feel, act and why this important to them
  • Compare yours and the alter alter-ego’s  
  • Then write down exactly the behaviors and actions you need to change
  • Example: When someone asks to me about the salary question I will take a break of 2 seconds and not answer immediately as I always do. I will behave like Super Nic (the fierce CEO) who enjoys this challenge and thus ask a question back.

PRO TIP: NAME Your Enemy

Often our small-self, worry self or lazy-self with all its negative stories is powerful because it stays in the dark. The solution is to give yourself an enemy you can talk to. Give it a name or character that corresponds to your small self.

For example, I used “Baby Worry Nico”. This has two effects 1) It makes it less scary as you realize its just worry - nothing life threatening, 2) It creates a distinction between you and your fears. 

You are not the “Worry Me”, this is just small part of you.

When you then need to perform you can direct your energy to your enemy. Something like “Ah Baby Worry Nico bring it on, here I am”. It will immediately put you away from worry small play to action mode.

(This technique of naming your worry is also used in clinical settings as with OCB to deal with Thought Obsessions by externalizing them to the core self).

Step 3 - Use an activating Token during your interview

Select a small token (object) you can wear or bring to the interview. The important thing is that you should ritualize activating/ putting on your token.

For example putting on a watch, straightening your favorite tie, turning around your ring

  • When you activate your token bring to mind your Alter Ego. Focus on the feelings, values and behaviors you want to show
  • REMEMBER: This is just a role you are playing for a short while. See it as competing in a sports-game you really care about but that is fun
  • During the interview you most likely will be on autopilot, but as soon as you see your Token remember what your role-model would do.
  •  Then try one small way to act like her/ him
  • No need to do it all the time. But challenge yourself with one small thing and be amazed how much more professional you will appear

“At the end of your life, you won’t remember the thoughts or intentions you had. You’ll remember the actions you took. You’ll judge yourself by how you showed up, by what you did, what you said, how you acted and whether you performed the way you know you could in any of the stages of life.”


Conclusion: Rock Your Interview By Playing Your Best Professional Role

That’s it.

It works so well because you are not trying to change your life or you. You are just trying to change HOW you play a role for a short while. Everyone can do that.

And the beauty is that when you step into your other role, you can act differently and thus break the negative beliefs.

You can adapt it to any situation you need to perform. It will also help you to create some space in key moments of overwhelm. You check your token and remember the traits that are important to you. You breath. And then you act.


Make sure you don’t overdo it. This is not another hard self-optimizing exercise. It is a proven way in psychology how to best perform with a PLAYFUL attitude. In this case, the interview is your play.

So why not try something new? In your next interview, try one small way you would like to behave differently. You'll be amazed at how it actually works!

Let me know me answer you questions or help you with custom advise in the comments!

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About the Author

Work Psychologist & Advisor, with the sole purpose to find and offer you the most competent advise so you grow professionally and live a fulfilling work-life on your terms. 

Find out more: How I went from being an anxious, always pleasing and stuck in the rat-race professional to creating a well-paying career and fulfilling life on my terms.


  • Thank you for this! I always struggle when the interviewer asks me the salary question; and try to turn it around it by asking about their offer. Honestly, I always have a number in my head prior to leaving for the interview, but time and time again, I think that I'm asking for too much. the reality is that, with the experience and skills I have, I am not asking for too much. Actually, my target salary usually puts me in an underpaid category. I don't know why I struggle to be assertive in this area, but my country's economic situation doesn't really help. so I end up settling for whatever they offer. Do you have any tips on this? Would appreciate it 🙂

    • Hi Jessica,
      Completely get what you say. One thing is to know “you should” ask for more to then actually doing it. And then Hiring managers always have their favorite excuse to say “you know the economy”, “the location and low salaries”, “the competition” and now “the pandemic”. It is quite a skill and I can advice you the following:
      1) First Now exactly your number. So surprising many clients I advice but also candidates had no idea. Even in a coaching call they dont want to give a number and say something like “you should not this is just XZY” and I am like “if you cant even tell me what you want ho will you convince the other”. So know your number and then add artound 15% on as most put themselves too low. Remmeber this is just a number for you. You can find some resources at the end of my job hunt list.
      2) Back up EXACTLY why you are worth that salary. As you mmention you have certain skills and experience so make sure you can back up why you are worth what you ask for.
      3) Have a VERY clear minimum offer that you promise yourself you will walk away. Dont skip this. Ideally it should be another offer but you can simply put a number that is market competitive. You need to literally write yourself a contract that you will walk away if the salary is too low. And then stick with it. It will feel so good after and is the booster for you confidence in your salary talk.
      4) Now more about confidence: The question is really WHY you will not ask for more. So you can sit down and use the 5 Why technique. Something like “Why do I think I cannot ask for 60 EUR”, “Because if I ask they will not hire me”, “Why is this is a problem” “Because then I will miss the job and remain unemployed”, “Why is the a problem” etc. It normally ends with “I will end poor on the street”. This exercise alone can make the shift as you see how “crazy” the inner talk can be.
      5) Try an alter ego exercise: Challange your self to ask in your next interview for an amount you are scared to ask. Dont go crazy high but do it as a little experiment/ role play. Ideally a job you dont care about. Tell yourself before you dont want the job anyways and simply tell yourself I do it for the fun. And then tell your number. Breath and say nothing. There will be this awkward silence where you will want to say something. Resist it. And see what happens. In the end they will either say yes or No. Both is fine. But even if they say no you will see that they dont reject you straight away. It is just so much work for companies to go through the entire hiring process that they will reject you beacuse you asked for 15% higher salary. Most likely they will start to negotiate. Another chapter where psychology tricks actually do work.
      FINALLY and important: Dont discuss your plans for higher salaries with others EXCEPT if they are far ahead. Especially if the people around you make lower salaries they will see you as a threat so dont mention it. But tell yourself, damn I dare you. I will get a great salary DESPITE being in xyz location because I provide this value to the company:)

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