Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
When you’re job searching, you want to stand out from the competition.
One of the main ways you do that is through your resume and cover letter. And because both documents take time to fine-tune, your job search will take some time.
So, naturally, when you hear about a new way to create those documents more quickly and effectively, you’re interested! This interest, in part, explains why the buzz about artificial intelligence (AI) is growing daily. Suddenly, AI tools are popping up everywhere.
AI has been advertised as the best thing to hit job searching since the internet was born. At a glance, it makes sense. Why wouldn’t you delegate some of the more labor-intensive tasks, like writing cover letters, to AI? You can focus on building relationships and researching roles without spending quite as much time on your job application materials.
However, there are some best practices and cautions to be aware of if you use AI to help write your cover letter.
How Can AI Help You With Your Cover Letter?
At this point, you’ve likely heard of AI, or at least the concept of AI creation tools, as the technology makes its way into nearly every aspect of modern life. Now, AI can contribute to your cover letters in some incredibly beneficial ways.
Save Time and Boost Efficiency
Have you ever printed out a job description to painstakingly highlight the key elements?
Sometimes the words flow, and other times, it feels like you’re trying to run through quicksand. When you finally do weave those keywords throughout your cover letter, you may second-guess that you’re focusing on the best elements.
AI technology can eliminate all of that — and in a fraction of the time. It’s actually mind-boggling how quickly AI can craft your first draft, an outline, or feedback.
AI can help you overcome writer’s block and reduce the time spent agonizing over word choices and sentence structures.
Maintain a Professional Tone and Style
Consistency and clarity are the dynamic duos of professional writing. And achieving both in three paragraphs or less can be daunting.
AI can help you with that. Along with maintaining a consistent tone, AI can help you maintain a cohesive style and message throughout your cover letter.
Plus, if you’d like, it can be a fantastic editor. Not only can it spot typos and grammatical errors, but it can show you where your sentences wander or are a bit unclear.
When you’re new to an industry or lack confidence in your writing skills, AI can offer suggestions and guidance on language and formatting. Submitting a polished cover letter can be an incredible boost, helping you interact with the recruiter differently.
In many ways, this makes AI a great boost to equity in the job search. For anyone who isn’t a native speaker or an avid writer, creating compelling cover letters is more attainable now.
You can also use AI as a learning tool. Instead of using AI to write the cover letter you submit, you might use the example outputs to help you hone your writing abilities.
As you analyze the results, you might see opportunities for keywords and tailoring your writing that you missed previously.
Noticing and addressing these things will make you a stronger applicant.
Choosing an AI Cover Letter Generator
Ready to explore the world of AI? You have a couple of options.
Job Search-Specific AI
There’s been an explosion in AI tools designed specifically for job searchers. They focus on resumes and cover letters and guide you on best practices and industry-specific standards.
But you might find that they lack a creative element that you can find in more generic AI writing tools.
ChatGPT and Other Generic AI Writers
From the free ChatGPT interface to more premium options, such as Jasper, AI writing software can adapt to a wide range of writing tasks.
Ready to tackle a personal branding blitz?
You can get help with everything from your follow-up emails to your social media posts and LinkedIn profile. The writing can feel more creative and engaging, and you can utilize the tool for tasks beyond your resume and cover letter.
On the other hand, these tools can vary significantly from the best practices of a well-written cover letter. They also take a bit of learning to generate better outputs.
Written content may also require more editing than you’d find with a targeted tool.
Tips for Writing an Excellent Cover Letter With AI Assistance
Have you ever had a lovingly crafted pasta sauce — simmered for hours — creating an unforgettable symphony of flavors that explode in your mouth? A hastily thrown-together sauce you toss on some noodles in a few minutes can fill you up, but it will lack the richness and depth achieved with a bit of time and care.
Like your grandma’s marinara sauce, quicker isn’t always better when it comes to writing a cover letter.
A well-crafted cover letter can evoke a connection with the hiring manager that a quick, AI-generated letter will lack. Embrace the process and take time to polish your submission.
FlexJobs career expert Keith Spencer cautions, “The text that AI produces will lack the style or tone of your typical writing, so you also want to review and revise the information it provides to make sure that it reflects your personal style more effectively, especially if using it to help you write a cover letter or email, which tend to include more of our personalized style than a resume might.”
Maintain Best Practices
A strong cover letter can set you apart from other job candidates. You should still invest time in tailoring your cover letter to the job and your fit for the role.
Start with research before you write your cover letter, noting the company’s culture, values, and mission. If possible, address the hiring manager by name and then connect the dots.
Show the hiring manager how your skills make you the best candidate. Combine the AI output with your personal experiences, writing style, and unique selling points.
And be sure to edit and refine your wording so your brand is clearly conveyed in your messaging.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
While AI tools offer many advantages, there are some pitfalls to be mindful of when using them for cover letter writing:
- Overreliance on AI-generated content: Remember — AI-generated content is a starting point, not the final product.
- Neglecting to proofread: AI-generated content may sometimes contain errors or awkward phrasings.
- Lack of customization: AI tools may not always generate content tailored to the specific job or company.
Spencer reminds job seekers that AI isn’t flawless: “AI can be extremely helpful when it comes to writing a resume or cover letter, but it can sometimes make mistakes or grammatical errors, so it’s important to review the information it provides for accuracy before using it in your professional documents,” he says.
Understand the Basics of AI Cover Letter Prompts
If you’re using more generic software, such as ChatGPT, you’ll need to invest some time into learning how to generate better outputs. Users who approach the software like it’s a seasoned career coach will get disappointing results.
Reframe how you “talk” to ChatGPT to get a stronger rough draft. The good news is that it doesn’t take too much time to level up your prompting skills.
According to Spencer, “Your interactions with ChatGPT will feel like a back-and-forth conversation, where you refine your requests or share information as you go along to help it improve the quality, accuracy, and relevance of the responses it provides.”
So, think of AI as an eager research assistant that wants to do a good job. AI won’t ask you questions when it doesn’t understand, so the more you clarify, the better it’ll be able to meet your needs.
Fortunately, getting higher-quality writing with just a few tweaks is not hard.
How to Write an AI Cover Letter Prompt
The subject of AI prompting is too complex to fully explore here, but consider the following as a starting point:
- Purpose: Clearly state the goal or objective of the content you want the AI to generate. Many users find that telling the AI to “Act as [profession]” provides excellent context.
- Format: Specify the desired format or structure. You can say “cover letter,” but you might also try “introduction paragraph” or “conclusion paragraph.”
- Tone: Indicate the desired tone of your content. Play around with suggestions, like professional, creative, witty, etc.
- Length: Provide a guideline for the desired length of your cover letter. Specify either word count or paragraph count.
- Key points: List the main points or topics you want the AI to cover in the content.
- Audience: Briefly describe your target audience for the content. It might be helpful to specify their interests to help the AI gain more context.
- Examples: You can provide an example if you have previous cover letters you’re proud of. Let the AI know you’re providing an example that shouldn’t be included in the output.
- Include your resume: Provide ChatGPT or other generative AI with your resume and ask it to use the resume as the basis for the cover letter.
Example of AI Cover Letter Prompt
Want to see this in action? Suppose you’re a bookkeeper. Instead of saying, “Please help me write a cover letter for a bookkeeper applying for a freelance job,” you should expand your AI prompt with more detail.
You might try something like the following prompt instead:
Act as a career coach. Write a cover letter for me, a bookkeeper, for a freelance job at [Company Name], a reputable accounting firm. The audience is the hiring manager at the firm, and the tone should be professional and concise, with a word count between 200-300 words.
Key points to consider are:
- Emphasize my experience in bookkeeping and financial management
- Highlight my proficiency in accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks, Excel)
- Showcase my attention to detail and accuracy in handling financial records
- Demonstrate my understanding of the accounting firm’s mission and values
- Explain how my skills and expertise will contribute to the firm’s success
Please include an example of a specific accomplishment and the accounting firm’s initiatives to help demonstrate my genuine interest in joining this team.
Key Points for Your Cover Letter Prompt
Note that the personal accomplishments and the firm’s initiatives are simply placeholders for you to find inspiration.
Another approach is to include your resume and the job description in your prompt to get a better feel for how you could weave those into your request.
Be specific, ask follow-up questions, and if something doesn’t flow, give targeted feedback about what’s off.
This back-and-forth can be helpful as you learn to hone your message separately from the ChatGPT outputs.
Acknowledge Concerns and Misuse When Using AI to Write Your Cover Letter
Before you submit an AI-generated cover letter, it’s essential to note some concerns and best practices.
Recognize That AI Doesn’t Know Your History
Are you excited about a job because it aligns with your experience, skill set, education, and goals? An AI-generated cover letter isn’t going to capture that. It simply isn’t you and doesn’t have all of your history.
Your passion for the role is what can help you stand out.
For example, suppose you’re applying to a renewable energy company because your parents instilled in you a deep passion for conservation. AI doesn’t understand your backstory, which is a powerful way to highlight how your values align with the organization.
Notice a Lack of Nuance
There’s a reason you may love working for a particular company or enjoy a certain role more than another one with the same title. Nuances between roles and organizations can be lost on AI, which isn’t a professional in your line of work.
Therefore, it simply lacks the knowledge to understand the dynamics between postings.
Are you in marketing, for example? If you’ve worked in both B2B and B2C roles, you recognize the approach and strategies vary significantly between the two sectors.
B2B might focus on building and maintaining long-term relationships, while B2C often seeks more immediate action as a launching point for the relationship. AI isn’t likely to understand the nuances between the two.
Understand the Ethical Concerns
Some hiring managers view AI-generated cover letters as unethical or deceptive. You might be ruining your chance at the role you’re excited about.
Software that analyzes writing for AI generation is developing at a rapid pace. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to beat it if you’re simply generating and submitting.
Not only that, but using AI to generate job search materials that are blatantly false can be grounds for dismissal. Even if you slip under the radar, AI can oversell your skills and abilities.
You’re still the one who has to perform the work, and a job you’re not prepared to perform will be a daily struggle and could cost you the job in the long run.
But understanding AI concerns doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the tool. There are many ways to use AI that don’t cross ethical boundaries.
Consider AI a tool, rather than a replacement, and you might have a powerful new assistant in your job search.
Beware of Typos and Incorrect Information
Have you seen some of the hysterical fibs that AI happily creates? Don’t rely on AI for total accuracy regarding research and facts.
You need to fact-check and verify any AI-generated information, including grammar and typos. AI doesn’t necessarily understand all of the jargon, terminology, and acronyms you might encounter in your profession.
So, while some AI tools can be excellent editors, others require you to be very specific in your requests and may slow the process down.
Frequently Asked Questions About AI Cover Letters
Are you looking for a short and sweet answer to some common AI questions? Here they are.
1. Can AI generate a cover letter from scratch?
Well, you could, but it’s essential to remember that AI-generated content will be generic and must be corrected.
While you could submit it as is, you’ll have a more robust submission if you review, edit, and personalize the content to ensure it is accurate and reflects your personality, experience, and goals.
2. How can I make my cover letter stand out when using AI?
Combine research and personalization to create a cover letter that snags the hiring manager’s attention.
Ensure the language is concise, but edit the AI content to connect with the hiring manager and explain why you’re the best candidate for the role.
3. Will using AI to write my cover letter negatively impact my chances of getting hired?
Since you’re using AI-generated content as a foundation to properly edit, customize, and proofread, it shouldn’t negatively impact your chances of getting hired. On the other hand, some hiring managers view completely AI-generated cover letters as deceptive or unethical.
You should also note that, at the time of this writing, there is a lot of debate around the copyright that AI-generated content should have.
Some legal experts argue that the output isn’t yours. Therefore, you don’t hold rights to it. Also, if you input your personally identifiable information into AI software, you may be unable to control who has access to it.
4. Are AI-generated cover letters more effective than traditional ones?
When used correctly, AI-generated cover letters can be as effective, if not more so, than traditional cover letters.
AI tools can help you quickly create engaging and professional content, but the effectiveness ultimately depends on the effort you put into tailoring it to the role and your unique skills.
Utilize All Your Job Search Tools
As a job seeker, it can sometimes feel like you’re battling overwhelming odds. When you discover a new tool that can streamline your job search, it’s worth taking a second look.
AI is a fascinating new tool in the world of career development. But just like every tool in your belt, it’s only as good as the person using it.
Don’t let AI seduce you into replacing what makes you uniquely you. Instead, use AI to save time and establish a strong foundation to build upon in your cover letter.