Cover letters are the bane of many job applicants’ existence. At a time when people are applying to hundreds of jobs and getting few if any responses, requiring a cover letter means an applicant must spend even more time crafting something a prospective employer might not even read.
Because of this additional work, many applicants have discovered workarounds to ease the job application process. For example, earlier in the year, a user on TikTok went viral after claiming he applied to over 200 jobs in 2 days using automation.
One of the ways this user automated the job application process was by getting ChatGPT to write his cover letters. Apparently, he was not caught doing this—but that wasn’t the case for an applicant for a job posted by TikTok user Mandy (@careercoachmandy).
@careercoachmandy he really said copy paste #chatgpt #coverletter #jobsearch ♬ original sound – CareerCoachMandy
According to Mandy, she posted a job on UpWork for a Resume Assistant. She says in comments that the job did not require a cover letter. Soon after she posted the job, however, she says she received an application with a cover letter that appeared at first glance to be a strong contender.
Quickly, she notes she became suspicious.
“[I] was like, wait a minute. Let me try something,” she recalls. She says she then put the job posting into ChatGPT and asked it to write a cover letter—only to receive the exact same cover letter sent in by the applicant.
“Are you kidding me?” she asks in the video. In the caption, she added, “he really said copy paste.”
The video currently has over 358,000 views.
In the comments section, many users took the side of the applicant, with numerous users sharing their cover letter gripes.
“Hire them because they are resourceful and don’t waste their fucking time on stupid shit like a cover letter,” one user stated.
“As long as they are speaking the truth on the things they have done which makes them a [quality] candidate, why not chatgpt,” another questioned.
“Who cares? Do you think people have the time to write you narcissists a cover letter each time?” a third shared. “Get a clue, find a grip.”
That said, some users said that while using ChatGPT is OK in some contexts, it may not be applicable for all job postings.
“Chatgpt adds so many random things to the point of being big lies you will get caught in. It’s great for a template but gotta edit and customize,” a commenter noted.
“Guys she said it’s for a resume assistant…so why would she hire them then? For any other job I understand but for this, she’s making sense,” a second added.
In a response video, Mandy largely agreed with these last two points, saying she was initially impressed by the applicant’s resourcefulness.
@careercoachmandy Replying to @ocynvdm ♬ original sound – CareerCoachMandy
She notes the cover letter created by ChatGPT got some details about the job incorrect and misstated her own accomplishments as those of the applicant. In a job like a Resume Assistant that requires attention to detail, not being able to see these obvious errors are big red flags for a hiring manager.
Mandy then posted a follow-up video saying that, as a career coach, she advises not spending more than 10 minutes on a cover letter and that there are a few basic templates users can follow to write a good letter in lieu of using AI.
“From an applicant’s perspective, cover letters are their own version of hell,” she details. “However, I will say that as a coach, from what I’ve seen, I can think of at least four or five people who, in their interview process, people have remarked on, ‘Oh, I actually really liked what you wrote in your cover letter.’ From that perspective, it does actually sometimes make a difference.”
@careercoachmandy Replying to @sunshineandvalentines ♬ original sound – CareerCoachMandy
Many commenters remained unconvinced.
“As a former hiring & talent ops manager i rarely read cover letters,” a user alleged. “99% are way too long.”
“12+ years in HR…we don’t read cover letters,” an additional user claimed.
“If someone asks for a cover letter I just don’t apply,” an additional TikToker said. “They’re ridiculous for people who don’t even read my resume.”
Update 12:13pm CT, Feb. 1: In an email to Daily Dot, Mandy said she understood much of the criticism levied against cover letters, and noted that ChatGPT is not always a bad tool to use.
“I agree cover letters in 2023 are out of date!” she wrote. “They’re super antiquated and old school. It’s really smart that they used ChatGPT, but don’t miss the step of asking the AI to incorporate your resume as source material! I knew it was written by a bot because the cover letter was just verbatim repeating the job description, with no details about the applicant.”
The purpose of a cover letter can instead be expressed in a resume, she detailed.
“Instead of a cover letter, you could try incorporating some kind of narrative statement (providing that voice over) into your resume,” she stated. “I think borrowing the ‘headline’ from LinkedIn to give yourself some personal branding can help you stand out (for example, using the phrase ‘data scientist’ or ‘creative digital marketer’ right under your name on the resume).”