ChatGPT as a Job-Hunting Tool: Does it Live Up to the Hype?
ChatGPT as a Job-Hunting Tool: Does it Live Up to the Hype?

If there's one thing 2023 might get known for, it’s artificial intelligence (AI). The topic of AI seems inescapable these days, with countless news stories showcasing the emerging capabilities of sites like ChatGPT and making predictions about the impact such tools will have on all aspects of our lives, including our career prospects.

However, the question I'm asked the most often about AI is whether it can play a valuable role in the day-to-day efforts of the typical job seeker. To find out, I ran a series of career-related questions through the most prominent AI site, ChatGPT 4 — then I graded the responses it generated based on my 30 years of expertise in the career coaching field. Here are the results:

Prompt: "What are some good career change options for teachers?"

Grade: B

Right out of the gate, I'll admit, I was impressed. If you've been in a particular field for a while and are ready for a change but are having trouble determining the possible options you might consider, ChatGPT can play a surprisingly helpful role. Type in a question like the one above but using your profession — and voila, ChatGPT starts spitting out a list of ideas!

In this hypothetical case of a teacher wanting to make a change, it suggested options like instructional designer, corporate trainer, educational consultant and school administrator. These are all very reasonable suggestions. The only real knock I'd have on the results is that the suggestions are fairly mainstream and predictable. However, if you rephrase the search to add a specific number of results you're seeking (e.g., "50 good career change options"), you'll get an even longer list containing some more creative and unorthodox possibilities.

Prompt: "Write a cover letter for a non-profit fundraising leader."

Grade: C

While I've read countless articles claiming that AI tools like ChatGPT can write cover letters that are good as human-produced ones, I'm afraid I'm just not seeing it. ChatGPT is an amazing tool and can write grammatically flawless content, but it fails to produce letters with any real spark or originality.

So, if you're looking to do the bare minimum and submit a generic letter that makes you sound like everybody else, ChatGPT is perfectly adequate. But if your goal is to write a document that differentiates you as a candidate, alas, it takes a little more effort than pushing a button.

You'll need to analyze the needs and culture of the target employer, figure out the unique points that make you stand out and express them in an original, engaging way. ChatGPT isn't there yet, in my experience. It can be a crutch for people who aren't strong writers, but it isn't going to produce any copy that makes a hiring manager fall off their chair with enthusiasm for a particular candidate.

Prompt: "Write a LinkedIn summary for a marketing manager known for strengths in strategy, creativity and team leadership."

Grade: D

While this task is similar to the cover letter exercise above and contains more specific prompt language, I'd knock the results down an entire grade further since ChatGPT doesn't seem to understand LinkedIn — or it’s best practices.

Again, it can spit out some clichéd paragraphs related to any profession you ask about, but there's no soul in the writing to distinguish it from millions of similar profiles. Moreover, a LinkedIn Summary (the About section) is a tailor-made place to insert keywords related to your skills and define the specialized company types and industry sectors you’re targeting.

Instead of just pasting in a few auto-generated paragraphs describing your skills in vague terms, I'd suggest adding a bulleted list of 15-20 competencies in the middle of your summary. And then finishing with a paragraph outlining the specific categories of companies you're targeting and particular product or service categories you've got deep experience around. You'll have much better odds of coming up in recruiter searches and ranking high in the site's search algorithm.

Prompt: "What are some top keywords for project managers?"

Grade: A

Over the years, I've had many job hunters agonize over the importance of identifying the right keywords to use on their resume, particularly to help their documents get through scanning systems. Not only do we all tend to take certain skills and jargon for granted, but the language of the job market constantly evolves as well.

But guess what? ChatGPT does a bang-up job at helping with this. If you run a search on keywords related to an occupational field, the site will spit out a great list of competencies ideal for including on resumes and LinkedIn profiles while simultaneously avoiding any fluffy, soft or low-level terms. For best results, ask it to outline the "top 50" or "top 100" keywords in a given field and it will jog your memory around potentially relevant language that you might have overlooked.

Prompt: "How can a job candidate combat age bias?"

Grade: B - D

Apart from the common scenarios I've shared above, ChatGPT can also be a great place to ask specific questions about niche career-related issues and how to address them effectively. It digs through all the available literature on these topics and summarizes the results into coherent suggestions.

So if you're on the hunt for a new role, don't be afraid to ask the site for advice on all kinds of things, like how to handle career gaps on your resume, how best to search for remote jobs, how to get around the lack of a college degree or how to answer the greatest weakness question in an interview. The sky's the limit.

As for the quality of these answers? In the hypothetical case above when I asked ChatGPT for advice on overcoming age discrimination, it produced some tips that were fairly on point — but then also offered some fairly head-scratching suggestions. For example, it encouraged job hunters to potentially ask hiring managers if age bias was a concern for them. Call me crazy, but I don't think that AI-driven suggestion would play out all that well in the real world!

So, for this final test, I'd give the system a mixed bag in terms of grades. Some of the advice shared to specific career-related questions was extremely on point, while other recommendations were trite, outdated or borderline inaccurate.

Ultimately, there can be no denying the incredible progress that AI has made over the past year. While it's still far from foolproof, it's going to be fascinating to watch how this jaw-dropping technology improves further in the years to come and the role it plays — for better or worse — in the modern job-hunting process.

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Author Matt Youngquist

Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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