The Hot New AI Job Skill: Asking Questions

ChatGPT and other AI tools have spawned a need for “prompt engineers.” Why leaders are rushing to find these people before competitors do. 

Apparently, there are dumb questions—at least when it comes to getting the most out of ChatGPT

In the latest sign of how quickly the artificial-intelligence platform is infiltrating the corporate world, some companies are racing to hire “prompt engineers”: experts who can formulate queries that will yield the optimal result from the bot. Think of them as akin to SEO or social-media experts—only the stakes are a lot higher. Already, firms in a wide range of fields, from Wall Street traders to HR specialists, are finding new uses to market or conduct research with these new content-AI tools.

“Ultimately, this technology is only as good as the information it pulls,” says Barbara Rosen, global accounts lead for the Technology market at Korn Ferry. Which is where prompt engineers come in—posing questions which are specifically tailored to return the most relevant content. As ChatGPT and other generative-AI bots “learn” from user queries and prompts, they will increasingly respond in kind. Posing questions in the language of law versus finance, for instance, will likely yield answers which are different in both content and tone. 

Many firms are both excited and overwhelmed by the new technology. Introduced just two months ago, ChatGPT now has more than 100 million monthly users. Three of the world’s biggest financial institutions already have banned traders from using the tool lest they expose sensitive personal or financial data that could invite regulatory action. Some technology and telecommunications firms have also banned employees from using the platform. “Companies are trying to figure out how to use it for good while protecting themselves from the bad,” says Sharon Egilinsky, a Korn Ferry senior client partner specializing in organizational strategy. She points out that some AI responses could contain misinformation, insensitive language, private data, and racial or ethnic bias, among other kinds of inappropriate content.  

In fact, this new area of AI is moving so fast that “an entire field of careers and job roles will quickly evolve with it,” says Chris Cantarella, global sector leader for the Software practice at Korn Ferry. He points out, for instance, that “prompt engineer” is just a loose term that generally refers to anyone who is skilled in using data science to gain new business insights, innovations, and ideas around product development, marketing, customer experience, and more. 

Cantarella says job creation around the new tools will have to balance minimizing risk with leveraging the efficiency and savings from their use. He envisions tech, legal, and financial companies having to hire more content moderators to prevent sensitive or proprietary information from being released or violating regulations. Companies, says Cantarella, will need more than just data-science majors, software-product leads, or engineers to fill these roles. The need for prompt engineers, he says, could open the door for specialists in ethics, sociology, philosophy, and other liberal arts to get involved in artificial intelligence.

“‘Prompt engineer’ is a term that I think will quickly go out of style,” says Cantarella. He believes that instead of one role, the field will evolve into an entirely new suite of career opportunities. “The key ingredient will be having people with great passion and skill for asking superbly thoughtful questions to get the most out of AI.”

For more information, contact Korn Ferry’s software practice