In July, software engineer Julian Joseph became the latest victim of the tech industry crisis. radical job cuts. Faced with his second layoff in two years, he dreaded spending a few more months hunched over his laptop filling out repetitive applications and throwing them away.
Joseph specializes in automating user interfaces and figured someone must have roboticized the unpleasant task of applying for a job. While searching online, he came across a company called LazyApply. It offers an AI-powered service called Job GPT that promises to automatically apply to thousands of jobs “with just one click.” All he had to do was fill out some basic information about his skills, experience and desired position.
After Joseph paid $250 for a lifetime unlimited plan and installed LazyApply’s Chrome extension, he saw the bot crawling apps on his behalf on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, targeting jobs that matched his criteria. Thirsty for efficiency, he also installed the app on his boyfriend’s laptop, and went to bed with two computers furiously browsing tons of apps. By morning, the robot had applied to nearly 1,000 jobs in his name.
The tool was not perfect. He seemed to guess the answers to questions on some apps, with sometimes confusing results. But in a brutal way, it worked. After LazyApply completed applications for some 5,000 jobs, Joseph says he landed about 20 interviews, a success rate of about half a percent. Compared to the 20 interviews he landed after manually applying to 200 to 300 jobs, the success rate was dismal. But given the time Job GPT saved, Joseph felt the investment was worth it. LazyApply did not respond to a question about how the service works.
Many job seekers will understand the appeal of application automation. Work across different applicant tracking systems Re-entering the same information, knowing that you risk being ghosted or automatically rejected by an algorithm, is a difficult task, and technology has not speeded up the process. The average time to make a new hire has reached a record level of 44 days this year, according to a study conducted in 25 countries by talent solutions company AMS and Josh Bersin Company, a human resources consulting firm. “The fact that this tool exists suggests that something broke in the process,” says Joseph. “I see this as taking back some of the power that has been ceded to corporations over the years.”
Recruiters are less enamored by the idea of robots besieging their application portals. When Christine Nichlos, CEO of talent acquisition company People Science, told her recruiting staff about these tools, the news prompted a collective groan. She and others see the use of AI as a sign that a candidate is not serious about a job. “It’s like asking every woman at the bar, no matter who they are,” says a hiring manager at a Fortune 500 company who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of his employer.
Other recruiters are less worried. “I don’t really care how the resume comes to me, as long as the person is an able-bodied person,” says Emi Dawson, who runs tech recruiting company NeedleFinder Recruiting. For years, some candidates have outsourced their applications to cheap workers in other countries. It estimates that 95 percent of the applications it receives are from completely unqualified candidates, but it says its applicant tracking software filters out most of them — perhaps the fate of some of the 99.5 percent of Joseph’s LazyApply applications that disappeared into the ether.
LazyApply has a lot of competition, some of which involves humans taking over. A company called Sonara charges up to $80 a month to automatically complete up to 420 applications and recommends jobs from a database compiled through partnerships with applicant tracking companies and companies that collect Jobs. Users can teach the algorithm their preferences by liking and disliking tasks, and it offers to run tasks in front of the user before launching its automated app filler. Human staff take over where AI fails, for example for some free text responses.