Today's job market is competitive—we've all seen dozens of headlines touting recent rounds of layoffs. So, it's more important than ever for job seekers to craft a compelling application, which usually includes a cover letter.
While writing a tailored cover letter can be a time-consuming and daunting task, 83% of recruiters and hiring managers say a cover letter is "an important component of the decision-making process." Most job seekers will create a template, but the time it takes to personalize it for each role can take upward of two hours per application.
When former VP of Product Ambar Shrivastava was laid off in late 2022, he found himself in a similar situation. He wanted to provide a well-written and personalized cover letter for each application, but the process took far too long.
After seeing an announcement on Zapier's OpenAI integration, Ambar had an idea. Could he solve this cover letter problem with AI?
What started as a project to help him land a new role quickly became an entire company. So began CoverDoc, a tool dedicated to making the job-seeking process easier.
AI: The ultimate timer saver
In November 2022, Ambar was laid off from his role as the Head of Product at a startup in Austin. As he began his job search, he discovered companies consistently required a cover letter for their applications.
"I spent a lot of time just using templates and manually researching the company. It was really inefficient," said Ambar.
Around this same time, ChatGPT launched and quickly grew in popularity. Like almost everyone else on the internet, Ambar was curious and had started tinkering with the chatbot. Tinkering with the tool made him wonder: Could AI write a personalized cover letter?
He started with simple prompts. He provided ChatGPT with a job description and his LinkedIn bio—and the results weren’t bad! From there, Ambar tweaked the prompt to be more direct and provided more context. The results just kept getting better.
"I still had to go in and make some tweaks before applying for the job, but you know, they were really good first drafts," said Ambar.
The process was still pretty manual, though, and Ambar knew he could save even more time by adding automation.
"Zapier announced the OpenAI integration, and that really opened the door for me to turn this into a product to help other job seekers."
Building a business with a little help from Zapier and AI
Ambar had a vision that someone could submit a form with their information, and within minutes, a customized cover letter would appear in their inbox.
To get started, he set up an Airtable account that served as a lead-capturing system and customer-relationship management (CRM) tool for CoverDoc. Within Airtable, he built a form that captures all the necessary info for AI to write a high-quality, personalized cover letter draft.
Next, he opened a Zapier account and started building the Zaps he needed to automate the entire process. It looks like this:
Form to Airtable: When a new Airtable form is submitted by a customer, the information is saved within a table.
Airtable to OpenAI: When a new cover letter request is saved within Airtable, a prompt is sent to OpenAI to draft the cover letter.
OpenAI to Airtable: When OpenAI finishes generating the new cover letter, the draft is saved within Airtable.
Airtable to Google Docs: When the response is saved in Airtable, it triggers Google Docs to create a document for the cover letter that includes an originality score to help job seekers know how much effort should be spent on revisions.
Airtable: Once this process is complete, an email is automatically sent to the job seeker with a link to their personalized cover letter. Using Zapier Paths, paid CoverDoc users also get additional content with their cover letter draft, like interview prep questions and company insights.
"If you’re doing it the traditional way—researching the company, the hiring manager, connecting it with the job description—it’s a very manual process. So, you could spend at least one to two hours per job application. With CoverDoc, you’ll have your first draft within two minutes."
Send prompts to GPT-3 for updated Airtable records
Create Google Docs from templates for new Airtable records in views
Send Gmail messages for new Airtable records in views
In January 2023, Ambar created an Early Access Program and quickly had more than 500 people sign up. After a couple of rounds of feedback and improvements, he launched CoverDoc publicly in March and, within just two months, has over 1,600 users, with no paid marketing!
AI makes the job-seeking process better for all
With this automated cover letter process, job seekers can get through more applications without sacrificing the quality of their cover letters.
"We have some power users creating four or five cover letters a day," Ambar said.
Through his user interviews, Ambar also discovered the tool had other benefits beyond saving time.
"It turns out that CoverDoc is really valuable for non-U.S. job seekers. About 55% of the users are not from the U.S. These are individuals trying to work for a U.S.-based company but maybe their English writing skills are not as strong as they’d like them to be," Ambar said.
"So, they use CoverDoc because it helps them with their grammar and gives them a more polished first draft."
Following the success of CoverDoc, Ambar has been inspired to think about other areas in the job-seeking and employment experience that AI and automation could improve.
"I’ve been thinking about the job-seeker journey a lot. You’re applying for jobs, researching companies, then you’re interviewing, negotiating compensation, then you’re onboarding at a new company. There are so many areas I’m beginning to explore that could be better with the assistance of AI."