How could ChatGPT help with your job application?
How can it help, and should you use it?
Last updated: 3 May 2023
What you’ll learn:
- ChatGPT can be used to help write your CV and cover letter, but there are drawbacks
- ChatGPT can even help you prepare for job interviews
- Things to look out for when using ChatGPT for job applications
If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the last few months, you’ll probably have heard about ChatGPT. And, depending on who you’ve been listening to, you’ll have either heard it described as the best thing since sliced bread, or the herald of a dystopian future in which we’re ruled over by a class of robot elites.
You might also have come across some of the weird and wonderful things this artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot can do, from writing computer code to playing Tic-Tac-Toe. And, here, we’re going to examine one specific use – can you use ChatGPT in your job applications? And, even if you can, should you?
What is ChatGPT?
Okay, so we aren’t going to get super techy here, but if you’re planning to use ChatGPT to help with your job application, it’s important to understand how it works.
ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology. In other (very simple) words, it allows the analysis and production of human language so that you can, in essence, have human-like conversations with the chatbot.
Specifically, ChatGPT is an example of a generative AI model. It is ‘generative’ because it can produce an output – for example, text. To do this, the chatbot was trained on a vast amount of information from the web, including news articles, websites, books and blogs. This is important to understand, because, currently, the data it was trained on only goes up to 2021. So, if you asked it who won Super Rugby Pacific 2022, it wouldn’t be able to tell you (that said, it’s always the Crusaders, isn’t it?). Keep this drawback in mind, because we’ll be coming back to it later on.
At this point, it’s also crucial to realise that ChatGPT is still in development, and has a number of other significant limitations and grey areas. Given that (shockingly) not everything on the internet is 100% accurate, it’s perfectly possible for the chatbot to produce answers that are incorrect, or just straight up don’t make sense. So, while there are definitely ways that it can help you, it’s far from foolproof.
ChatGPT is currently free for anyone to use.
Another word of warning: There have been recent scares about the security of the personal data you input to ChatGPT, so bear this in mind when using the chatbot.
Writing your CV and cover letter using ChatGPT
We’re going to talk about writing CVs in this section, but essentially everything covered here is relevant to cover letters too.
It’s important to understand that ChatGPT can’t (yet) know what’s relevant to your desired CV or cover letter, or what you’ve done in your career so far. So, if you were to simply say “write me a CV for a marketing job”, it isn’t going to have a clue.
So, what can you do? Well, first it’s important to word your questions and prompts to the chatbot in a specific way. One of the first things that comes with this is assigning specific roles to both you and the chatbot. You’ll also need to provide the basic information for ChatGPT to work from.
For example, a prompt could look like: “I want you to write me a CV for a job. I will provide you with the job description of the role I am applying for, and also with my education and work experience background. Write a CV that matches my skills and experience to the job description. Do you acknowledge?”.
You would then need to copy and paste the job description from the Trade Me Jobs listing and a list of your skills and experience, both clearly labelled, into the chatbot and watch the magic happen.
Now, you might have spotted the drawback here. If you’re having to type out and provide all of the information for your CV or cover letter, are you really saving that much time? And yep, it’s a very valid criticism – fortunately/unfortunately (depending on your viewpoint) ChatGPT doesn’t know your background, and so requires this relevant information..
Another option if you really can’t be bothered to write up this info is to simply adapt the sample prompt above to read something like: “I want you to write me a CV for a job. I will provide you with the job description of the role I am applying for, and I want you to create a CV based on this. Do you acknowledge?”.
What ChatGPT will do here is scrape the relevant info it was trained on and come up with a CV that focuses on the duties described in the job description you provided. For example, if the job description said that “broad spectrum marketing experience including SEO, PPC campaigns and use of Google analytics” was desirable, the chatbot might create a CV including all of these competencies, even if none of this was true for you. However, using ChatGPT in this way isn’t entirely useless, as it can provide you with prompts if you’re not sure what to include on your CV, or help you word things better.
So, how else can ChatGPT help you write a CV and cover letter?
- Acting as a reviewer: one of the most common mistakes people make when writing their CV is not checking it over properly before submitting. You can use ChatGPT to review your resume, and help you look for things like: overuse of buzzwords, how easy it is to scan, whether you’re using enough action verbs, if you need to add more achievements and if you're missing any key sections.
- Tailoring CV sections: you can ask ChatGPT to tailor parts of your CV like your personal statement or summary, as long as you provide your current version and the job description.
- Aligning your CV and cover letter: if you provide ChatGPT with your CV, you can ask the chatbot to create a cover letter to complement it.
- Adapting your tone: this is more relevant for your cover letter. The tone of this document should match the industry you’re applying to. For example, a banking cover letter will typically be more formal than one for a tech start up, so you can specify this when asking the chatbot to create your cover letter.
ChatGPT can help you review your CV to check if you're making mistakes like overusing buzzwords.
A good middle ground
Given these drawbacks, here’s a good middle ground you could adopt. You might want to use ChatGPT to get you started: provide you with some ideas about the skills you need to include, suggest how you can marry them up with your existing experience and provide some pointers on tone and style.
However, to ensure you catch those little potential hiccups that we’ve mentioned, you could then copy and paste this text into our free downloadable CV templates. This will allow you to check the text as you go, and also make sure the chatbot hasn’t done things like repeat the same information in multiple sections. Doing this will also ensure that your formatting is bang on, as we’ve taken the time to create a number of different CV and cover templates based on the most common designs that job applicants use.
The drawbacks of using ChatGPT to help with your CV and cover letter
1. It was only trained up until 2021
Ironically, this might mean the chat bot doesn’t have the latest information on fast changing industries like tech. So, if a bunch of employers are looking for candidates who have familiarity with a newly developed software package that wasn’t in existence before 2021, for example, ChatGPT won’t mention this.
2. It can create errors
You wouldn’t believe it, but there’s the odd 3rror in the text on the internet, which means that ChatGPT has picked these up, and may reproduce them in your documents. So, despite its capabilities as a reviewer, a set of human eyes (or two) should look at any CV or cover letter you submit. Sometimes, it can also write things that mean literally nothing, so that’s another good reason for a thorough review.
3. It can big you up too much
Yep, ChatGPT can over-exaggerate your suitability for a role by outputting incorrect information. Be particularly careful if you’ve specified that you want a certain length of copy written (for example, NZ cover letters should be less than one page long). If the chatbot is looking to fill this space, it can make things up to fill the gaps, which can lead to you inadvertently lying on your application and isn’t a good look.
4. It can be repetitive
While it’s okay to borrow some words and phrases from the job description, hiring managers don’t want to see the whole thing regurgitated back to them. One of the potential issues with ChatGPT is it can do just that, so you’ll need to tailor these responses if it happens to you.
It can also repeat similar bullet points in different sections of your CV if it thinks they’re relevant in more than one place.
Using ChatGPT to help with your interview preparation
Abasic end of the way that ChatGPT can help with your interview preparation is by suggesting common job interview questions you’re likely to face based on the job you’re applying for.
More interesting, it can write a sample answer to these questions based on your background. To do this, you would first need to enter your CV text, so the chatbot understands your skills and experience. Then you could enter a prompt such as “Can you write me a sample answer (based on my CV): [Insert interview question]”,
Even more impressive, you could ask the chatbot to provide this sample answer in the commonly used STAR format (situation, task, actions, results) favoured in interviews. Pretty impressive, huh?
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