Guidance on the use of artificial intelligence in candidate applications

Information to help employers understand the challenges and approaches to take when candidates use artificial intelligence (AI) in job applications.

25 April 2024

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) describes algorithms that can be used to produce new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos. It is developing all the time and is now being used as a support mechanism for all kinds of content-based creations. 

Employers in all sectors are seeing an increase in candidates using AI tools (for example, ChatGPT) to help them complete job application forms. Essentially, this involves putting application questions into an AI tool and then copying the answers it supplies into the application form, either word-for-word or with some minor edits. 

Why does it matter? 

AI-generated job applications can often be generic, impersonal and may not accurately reflect an applicant's qualifications, knowledge, skills, and experiences. There is also a risk that it can generate false or misleading information. 

Job applications contain questions where candidates are reasonably expected to do some research (normally using an online search engine) before answering. The difference in using a search engine is that an individual has enough understanding to interpret the responses received. When AI is used, the search results will be automatically interpreted to provide an answer, and therefore an individual doesn’t require any understanding of the topic at all. This will be problematic if the candidate is selected to progress to a later stage of the recruitment process when realistically they are unsuitable for the role.

What are the indicators that AI has been used?

If multiple applicants have provided the same answer either word-for-word, similar, or in a different order or tweaked, it is likely that AI has been used. 

Other strong indicators can be found within written responses such as:

  • stilted, impersonal language (robotic sounding or plain) 
  • inconsistency in the language, writing style or tone of voice throughout 
  • the over-use of semi colons
  • overly long or complex sentences that have a range of unusual vocabulary, patterns or phrases.

Can employers know for certain?

Currently there is no official marketed technology to detect AI. If an employer’s organisation has access to an AI app they could put the questions in there and see what response is supplied. Employers could also consider using screening software that is designed to detect/identify AI generated content, however, the accuracy of these tools is questionable and not verifiable. 

What should employers do if they are sure that a candidate has used AI to complete an application?

Employers should consider all factors before making a decision. It may depend on the number and type of question(s) that AI has been used to answer. If an employer still believes the individual is a suitable candidate, it is recommended that they have a verbal discussion with them to check they have the required understanding and knowledge in order for their application to be taken forward. 

If the candidate is allowed to progress employers must ensure there are robust and thorough assessment methods to further test the knowledge and skills required for the post.

Is there anything employers can do to deter or discourage candidates from using AI?

Employing organisations could consider creating a policy about candidates using AI and input measures to mitigate the risks. It is advisable to seek guidance from your organisation’s HR and legal departments before implementing such a policy. 

A statement or disclaimer could be added to job descriptions and application forms advising that the use of AI is monitored and if applicants have used it then they are required to declare this. 

Application forms should contain appropriate, role-based specific questions to establish that a candidate has the depth of understanding that is required and consequently make it more difficult for AI to generate adequate responses.

Should employers ban candidates from using AI?

It is not recommended to automatically reject applications where the candidate is suspected of using AI (or has openly declared it), however, that decision would need to be made by the individual organisation according to policy. Transparency is important and employers may consider conveying the following messages to candidates:

  • AI-generated content may lack specificity and fail to address key criteria outlined in the job description.
  • Personalisation is essential to convey individual skills, knowledge, and experiences effectively.
  • Over reliance on AI-generated content is discouraged and may diminish the applicant's chances of success.

Are there any positives/benefits to candidates using AI?

​​​​​​​AI is becoming more prevalent, and employers need to adapt to its presence and use in the workplace, as much as employees and job seekers are doing. It could be argued that taking advantage of technology to streamline repetitive tasks shows good time management and an openness to changing work style. 

Studies suggest that more candidates than ever are using AI to help them fill in job applications and this will only continue to increase, particularly those from traditionally disadvantaged groups who are more likely to use AI. Therefore, it is important that employers don’t inadvertently exclude potential candidates in the talent pool by being intolerant to AI. 

AI in the future

AI will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, therefore, we will aim to track the latest developments and update and expand guidance as appropriate.