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New artificial intelligence tools are making it easy to generate professional and personalized application materials, and recruiters encourage job seekers to use them.

Human resources professionals who spoke with The Globe and Mail believe tools like Open AI’s ChatGPT are poised to forever change how candidates construct application materials, such as cover letters, résumé points or writing samples, following some early experiments that prove their effectiveness. In one example, the owner of a British-based communications consulting firm tested the software on his own recruitment team, using it to generate a writing sample that was required from candidates for an open position without their knowledge. The response provided by the software was good enough to be shortlisted for an interview, which was only offered to the top 20 per cent of applicants.

Social media is also filled with examples of users putting the software to the test. One Reddit user claimed they used ChatGPT to write cover letters for 10 jobs, four of which followed up within the first two weeks, and videos posted to TikTok demonstrating how to use ChatGPT to write customized cover letters have racked up millions of views.

“For a candidate it’s obviously a game changer,” said Somen Mondal, the general manager of talent intelligence at HR software provider Ceridian. “You can say, ‘I’m applying to a job at Ceridian, here is the job description, here’s my résumé,’ and it can generate a cover letter that is very fine-tuned.”

Recruiters and hiring managers generally encourage candidates to use the technology to beef up their application materials, but warn that it does have some limitations, and shouldn’t be used when applying for certain roles. For example, the text produced by the AI application often lacks personality, and the ethics of using it for academic and professional purposes are still up for debate.

Mr. Mondal, for one, sees no problem with using AI platforms to produce job application materials, so long as the resulting documents provide an accurate representation of the candidate’s skills, education and experience.

“If it is generating content that is accurate then it’s no different than hiring someone to fine-tune your application,” he said, adding that employers have also been using their own AI tools to screen candidates for years. “Now you have AI on one side, you have AI on the other side, and the truth comes out, because it effectively looks at the data.”

Mr. Mondal said that such applications are widely used by recruiters to sort candidates based on keywords, data and other metrics found in their application materials. He added that just as AI-powered recruitment software is typically designed to reduce bias in the hiring process, ChatGPT can also level the playing field for candidates who lack written communication skills, especially for those who don’t speak English as a first language. “When it comes to talent decisions it should help reduce bias, because style of writing can totally lead to bias.”

The same is also true of roles and industries where candidates don’t need to have strong communication skills to be successful, such as in IT.

“These individuals are not writers, they’re not English majors; they’re very technical individuals,” said Gary Hinde, a partner, technology practice lead and head of learning and development at IQ Partners, a Toronto-based executive search and recruitment firm. “They may not jump out at you as the strongest writer, so there’s a huge opportunity for those individuals to get that interview to prove what they’re really capable of.”

Mr. Hinde, however, does not encourage candidates applying for roles that require strong communication skills to lean too heavily on automated solutions when crafting their application materials.

“We do a lot of work in the health care and pharmaceutical space, where I think there would be very real risks if somebody was not able to communicate effectively,” he said. “There could be some potentially harmful side effects if someone is misrepresenting their skills.”

Mr. Hinde says the same is true for marketing and communications roles, and others that list communication skills as a requirement. He adds that the interview process would ultimately weed out those who lack the necessary skills but encourages candidates not to waste recruiters’ time.

“Where this becomes an issue is for [roles] where they’re paying you for your English writing ability,” he said. “That’s where I may draw a line.”

Instead of avoiding the technology altogether, however, those who use AI tools to apply for jobs that require written communication skills might want to disclose that information on the application. Philippe De Villers, the vice-chair of the board for Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada, believes including a disclosure that says parts of the application were generated using AI could serve as a litmus test for prospective employers.

“Traditional work environments would probably freak out,” he said. “Other work environments where creativity and courage and resourcefulness are valued, they’ll love it.”

Mr. De Villers said that most industries are struggling with talent shortages and seeking to do more with less. He said using a tool like ChatGPT to assist in the job application process demonstrates a certain degree of comfort using technology to enhance productivity, which he believes employers should embrace.

“If the company you are applying to thinks it’s too bold or it’s not respectful, then it might not be a good place for you anyway.”

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