ChatGPT: Will it kill off the job application cover letter? – The Australian Financial Review

Artificial intelligence is not only changing how we do our jobs but also how we apply for them – and it could spell the end of the cover letter.
Many candidates are now using generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Kickresume to help them write their cover letters, which means some recruiters and HR professionals no longer see them as a useful measure of a candidate’s writing ability and believe they might die out.
But others argue that recent advances in artificial intelligence will just change how a cover letter is judged rather than kill them off.
Culture Amp chief people officer Justin Angsuwat says ChatGPT has further undermined the value of the cover letter. Eamon Gallagher
Culture Amp chief people officer Justin Angsuwat said cover letters had long been a poor indicator of a candidate’s suitability for a given role, as most professionals were rarely required to write in the style of a cover letter in their day jobs. But they had become even less helpful now that artificial intelligence can be used to write them.
“What it mostly demonstrates is that if a company required a cover letter, you listened to the instructions, and you completed them,” Mr Angsuwat said. “But I don’t think it really reveals or shows much else about the candidate because it’s not generally a great form of communication.”
Mr Angsuwat, who is also an executive-in-residence at Blackbird Ventures, said cover letters were only useful when a candidate whose experience did not match the job requirements needed to tell “the story behind that”.
“But aside from that use case, I think it will become less and less relevant … [and] the assessment of your skills will become more and more important.”
Mr Angsuwat said he was unsure whether ChatGPT would kill off the cover letter given it was useful in some circumstances. But he hoped the advent of generative AI would encourage recruiters to make fewer assumptions about a candidate’s ability to do a job based on how they completed one highly specific writing task.
Andrew Hanson, NSW managing director of recruitment firm Robert Walters, who admits to going straight to the CV when assessing a candidate, goes one step further.
“I believe they are dying,” Mr Hanson said.
Given the recent advances in AI, he believes more employers will instead ask candidates to introduce themselves via a short video.
“It’s too easy for [a cover letter] not to be an actual representation of the individual. Whereas I think, for now, that video certainly is a representation of an individual and how they present,” Mr Hanson said.
Ashurst’s James Oliver says cover letters that express a candidate’s personality and passion for a role will stand out in a crowd of AI-written documents. 
James Oliver, senior manager of talent acquisition at law firm Ashurst, is in the more conservative camp when it comes to the cover letter’s fate.
He believes they have a good chance of surviving the latest round of technological disruption given they survived the invention of spellcheck and more advanced writing aids such as Grammarly. But he told The Australian Financial Review that the criteria used to determine what makes a good cover letter would change now that people can easily enlist the help of AI when writing them.
“If you’re using a cover letter because you feel obliged to provide a cover letter, then it provides very little value to us or indeed the candidate,” Mr Oliver said, noting the worst cover letters he receives typically do a poor job at explaining why the candidate is applying for a job at Ashurst specifically.
“[But] if you’re using a cover letter … to basically stand out from the crowd and show your personality, then the cover letter will remain an important part of the recruitment process.”
Mr Oliver said he was happy for candidates to use AI when writing their cover letter, as Ashurst wants to employ lawyers who are comfortable using these types of tools in their day jobs. But he said candidates should only use it as an assistant and must not outsource the entire writing process to AI.
”If [AI] is piloting rather than co-piloting, that will become an issue, and it will become pretty clear during the rest of the recruitment process,” Mr Oliver said.
A survey by Robert Half suggests Ashurst is far from the only Australian employer open to AI being used in the recruitment process.
Fifty-four per cent of the 300 hiring managers surveyed by the recruitment agency in June said it was acceptable for a candidate to use generative AI when creating a cover letter.
Matt Ellis, an internal recruiter at insurance technology company Open, which counts Bupa and ahm among its clients, said hiring managers can still glean enough information about a candidate from an AI-assisted cover letter for it to remain a useful tool.
Among other things, it gives jobseekers an opportunity to show they understand the needs and objectives of the company – information that is not always included in the job ad.
“For me, it’s always going to be just one indicator,” Mr Ellis said. “And then you can [corroborate your assessment of the cover letter] with your technical testing, your interviews and your cultural alignment.”
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