There's a big debate over whether it's OK to use AI in your job search. Some companies say it's 'a definite dealbreaker.'

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There's a big debate over whether it's OK to use AI in your job search. Some companies say it's 'a definite dealbreaker.'
From left: Marlith Kanashiro speaks with a recruiter at the ISG booth setup in the Mega Job Fair held at the FLA Live Arena on June 23, 2022, in Sunrise, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Many job seekers have started using ChatGPT and similar AI tools to write résumés and cover letters.
  • 39% of surveyed HR professionals said using AI in applications is a dealbreaker.
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Job seekers are using ChatGPT for cover letters, job-interview questions, and résumés.

Not all hiring managers are on board.

That's according to a March survey by Wakefield Research of 500 HR and recruiting professionals for the talent-cloud company iCIMS that found 39% of respondents said entry-level job candidates using AI bots such as ChatGPT to make their cover letters or résumés "is a definite dealbreaker." iCIMS and Wakefield Research also surveyed 1,000 college seniors in March.

"Almost half (47%) of college seniors are interested in using ChatGPT or other AI bots to write their resumes or cover letters, and 25% of Gen Z already use an AI bot to help write their résumés or cover letters," a press release from iCIMS said.

Almost a third of responding HR professionals said they "wouldn't hold it against them" if entry-level candidates did use AI tools to create cover letters or résumés, and almost a quarter responded, "I don't love it, but it's the new trend."

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"I don't think it's that they're looking at this like, 'Oh, we don't want them to have that kind of support,'" Christy Spilka, the vice president and global head of talent acquisition at iCIMS, told Insider. "It's more we want to see your authentic self and how you handle certain interview questions."

ChatGPT might not be the best way to tell your story

Mandy Tang is a career coach and business owner. Tang told Insider's Beatrice Nolan a story of receiving a job application that included a cover letter even though the job posting didn't require one. While Tang said the cover letter was "well-formed, incredibly well-written, and had literally everything I wanted," she thought it may have been AI-generated because it seemed to be "just a copy and paste" of the job description.

"I thought of responding to them," Tang said. "But I just moved on and hired three really great people who were actually qualified — this person was probably qualified too, but I wouldn't know it from the cover letter."

Even AI-powered Bing discourages job seekers from using it to write a résumé. Insider's Huileng Tan tried asking the new Bing to generate a cover letter for a role. However, it responded with "I'm sorry, but I cannot write a cover letter for you. That would be unethical and unfair to other applicants," according to Tan's reporting.

AI tools might not even be that helpful for presenting your best self. Insider's Rebecca Knight tried experimenting with ChatGPT to help make her résumé "sharper, better, and targeted at potential senior-level editorial jobs" and said "the results wouldn't move me enough to hire an AI bot to tell my story."

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"There were some helpful ideas, but there were also a lot of flowery phrases, needless superlatives, and bland suggestions," Knight wrote. "The upshot is that while ChatGPT can perhaps offer some inspiration, you still need to put in most of the work yourself."

Instead, use AI as a starting place for an application

Sandy Torchia, KPMG's vice chair of talent and culture, noted in a statement to Insider that people have historically had things including career centers and career coaches as available resources to provide assistance in the job-application process. Torchia added that "generative-AI tools used in the same way could be a game changer."

"For example, an applicant using generative AI to create a résumé or cover letter that accurately depicts their background and experience is far different from an applicant that uses said technology to produce misleading or inaccurate information," Torchia said.

Doug Ebertowski, a former career expert at FlexJobs, told Insider that hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals are "smart people and they can spot something that's canned and not personal to them and their organization."

According to Ebertowski, people could use ChatGPT for a starting point but should then personalize what the bot gives them. That way, hiring managers "can see that this is somebody that's taken time to think about who they are," Ebertowski said.

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Even if you're not using it to write your application, knowing your way around AI is a good skill to tout

While some employers and recruiters may have a negative reaction to using AI in the job-hunting process, career experts also see the benefits of knowing ChatGPT or other types of AI. For example, Lisa Frank of LBF Strategies, a career-coaching and recruitment firm, said she thinks "ChatGPT will increasingly be a marketable skill for candidates to have on résumés and to discuss during interview processes — definitely those who have gone through an online course or even obtained a certification."

"Being skilled in how and when to use ChatGPT effectively and ethically could be a great way to stand out and add value to a role or company," Frank told Insider.

AI could also make you more productive at work. One study that gave customer-support agents access to AI assistance reported that "access to the tool increases productivity" by an average of 14%. While highly skilled workers didn't really benefit, lower-skilled workers did.

"These tools are still really new, so it's hard to predict how companies will use them, given the potential benefits and risks," Trisha Plovie, the senior vice president of Future of Work at Robert Half, said in a statement.

Plovie added that it's hard to say if companies will seek job candidates who have "expertise and experience" with AI tools.

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"That said, learning about new technologies and how they can be leveraged at work is always a good idea, particularly if your job could be impacted by their use," Plovie said.

Have you landed a job with the help of an AI tool? Are you an employer who doesn't want job candidates using AI tools to help with their résumés or cover letters? Reach out to this reporter at mhoff@insider.com.

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