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The Pros and Cons of Using AI to Write Your Cover Letter and Resumé

Crafting a great resumé and cover letter takes time and effort. And it’s even more work to create many customized versions. If the idea of delegating this work to an AI assistant appeals to you, you’re not alone.

Growing numbers of job seekers are getting help from AI software, like ChatGPT or Bing Chat. This software acts as a chatbot that you can have a conversation with. You can ask it questions and give it specific prompts to respond to. For example, you can ask it to provide a list of keywords to use when applying for a restaurant manager job, or what resumé type is best for your specific situation.

Job seekers are also using custom resumé-writing tools, like Zety, Jobscan, Rezi, and Kickresume, to get an edge in the job market. It seems to work! A recent study found that 3 in 4 job seekers who used AI got invited for an interview. And 2 in 3 got hired.

Whether you’re creating a new cover letter, tailoring your resumé, or summarizing your experience in bullet points, AI can be a useful tool. But as with any tool, you need to know how to use it. And sometimes what’s needed is a human touch.

What AI can do for you

When it comes to cover letters and resumés, AI can be a great help. For example, it can:

  • Save time. AI generates content based on your skills and the specific job description. That speeds up the process of customizing a cover letter and resumé for each job application.
  • Check grammar and spelling. Error-free writing makes you look professional.
  • Brainstorm keywords and topics. Many companies use tracking software to analyze resumés. AI can help you identify keywords that improve your chances of making it through the initial screening process.
  • Suggest a useful structure. Like traditional cover letter and resumé templates, AI can provide a structured format that highlights your qualifications.
  • Provide an objective perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to assess how your own skills and experience fit with a job’s requirements. AI can analyze your career history, skills, and achievements to identify connections that you might miss.

The downsides of using AI

AI does some things well, but it’s limited by the quality of the data and algorithms it’s working with. It’s possible the AI software you’re using has gathered outdated or incorrect information. Be sure to verify AIs responses so you don’t repeat its mistakes in your job application.

An AI-generated resumé and cover letter may:

  • Be generic and impersonal. AI tends to produce vague sentences. They sound OK on the surface, but they could apply to anyone.
  • Sound robotic. As you might imagine, machine-generated content can sound stiff and artificial. But hiring managers are human. When they review job applications, they’re looking for a human touch.
  • Contain mistakes. AI makes connections between your experience and the job requirements. Sometimes these connections don’t make sense.
  • Misrepresent your situation or miss the mark. AI is good at identifying predictable relationships. But perhaps you’ve had a non-traditional career path, or you need to account for career gaps. AI may fail to take a strategic approach that positions you as a strong candidate.
  • Include outdated facts and information. AI may have been trained on data that’s not up to date.
  • Make you seem like a cheat. Some hiring managers think using AI to create a resumé is cheating. A recent survey of job seekers found that 1 in 10 were denied a job when the interviewer found out they had used ChatGPT.

Using AI can be especially problematic if you’re applying for a communications or writing role. Interviewers will expect you to have deep skills that don’t require an artificial helping hand.

While AI can be a useful tool, you need to keep the big picture in mind. If you want to find a job, you need to:

  • Invest the time it takes to review job descriptions yourself
  • Analyze how your qualifications fit the job requirements
  • Make sure you know exactly what’s in your application documents

If you delegate your legwork to AI, you could find yourself unprepared when you reach the interview. And tools can’t help you then.

Tips for using AI

When you use AI to help you write resumés and cover letters, the quality of the result depends on 2 factors:

  • The input or prompt you provide
  • How carefully you polish the output

Write a strong prompt

You’ve probably heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out.” It’s the same with AI. The quality of the input determines the quality of the output.

The information you enter into a customized resumé tool or an AI program like ChatGPT is a type of prompt. Your prompt is the blueprint for the content that is produced.

A high-quality prompt should be specific, detailed, and well structured.

How to create a prompt for ChatGPT

Follow these steps to create a ChatGPT prompt for a resumé or cover letter:

  1. State the title of the job you’re applying for.
  2. Describe your experience and skills. Be sure to identify any key projects or skills you want to highlight.
  3. Include relevant keywords, especially those used in the job description.
  4. If you’re applying for the job for a specific reason, or if something particular about the job description appeals to you, mention this in your prompt.
  5. Specify the tone or style of writing you’re looking for. For example, are you aiming to sound formal and professional? Or do you want to sound casual and friendly?
  6. Indicate what specific sections you want your resumé or cover letter to include. For example, if you want to include a summary, key skills, work experience, and achievements, say so in your prompt.
  7. Provide examples. If you’ve seen resumés or cover letters that you like, include these as examples. Ask for a similar style or structure.

Sample ChatGPT resumé prompt

Please tailor my resumé for the position of [TITLE] at [COMPANY]. The tone should be informal. Include my last [X] years of work experience with 3 bullet points per role. Highlight projects that showed [LIST SKILLS]. For each role, include at least 1 keyword from the job description. Here is my resumé [PASTE IN YOUR RESUMÉ OR A LIST OF EXPERIENCE AND SKILLS]. Here is the job description [PASTE IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION].

Not sure how to create a prompt for the output you want? Ask ChatGPT what information and details it needs from you.

Open laptop with blank screen and other office supplies on a work desk

How to Write a Resumé

Find out how to get your resumé ready for your work search. Track your progress as you work on your resumé.

Polish the output

So now you’ve used AI to generate content for your resumé or cover letter. But the software is far from perfect, and your work is not finished yet.

What you have now is just a first draft. It needs to be revised, corrected, and polished before it’s ready to send to an employer.

Here are some AI-related problems to watch for as you do your review:

  • Mistakes in interpreting the job description or your experience
    • AI makes assumptions based on info you provide. But it doesn’t always guess correctly.
  • Wording that closely parrots the wording in the job ad
    • This is a telltale sign that you haven’t taken the time to be creative and original.
  • Generic phrasing
    • Your application material should make you stand out from the crowd. If an AI-generated statement could apply to anyone in your field, cut it. Or revise to make it specific to you.
  • Stilted language
    • You don’t want to sound like a robot! If you read the text aloud and it doesn’t sound like you, rewrite it in your own voice. Or delete it. Or use AI to rewrite the content in a more conversational tone.
  • Insincerity
    • When you talk about why you want the job, make sure this reflects what you really feel.

When you’ve finished your review, be sure to check for other common resumé mistakes. And proofread carefully to make sure your work is error free!

Be strategic: Nothing replaces real intelligence

Used skillfully, AI can be a useful tool to support your job search. But it’s not a substitute for your own intelligence!

The work of knowing yourself, researching the employer, and selling your skills is still up to you. And it’s up to you to make sure you end up with a great resumé and cover letter.

AI can’t do it without you.

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