Applying to jobs is notoriously a “numbers game” — the more resumes and applications you get out, the better your chances supposedly are of landing a gig. Resourceful job seekers are turning to new technology to help streamline the tedious application process: ChatGPT. With the free AI chatbot, you can produce a polished resume and cover letter in just seconds. But can using ChatGPT as a shortcut mess with your chances of landing the job? It depends.
Mindlessly copying and pasting whatever ChatGPT generates into a job application, resume, or cover letter and passing it off as your own is not the best use of the technology. “I would caution candidates against copying and pasting,” says Robert Lingham, a technical recruiter who most recently worked at Lever.
A human recruiter or hiring manager will likely be able to tell that you’ve submitted something written by an AI chatbot, because it might lack human tone, nuance, and context. Not to mention, ChatGPT could fabricate points about your experience and qualifications that are straight-up untrue, and lying on a job application is a bad idea in general.
Learn ChatGPT for free
This doesn’t mean that ChatGPT is off-limits for job seekers. “If you’re using ChatGPT smartly, and incorporating things that are true about yourself — more power to you,” says Mandy Tang, a career coach and founder of Rose Gold Careers. “I’m a huge fan of it.”
As ChatGPT touches more areas of our lives, there are new ethical questions about AI to consider. In our new free course Intro to ChatGPT, we’ll break down the risks and limitations of AI, and help you figure out how and when to use the technology in your life and in the products you build. Here are some ways you can use ChatGPT as a tool in your job search while maintaining your integrity and honesty as an applicant.
Let ChatGPT write a rough draft
Writer’s block is real, even when you’re writing about a topic you know a lot about — in this case, yourself. “Writing requires a lot of momentum,” Mandy says. “You need a prompt or something to react to.” Having ChatGPT write a rough draft of your cover letter or resume is a great way to get your writing process started, she says. (Here are some more tips for writing a bio about yourself.)
Rather than just copying and pasting the ChatGPT-generated response as-is, you can use it as inspiration to build something that’s more personal and accurate to you, Robert says. For example, if you ask ChatGPT to build a resume based on a job description, take a look at the skills that it pulls out, and see if they align with your own experience. “You might think, Oh that bullet is a good point, I actually did something similar to that,” he says.
Proofread and fact-check
While ChatGPT can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to applying for a job, it’s on you to make sure that the information you submit about yourself in a job application is truthful and coherent. “A large language model tool like ChatGPT still has boundaries,” Robert says.
It’s very important to proofread and edit whatever material ChatGPT provides. “It’s still a bot,” Mandy says. “ChatGPT will take its best guess based on your prompts, but you still have to read it with human eyes to double check that it makes sense and has a nice flow.”
Know how to write detailed ChatGPT prompts
How you word a ChatGPT prompt can influence the quality of the response it generates. As a large language model, ChatGPT is trained on datasets from the internet to predict the word that’s likely to come next in text using probability distributions over words. The more specific data you can train ChatGPT on, the more relevant the responses will be.
If you’re using ChatGPT to help you write a resume or cover letter, you’ll probably want to run at least 3-4 cycles, getting more specific and feeding additional information each round, Mandy says. “Keep telling it to refine things,” she says. For instance, you can tell ChatGPT to write your cover letter in the writing style and voice of an article or use a standout resume example as reference material. Or you can ask the AI to tweak your resume so that it includes measurable outcomes that align with the job description.
We’ll teach you how to write clear and specific prompts for ChatGPT in our free course Intro to ChatGPT, so you can boost your chances of generating a useful response.
Customize according to the job
Sending the same exact generic cover letter for every job is not great form: “You don’t want to send the same cookie-cutter template to every job, because it will look like you’ve just copied and pasted,” Mandy says. ChatGPT can help you tweak your application materials slightly depending on the position or organization, she says. “Try to include at least one specific detail about each company.”
For instance, you could give ChatGPT the job description and your resume and say: “Here is my resume. I am applying for a job as a UX Researcher. Can you optimize my resume so it fits the keywords in this job description?”
Brainstorm interview questions
You can also use ChatGPT to help you get ready for a job interview, Robert says. For example, say you’re interviewing for a position at a climate tech company, but you’re not super familiar with the space or field, so you don’t know how to prepare. Here’s a ChatGPT prompt you could use:
Pretend you are an expert in the climate tech space, and you’re interviewing a candidate for a Software Engineer position. Give me some questions that you would ask someone at the senior level. Please limit it to five responses and provide any links for any additional information.
As you can see, ChatGPT generates a solid list of relevant interview questions about key topics related to climate technology. With this list, you can identify your knowledge gaps and start thinking about how you might answer the questions.
The debate about using ChatGPT in your job search speaks to the deeper frustrations that people have about the hiring process. “For the candidate, it’s really difficult, confusing, and opaque when your effort is not tied to a result,” Mandy says. Lots of employers have gotten rid of cover letter requirements altogether. Considering that many organizations use AI in the hiring and screening process, why shouldn’t applicants be allowed to use it, too?
Ultimately, ChatGPT can make you look like the perfect candidate for a role on paper in just seconds — but you’re still expected to prove your skills on your own. “If you somehow hack a system in order to get in front of a recruiter or a hiring manager, you need to be able to talk about the things that are on your resume,” Robert says. “No matter how many prompts you give ChatGPT, and how creative you get, if you get into that seat, you need to be able to execute against it.”