Feature article

How to judge a job application in a ChatGPT world

Tips and tricks to navigate job applications with the use of ChatGPT.

You’ve advertised a vacant role and the applications have come in. Your company is probably using some kind of system to corral the best applications, maybe you’re using AI to do this. At the same time, applicants might be using their own choice of AI, ChatGPT for instance, to help them put together a zinger of a CV and cover letter.

So how can you tell if the candidate you choose really knows their stuff or if they’ve just cut and pasted clever intel from ChatGPT? Employers might have to do a bit more work to drill down into their knowledge and you might need to test them in a new way.

HR experts say embrace candidates using ChatGPT

Humankind HR expert Samantha Gadd is taking a positive view towards the use of ChatGPT by job hunters.

“I want to hire employees that are using ChatGPT. It’s a wonderful new tool that’s available, I don’t think you should be scared about it,” she says.

She likens it to spell check, which everyone would be encouraged to use. I want to hire employees who are using ChatGPT, she adds.

ChatGPT isn’t great for coming up with ideas or the final check but it’s good for the in-betweeny bit,” says Sam. “I use it every single day. It’s a fantastic new tool.”

At the same time, the HR specialist wants to see applicants can do critical thinking. An employer can often tell an AI-generated job application because it feels mass produced and not targeted. But people did that before ChatGPT, points out Sam.

Olivia Dyet, founder of Empathix, is developing an AI-powered recruitment platform which connects candidates with top businesses within a week. Using AI is one key to this, but the human component is important too, says Olivia, who has been in the HR business for 15 years.

Olivia recently got her 15 year-old son to create a CV with ChatGPT. As Olivia's been using ChatGPT since November, when she created a CV using the tool, her results were much better than her son’s because she understood what she was trying to achieve.

“You’re still going to be able to get insights that show you the capability of the person using the tool," says Olivia. “It’s only as good as you are.”

The employment and HR expert thinks ChatGPT will be useful in helping a candidate wanting to move on from one field to another. If an HR person wants to switch to operations, for instance, they can focus on operational skills they have in their CV to get the job. “To be able to explain those skills using ChatGPT would encourage a broader talent pool. It could be a really good opportunity for people to be able to get into a different field,” suggests Olivia.

Recruiters should feel free to ask a candidate if they used ChatGPT in their application, she believes.

And what if ChatGPT is used by someone to claim knowledge about something they don’t know much about?

This is where good interview questions and knowing what your safeguards are come in, Olivia says. “You can’t replace the interview process in my view and reference checking,” adds the HR tech entrepreneur.

What leading recruitment firms says on navigating candidates using AI

The human face of recruitment remains vital, despite big strides in AI for both employers and candidates, agrees David Trollope, Managing Director of recruitment and workforce solutions company, Hays NZ.

“Once [a candidate] makes the shortlist, they need to impress in a face-to-face interview," he says.

"Our advice is that they then spend the time AI may free up during the application process to thoroughly prepare for an interview."

How can employers and recruiters test candidates as they advance through the recruiting process so they’re confident that the job hunter isn’t leaning too heavily on ChatGPT?

The key is to use a variety of methods to evaluate candidates from different angles, says David.

For instance, design an assessment that focuses on applying their knowledge and experience to a practical situation rather than questions and answers that could be AI- generated or Googled.

“Use real-world scenarios the candidate is likely to encounter in the job and ask them to provide a detailed response or solution.” he suggests.

You could also consider conducting any written assessments at a spare desk in your office so someone can monitor the candidate’s activity and give them a time limit.

Ask them to give a demonstration, presentation or complete another practical task to assess their skills in real-time, he suggests. And, of course, do thorough background and reference checks to help provide valuable insights on their on-the-job performance and skills too.

“Striking the right balance between AI and human capabilities is the challenge, but overall there seems to be a general openness towards staff using AI tools,” David says.

AI is boosting productivity, says academic

University of Otago Professor James Maclaurin, co-author of the report, The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Jobs and Work in New Zealand in 2021, thinks businesses should be open to staff using ChatGPT in the workplace.

“From the research we’re seeing, productivity has been boosted by 30-40% thanks to AI and ChatGPT,” he says.

In 2023, as universities wrestle with how to handle ChatGPT with their students, Professor Maclaurin, co-director of the Centre for AI and Public Policy, says his message is they can use it as they would Google, but they can’t tailor a set of prompts and then put it directly into an essay.

In his courses, he’s asking students to write fewer essays and more work is going on in the room where he can see what people are doing.

In the workplace, meanwhile, it depends if the employer is open to staff members using ChatGPT in their daily work.

If a person has poor writing skills and they put in a ChatGPT-led sample that’s very good,but they’re not allowed to use the tool at work then that’s a problem, says the academic.

However, if the employer is open to the use of Generative AI, you might want to test them on their use of ChatGPT, he suggests.

“Give them a task: ‘write a prompt for me that solves a problem’. Prompt engineers in the US are being paid in the $100,000s so it’s not something everyone can do well, it takes skill,” says Professor Maclaurin.

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