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As More Job Candidates Use AI to Gain an Edge, Employers Learn How to Deal With It

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 14, 2023

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ChatGPT, the artificial-intelligence chatbot from OpenAI, is being used by job candidates to help them write cover letters, résumés and even answers to job-related questions, The Wall Street Journal reported. Although employers may not  automatically disqualify applicants who use the tool to give them an edge, they must now determine how to assess these applicants.

The use of ChatGPT to answer job-related questions was evident to Christina Qi, the CEO  of market data company Databento, when she found that five job candidates' writing tests were similar. Putting the prompt into ChatGPT herself, she got “pretty much the same answer,” she said.

Employers have been using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen potential employees. They are now confronting ChatCGT-assisted applications.

The Journal reported that one job seeker asked ChatGPT to write a recommendation letter for a job application. The chatbot replied that his technical skill set “aligns well with the requirements.” He told a recruiter that ChatGPT endorsed his skills and got the interview. But, while the recruiter liked his creativity, he did not get the job.

A product manager used the tool to help write cover letters, including one that got him hired at a smart-tech company. He said that the bot edited his cover letter and helped him to prepare for interviews by suggesting targeted questions to ask.

He has never told his new employer. “It helped me get past the application process, and the recruiter never asked about it,” he said.

Candidates need to combine ChatGPT’s edits with their own editing and voice, Sarah Baker Andrus, the CEO of career coaching firm Avarah Careers, told the Journal. “We’re responsible for how we present ourselves,” she said. “If you decide to use ChatGPT, it’s worthwhile to ask, ‘Is that representing the me that I want to present?’”

Employers are now deploying methods to catch applicants using AI. One, San Francisco-based Cobalt Robotics, uses a screening program called CoderPad to track engineering applicants’ independent work after a remote interview, where they are paired with an employee to test their skills in collaboration and problem-solving. One candidate who showed no independent work suddenly provided a complete solution, prompting CTO Erik Schluntz to suspect that the applicant had copied and pasted an AI’s response. 

So, he tried it himself and confirmed his suspicions. “Just caught our first interview candidate using #ChatGPT - was pretty obvious," he tweeted. "We pasted our interview question into chatGPT, and it gave an almost identical character-by-character response to what the person submitted."

The candidate was not hired and not told why.