illustration of chat bot

ChatGPT: the future of recruitment?

We regularly monitor trends in recruitment and the launch of ChatGPT has certainly been a talking point within the Careers Service. Shelagh Green, our Director, explores the impact of ChatGPT and other associated Artificial Intelligence (AI) software in recruitment.

A version of this blog was originally published on the Teaching Matters blog.

So, what is “ChatGPT”and why is it of interest?

In November 2022, OpenAI, a San Francisco tech company, launched ChatGPT, a chatbot AI,which interacts in a conversational way”; hence, the “Chat” in ChatGPT. This tool can produce human-like text in response to a prompt and can carry out an impressive range of tasks from working computing code, making recommendations through to writing essays, CVs, cover letters and news articles!

ChatGPT has created a new buzz around the opportunities and challenges of using AI in recruitment, as it has in many sectors.

The use of AI in UK graduate recruitment

AI has been used in the UK graduate recruitment market for over a decade yet currently remains in the minority, with only 10% of Institute for Student Employment (ISE) members saying they use it.  Organisations are using AI to pre-screen candidates, to analyse video interviews and to screen CVs. There is variation across sectors, but as the ISE tends to represent larger organisations with the capacity to invest in technology, it provides a reasonable indication of the current situation many of our current students will encounter. However, some data from Aptitude Research suggests that many companies are investing in recruitment automation, and developments such as ChatGPT could change the landscape.

A recruiter’s perspective…

Speaking to one recruiter in the tech sector recently who include significant text based assessment in their recruitment, they saw ChatGPT being used by applicants as soon as it launched. Tell-tale signs included factual inaccuracies, an absence of context in answers and the consequence of prompt engineering, where the response is only as a good as the instruction or request made. Once the company website indicated they won’t accept ChatGPT generated answers the numbers immediately dropped (and to be on the safe side they are using ZeroGPT, an application that analyses text to establish whether an AI produced it).

The decline in applicants making use of ChatGPT would suggest that most applicants are in fact honest. And, when the company explored with applicants who they suspected of using it, many students immediately admitted this and on the whole were trying to use it positively, e.g. to improve grammar, as non-native speakers. They also found that students tried to use it too quickly which created poor outputs that were then easy to spot. This is well known in IT as the concept of garbage in, garbage out (GIGO): poor quality or incorrect input will always generate faulty output. For instance, if ChatGPT is used to generate a first draft of a cover letter this will be very bland and generic and in recruitment, investment in high quality applications is what gets results.

The personal nature of recruitment may make it more challenging to game the system, but it would be naive to think the influence of AI in graduate recruitment will be limited.

Potential benefits and concerns of AI in recruitment

Recruiters see benefits and challenges in harnessing emerging technologies.

The biggest benefit seems to be in managing large volumes of data and sifting applications, contributing to communication with candidates, e.g. chatbots informing applicants about where they are in the recruitment process, and if used well, creating a more level playing field. Unilever used a system, which didn’t use name, educational background or work experience; this increased female candidates by 16%. Some of these benefits also free staff time for higher value activities and human interaction. Some organisations have seen it as a way of screening fake CVs or claims about experience….which could leave us in the position of AI screening AI generated content, which may well only benefit the tech suppliers!

Concerns cluster around the robustness of the algorithms, evidence base and candidate perceptions. If algorithms are based on skewed data there is a risk of baking in inequalities; there is concern that cultural differences aren’t adequately addressed. To get round the GIGO problem, upfront investment is required and for many organisations, the business case for this is weak due to lack of evidence on the benefits derived. One factor in this is understanding candidate’s perception of fairness from the use of AI and the possible lack of emotional connection in the recruitment process. In fact, it could be seen as a differentiating factor for business, such as recruitment email signatures that state this wasn’t written by a bot.

Reflections on the influence of AI in recruitment

Wherever graduate recruitment teams currently sit within this argument, I expect the autumn 2023 recruitment and assessment methodologies to reflect the emergence of ChatGPT, possibly with increased emphasis on psychometric and aptitude testing and elements of authentic assessments, via assessment centre exercise.

Students may need to consider issues such as copyright from data that is being scraped and be aware that their personal data may become part of what is out there to scrape. Digital, data and privacy literacy is essential. But, along with this, students can really value and promote the communication skills, critical thinking and creativity they develop with us at university. Communication is vital in every organisation; there is no originality in ChatGPT, asking the right question becomes ever more important, as does the ability to understand what is factual.

Parting thoughts

The return in investment argument remains; applicants who put most effort in will be most successful, and that includes in how they use assistive tools such as AI. I would always say be honest in the application process as you will get caught out eventually – and as I heard from one recruiter recently, “if ChatGPT can get you a job – the chances are it can do your job.”

Thanks Shelagh for such an interesting read.

The Careers Service is open during Spring vacation.

There are a range of ways the Careers Service can support you in the recruitment process:

CVs and cover letters

  • Draft your CV or cover letter, following the advice on our website and looking at our examples.
  • Get instant automatic feedback by uploading your CV to CV360.
  • Get quick feedback on your CV or cover letter (with human interaction), by coming to one of our drop-ins (we offer these both online, and on campus, and you don’t need to book) or, you can book an appointment via MyCareerHub for more in-depth feedback.

Interviews and assessment centres

  • Find out how to prepare and practise for interviews and how to do well at assessment centres using our resources.

(Image credit: pencil parker on Pixabay)



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