First we had to learn to cough up the key words some Applicant Tracking System (ATS) wants to see when we submit a job application. Now we have to use ChatGPT to write our resumes and applications because employers are using ChatGPT to write job descriptions and postings. Where does it end? Why don’t they just hire the ChatGPT?
(In this column, I will use ChatGPT as a catch-all term for all generations and competing products of the underlying technology, because this is not an analysis of the technology itself.)
An L.A. Times story tells how to write a cover letter and resume using the artificial intelligence of ChatGPT. The technology is credited by users with the skills of a professional coach or editor:
“The aspects of using AI to assist — it’s a tool,” job seeker Jesse said. “Imagine you had an expert next to you telling you how to get better… It wrote [a cover letter and resume] better than I ever could.”
Seriously? An expert?
Is ChatGPT an expert?
“Roughly speaking, they take huge amounts of data, search for patterns in it and become increasingly proficient at generating statistically probable outputs — such as seemingly humanlike language and thought….ChatGPT and its ilk [are] a lumbering statistical engine for pattern matching, gorging on hundreds of terabytes of data and extrapolating the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question.”
“…machine learning systems can learn both that the earth is flat and that the earth is round. They trade merely in probabilities that change over time.”
What game are we playing?
Employers and the Employment Industry at large are creating an increasingly complex game of recruitment advertising and hiring. Of course, now job seekers are learning to play the game by deploying ChatGPT against ChatGPT. (We warned you 7 years ago: Send a robo-dog to interviews.)
But how does this approach of gaming a system that is itself a game play out? Who gets hurt? Who benefits? Will Jesse get the right job? Will you?
What’s the outcome?
The proliferation of job boards and ATSes doesn’t seem to have fixed the talent shortage for employers, and it hasn’t fixed unemployment for workers. But we still use them, perhaps because we keep avoiding an outcomes analysis. Maybe it’s because automating it makes job hunting less painful, even if that doesn’t really work.
So let’s automate some more! But let’s check the outcomes, eh?
Does reliance on ChatGPT improve:
- the quality of applicants or candidates,
- the quality of hires,
- the quality of a job match for the job seeker?
Or are we just getting better and quicker at pushing a square peg into a round hole before anyone realizes the damage that may be caused?
ChatGPT: Everybody can do it
Then there’s the problem of needing to use a cheat-checker to avoid getting caught cheating. Though Jesse lauded ChatGPT for cranking out good cover letters, saving him work, “there was one additional step involved: running the letter through online A.I. scanners that have popped up to detect A.I.-generated writing to make sure it passed the test in case companies checked.”
The L.A. Times story cites other job seekers who report that “tapping ChatGPT to write their cover letters was a no-brainer…. ‘A bot reads them,’ they said, referring to cover letter and resume-scanning software that many employers use to filter out candidates. ‘I’ll get a bot to write them.’”
Everybody’s doing it.
Interview the glove!
Kind of sounds like a nuclear proliferation treaty will be needed before real information about workers and jobs disappears in a mind-numbing hall of machine-learning mirrors.
Players on all sides of the Employment System have adopted a virtual process that creates avatars or surrogates to conduct the business of matching workers and jobs. Maybe another analogy is more apt: the old complaint about “washing your hands with rubber gloves on.”
Just hire the ChatGPT
Of course, what’s wrong with hiring someone who used ChatGPT to produce their cover letter, if this new employee will use ChatGPT to do their job, too?
Play this out, though: Who needs this new employee? The hiring technology could also be used to do the job.
Well, at least a lot of people other than Noam Chomsky seem to think so.
(Does anyone see what I see? ChatGPT is just the next level of keyword matching that drives sincere job seekers mad as they lard their resumes and job applications with strings of letters they know the algorithm is searching for. While the new tool is certainly more powerful — it will lard your resume for you — is it actually any different?)
What does the use of ChatGPT tell us about how the employment system works? If employers are going to hire based on auto-written cover letters and resumes, what does that tell us about how they assess job applicants? And of course, what does it tell us about job seekers who use ChatGPT?