Cover letters are something that many applicants really struggle with. Many people are not even convinced that they are necessary. With so many job applications taking place through websites and apps these days, surely that online form you filled out isn’t enough?
A recent survey of Cultivated Culture found that while 53% of employers prefer candidates to include cover letters with their resumes, only 10% of hiring managers actually take the time to read them, adding to applicant frustration. And if you’re looking for a job and want to send out as many applications as possible, does writing an individual cover letter for each job really make a difference, or does it just make the process of finding a new job that much longer?
Now, with the advent of AI tools like ChatGPTcreated by Open.ai and the recipient of $10 billion in funding from Microsoft, a new era of automation has arrived.
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The question is, can you just have a robot write you a tricky cover letter?
Using AI to write your cover letters
The British communications company Schwa decided to test the capabilities of the tool. Founder and owner Neil Taylor wanted to see how ChatGPT would fare when it came to a standard writing test, which the company sets for all potential employees.
In a blog post, Taylor revealed that he asked ChatGPT to write 300 words about the secret of good writing. The process was not as easy as it sounds. “I had to cheat a little bit,” he said.
“I noticed it wasn’t good enough. So I modified the assignment and asked to write in the voice of one of my colleagues. This made it a little friendlier, but still not great. So then I asked it to be writing in the voice of copywriting guru Dave Trott. The result didn’t sound like Dave at all, but it was spicier.”
Taylor submitted three ChatGPT writing samples into the pool and one made the cut. It even entered the top 20% of all shortlisted candidates. Not a bad result, so when it comes to something even less complicated, like a fairly standard cover letter, should you use ChatGPT?
We tested the tool to see how it would go with writing a cover letter for a software engineering job. This is the result:
Dear Human Resources Manager,
I am writing to express my interest in the software engineering position at your company. With a passion for programming and a strong background in software development, I believe I would be a valuable addition to your team.
I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and more than three years of professional experience in the industry. During my time at XYZ Corporation, I developed a wide variety of software applications, from desktop applications to mobile apps, and honed my skills in several programming languages, including Java, Python, and C++. In addition, I have experience working with databases, software architecture and Agile methodologies, which makes me good at all aspects of software development.
In my most recent role, I was part of a team developing a complex web-based system for a client. I was responsible for designing and implementing the server-side logic to ensure scalability and performance. Through this project I have demonstrated my ability to work effectively in a team and my commitment to delivering high quality work on time.
I am excited about the opportunity to bring my skills and experience to your company and contribute to the development of innovative software solutions. I am particularly drawn to your company’s commitment to creating products that positively impact people’s lives, and I believe my passion for technology and problem solving would be an excellent fit for your team.
Thank you for considering my application. I am eager to discuss my qualifications further and am available for an interview at your convenience.
Even a quick scan of ChatGPT’s efforts shows that the AI has nailed the format – something that can be very tricky to get right. The language flows, it is a readable, coherent piece of text.
But because it knows nothing about the person who wants to use this letter, all the details provided are generic. Careful editing is required to add your actual education and job details, as well as skills and achievements.
Where ChatGPT can really help an applicant is the structure of creating a cover letter that provides a very useful framework or template to add to and personalize. It’s a great starting point.
But, as Taylor discovered, “AIs are brilliant at being average.” That extra level of human interaction is absolutely necessary to get a ChatGPT generated cover letter to a place where it is ready to send. Taylor agrees: “If you’re writing something that really needs to stand out, like a job application […] it won’t cut the mustard.
There is no doubt that this new tool is immensely popular. It took Instagram and Spotify about 10 weeks and five months respectively to reach one million users a report from CB Insights. ChatGPT reached one million users just five days after its launch in late November 2022. By January of this year, it had reached 100 million monthly active users. In contrast, it took TikTok nine months to reach the same numbers.
That acceleration in mainstream adoption has had positive knock-on benefits. Employers predict that productivity increases by 74%. And ChatGPT’s output will only improve with use, as the AI learns more about what users are looking for. This means that the tool is only getting better at creating cover letters that meet recruiters’ expectations.
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