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LinkedIn Has AI to Enhance Profiles. It Made Some Sound Robotic.

LinkedIn's new AI feature aims to help users market themselves better on the job website by offering profile recommendations.

If you're one of the many users who struggle to tell your professional story on the job site LinkedIn, a built-in artificial intelligence tool may now offer some assistance. But whether using AI is worth your time may depend on how creative you want your profile to be.

LinkedIn began rolling out a generative AI feature to select users this spring, powered by OpenAI's GPT-4 model, to help premium subscribers write headlines and "about" sections. Users can generate text summarizing what's already in their profile and get spruced-up suggestions offered by the feature, which is highlighted with a gold button that says "write with AI." The capability is available to all of LinkedIn's millions of premium subscribers, and the company said it's exploring expanding access in the future.

Generative AI features have been making their way into services and products across industries ever since OpenAI made a big splash with its AI bot ChatGPT late last year. Since then, Microsoft, a big investor in OpenAI, Google and others have been debuting new generative AI features across their product lines. LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, is joining the bunch with its latest rollout.

The Washington Post's Help Desk tried this feature and talked to some users about their experience, and they generally had the same impression: Though the AI suggestions may help you get started, they are too cookie-cutter and sometimes not factually correct.

"It just feels lifeless," said Pete DeOlympio, marketing director at AI and data analytics consulting firm Cleartelligence in Newton, Mass. "And the [AI-generated] version I got is technically wrong."

LinkedIn says about 70 percent of users who try the AI feature apply the recommended suggestions — either as is or with a few tweaks. The company also said it recognizes AI sometimes gets things wrong, and it is working to reduce errors. It recommends that anyone who uses the tool review the suggestions for accuracy and edit if needed. If the AI-generated suggestions feel too robotic, users can tweak their original profile and then rerun the tool to get variations. The company is still working on improving tone.

"Our AI powered suggestions ... are personalized by members," based on what's on their profiles, said Laura Teclemariam, senior director of product at LinkedIn. "We believe [the suggestions] will get better over time."

LinkedIn also said it is testing and rolling out other new AI capabilities that allow users to see personalized summaries of their feeds, write posts and messages and better connect to jobs for which they might be a good fit. And it has been coupling AI-generated conversation-starters with member insights to publish what it calls "collaborative articles" on topics such as leadership, team building and other skills.

After testing the profile feature at The Washington Post, a couple of key things stood out. First, users need to ensure their profile is filled out for the AI to accurately pull titles and background. Otherwise it will pull whatever is there, which may not be the most relevant items to highlight up top. Second, like most generative AI, the output might be a little wordy (the content was nearly doubled in one case) and a little generic — so consider editing.

In one test, the headline offered multiple options but the about section only offered one. It also stripped out some items that may not necessarily pertain to a user's professional journey but rather offer some insight to quirks or insights to their personality.

DeOlympio said that the tool might be useful for people who need help drafting something for their profile, but said it introduced an error when it assumed he oversaw a team. It also felt too bland for his personality.

Several other users agreed.

"The AI stripped the hook I had," said Morgan Short, St. Paul, Minn.-based director of content and web strategy at price-management software company Vendavo, adding that some suggestions also created redundancy. "It can't show the narrative if you're trying to create a brand that sets yourself apart."

Some of the content the AI generates seemingly blends commonalities of a person's job title with what's actually in their profile to create the result, said Donna Svei, an executive resume writer in Los Angeles. And it may not be great for optimizing your profile for career advancement or changes, she said. That's because the AI may summarize the experience and titles you already have versus what you aim to become.

"The first few words in your profile [like the headline] have more [search] weight than any other field," she said, adding that the AI highlights only your current and previous roles. "But you need to use the title you want in your headline."

For Sangeeta Krishnan, senior analytics lead at pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer, the problem was the AI doesn't allow users to customize what they want to highlight based on what's most important in their industry. And in her case, the AI highlighted old certifications at the bottom of her list rather than elevating the more relevant ones she lists first in her profile. She also wished she could dial up or down different tones.

"Everyone's style of writing is different," she said. "Maybe you could ask it to make it more professional or make it more funny, but it only gives you one option."

But as more people turn to AI for content, more text may start sounding the same, several users said. Svei said her brain clicks off when she reads items written by AI because it tends to be written in a way that makes the content less interesting. Short sees a lot of value in both generative AI and LinkedIn, but she wouldn't recommend it for enhancing your profile.

"I highly recommend optimizing your LinkedIn profile, but use the AI critically," she said. "It's a tool like anything else."

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