How to Use ChatGPT to Write a Cover Letter

The Great Resignation and the global shift to remote work has opened up the job market. But today’s market conditions have swung the power back into the hands of HR. Layoffs, hiring freezes, ghosting and greater competition make securing a new job a harder, longer progress. 

Applying for a job is arduous and time-consuming, and it’s tempting to use the fast apply button and attach a generic cover letter to every application — but that’s not going to get you hired in this market. It’s also not realistic to carefully craft a new cover letter for every job, when you’re up against thousands of applicants. 

There’s a third option: Use artificial intelligence to customize your cover letters. Save time, stand out in a saturated market and get yourself an interview. 

The AI tool I used to try this out is ChatGPT, which wowed the world when it was released in November 2022 (you can read our hands-on review of ChatGPT as well as Gemini, Copilot and Perplexity on CNET’s AI Atlas hub). If this is your first time using AI, it makes sense to start with the tool that made AI mainstream. 

Here’s how to use ChatGPT for the job. I’ll walk you through the process, prompts, and productivity tips (and a potential problem to watch out for) to enhance your applications and your chances. 

Creating a custom cover letter

If you’ve ever tried to write a cover letter before, it’s hard enough to summarize your entire career on a single page, let alone customize it for each job role. 

Your resume presents your hard skills, and your cover letter showcases your soft skills — the ones you can mold with keywords to fit what a company is asking for in its job ad. 

Getting set up with ChatGPT

You’ll need an account with ChatGPT, the job application, your resume and a previous cover letter, if you have one. 

You can use a free version of ChatGPT like me, or pay $20 per month for added features like the most recent models, priority access during peak usage and image generation. 

The initial prompt

Your first prompt can be something like: “Can you please help me write a cover letter for the role of reporter on the autos team of The Wall Street Journal? Here is the job description: [paste job description] And here is my resume: [paste resume].”

Immediately, I saw a big problem with my first attempt: ChatGPT had hallucinated. It mixed up some of my experience, correctly noting publications I’ve written for and topics I’ve reported on, but wrongly — very, very wrongly — with made-up stories (see yellow highlights). 

If I change nothing else in my cover letter, I’m certainly going to fix that.

The cover letter was also too long for my liking, so you could either give ChatGPT a word limit, or ask it to remove certain things.

Next, I also asked ChatGPT to highlight the top five keywords to use in my cover letter for a reporter role in the autos team at The Wall Street Journal, and here’s what I got: 

Follow-up prompts 

I then asked ChatGPT to include these keywords in my cover letter. I chose my top three. 

Prompt: “Remove the five bullet points and incorporate the following keywords into my experience: Scoops, breaking news, and business and financial reporting.”

We’re slowly getting there.

Given that the role requires tech and financial reporting experience, I pushed ChatGPT to focus on my work at NerdWallet and past reporting at the MIT Tech Review. 

Prompt: “Emphasize my experience reporting on emerging tech and personal finance for outlets like NerdWallet and MIT Tech Review.”

With a solid base, now I could tweak the tone. It still didn’t feel like me, and I wanted it to be tighter but more conversational and eloquent. 

Prompt: “Rewrite in a more conversational tone, with shorter sentences and no repetition. Eloquent, exciting, and worldly.”

This style prompt cut it back by 30%, to this:

You can continue chipping away at it in ChatGPT, but I did my final tweaks manually, threading my personality through it. 

Finishing up

Copy the content into a separate Word or Google document to tweak the language to suit your voice. For example, change “Dear Hiring Manager” to “Dear [company] hiring team” and remove weird lines you’d never actually say, like “is a prospect I relish.” And be sure to scan through for any other oddities ChatGPT might have hallucinated.

Here was my final ChatGPT plus me version. I pulled out the brand work because it’s a reporter role, and jazzed it up to my liking. 

While the tone of what ChatGPT returns for your cover letter should emulate your personality, you can dial it up or down to match the company’s voice, vibe and vision. Let ChatGPT show you off, then all you need to do is shape it, style it and send it off. 

For more AI tips, check out how to use Midjourney to create custom wedding invitations and how to use AI (or not) to build your budget.

Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you’re reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our AI policy.

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Amanda Smith