From project management to helping to draft a firm yet tactful email to a demanding colleague, artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming our working lives. And while we’re used to hearing how robots are coming to steal our jobs, we should also be giving them credit where it’s due for how effective AI can be in helping us navigate one of the more intimidating aspects of working life – the jobseeking process. With recent research revealing that 50% of us are using AI for tasks such as drafting CVs and cover letters, it’s rapidly becoming an indispensable career ally.
Nevertheless, as Winston Churchill once said, where there is great power, there is a great responsibility. Overuse AI, and you’re at risk of producing bland and formulaic application materials that will never stand out in an increasingly competitive job market. As with anything, the key to using AI effectively in your job search is understanding its potential and limitations, which we’ll be exploring below.
What do we mean by ‘AI’?
When people talk about using AI in the jobseeking process (at least, from a candidate perspective) they’re normally referring to generative AI – artificial intelligence systems that can create text, images and other media using advanced language models, the most popular being ChatGPT. It’s worth noting that artificial intelligence in the recruitment and application processes is nothing new. From LinkedIn’s intelligent algorithms that match jobseekers’ skills and experience with roles in real time to automated screening tools that some employers and recruiters use to screen applications, AI-driven technology has been part of the employment landscape for well over a decade.
So, when we refer to ‘AI’ in this article, we’re talking about either ChatGPT itself or models and tools that are powered by its more sophisticated iteration, GPT4.
Now, let’s get into the do’s and don’ts of using AI in your job search!
Do: Use AI to kill writer’s block and tighten up phrasing
Don’t: Use AI to write your cover letter or CV
Have you ever read something and just somehow known it wasn’t written by a human? The words are all correct and in the right order, and yet somehow it still doesn’t feel quite ‘right’? Although generative AI tools are incredibly sophisticated, they can still leave us with that ‘uncanny valley’ feeling of discomfort. Some AI platforms (especially ChatGPT) tend to have two modes: overly complex and professional or disconcertingly casual. Most of the time, you’ll want your job application materials to fall somewhere in the middle – recruiters and hiring managers often want to see a of personality and professionalism. AI tools also don’t have the understanding of your experience, industry, and qualifications that you do, and why they’re so relevant to the role at hand. Added to this, auto-generated cover letters tend to be quite long – while experts claim the ideal is around 300-400 words, when we tested ChatGPT to produce cover letters for three of our open roles, the average length was around 500 words.
However, AI tools can be great for providing a little inspiration, for example, if you just can’t figure out how to start your cover letter – sometimes all we need is a nudge in the right direction for the rest to flow. They can also be great if you’re someone who tends to make sentences wordier than they need to be, or if you’re writing in a second language. The key is to use your judgement.
Do: Use AI to help you research the company
Don’t: Use AI as your only source, or forget to fact check
AI tools are pretty good for giving a basic general overview of what a company does, and will certainly give you a good starting point for research. Naturally, the better-known a company is, the more information AI will have to draw from, but for lesser-known brands and startups, information is probably going to be limited. You should also watch out for false information – or AI ‘hallucinations’ – by fact-checking all information yourself.
Of course, some models are better than others. Relying on ChatGPT, for example, will only provide you with information available at the time of its most recent update (January 2022 at the time of writing), while GPT4 (and models that are powered by GPT4 like Bing) are able to search the web in real time, making them a far better choice for this type of research. They also have the advantage of being able to provide references, so you can see where the information has come from.
Doing your own research online will give you the upper hand when it comes time to interview, however. For example, you might find press releases about relevant company milestones or product launches you’ll be able to mention, or by-lined articles from a company founder. All of this will demonstrate your genuine interest in the company and proactive approach to gathering insights, as well as provide great interview talking points.
Do: Use AI to help check grammar and spelling
Don’t: Forget to thoroughly review before submitting
Sloppy spelling and grammatical errors can cost you a shot at interview because it demonstrates a lack of attention to detail. AI tools can be great for giving your finished CV or cover letter a once over before you send it on to a recruiter or hiring manager to catch any errors before you hit submit. Remember, though, that AI might not be totally au-fait with industry-specific terminology, and you should also ask any model you use to explain what changes have been made and why in case anything important has been omitted. If you’re based in the UK, it’s also worth knowing that models such as ChatGPT default to American English, though you can ask it to use UK spelling conventions instead.
Perhaps the most important point we can make when it comes to the world of AI and jobseeking is to thoroughly review all applications materials before sending, particularly because you will often be left with gaps which are auto-filled with fields such as ‘employer name’ or ‘company name’. Imagine how a recruiter or hiring manager feels when they receive something like this:
Dear [Employer’s Name],
I am writing to express my interest in the AIML Engineer position at [Company Name]. With a proven track record of deploying ML models on cloud platforms, including AWS, and expertise in AIML models, NLP, and LLM, I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to your team.
It happens more often than you’d think! While it might feel like you’re saving time by using generative AI tools – and you certainly can by using them correctly – mistakes like this will certainly cost you a job interview. On top of this, even if you’ve provided 100% correct information about your education and background, the AI model could easily slip in a qualification you don’t actually have. Needless to say, this could lead to an awkward moment in a job interview!
Of course, chatbots are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using AI in your job search. There are plenty of other tools out there, too – most of them powered by GPT4, but more structured and with various add-on features. For example, platforms like Kickresume offer a variety of CV templates, as well as automatic generation of practice interview questions and answers based on your personal work history. Others like CareerFlow.ai provide a Chrome extension to help optimise your LinkedIn profile, providing personalised checklists based on industry best practice. Other tools include job description summarisers that can be effective in identifying key words that could be searched for by ATS platforms, which could increase your chances of being shortlisted for a role.
Ultimately, the key to exercising AI effectively in your job search is with a hefty dose of judgement and caution. While it can be a great starting point, it can’t understand or convey what’s unique about you or why recruiters or hiring managers should choose you over another candidate in a competitive job market. In the jobseeking world, quality really does beat quantity – spending a greater amount of time perfecting a few applications with your own insights and creativity rather than using AI to rush through twice the amount will always yield better results.
At GR4, we work with some of the most exciting and innovative tech companies across Europe and the US, and are always looking to expand our network. You can search all our positions here, or get in touch with a member of our specialist team for a confidential discussion.