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Using ChatGPT for Job Application writing

28 March 2023

ChatGPT is a game changer in many ways, and if you haven't already had a play with it I highly encourage you to do so.  It is a skill set likely to become as useful as typing. 

I recently ran it through the task of writing job applications and I think it has a lot to offer.

I know a lot of you are squirming and reacting, and think that this is cheating - I get that.  The demands of writing a job application though stop too many talented people even considering a role, and I think that is a big pity.  It is a double pity when writing isn't even a large part of a role.

Consider: Have you ever seen a job that you are attracted to, but didn't follow through because of the cognitive load it would take, insufficient time, the awkwardness of the task, writers block, imposter syndrome, or a whole host of other competing demands when lots of things happening.

ChatGPT won't be a silver bullet, and it has serious limitations, primarily because it doesn't bring insight.  But using some of the tips I outline below I think it can make the task of writing a job application smoother, more fun, and help you produce better pieces of writing.  You will still need to bring the magic element of 'you' by editing and adjusting the writing it produces, but it will give you a clear, concise, and well written structure to edit from.

If the thought of using an AI (artificial intelligence) is scary, playing is the best way to overcome this.  My suggestion is to play long before you have a live job that you want to use it for.

Here are the things I have learnt from my playing.

I used ChatGPT to write job applications in two ways:

1. To generate a first draft
2. To edit an already written application

To generate a first draft start with a prompt such as: 

Use the following job description [insert the link to the job] to write a job application. Keep the application to a minimum of 1000 words [an average page of writing is 500 words] and emphasise the skills of 'achieving results' and 'strategic thinking'.

To edit an already written application use a prompt such as:

Suggest edits to the following job application.  Use this job description [insert the link to the job] as context.  Ensure the skills of 'achieving results' and 'strategic thinking' are clearly presented.

Job application: [insert what you have already written].

Note: substitute achieving results and strategic thinking for the skills that you most want to emphasise.

You can also use a previous application which will help the AI pick up your style:

Rewrite the following job application using this job description [insert the link to the job] as context.

Job Application: [insert a previous job application]

The first draft generated is likely to be formulaic, sound "salesy", and will lack nuance so you will need to use follow up prompts to refine the writing.  ChatGPT will also invent things such as the length of your experience, or things you have achieved.  Obviously edit these in the final document.  Additionally, it is unlikely you will end up with a complete application. What you will have is a range of pieces of writing you can string together then edit into the final piece.

Below are some follow up prompts I used that were effective.

Adjust the tone of the job application to be more personable [or analytic, or strategic, or impactful, or any other tone you want - again play].

Include an example of working in partnership [or other skill area].

Adjust paragraph three to include the following example [insert an example you have already written].

Replace the example in paragraph three with the following [insert your own example].

Include a paragraph that describes how I develop relationships [or any other skill].  Include the concepts of [insert words that describe what you think is important in developing relationships or whatever skill you are adding a paragraph about].

Act like a Senior Manager [or some other character e.g. an IT Graduate, or a Consultant...] and adjust the writing to reflect high level decision making.

Remove the words excellent, well-developed, effective, high-level, capacity, ability, and highly.  [These are weasel words - see this article.]

As you play I would love to hear about prompts you have used that were effective.

Some additional hints are:

Capture the writing in another document as you go along.
Open new chats to explore different aspects.
Be aware that you are likely to hit a character limit (that is currently not specified) - writing turns red.  When you do open a new chat and transfer the draft you are working on over.

ChatGPT can break the back of writing a job application, but it is up to you to take what it produces and edit it to ensure it is truthful, accurate, and reflective of what you have done and how you work.

The letter/application is only half of the documentation and your resume remains equally valuable in communicating your skills and experience.  Keeping your resume polished and up to date is something I have long advocated and if you need help in getting yours up to scratch reach out.

Something that has worried me for a long time is that hiring managers often use the quality of the written application as a short cut way to assess writing skills.  This is a poor measure.  Writing about yourself is very different to the typical style of writing people need to do in the workplace.  AI generated writing is going to level this playing field and encourage hiring managers to use more accurate ways to assess writing at the level of skill that is really needed in a role.
The action to take now is to carve out some time to have a play with ChatGPT.  I found it fun and am sure you will too.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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