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 going through websites and apps these days, surely that online form you filled out is all you need?
A recent survey by Cultivated Culture found that while 53% of employers prefer candidates who add cover letters to their resumes, only 10% of hiring managers actually take the time to read them, further adding to candidate frustration. And if you’re job hunting and want to send out as many resumes as possible, does it really make a difference to write an individual cover letter for each position, or does it just prolong the search for a new job so much?
Now, with the advent of AI tools like ChatGPT, developed by Open.ai and funded by Microsoft with $10 billion, a new era of automation has dawned.
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The question is, can you just get a robot to write a tricky cover letter for you?
Use AI to write your cover letters
British communications company Schwa decided to test the tool’s capabilities. Founder and owner Neil Taylor wanted to see how ChatGPT would perform on a standard writing test that 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 wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds. “I had to cheat a bit,” he said.
“I realized it wasn’t good enough. So I tweaked the brief and asked to write it in the voice of one of my colleagues. That made it a bit friendlier, but still not great. So I asked it to write in the voice of copywriting guru Dave Trott. The result didn’t sound like Dave at all, but it was more powerful.”
Taylor submitted three ChatGPT writing examples to the pool, and one made it. In fact, it came to 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 fared when writing a cover letter for a software engineering job. Here is the result:
Dear Personnel Manager,
I am writing to express my interest in becoming a software engineer at your company. With a passion for coding and a strong background in software development, I am confident I would be a valuable addition to your team.
I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and over three years of professional experience in the industry. During my time at XYZ Corporation, I have developed a wide range of software applications, from desktop to mobile apps, and honed my skills in multiple programming languages including Java, Python and C++. In addition, I have experience working with databases, software architecture and agile methods, which makes me versatile in all aspects of software development.
In my last role, I was part of a team that developed a complex web-based system for a customer. I was responsible for designing and implementing the server-side logic, ensuring its scalability and performance. Through this project I have demonstrated my ability to work effectively in a team and my commitment to delivering quality work on time.
I look forward to the opportunity to bring my skills and experience to your company and to contribute to the development of innovative software solutions. I am particularly drawn to your company’s commitment to creating products that make a positive impact on people’s lives and I believe my passion for technology and problem-solving would be a great fit with your team.
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to further discussing my qualifications with you and am available for an interview.
Even a quick scan of ChatGPT’s efforts reveals that the AI has perfected the format – something that can be really difficult to find. The language flows, it’s a readable, coherent copy.
However, since it does not know anything about the person who intends to use this letter, all details provided are generic. Careful editing is required to add your actual educational and professional details, as well as skills and achievements.
Where ChatGPT can really help a job applicant is in the structure of creating a cover letter, which provides a very useful framework or template to add and personalize. It’s a great starting point.
However, as Taylor noted, “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 can be sent. Taylor agrees, “If you’re writing something that really needs to stand out, like an application […] it won’t cut the mustard.”
There is no doubt that this new tool is very popular. According to a report by CB Insights, it took Instagram and Spotify about 10 weeks and five months, respectively, to reach one million users. ChatGPT reached one million users just five days after launching in late November 2022. By January this year, it had reached 100 million monthly active users. In contrast, it took TikTok nine months to reach the same numbers.
This acceleration in mainstream adoption had positive side effects. Employers predict productivity will increase by 74%. And ChatGPT’s output will only improve with use as the AI learns more about what users are searching for. That means the tool only gets better at creating cover letters that meet recruiters’ expectations.
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