Writing your résumé with AI makes it easier to find a job, a study finds. But this edge could vanish once everybody’s doing it.
- Using AI to help write your résumé improves your odds of landing a job, a study found.
- While the study didn’t use ChatGPT, it points to AI’s potential to help job seekers.
- But if everyone begins using AI, it could get harder for applicants to stand out than ever before.
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Using an artificial intelligence tool to write your résumé could help you land a job, but this edge might not last for long.
That’s according to a recent working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, based on the findings of a field experiment with nearly 500,000 job seekers in 2021. Participants in the study who received “algorithmic writing assistance” to help craft their résumés — which included feedback about spelling, grammar, and word usage — were 8% more likely to get hired than those who didn’t use this tool, the researchers found.
Emma van Inwegen, PhD Candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management and one of the paper’s authors, told Insider that if one of two people “with identical skill sets, with identical histories” have “better writing on their résumé, they’re more likely to get hired.” Meaning, van Inwegen said, that employers “do care about” résumé writing.
The researchers, van Inwegen, Zanele T. Munyikwa, and John J. Horton, said the AI assistance was particularly helpful for job seekers “at the bottom of the spelling distribution,” or those with more misspellings.
While the researchers didn’t study ChatGPT specifically, the paper’s findings suggest that using AI in the job application process could give some candidates an advantage. Since launching in November, the OpenAI-owned chatbot has taken the world by storm, reaching over 100 million users by the end of January. While some workers have fretted about how emerging AI technologies could impact their job security, others are exploring ways they can make their lives easier — like by assisting with résumés and cover letters writing.
But if AI tools like ChatGPT proliferate — and millions of job seekers begin using AI tools to craft their résumé, it might get harder to stand out.
“If everyone starts to use ChatGPT on their cover letters, on their résumés, if you are an employer looking at résumés, you will no longer be able to use writing quality to try and understand something about the worker who applied,” van Inwegen said, who also noted that the tool for this experiment was “sort of evening the playing field for people with different levels of writing ability.”
“Everyone’s résumé will have gone through some sort of algorithmic checker,” van Inwegen said. “And so it has the potential to sort of homogenize writing in cover letters and on résumés for better or for worse.”
Mass use of AI could make writing a weaker signal of a job candidate’s quality
In the short-term, while many of these tools are still developing, the best writers may continue to have an edge in their applications. But as these technologies improve, and if more people begin to adopt them, AI writing assistance like the one in the experiment could ultimately “‘ruin’ writing as a signal” of job performance, the researchers said, meaning that companies may begin to value strong writing skills less when parsing through candidates.
“Our results suggest that instead of signaling whether or not a job seeker would be a good worker, better writing on résumés simply makes it clearer what skills and abilities the job seekers have, making it easier for employers to ascertain which workers would be a good fit,” van Inwegen told Insider.
While this new AI-assisted world may make things more difficult for job seekers, the researchers found that employers may not be any worse off when it comes to hiring right now. Even though the use of AI tools may have obscured some candidates’ writing abilities, they found “no evidence that employers were less satisfied” with the candidates they ultimately hired.
This suggests that some companies may be limiting their candidate pool more than they need to, and that the wider use of AI tools could help businesses that are experiencing hiring woes and need help finding talent.
“Our results definitely suggest that the pool of applicants that employers are considering should expand if the problem is that you’re reading these résumés and you aren’t able to understand exactly if they’re a good fit, if you increase the quality of the writing in them, that then the employers should be able to find more workers who can do the job they’re looking to be done,” van Inwegen said.