Applying for jobs can be a tedious, time-consuming process, so it’s no surprise that some job seekers are turning to generative AI tools like ChatGPT to write their resumes and cover letters for them.
In a February 2023 Resume Builder survey, 1,000 of the 2,153 survey respondents said they had used ChatGPT to write a resume or cover letter. Of those who used it, 78 percent said they landed an interview and 59 percent said they received a job offer. (Interestingly, 11 percent believe they were denied a job for using ChatGPT.)
Despite its popularity, ChatGPT presents some thorny issues for resume writing. It can generate generic, wordy sentences and, in some cases, false information. Some hiring managers also see its use as plagiarism, especially if job applicants simply copy and paste information they didn’t write and pass it off as their own.
Others see those plagiarism concerns as overblown. They point out that job seekers have long used resume-writing services to present themselves in a better light. ChatGPT and other AI tools are hardly any different, they say; they’re merely democratizing resume-writing assistance for candidates who may lack writing skills or for whom English is a second language.
So, is ChatGPT more trouble than it’s worth, or is it an instant cheat code for landing your next job? Or is it more like a calculator, a tool whose performance is ultimately dependent on the information entered by the user?
The Case Against ChatGPT for Resume Writing
ChatGPT can be great at gathering or distilling information, but the process of creating a resume cannot be totally outsourced to technology. At the end of the day, you need to sit with some difficult questions, map your own career journey and play an active role in achieving those goals.
1. AI Can’t Identify Your Accomplishments
While ChatGPT can be helpful in providing resume inspiration, applicants still need to understand their skills, accomplishments and the value they can bring to their next organization.
ChatGPT doesn’t know the scale of the workload you took on. It doesn’t know how often you met your quarterly goals or what innovations you helped implement. In the end, it’s up to you to know your own value in the professional world and to be able to communicate that value to prospective employers.
“Only the applicant can describe their unique strengths and how they bring value to a position,” said Lorraine Ortiz, chief people officer at First Internet Bank. “That is a crucial differentiator in gaining our attention and getting an interview.”
2. It Might Make Your Resume Sound Generic
Anyone who has used ChatGPT regularly can get a feel for the formulaic and verbose responses that it generates. It often uses lots of filler words and frilly adverbs, like adding “successfully” before any bullet-pointed accomplishment.
This type of language may raise the suspicions of hiring managers, but it also creates an unnecessary distraction from your accomplishments. Resume writers should be trying to convince the hiring manager with clear, direct language that ties their experience to the company’s needs, and transitional fluff does the exact opposite of that.
Besides, your resume is a way to showcase your individuality, creativity and what you could bring to the company. Applicants who lean too heavily on ChatGPT miss out on the chance to stand out from the rest of the pack.
3. It Might Produce False Information
While ChatGPT might convince you that it knows what it’s talking about, it (and other generative AI tools) have a propensity to “hallucinate,” or make up information, when it doesn’t have all the facts. It’s also possible that the AI-generated information is accurate but irrelevant to your work history and the job you’re applying for.
Job seekers who use AI tools to find the most important keywords in a job description probably won’t have to worry about AI misinformation as long as they have read and digested the job description.
That said, if applicants ask ChatGPT to tell them about sample accomplishments for a project manager, for example, they may want to check that ChatGPT’s understanding of a project manager reflects their own work experience. A project manager in one industry could have a vastly different set of responsibilities than a project manager in another industry.
4. Companies Might Catch You Using It
Some companies use special software that can sniff out AI-generated resumes. While these tools may not yet be widely adopted, job seekers tempted to lift sentences directly from ChatGPT may want to proceed with caution.
Copyleaks, an AI-powered text analysis company, has “more than 100” clients that use its technology to identify which resumes and cover letters were generated by AI, according to CEO Alon Yamin.
“What we’re seeing is that very high percentages of the cover letters and resumes that are being submitted to businesses are actually straight out of ChatGPT,” Yamin told Built In. “In some cases, candidates are taking the next steps of editing some of the outputs from ChatGPT and making it their own, but in a lot of cases, it’s just like a copy-paste situation.”
Yamin said he thinks ChatGPT and other AI tools can be useful for researching topics, developing a template or brainstorming potential ideas. If someone were to take information from ChatGPT and rewrite it in their own words, Yamin said Copyleaks would not flag the content as AI (unless those revisions were just minor tweaks).
The Case for Using ChatGPT for Resume Writing
While generative AI tools like ChatGPT are unlikely to spit out sentences that will set you apart from a crowded field of applicants, they remain useful tools to help you research and brainstorm.
These tools work because they have been trained on vast troves of information from the internet, which allows them to draw connections and generate words based on their statistical likelihood to come next in a sentence. And that makes them particularly useful in multiple phases of the resume writing process, such as researching similar job descriptions across the web, distilling job descriptions to their key elements, generating ideas for a first draft and sharpening language to focus on key results.
1. It Can Help Brainstorm Accomplishments
ChatGPT can provide inspiration for applicants struggling to think of accomplishments in previous roles. To get started, applicants can input their current or former job description and ask ChatGPT to generate sample accomplishments for that role.
While the accomplishments the tool generates are obviously fictional, candidates can use this information to think about similar achievements they might have forgotten about or taken for granted.
Applicants who already have a resume or a summary of their professional achievements can also ask ChatGPT to sharpen each accomplishment to be more results-oriented.
ChatGPT can also draft a professional summary to include at the top of the resume. But applicants would be better off avoiding language directly from ChatGPT, said Marie Zimenoff, CEO of Career Thought Leaders Consortium and Resume Writing Academy.
“I’ve seen so many recruiters say that I can tell if you’ve written your cover letter or resume with ChatGPT in the first few sentences because it writes the same summary for everyone,” Zimenoff said.
2. It Can Help You Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description
Tweaking your resume to include the same keywords of your desired job description will show recruiters, hiring managers and applicant-tracking systems that your work experience aligns with the responsibilities of the job.
ChatGPT can help job seekers do this by identifying the most important keywords in a job description. Applicants can input the job description of their desired job into ChatGPT and ask it to pull out three or five skills that are important to that job. They can then center their resume around those keywords to improve their resume’s chances of rising to the top of the applicant pool.
Applicants can also input their resume and ask ChatGPT to tailor it to a specific job description. But Zimenoff said ChatGPT tends to provide bland, generic language in those instances. A more useful exercise, she said, would be asking ChatGPT to identify the gaps between your resume and the job description, which you can then address with additional accomplishments from your work experience.
“[ChatGPT] is a research assistant,” she said. “It is not the person you want making the strategic decisions for you.”
3. it Demonstrates Resourcefulness
Some recruiters see an applicant’s use of ChatGPT as an indication of their ability to leverage new technologies.
“When I think about the people that we want to hire, we want someone who’s going to take the initiative to use resources, be innovative and do something in a time-effective way,” said Shayna Royal, director of talent acquisition at Paycor. “I personally would not go apply for a job today without running my resume through some kind of AI solution to make sure that it is the best it can be.”
In any case, the most important part of the interview process is the interview itself, which is where candidates will have to answer more detailed questions about their skills and work experience. Any falsehoods or misrepresentations will come to light.
“Ultimately,” Royal said, “it falls on us [recruiters] to be great interviewers and really dig in to make sure people can back up what’s on paper.”