ChatGPT writing résumés and cover letters needn’t be feared, HR pros say

Despite the popularity and sophistication of the AI chatbot, ‘We still can’t fake the human element’ of recruiting, says one director of talent acquisition.
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· 4 min read

The drudgery of writing résumés and cover letters could soon be shouldered by machines that handle the scutwork on behalf of candidates. But don’t hyperventilate just yet: The talent acquisition industry hasn’t quite reached singularity. Just the integration of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is the latest tool from artificial intelligence lab OpenAI. The initials stand for “generative pre-trained transformer,” and it has proven itself a scarily good wordsmith for the un-writerly applicant since its November release. The AI chatbot is able to craft convincing prose based on simple prompts, like, say, “write a cover letter based on this job description for a professional petter of cats.”

ChatGPT isn’t the first AI harnessed for résumé writing, but it stands to be a gamechanger, lauded by the New York Times as the “best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.” Reddit threads are abuzz with chatter of its convenience for cutting down on the tedium of job applications.

David Fano, CEO of the career coaching platform Teal HQ, likened ChatGPT to a “calculator” for job applicants who need that extra oomph when applying to gigs. His company is working on incorporating the tool into its slate of offerings, he explained to HR Brew.

Even though the AI could conceivably give candidates something of a cheat code to foil applicant tracking systems, HR pros told us they aren’t worried about ethical dilemmas that might arise from using the assistant to potentially game the system. Myriad concerns hang over the wider discussion of AI and its use in the workplace—but don’t expect the technology to completely supplant human interaction between candidate and employer in the interview process.

When it comes to recruiting, “We still can’t fake the human element of it,” Eryn Marshall, senior director of global recruiting at the talent enablement platform Oyster, told HR Brew. “You still have to get through the five rounds of interviews.”

Nobody likes a résumé. Résumés present challenges for candidates and employers alike, from the various racial and gender biases they can perpetuate to the occasionally byzantine online portals candidates must navigate. Recruiters are regularly inundated with CVs. Oftentimes, the results are ugly.

“We have to look at a lot of résumés…and most of them are pretty bad,” Marshall explained. To that end, she’s willing to embrace the possibility of ChatGPT making the average résumé better. “I’m all for putting your best foot forward and giving me something actually engaging and relevant to look at,” she said.

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A recruiter might feel uneasy about a cover letter written with the help of AI. The recruiting process has traditionally centered on determining skills based on the “natural language” an applicant uses in their résumé, rather than wondering where the document came from, according to Rania Stewart, senior director in the Gartner HR practice. It’s basically impossible, however, to tell if an application was assembled using ChatGPT. “They’re also not looking for it,” Stewart added.

Marshall said she’s only knowingly seen one cover letter generated by AI in a YouTube video, but said it came across more human than machine. “I thought it was pretty good. And no, I couldn’t tell the difference,” she said.

Slashing time. The tool seems to provide a welcome resource for candidates, because it can dramatically reduce the time it takes to fine-tune and tweak a résumé, Beto Garza, a tech professional who was laid off in December, explained to HR Brew. He said he’s been able to send out around 400 applications with the help of ChatGPT.

“I have not closed the tab once since the middle of December,” he said. Though he hasn’t been swarmed with interview requests, he’s confident that in a better job market, he would be.

If most applicants were to follow Garza’s playbook, it would result in more work for recruiters, Marshall said: “More people to screen is more work...and if we have to filter through those with actual human conversations, it is going to be more work for us.”

The human element. Of course, the possibility remains that a candidate might use ChatGPT to misrepresent their credentials. But candidates lying is not a new problem: 72% of 1,250 US workers surveyed by Resume Builder in January admitted to lying on their résumés at some point.

Plus, the majority of companies will put a candidate in front of a human to assess their skills and fit for the job. “If you’ve built a really thorough, well thought-out interview process that’s based on competencies and behavioral based interviews, you’ll be able to determine whether or not somebody actually has the skills for the job,” Marshall said.

And AI cannot compete with that quite yet.—SB

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.