How can employers best manage candidate use of AI in job applications?

Rather than banning the use of AI completely when it comes to recruitment, employers need to educate and provide guidance to candidates on using ChatGPT in the application process, experts tell Lucie Mitchell.

Happy women sitting at laptop


Using AI in the recruitment process is a hot topic in HR and is now a widely used tool for both recruiters and job applicants. An increasing number of jobseekers are turning to generative AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, when creating cover letters, fine-tuning their CVs, or completing application forms. Yet this is raising a few concerns amongst employers, who are keen to ensure they recruit the right person for the job and preserve the integrity of the hiring process.

In a recent report by Arctic Shores, some recruiters describe a mismatch between high-quality applications and a poor performance in interviews, while others have said they have received a surge in high-quality applications that all looked the same, as the candidates are using the same AI tools.

Further research by Arctic Shores found that 72% of candidates regularly use some form of generative AI, while a fifth are using it to help them complete job applications or assessments.

Yet according to a 2024 survey by Resume Genius, over half of hiring managers viewed AI-generated CVs as a red flag, with 20% viewing it as a critical issue that could prevent them from hiring a candidate.

Focusing on the benefits

As a result of these concerns, some employers have decided to ban the use of GenAI tools in the recruitment process, but this could be like trying to put the genie back in the bottle; so instead, perhaps it is about recognising that there are benefits for candidates who use AI tools when applying for jobs, and that the best course of action for employers is to adapt their selection process, and get ahead of the game.

“AI is a great time-saving tool,” remarks Alastair Brown, CTO at BrightHR. “It’s important to understand and empathise with candidates who are being asked to write a unique cover letter for each position they apply for, with many employers wanting personalised CVs to boot. The job hunt can be a stressful, time-consuming process, and AI puts some power back into the hands of the employee in managing that time.”

AI can also make some positions more accessible, he adds. “Sometimes a cover letter is not the most ideal measure of how well someone can do a job. For people from non-native English-speaking backgrounds, or those with neurodivergences, AI can be a tool to help us overcome the barriers that exist to work.”

And the drawbacks

Of course, there are some drawbacks to using AI in job applications too, and employers must be aware of these so they can ensure candidate quality remains high.

“AI is vulnerable to making mistakes with grammar, repetition and can even confidently state inaccuracies as fact,” says Brown. “This particularly relates to qualifications and experience, where AI can turn half-truths into embarrassingly false information.”

There can also be a lack of personalisation in job applications from candidates that have used AI.

“Employers should be aware of clunky, unnatural phrases and sentence structure in cover letters, applications and CVs, as well as American spellings, which can be a giveaway,” advises Victoria McLean, CEO & founder of City CV. “As AI tools are becoming more sophisticated at replicating natural language patterns, it’s important to stay vigilant and seek out authenticity.”

Best practice for employers

So, what is the best way for employers to manage candidate use of AI in job applications?

“Recruiters need to adapt, or risk being left behind,” warns Brown. “While AI can assist with many tasks, it can fall short in areas requiring real-world problem solving, teamwork and ethical decision-making. Try tailoring assessments to include practical exercises that simulate real-world challenges, introduce group discussions and activities that assess teamwork and collaboration, or simulate ethical dilemmas that evaluate candidates on-the-spot decision making skills.

“Maintain human involvement throughout the hiring process and utilise methods that can’t be manipulated,” he adds. “Go back to basics with in-person tasks and face-to-face interviews.”

McLean believes it’s important that employers are clear and upfront about AI. “This means recognising its widespread use but advising candidates on what is acceptable during the application process and what isn’t.”

There is also another way of thinking about this, she adds. “If candidates have shown they can customise AI and use it effectively, is this a skill in itself? Workplaces are moving towards integrating more AI to save time and resources, reducing the risk of error and inaccuracies and bias, so why take it out of the recruitment process when it’s increasingly present within the rest of the business?”

Educating and guiding candidates

Rather than banning the use of AI completely, perhaps it is more about educating and providing guidance to candidates on using ChatGPT in the application process. “Transparency on what is and isn’t acceptable from one organisation to another, when it comes to the use of AI, is now a key part of the onboarding process for many businesses,” comments Mark Standen, director of technology at UK recruiter S&You.

“Establishing a set policy on the use of AI from the outset means employers can empower candidates to use technologies like Chat GPT effectively during the application process and help promote the best outcome for all. This includes setting guidelines for candidates on best practice around the use of keywords, formatting and customisation; providing in-depth feedback on applications; and sharing previous success stories of how AI has worked well previously.”

Brown adds that advice should be given not necessarily on the use of AI full stop, but to what extent AI should be used. “If AI is used to create an entire application, then clearly that is abuse of the tool, and shows a lack of moderation and trust in their own abilities. This should be advised against.”

Exclusion risk

Lastly, employers also need to take steps to mitigate the risk that AI may be preventing them from accessing underrepresented groups, or filtering out the best applicants, to ensure they are not missing out on key talent.

“When there can be huge competition for the same role, standing out is even more important, and that’s where talented, maverick candidates – who give unconventional or off-piste responses that may not fit the pre-set AI data criteria – could be missing out or penalised,” remarks McLean. “Disheartening for them, but also a concern for the employer, who could unwittingly overlook a great candidate. Now that AI is involved [in recruitment], retaining human involvement is even more important to check that applications don’t go under the radar.”

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection



Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

You may be interested in these similar franchises