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Using AI In Your Job Hunt

  • Director of Strategic Operations at Potentia, Sam Nowell
  • 17 May 2024

In today's job market, AI tools promise efficiency - but originality is key to standing out.

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For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This was Newton’s third law of motion. Sure, he was referring to physics and motion and bodies in space, but I think the adage can apply equally well to the job market too. 

It goes like this: for every AI tool developed to make it easier to apply for jobs, there is an equal and opposite AI tool that helps employers screen those AI-generated applications out. 

The upshot is this: while AI technology has its uses in the job market, it’s still your own human originality that’s the key to standing out.

AI and the job application process

Here’s something we all know: the job market has been weird since COVID. Remote working has gained traction, salaries have momentarily soared due to labour shortages, then the job market crashed. During this (cycle?) there has been an ongoing evolution in HR technology—including the rise of AI powered features within HR tools.

While machine learning technology has been used in recruitment and application assessment systems for some time, it’s now becoming more widespread with the addition of generative capabilities. As the infrastructure grows around it and development becomes cheaper to incorporate the tech, we are only going to see more of it in our workflows.

For the general public, large language models like ChatGPT and Claude seem to promise great things, especially when it comes to saving time and effort around the mouse and keyboard. Why write a cover letter for every single job you want to apply for when you can just copy and paste some text from the advertisement, and tell the platform to write it for you? 

There’s even an aptly-named tool out there at the moment called Lazy Apply. It uses AI tech to apply for jobs—as many as you want—at the click of a button. 

Sounds attractive, right? Easy applications at scale, with little energy required. 

Job done.  

If only it were that easy. 

Because when you lean heavily on AI tools to create a CV or cover letter without thinking, it’s almost always apparent to a recruiter, and that’s just not a good first impression to make. 

If you’ve obviously ‘shotgunned’ your CV—without thought—into the market, why would the employer (our clients) waste time going further with you? It leaves more questions than answers. Does this person do this in other areas of their work? Will they put effort into the interview process?

And what happens if the company does call? Will you know who they are? Will you know what the role is?  Do you know why you are interested, if they ask?

Recently, we hired a junior designer for our business, and, as is often the case, we received literally hundreds of applications. Unfortunately, around 95% of the cover letters included were clearly written by the help of chat GPT. They all read the same way. They all lacked the ‘human touch’. And they were all boring.

And who did we hire in the end? We hired the guy who took the time to communicate with us properly, the guy whose cover letter wasn’t just a standard algorithm output, and the guy who stood out from the crowd because he sounded like a real-life human (and happened to be a great designer) The point is, he got an interview because he stood out from the crowd, and that lead to him being hired.

Make AI work for you

For jobseekers, it’s not about never, ever using AI. 

But if you are going to use it, you better do it right. 

It’s fine to use AI for scaffolding ideas and suggesting a good CV structure, but don't ask it to actually generate all the final content for you.

My advice - Take the time to write a really good CV putting your own personality into the work. Then, if you want to use AI to rephrase something or to tidy up your work, do so, but be sure you prompt and re-prompt until it’s right, and then go back and edit the result yourself if you have to. 

Do that until you’ve come up with something really good, something that pops, and something that will catch the attention of an employer or a recruiter. Most people don’t take the trouble to do that, and as a result, their application lacks a genuine, original voice.

As for us recruiters, yes, we do use AI-based tools, but those tools don't decide who gets the call and who gets an interview. We still review CVs with our own eyes, and we’re still looking for originality, personality and insights that we can understand and promote.

As with most things in life, the best results are achieved through effort, whether that's working on your CV, preparing for an interview, or making sure you’re ready when that screening call comes. 

Simply put, if you do use AI, use it properly—as an assistant—to put your best foot forward, while still being authentically yourself. The company will offer YOU the job, not your AI… for now.

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