The job hiring process has undoubtedly changed because of technology. For instance, many of the processes and documents have gone digital. Recruiters have become open to receiving electronic resumes in the form of PDFs or DOCXs. Some are even comfortable just getting links to online profiles on social networks like LinkedIn. Paper resumes are now referred to as “traditional” these days.
These developments do challenge the point of other recruitment artifacts like the letters. Cover letters, also known as letters of intent, used to come as standard with paper resumes. These days, only 10% of professionals say that cover letters are still necessary. However, many recruiters still require them. So, it still makes sense for applicants to create cover letters just to fill a basic requirement.
This said, cover letters shouldn’t be made as an after thought. If you might as well make one, make a winning one. A cover letter must be effective in showcasing yourself as the best candidate for the position. It should be written purposefully. It should explain why you’re a good fit for the position and provide highlights to your career history, accomplishments, and expertise, in a single-page letter.
So how can you write an effective cover letter more easily?
Sure, there are templates available online that provide the general structure and some ideas on how to draft the sections. But you would still have to organize and phrase the content properly.
An alternative is to use a Language Learning Model (LLM), such as ChatGPT, to actually generate the entire letter for you. With some nifty prompt engineering, you’d be able to come up with a perfect cover letter. Here’s a beginner-friendly approach on how to write a cover letter with ChatGPT.
What is ChatGPT?
If you’ve been living under a proverbial rock these past months and are not yet familiar with ChatGPT, here’s what you need to know about it.
ChatGPT is short for Chat-based Generative Pre-trained Transformer, an AI-powered chatbot trained by OpenAI to interact with people using human-like language. It answers questions, challenges incorrect statements, and even admits its mistakes.
ChatGPT can assist you with tasks, like researching, problem-solving, and writing. It’s free and easy to use. Just create an account, log in, and you’ll be able to converse with the chatbot. Once you enter a prompt, ChatGPT will generate a response right away. This saves you considerable time and effort in writing just about any document. In addition, ChatGPT remembers your requests, so you don’t have to repeat your prompts if you want the LLM to regenerate a response.
ChatGPT is currently in the research stage, so it’s free to use (model GPT 3.5). You can access the tool by creating an account or connecting your Google, Microsoft, or Apple account. This free version of ChatGPT has a narrow context window, so complex requests may result in unsatisfactory responses. OpenAI itself admitted on its website that ChatGPT could create “plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers” and that fixing this issue is challenging. So, it’s best to make your prompts concise to get the best output possible.
A paid version, which gives you access to a more powerful model (GPT 4.0) can be accessed for a $20 a month subscription.
On a side note, using ChatGPT to draft your cover letter would require you to input some personal information. OpenAI uses any data you feed to ChatGPT to improve its model, which can cause privacy concerns. But you don’t need to worry because OpenAI clarified in “Our Approach to AI Safety,” they don’t use data to sell services, advertise, or build user profiles.
If you don’t want your resume data exposed, you can disable chat history in ChatGPT, but OpenAI won’t be able to use your data to train their model in return.
Why Should I Use ChatGPT for My Cover Letter?
Writing an outstanding cover letter without any AI assistant can take a bit of time to do. You can easily spend hours drafting one, especially if it’s your first time doing so.
Drafting documents is one thing ChatGPT can do rather quickly and well. It can create a winning cover letter for you instantly. You wouldn’t have to worry about organizing your ideas, applying proper phrasing, and abiding by standard grammar and mechanics.
Given the proper prompts, ChatGPT can also personalize content, meaning it can incorporate your own details so that the letter truly speaks about you.
What Makes a Good Cover Letter?
Hiring managers have different standards in cover letters. But, according to the associate director and coordinator of career advising at Harvard Extension School, Linda Spencer, the letter should answer two key questions.
- Why are you the right fit?
- How will you add value to the company?
Spencer says that employers only skim cover letters. Hence, clarifying how you can add value right away is crucial.
Here’s a sample of an ideal cover letter according to Harvard career experts:
This cover letter addresses a specific person, states the purpose clearly, and emphasizes the candidate’s skills and abilities. It also focuses on action words instead of adjectives, demonstrating the candidate’s essential skills and competitive advantage. In addition, the letter expresses the candidate’s enthusiasm about applying and thanks the reader for their consideration.
Now that we know what makes a good cover letter, let’s start crafting one using ChatGPT.
How to Write a Cover Letter with ChatGPT
A short and straightforward “Write a good cover letter” prompt triggers ChatGPT to form a response. However, specifying your needs allows ChatGPT to generate a more bespoke cover letter. You can also ask the chatbot to use specific tones like formal and professional or casual and friendly.
Here are the different approaches you can try when asking ChatGPT to help you write a cover letter.
Approach 1: Generating a Cover Letter Template
A good cover letter starts with a clean and professional template. These are the steps to generating a cover letter template with ChatGPT.
Step 1 – Open chat.openai.com and log in.
Step 2 – In your prompt, ask ChatGPT to generate a cover letter template for the position you’re applying for. Include your education, work experience, and key accomplishments. Paste the job description or summarize it to the prompt. In this example, we’ll pose as a candidate for a Sales Manager position.
Here’s the sample prompt. Note how you can specify the tone that ChatGPT can use to generate its response.
Step 3 – Carefully read ChatGPT’s output. Below is the response for the prompt above, broken down by section.
We’re off to a great start here because ChatGPT provided placeholders for the sender’s and the recipient’s details and the date. But, interestingly, ChatGPT placed the date below the sender’s phone number rather than at the very top, where dates usually go in most letters.
Let’s see ChatGPT’s take on the opening paragraph.
As with the ideal cover letter, the opening paragraph by ChatGPT immediately lets the reader know of the candidate’s intention and even briefly states why they’re a good fit for the role.
Let’s look at the body.
The body meets the standard as well. It highlights the candidate’s achievements, which lets the hiring manager know the value they can add to the company. This section may encourage them to check out the candidate’s resume.
Let’s move on to the closing section.
This section starts with thanking the hiring manager and then expresses the candidate’s enthusiasm for the job opportunity. It also includes a convincing call-to-action, encouraging the hiring manager to download the attached resume and contact the candidate at their convenience.
Overall, this approach explains the candidate’s value and why they must be hired. The prompt only included vital information about the candidate and the position’s responsibilities, yet ChatGPT delivered beyond what it was asked to do, extracting the candidate’s likely skills based on their accomplishments.
You can view the actual chat and try the prompts using your own OpenAI account.
Approach 2: Improving Your Cover Letter
If you’ve already written a cover letter independently, you can use ChatGPT to polish and improve your writing. This approach allows the LLM to imitate your writing style and produce more human-like output. Here’s how to ask ChatGPT to do just that.
Step 1 – Open chat.openai.com and log in.
Step 2 – Paste your cover letter in the message field and ask ChatGPT to improve it.
Step 3 – Before hitting send, include the job description in your prompt. See the sample below.
You’ll notice that the pasted cover letter is quoted in the prompt. This is necessary to clarify to the LLM that the cover letter is a separate element and not part of the instruction.
Also, we specified the improvements we wanted, such as mentioning where the candidate found the job ad. While this isn’t always a required step — especially if you’re uploading the cover letter to LinkedIn or any other online employment marketplace — it is necessary if you’re directly emailing the hiring manager. Your application may also stand out in such a scenario because the hiring manager may not expect a direct email.
Now, let’s see how ChatGPT improved the cover letter.
Step 4 – Read ChatGPT’s response and compare it to your original cover letter.
ChatGPT’s version pitches the candidate better than the original cover letter. But this is only a basic improvement as it’s still missing some key details such as the candidate’s accomplishments.
Let’s put that in our next prompt.
Step 5 – Read the new output thoroughly and compare it to the first one. We’ll focus on the body of the letter in this step.
Stating these accomplishments in detail can induce a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) from the hiring manager, as your past performance clearly indicates that you can get results (led to the growth of XYZ Corporation). By hiring you, the target company can benefit from your contribution and experience business growth.
You can use this output for the body of the cover letter and retain the opening and closing paragraphs from the first response.
You can also check out the entire conversation to compare the two letters more intensively.
Approach 3: Writing a Cover Letter Based on Your Resume and the Job Description
ChatGPT can also extract certain information from your resume, like your skills, work experience, and accomplishments. It can also determine your competitive advantage based on that information and the job description. Let’s go over this more advanced approach to writing a cover letter based on your resume and the job description.
Step 1 – Paste your resume to the prompt field and ask ChatGPT to extract your competitive advantage in your industry. See below.
Step 2 – Assess ChatGPT’s response. ChatGPT identified six competitive advantages from the sample resume we provided. Let’s move on to the next step.
Step 3 – Paste the job description to the prompt field and ask ChatGPT to extract key information.
Step 4 – Ask ChatGPT to generate a cover letter for the position you’re applying for based on the critical information of the job description and your competitive advantage. Simply copy and paste ChatGPT’s responses.
Step 5 – See if ChatGPT’s response followed the prompt.
While this cover letter expounds on the candidate’s competitive advantage and successfully aligns it with the position’s responsibilities, this response also shows why a larger context window would be more beneficial when using more complex prompts. You’ll notice that even if the candidate’s AI solutions expertise was included in their competitive advantage, it wasn’t emphasized in the cover letter as much as their other skills were.
You can view the full chat here and experiment with the same prompts.
Best Practices for Writing Your Cover Letter with ChatGPT
We’ve mentioned that the free version of ChatGPT has some limitations. To get the most out of this LLM, note these best practices for using ChatGPT to craft a cover letter.
Provide the Right Amount of Detail in Your Prompts
ChatGPT’s responses are only as good as your prompts. A vague prompt will result in a generic answer, while a detailed and particular prompt will produce the output that meets your needs.
But, again, be aware that the free version of ChatGPT has a narrow context window, so advanced prompts may only sometimes produce the response you desire.
Protect Your Privacy
Since OpenAI uses your chat history to improve ChatGPT, it would be wise to avoid feeding personal and sensitive information to the LLM. When writing a cover letter, add names, addresses, and contact information only when finalizing the output on a word processing software or email platform.
Constantly Assess ChatGPT’s Responses Carefully
While ChatGPT doesn’t make spelling and grammatical errors, the overall quality of their responses is not always perfect. Hence, always review ChatGPT’s responses carefully and make your prompts as detailed as possible.
Here are some frequently asked questions that you might also have.
What is a cover letter? Is it necessary?
A cover letter is a single-page business letter you send to a company along with your resume or CV to express your intention to apply for an open position. It’s not required unless stated otherwise by a company. Sometimes, an applicant also stands out more when they send a cover letter.
Can ChatGPT write a cover letter? Should I use it?
ChatGPT can definitely write a cover letter. To get the best output possible, include all relevant information, such as the position you’re applying for, your work experience, skills, areas of expertise, and the job description in the prompt.
Using ChatGPT to write your cover letter is entirely up to you. It is a feasible option to save time and effort for writing from scratch or improving what you’ve already created.
Will the employer know if I wrote my cover letter using ChatGPT?
Tools like ZeroGPT and OpenAI Classifier can detect AI-generated text, so if an employer uses them, they may be able to tell that ChatGPT created your cover letter. This can be a dealbreaker to some companies, and so are using AI for resumes and job-interview questions. But on the bright side, a third of surveyed HR professionals are fine with entry-level candidates using AI tools. If you’re keen on using ChatGPT to write your cover letter, try providing a sample of your writing in the prompt to make the LLM imitate your tone and style.
How else can I use ChatGPT for job searching?
ChatGPT’s database only holds texts from 2021 and the years before, so you can’t use it to search for the latest open positions in your field. Instead, you can use it to write a resume or cover letter or help you develop interview answers.
And if you want a tool that is easier to use and more direct than ChatGPT, we selected the 6 best AI resume builders for you.
Taking Advantage of Tech
Now you’ve seen how ChatGPT can help you write a winning cover letter. This said, you still have to understand the limits of the technology. ChatGPT is only a tool that allows us to leverage technology and anticipate how it will further streamline jobs in the future. Ultimately, our competitive advantage, expertise, and accomplishments help us to get hired. Your own credentials would still matter in any job search.
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A formidable prompt engineer, Dan Sanz blends a deep understanding of AI with practical insights into human-machine interaction. His work in prompt engineering in combination with years in the field of Data Science, are helping to redefine the possibilities for AI communication and engagement.