When a job applicant undermined her own capabilities, the CEO gave her some advice.

By Rosanna Myers (Co-founder & CEO, Carbon Robotics)

This post originally appeared on Medium.

We recently posted a job for a robotics engineer, which received over 200 applications. One of those was from a female mechatronics engineer with an impressive resume, who said something in her cover letter that undermined her capabilities. We’ve seen this many times before. This is the letter we sent back to her.

Hi X,

Thank you for applying to work at Carbon Robotics. You were a very strong candidate and I wanted to let you know that the only reason we didn’t invite you to interview is that we need different skill sets for this upcoming term.

I also wanted to pass on some advice that was given to me and that has made a big difference in my career. In your cover letter, you said: “It is likely that I am not the most technical person that has applied for the job.” My feedback is to not undermine yourself like that. Even if you believe it is true, let other people and employers come to their own conclusions rather than embedding the idea in their head.

Many studies have shown that men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. You are probably just as strong, if not more so, than your male peers — none of whom mentioned that they might not be the best candidate. You’ve probably already noticed that the most confident of your peers are not always the most capable, but their confidence is an important asset that can make a big, compounding difference over the course of a career.

So, my suggestion is two-fold. The first part is to never undermine or discredit yourself. This can be with big things like job applications, but can also come up in day-to-day occurrences like starting a sentence with “This may be wrong but…[opinion / statement / argument]” or posing statements as questions. Always present your ideas and opinions with self-assurance, even if you could be wrong or later need to concede a point.

The second part is to get comfortable with self-promotion. This doesn’t have to mean bravada, but it does mean owning your accomplishments and showing people your value. This may feel uncomfortable, unnatural, or untrue at first — but push past it. The ‘fake it till you make it’ approach has a magical way of ultimately becoming true.

I hope you don’t mind my completely unsolicited advice, it’s just something that stood out to me as I read through your application and I want to see you succeed.

I wish you the best of luck with your next term and very much hope that you reapply in the future. You are a strong candidate.

All the best,

Rosanna Myers
CEO / Co-founder
Carbon Robotics

The student graciously agreed to let us share her response with others.

Hi Rosanna,

I really want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to send such a thoughtful and personal e-mail. In the last two days since I’ve received it, I’ve found myself trying to correct the way I start my opinions, statements and arguments — I didn’t realize I sounded so uncertain before. The advice, while it may seem simple, is now something I hold close to my heart.

I definitely plan on reapplying to Carbon Robotics for my next term, and will be trying to expand my current skill set to be better suited then (and become much more confident in self-promotion!). If there’s anything that I could do to improve, please let me know. The fact that you mention I’m a strong candidate makes me really happy, but it also makes me all the more determined to work with you in the future.

While my success may depend on my own actions, I feel as though this will be a huge boost moving forward.

So again, thank you!


About the guest blogger: Rosanna Myers is the CEO and cofounder of Carbon Robotics, which is democratizing robotics with an approachable, low-cost robotic arm and an open developer platform. Rosanna enjoys coding, design and taking stuff apart. Follow Carbon Robotics on Twitter at @carbonrobotics.