ChatGPT could make the most tedious HR work obsolete

A robot in a business suit.
ChatGPT identifies patterns to generate human-like responses, making it particularly well-suited for redundant HR tasks like writing job descriptions.
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Good morning—Paolo Confino here!

Last week, the head of a corporate communications consultancy wanted to see if his HR department could spot a job application written by ChatGPT. It couldn’t. 

The team of recruiters is hardly the first to be fooled by an embellished résumé—either A.I. or huckster-generated. But if HR departments can’t tell the difference at first glance between a ChatGPT or human-crafted job application, wouldn’t the same hold true for applicants reading job descriptions? 

In a nutshell, ChatGPT identifies patterns to generate human-like responses, making it particularly well-suited for redundant HR tasks like writing job descriptions, running compensation audits, or cold emailing prospective candidates. It’s work that Julia Dhar, Boston Consulting Group partner and founder of its Behavioral Science Lab, calls “high volume but still relatively complex tasks.” “Writing job descriptions is the perfect example of that,” she says. While the text ChatGPT produces is usually stilted and bland, job descriptions and company policies rarely require flowery language.

While the initial reaction to job-stealing robots might be fear, in actuality, A.I.’s ability to take over the rote parts of a job could allow HR professionals to dedicate more time to long-term, strategic thinking. In other words, the human part of human resources. 

“The right way to think about [ChatGPT] is as a trusted colleague or counterpart in the organization,” Dhar says. 

What a tool like ChatGPT can’t do is make decisions or recommendations based on the outputs it creates, says Rafee Tarafdar, chief technology officer of IT consulting firm Infosys. Human resource professionals must still bring their judgment and expertise to make sensitive decisions, assess job candidates, or evaluate the quality of a company’s health care coverage. 

And although ChatGPT can assist with paperwork, it can’t replace the relationship building at the core of HR. It’s a shortcoming that’s particularly glaring in talent recruitment, which by its nature, requires a degree of confidence and intimacy between job candidates and hiring managers. Sure, a robot can read cover letters, screen candidates, and schedule interviews, but it can’t take a company’s dream candidate out for dinner and convince them to take a big promotion at a new company in a new city. “The only thing a human would have to do is get [the applicant] to trust them,” says Tim Sackett, CEO of staffing firm HRU Tech. 

HR employees still have to be knowledgeable about the intricacies of their roles, but instead of doing those tasks themselves, they can delegate them to ChatGPT to replicate at scale. “ChatGPT’s limits are just the imagination of the HR person using it,” says Sackett.  

Experts I spoke with speculated about a future in which the ability to effectively query ChatGPT will become a core HR skill in itself. Just as Microsoft Excel eliminated the need for mental math savants, replacing them with spreadsheet wizards, ChatGPT could replace job description writers with individuals skilled in prompt engineering. But Dhar warns that organizations that want their people leaders to familiarize themselves with ChatGPT should not lose sight of the fact that they’re looking for the same fundamental skills. “Individuals with high-quality, critical-thinking skills and the ability to translate the answer to their question into a plan that others can get on board with,” she says.

ChatGPT also has another critical flaw: It only has information up to 2021, meaning it does not know current events, recent labor laws, or the talent landscape from the past year. 

Plus, it lacks high-grade security. In fact, when logging on for the first time, users are greeted with a disclaimer advising them not to send confidential information through the chatbot. That’s a major problem for HR managers who handle sensitive information.  

Ironically, ChatGPT doesn’t seem to just replicate human language, but their conditions, too. When I tried to use ChatGPT to write a sample job description for this newsletter, the site timed out due to high traffic. It looks like chatbots also get burnout.

Paolo Confino

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Gallup released a report on Wednesday taking stock of U.S. employee engagement. The findings weren’t pretty. The percentage of engaged employees has steadily declined over the past two years. In 2022, 32% of surveyed workers each quarter reported being engaged at work, down from 36% in 2020. The feeling of disconnectedness was particularly high among Gen Z and millennial respondents. 

“Workers cited unclear expectations, disconnectedness from their company, and a lack of opportunities for career development as the main factors leading to their disengagement,” writes Fortune's Tristan Bove.

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

- Layoffs for remote workers come with the stress of losing their jobs and none of the office’s shared commiseration. New York Times

- About 35 companies in Chicago signed on to create a job board dedicated to laid-off tech workers in the U.S. on an H1-B visa. Bloomberg

- Amazon employees in England went on strike for the first time, a signal that the e-commerce giant’s labor woes are widespread. Wired 

- A job listing in New York featured a salary range between $50,000 to $1 million a year, frustrating job candidates who feel companies aren’t living up to the spirit of pay transparency laws. Washington Post  

- A staggeringly honest job listing for an influencer’s assistant reads, “This is a terrible job. It is very demanding, you will have no personal life.” Insider


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

$10 million vs. $22/hr. Two lobbying firms succeeded in adding a referendum to overturn California’s first-in-the-nation law that raised the minimum wage for fast-food workers. —The Associated Press 

Skills gap. A tough labor market and mounting concerns about whether employees have the skills they need for the future make for an urgent need to upskill existing workforces. —Megan Leonhardt 

Employees as customers. A third of employees would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job, according to a survey from HR consultancy Randstad. —Sander van ‘t Noordende  

Remote first. Workers’ latest preference is for remote-first jobs, where they can work from home three or four days a week and go to the office the rest of the time. —Jane Thier

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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