by Emmy Lucas — Forbes Staff –– Job seekers are applying to more roles than years prior. Some say generative AI tools are to thank. Six months ago, Anshita Verma was sending out a handful of job applications a day. Now, the 26-year-old data scientist is sending out 10 to 15 daily, and she says it’s all thanks to artificial intelligence tools. “Instead of taking 30 minutes to fill out an application, it might take me 10,” says Verma. Plug-in AI browser tools that autofill the fields in job postings have greatly sped up the time she spends on applications, she says, letting her apply to more jobs more quickly.

Others are using generative AI programs like ChatGPT to create resumes and cover letters on demand that match the skills and qualifications of the job. Some are using job search automation tools such as LazyApply and SimplifyJobs to apply to jobs en masse. And AI tools such as Pyjama Jobs and Talentprise, which help candidates identify jobs their skill sets match, could also be boosting application rates. Experts say the tools are one reason, coupled with a cooler labor market and inflation, that employers are getting inundated with more applications. Workers in the U.S. and the U.K. are applying to about 15% more roles compared to a year ago, according to recent data from LinkedIn. “Job seekers are being more aggressive” compared to years past, says LinkedIn’s chief economist Karin Kimbrough, with AI helping people submit applications to more postings.

“There’s a whole energy around AI right now, and if you have these tools that are going to help you craft that perfect message with personalized suggestions, it really gives you a little bit more confidence in applying.” It can also prompt job seekers to apply more broadly. “Not only are they applying to more jobs, they’re actually applying to jobs they normally wouldn’t apply to,” says Michelle Volberg, founder and CEO of recruiting firm Giledan 360. “AI is like LinkedIn’s ‘Easy Apply’ tool on steroids. It’s letting tech candidates apply to finance or healthcare roles if there’s some sort of overlap, or make their resume appear relevant when in reality it’s not.”

Experts say the increase in applications, due in part to AI, is swamping recruiters, leaving companies to sort through a flood of resumes. It’s causing “this really big need in the recruiting department to use AI to sort, filter, search and source resumes,” says Josh Bersin, a human resources industry analyst, who said he recently posted a job for an editor and got 300 responses in the first hour, with “90% of them looking like they were written by ChatGPT.” Says Bersin: “[Recruiters’] workload just went up because it’s easier to apply.” AI could also be making it harder for job seekers, as AI-assisted applications raise the bar for getting noticed and increase chances of getting missed amid the deluge. “People aren’t finding a job as quickly as they might like, so they might feel the need to cover more bases and apply to more roles,” LinkedIn’s Kimbrough says. Kimbrough and others say AI isn’t the whole reason job applications and competition are up. Add in slower hiring by companies, layoffs in many sectors and an uncertain economy, and it makes for an even more competitive job market.

Jon Stross, founder and CEO of hiring software company Greenhouse, says the amount of applications per job has more than doubled since last year. “The odds of getting a job are low,” he says, “so people are like, ‘how do you game the system?’” He says AI plays a part in the increased job applications, but the economic climate is having an impact, too. James Neave, head of data science at job platform Adzuna, agrees: “AI is likely to be helping jobseekers speed up how long it takes to apply for jobs, which could mean they have the time and energy for more applications. But ultimately, AI isn’t the underlying cause behind greater job applications. That comes down to labor market dynamics.” November job growth was slightly stronger than economists’ estimates as the U.S. added 199,000 jobs, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report. That’s up from October’s 150,000—the lowest number of jobs added since January 2021. There were also more than 600,000 layoffs in the U.S. this year—a 198% increase from last year. The layoffs in the first nine months this year were the worst string of job cuts since 2020 and the second-worst stretch since 2009, according to staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Many companies use applicant tracking systems to help screen candidates’ applications for relevant skills and weed out those that don’t match certain keywords. But some say ATSs may not be able to keep up with the AI tools job seekers are using to better their chances of getting recognized, creating more work for recruiters and hiring managers.

When workers use AI tools to include keywords from job postings in their resumes, it can cause “a lot more resumes to potentially be getting through than there should be,” says career coach Jessica Mencunas. “That might work a little bit in the opposite of what the intention [of using an ATS] was: to really help recruiters be much more efficient.” Some postings on LinkedIn even boast more than 1,000 applications. “It’s to the point where some companies don’t even get through all the applications—it’s just not possible,” says Volberg. Some workers, such as Ronny Llerena, are still searching for jobs after being laid off earlier this year. “It’s insane,” says Llerena, 25, who has been looking for business operations opportunities in New York since the summer. “There are jobs that are posted for a day with 500 applicants already.” He says AI tools have helped him tailor his cover letters to specific jobs more quickly. He doesn’t see AI as the sole reason the job market is so competitive, but says the increase in applications has pushed him to look for roles outside of tech and rely more on networking and referrals. Says Llerena: “AI certainly isn’t helping alleviate the volume.”