The ChatGPT app.
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When applying for jobs, ChatGPT-4 can make the cover-letter writing process more manageable.
An AI consultant shares tips for writing an effective cover letter using ChatGPT.
Here’s a step-by-step guide, including writing prompts and navigating ChatGPT’s limitations.
Generative AI can be an effective tool for time-consuming tasks like writing cover letters, but only if you know how to use it effectively.
As an AI consultant, marketing and design companies come to me when they need help learning to use AI tools like ChatGPT. I also help companies review potential employees for AI-specific roles by evaluating their understanding of current tools and trends.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get AI to write you a great cover letter that doesn’t sound AI-generated.
Learn the basics
ChatGPT works best with specific directions, so learn what makes a good cover letter before directing ChatGPT to write one.
Isimemen Aladejobi, a career strategist, outlines three components of an effective cover letter.
A strong introduction that demonstrates company or industry knowledge. Highlight something in the news that’s relevant to your prospective department. Use this topical event to segue into why you’re interested in this specific position. Aladejobi recommends always referring to the job title and company by name.The body of the cover letter should convey why your skills and experience make you a perfect fit. Highlight what you brought to the table at your last job and connect it to the requirements of the role you’re applying for. Even suggest initiatives you could start at the company.The sign-off should be simple. Aladejobi suggests, “I’m excited and looking forward to hearing from you,” which she says demonstrates enthusiasm without being too wordy.
With this in mind, you can now start prompting ChatGPT with confidence.
Writing your cover letter in ChatGPT-4
Be aware of the token limit
The token limit is ChatGPT’s limit on recall and comprehension during a single session. ChatGPT has a token limit of 4,096, and according to OpenAI, 100 tokens are about 75 words.
If ChatGPT starts responding to prompts illogically, you’ve probably hit the limit. This message to help ChatGPT refocus:
“Please search this chat for the word strawberry and reread that message and provide me a summary of what you think we need to do. We’re at step [#] of that message. Tell me if you want a recap of the previous steps, and I’ll provide a summary.“
Having this marker will keep ChatGPT on task and ensure an accurate end product.
Step 1: Onboard ChatGPT to the task
ChatGPT needs very explicit instructions to complete tasks successfully. Below is the exact prompt to copy and paste into the chatbot.
To apply for a job within your industry use this prompt:
“Hi ChatGPT. You’re now the best cover letter writer on earth. You and I will write a cover letter together for [job title] at [company]. I have [#] years of experience. Here’s what we’re going to do:
You will ask me at least 15 questions about my work history and vision for the role. Make at least one of the questions “What initiatives would you implement in this role?”I’m going to give you sections of the job description to read and you’re going to generate a strategic plan for the cover letter based on my answers from step one and the job description for me to approve.I’m going to give you a news item about the company. Read it and tell me how you plan to connect it to my cover letter application.Use this format to write the cover letter:Begin with the news item based on my approval of your strategy. Conclude paragraph one: “When I came across this role, I knew it was the role for me. Let me tell you why.”The next two to three paragraphs should be my career history with clear connections to the position requirements and desired skills. Make sure to say somewhere, “As your [position title], I’ll,” and include some of the initiatives.Wrap up with the following sentence, “I’m excited and looking forward to hearing from you.”
If we exceed your token limit, let’s use “strawberry” as our focus word so you can get reoriented.
Please begin by summarizing what you think I want you to do.”
If you’re making a pivot in your career, remove this line from the prompt:
“I have [#] years of experience,” and replace it with “I’m making a career transition from [industry] to [industry] so the cover letter needs to heavily showcase how my previous experience is an asset to [Company].“
And add this to the first task:
“Make another question about how I think my previous experience is an asset to this new industry.”
Step 2: Check for understanding
ChatGPT should create a summary of this plan. Check that the summary is accurate. If it is, reply with “next step” or “yes.”
If ChatGPT gets confused, open a new chat and repaste the prompt.
Step 3: Answer the career questions and have ChatGPT generate a career summary
The bot should provide you with the 15 career questions. Each answer should be two or three sentences long. You can go over for one or two questions, but be wary of potentially hitting the token limit.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, add this sentence and press enter:
“Please create a detailed summary of my responses that I can paste into ChatGPT so I don’t have to answer all these questions again if I need to generate another cover letter.“
Copy and paste the summary into another document to use for other applications.
Step 4: Input no more than 2,500 characters of the job description
Copy and paste only the pertinent details from the description into ChatGPT and delete the fluff. Keep skills and competencies, responsibilities, the role overview, and a little about the company if you think it would be helpful.
Step 5: Paste in a company press release or industry-specific news story
Once ChatGPT gives you its plan, decide whether you agree with its intent. If you do, indicate that you want to move forward and press return or make a change.
With any AI tool, you must be an editor and strategic advisor. Do not assume that what it’s generated is the right path. Exercise critical judgment and get ChatGPT to refine.
For example, after I provided the article, ChatGPT presented me with a summary that didn’t highlight key issues on how Canadian media companies think about content. I gave it instructions to refine it.
Step 6: Generate the cover letter and revise it with ChatGPT
Once you’ve approved its strategic approach, ChatGPT will generate the cover letter.
It will generate a first draft but probably won’t be ready for use yet. It’s your job now to go back in and revise using specific instructions.
For example, I felt that the third paragraph ChatGPT generated was weak.
Direct it with specific changes to adjust particular paragraphs and go back and forth for a few rounds until you’re happy.
And it generated a much stronger attempt.
Step 7: Put it into a text editor
ChatGPT has a suboptimal understanding of grammar and syntax. Once you’re happy with the content, put your text through Grammarly to help tighten up the language and avoid problems like using the passive voice.
Step 8: Rinse and repeat with modifications
You can use the same root prompt for future cover letters, but replace step one with this:
“I’m going to paste in a summary of my work experience. Please write me a three-sentence summary of what type of work I do and what you see as my top accomplishment so I can check for understanding.”
Based on the previously generated summary, you’ll double-check that ChatGPT has a good idea of what you do. If it’s missing a few key details, fill it in on those or tell it which summary you want it to prioritize before you move through the rest of the prompt.