Can you use ChatGPT to write your cover letter and other news in the world of work and worth

published6 months ago
3 min read

This week, a half a dozen people sent me the same IG reel of a man using ChatGPT to write a cover letter. I can’t even find it anymore in search because so.many.other people have made the same content now. In the video, the man explains how you can take a job description, give ChatGPT the prompt “write a cover letter for” and paste the job description to generate a cover letter for that posting. So to answer my subject’s question ‘Can you use ChatGPT to write a cover letter?,” yes, you can. “Should you?” is a different question.

If you haven’t heard, ChatGPT is a chat bot powered by AI that has been trained on millions of documents, books, articles, research, websites, etc. from 2021 and prior that uses dialog to engage with users. My personal favorite prompt I have used to date is to name the 95 moons of Jupiter. Here’s OpenAI’s announcement about ChatGPT and Coursera has a good blog post as well if you’d like to read more.

I have spent a few hours working with ChatGPT to write cover letters, and here’s what I can tell you – It’s gonna give you a pile of crap. If you excel at editing a pile of crap OR if you highly benefit from having something to start from, you might find using ChatGPT to write your cover letter to be a helpful process. I did not.

Here’s what I tried:

  • First, I gave the prompt “write a cover letter for” and then gave the job description of the posting I was working on for one of my clients, which was a higher education executive administrator position. The cover letter was a disaster. The bot couldn’t pick out what was important to include and what was not from the description. The overall tone was also too casual and the vocabulary too rudimentary.
  • I then adjusted the prompt with “executive cover letter.” No noticeable improvement.
  • I asked for a cover letter in the writing style of Tressie McMillam Cottom (NY Times opinion writer and one of my faves), and again no improvement in style or vocabulary.
  • Lastly I tried to give ChatGPT my client’s resume and the job description, and then resume, a past cover letter, and the job description. All duds.

I thought about trying to use what it created to edit for style and vocabulary, plus editing out the inconsequential parts and then laying in my client’s experience. Honestly though, it was easier and faster to throw the whole lot out and just use my cover letter template.

Now, what if you weren’t applying for a $300K job in a hoity-toity industry? Could it work for you then?

It would certainly work better, but there are still 2 big problems:

  1. The AI bot doesn’t know and can’t tell what parts of the description are important and which are silly.

For example, for “additional duties as assigned,” the bot included, “I am prepared to take on additional duties as assigned,” in the conclusion which honestly made me cackle.

  1. ChatGPT can’t add in your specificity which makes the job duties it’s outlining real and relevant to the reader.

You could of course add that in, but you would have to first take out the inconsequential parts, and then add your specific work experience and tasks to what remained.

Now, I have seen other folks talk about whether or not it’s ethical for YOU to use ChatGPT in your job search, and I find that question rather silly. The more interesting question is if it’s ethical for OpenAI’s creators to take people’s work to train the AI without their consent and without compensating them. I’ve been diving into that question personally and will be back with more thoughts on it.

For more practical exercises in using AI to write your cover letter, next week I’ll share my observations on using Bing’s new AI.

In other work news…

Facebook (or their parent company Meta) announced another massive layoff this week. They plan to layoff another 10,000 employees, after laying off 11,000 just 4 months ago. Read more here.

Fetch, iHeart Podcasts, and Krispy Kreme are just a few of the companies doing layoffs this week. You can see LinkedIn’s March layoff round up here.

Banking woes continue with SVB’s parent company filing for bankruptcy, First Republic’s stock declining even with $30 billion from other banks propping them up, and Credit Suisse in trouble as well (UBS just announced they’re buying them).

If you’re personally worried about getting laid off, I created a checklist and resource bank based on the process I walk my own clients through in this situation. You can access the fillable pdf immediately right here (no opt in needed).

That’s it for now! Have a great week!

Always rooting for you,

Cristin Downs

Hey there! Meet Cristin Downs. Fierce, funny, and fired up, Cristin is a possibilitarian. Also an executive coach, a theatrical thinker, a producer, and a lot of formers — stage manager, production manager, operations manager, general manager, director, continuing/adult/corporate education professional (a multi-career pivoter)— who has worked more than 40+ jobs and led more teams in 2 decades than most people will in their entire lives. Cristin is the founder of Work & Worth where she helps compassionate leaders get a seat at the table or build their own. A tireless advocate for work separated from our inherent worth and identity, Cristin specializes in voice, values, vision, and visibility. She believes that we are each worthy, just as we are, and we get free together.