How AI can land you your next job; even if you’re not qualified

For job seekers, generative AI presents a unique opportunity to level the playing field and take control of their career trajectories.
Industries: Work
  • Executive summary
  • AI in the job-hunting landscape
  • Shifting the balance of power
  • How can jobhunters wield AI?
  • If companies can, why can’t job seekers?
  • The death knell of the CV?
  • Does AI work?
  • Tomorrow’s job market
  • Learnings

Executive summary

With the rapid development of AI, concerns about its potential to displace human workers have become increasingly prevalent. But what if it could also be the other way around, and AI could actually help you land the job of your dreams? ChatGPT, for example, can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and suggest possible career paths that allow you to capitalise on those strengths. Another AI tool, Sonara, goes even further. In addition to finding available job opportunities that match your search criteria, it can also automatically apply for them on your behalf.

  • According to a Canva survey, 45% of respondents admit to using generative AI to create or enhance their resumes.
  • The same survey also revealed that 90% of hiring managers consider this practice acceptable.
  • However, a survey by Resume Genius found that 50% of hiring managers see AI-generated content on a resume as one of the biggest red flags.
  • “If companies are going to implement it into their processes, it should be OK for a candidate to use it,” says Jaune Little, director of recruiting services at Insperity.
  • “The caution I would give to jobseekers is that AI can act as a good co-pilot but don’t let the tech try and do it all for you,” highlights Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna.

Generative AI will likely transform the way job seekers approach the daunting task of finding a job. However, AI could also allow unqualified candidates to slip through the cracks. This could even lead to a decrease in motivation among skilled job seekers if the appearance of perfection starts garnering more results than actual expertise.

AI in the job-hunting landscape

By now, you’ve probably heard dozens of grim predictions about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to swoop in and take your job. But what if, instead of taking over your job, AI could actually help you land the job of your dreams? As anyone who has ever been unemployed can attest to, job hunting can be a deeply frustrating experience. While the arrival of online job boards in the 1990s promised to level the playing field between employers and job seekers, the reality turned out to be somewhat different.

Suddenly companies found themselves flooded with applications that were nearly impossible to sort through manually. To address this issue and streamline their hiring process, many companies turned to AI for help. However, this introduced some challenges of its own, causing no end of frustration on both sides. Job seekers would often find themselves submitting countless applications without receiving so much as a courtesy rejection letter, leaving them demoralised. Employers also realised that AI tools were seriously flawed, often selecting candidates who would eventually turn out to be a poor fit.

Many job seekers are now turning to AI to give themselves a better chance of passing through those early rounds of the recruitment process. In some instances, they are using it to spruce up their cover letters and resumes or even apply to jobs automatically. It may not all be roses, however: What if the use of AI to gain an edge in the labour market creates an unfair advantage for those least qualified for the role?

“It’s an arms race where one side has tanks, and the other side has sticks—or nothing. We’re finally equipping the other side”.

Victor Schwartz, founder, Sonara

Shifting the balance of power

While companies have used AI for years to streamline the hiring process, the emergence of generative AI could potentially shift the balance of power in favour of job seekers.

Before we dive deeper into how job seekers are using AI, let’s briefly talk about the technology itself. Over the last couple of years, we have witnessed the remarkable rise of generative AI, famed for its ability to produce content that is nearly impossible to differentiate from human-generated work. Initially, generative AI found its footing in creative industries, with applications ranging from creating realistic images and artwork to crafting compelling stories. As the technology matured and became more accessible, it began to permeate other sectors, streamlining various processes and offering innovative solutions to long-standing challenges. Given its increasing prevalence, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to integrate the technology into the job-seeking process as well.

There is no shortage of ways in which generative AI can assist job seekers, including matching them with suitable positions and crafting tailored resumes and cover letters that align with specific job postings. In addition to saving a ton of time and effort, this can also increase their chances of being selected by the employer’s AI software. ChatGPT, perhaps the most well-known of the generative AI chatbots, can be of great help to job seekers in this regard. Once you share your resume with it, ChatGPT can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and suggest possible career paths that allow you to capitalise on those strengths. If there is a specific job you are interested in, ChatGPT can also help you tailor your resumé to that position and create a personalised cover letter that can help you stand out from the crowd.

How can jobhunters wield AI?

There is already a vast number of generative AI tools designed to make the job application process easier for job seekers and increase their chances of landing a job.

While ChatGPT can tighten up your resumé, Sonara, automates the entire application process. In addition to finding available job opportunities that match your search criteria, it can also automatically apply for them on your behalf. The idea to create Sonara was inspired by the frustrations experienced by its founder, Victor Schwartz, during his own job search after graduating from Duke University. Despite submitting nearly 1,000 applications, Schwartz found himself struggling to land a job.

Before long, he realised that the system was inherently flawed and working against the interests of job seekers. Determined to make a difference, Schwartz drew upon his background in computer science to develop a solution that would give job seekers a fighting chance. “It’s an arms race where one side has tanks, and the other side has sticks—or nothing”, he says. “We’re finally equipping the other side”. Sonara is not the only software on the market serving such a function, however—tools like Teal and AI Apply offer similar functionalities.

So let’s say that AI has landed you an interview—now what? Well, this is where an AI bot called Prepper comes in. Developed by job search engine Adzuna, the bot can generate interview questions that are tailored specifically to the position you are applying for and provide personalised feedback based on your responses. Each answer is scored on a scale of 0 to 100, allowing you to see what you did right and which areas require improvement.

AI can even help you improve your performance during a video interview. Final Round AI, a startup founded by an app developer known pseudonymously as “Michael G”, has developed an interview co-pilot that sits in the background and generates real-time answers to a recruiter’s questions, enabling the delivery of better, more contextually appropriate responses. “You have celebrities and TV hosts looking at teleprompters all the time. Why can’t ordinary people use a teleprompter?” asks Michael.

“I think if companies are going to implement it into their processes, it should be OK for a candidate to use it”.

Jaune Little, director of recruiting services, Insperity

If companies can, why can’t job seekers?

Many industry experts believe that job seekers should be able to use any technology that the companies themselves are using.

When asked to share their views on the use of AI in the job search process, experts appear divided on the idea. Amy Schultz, global head of talent acquisition for graphic design platform Canva, believes job seekers should embrace any tool that can alleviate the stress and uncertainty associated with finding employment. “We know that job seeking can be really hard, it can be really daunting, so if there’s something that can make you feel better about that experience, then I think that folks should lean into that”, she says. This sentiment is echoed by Jaune Little, director of recruiting services at HR firm Insperity, who argues it’s only fair that job seekers should be allowed to use the same technology the companies are using. “I think if companies are going to implement it into their processes, it should be OK for a candidate to use it”, says Little.

While he agrees that AI can help make the process easier for job seekers, Andrew Hunter, co-founder of recruitment platform Adzuna, warns against relying too heavily on the technology. “The caution I would give to jobseekers is that AI can act as a good co-pilot but don’t let the tech try and do it all for you”, he says. “ It’s very nascent tech, it will spit out cookie-cutter answers. If you let the initial interactions with the employer be fully run by AI, then you aren’t going to be able to do the job”.

One area where AI may prove particularly beneficial is in helping lower-skilled workers identify their transferable skills and how their experiences can translate to other roles. “A clerk at Trader Joe’s doesn’t always know what their skills are”, explains Nitzan Pelman, founder and chief executive of nonprofit upskilling platform Climb Hire. “If they know how to tell ChatGPT about what they do, it can help them translate those things into skills that could help them break into white-collar jobs”.

The death knell of the CV?

Some experts are opposed to the use of generative AI in the job application process, going so far as to call it a deal-breaker.

Not everyone is equally enthused about the use of AI in the job application process, with some going as far as to suggest that it heralds the end of the process as we know it. “Generative AI can create very good profiles—there may be a few mistakes, but only the individual will recognise them, not the employer”, says Matt Jones, chief product officer at recruitment technology company Cielo. “This raises the question about the relevance of reviewing CVs, cover letters and applications, particularly at the early career stage. I wonder if this is the death knell of the CV”.

Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, warns that a growing number of employers are becoming distrustful of the things written in candidates’ resumes and cover letters and are adjusting their hiring practices accordingly. “I’m hearing that employers are now discounting a lot of the information they receive that’s in written form and want to get to a face-to-face conversation as quickly as possible with the candidates so they can properly vet them”, she says.

“The caution I would give to jobseekers is that AI can act as a good co-pilot but don’t let the tech try and do it all for you.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of recruitment platform Adzuna

Does AI work?

While experts are divided on the use of AI tools, research suggests that job seekers who use them are more likely to get hired.

Regardless of how industry experts may feel, there is little doubt that the use of AI tools is on the rise among job seekers. According to a survey conducted by Canva in January 2024, 45% of the 5,000 people surveyed admitted that they had used generative AI to create or enhance their resumes. Out of that number, 71% said that generative AI made the whole experience easier, while 68% claimed that it saved them time. When asked how they felt about their resume’s appearance, 56% of those who used AI said they were “very satisfied” with it, while only 33% of those who didn’t use AI said the same.

The same survey also invited hiring managers to share their views on the use of generative AI in application materials, with an overwhelming majority (90%) saying that they consider it acceptable. However, opinions differ on the extent to which AI should be used, with 46% of hiring managers stating that applicants should only use it to augment their own ideas and content, while 44% believe that it can be used to create any content.

Of course, there are some who are strongly opposed to the use of AI for this purpose. A March 2023 survey conducted by the HR software company iCIMS reveals that 39% of HR professionals consider using AI to write a resume or cover letter to be a “definite deal-breaker”. Similarly, a 2024 survey by Resume Genius found that 50% of hiring managers see AI-generated content on a resume as one of the biggest red flags.

But does the use of AI tools in the job-seeking process have any impact on your chances of landing a job? According to a study conducted at MIT Sloan, it does. The study, which included nearly 500,000 job seekers, found that those who used AI tools to improve their resumes received 7.8% more offers and earned 8.4% higher wages than those who didn’t rely on AI for assistance. “If you take two identical workers with the same skills and background, the one with the better-written resume is more likely to get hired”, says MIT Sloan PhD student Emma van Inwegen. “The takeaway is that employers actually care about the writing in the resume—it’s not just a correlation”.

Tomorrow’s job market

Generative AI will undoubtedly change the way job seekers approach finding employment, but it could also allow unqualified candidates to gain an unfair advantage.

For tomorrow’s job seekers, the use of AI is likely to increase. Generative AI, in particular, is set to revolutionise the way job seekers approach the complex and often daunting task of finding employment. Instead of entering their query into the job search bar, job seekers will be able to communicate with an AI chatbot in natural language and receive personalised recommendations for positions that align with their career goals. These smart assistants will be able to analyse vast troves of data on successful job applicants, identifying the key skills, experiences, and qualities that employers are looking for. Armed with this knowledge, job seekers can tailor their applications with utmost precision, showcasing their unique value proposition in a way that resonates with hiring managers and stands out from the crowd.

However, the increasing use of AI in the job search process could create an imbalance among candidates. As more job seekers rely on AI tools to generate polished resumes and cover letters, truly qualified candidates may find themselves at a disadvantage. Having spent years honing their skills and gaining valuable experience, they now suddenly risk being overshadowed by applicants using AI-generated resumes that can be difficult to distinguish from the real deal—even for experienced recruiters. In the long run, this could lead to a decrease in motivation among skilled job seekers as they begin to question the value of their own qualifications in a job market that seems to prioritise ticking the right boxes over genuine expertise.

Learnings:

The jobs market is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, but there may yet be hope for tomorrow’s job seekers. Indeed, generative AI presents a unique opportunity for them to level the playing field and wrest control of their career trajectories. With the help of AI-powered tools and insights, they can quickly and convincingly flaunt their skills, experiences, and potential in a manner that truly reflects their value as candidates.

  • Generative AI tools are already capable of creating resumés, doing punch-ups, preparing for job interviews, or even making automatic applications. 
  • Candidates who use AI tools to improve their resumes are 7.8% more likely to get hired, according to MIT Sloan.
  • Industry experts are divided on the use of AI in application materials, with some seeing nothing wrong with it and others considering it a deal-breaker.
  • Generative AI can help to create a more equitable, inclusive jobs market.
  • There are rising concerns that AI could allow unqualified candidates to outperform qualified candidates who don’t use it.

So, what’s the big takeaway? While generative AI is certainly an exciting development for job seekers, it’s not a magic bullet. Use it to give your job search a boost, but don’t let it do all the heavy lifting. After all, it’s your unique blend of skills, experiences, and personal charm that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.

Industries: Work
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