Free CV Critique, a great example of machine generated nonsense

The Curious Codex

             26 Votes

2024-06-28 Published
2024-07-07 Updated
3880 Words, 20  Minute Read

The Author
GEN UK Blog

Mr Bat Man

Batman has never worked for the company

 

Do you use job-sites?

Many people in the UK keep profiles on jobsites, like Indeed, Monster, fish4, Glassdoor etc, and when using these sites you'll often find that a 'free' CV review is offered. Well, its free so why not right? I was asked to look into this by a team member who suspected that the content was auto-generated, so I did.

What is a CV Review or Critique?

Asking an expert to review your CV is a great idea, especially if its free, and get helpful tips on how to improve the content and layout, I think most people would agree. For experienced people, writing a CV is not as simple as it sounds, we've got a lot of experience but not a huge number of past positions, and a volume of skills. If you remember the rule, of keeping it to one page then you've got maybe 10 pages of skills and history to squeeze into one (and no, using a tiny font isn't advised).

Who are TopCV.co.uk, Career.io & Topresume.com?

TopCV is aparently a CV writing company, with no physical address which appears to be a re-labeled career.io setup. They (career.io) offer to write your CV for $219, but that's not with an Executive writer, that's $349, and should you want some 'coaching' whatever that is, its $699. Seeing that the 'uk' branded site offers exactly the same services for about the same price confirms that they are indeed just a local branding and not a local company, as is so commonly the case these days.

How does it work?

The process is not a complex one, you get offered this 'free cv review or Critique' from a job site, and they all seems to do it, your CV is sent to this company, and they pass that to a possibly AI powered review tool, which just spits out the same nonsense, telling you that its 'ok' but could be better, with of course links and email's to have it rewritten professionally.

The site who sends offers this 'free' review is paid a commission for every referral, which is suggested to be $0.62 each, but this is from third party sources. If a job site, for example has 1000 new members per week, that is of course $620.

Let's explore the process a bit more.

What is AI?

I think most people know what AI is, but if not, its a program that uses data stored in a special format to process language and return results. Its a touch more complex but essentially a LLM (lange language model) can take a document and then extract and process information based on that document, rendering an 'answer' to a series of questions. We have an example AI tool on the site which lets you play with this.

Let's take a closer look

I generated three significantly different CV's and then ran them through this 'free' CV review to see what the results are, so let's look at that now

The first CV was two pages with an intro, a block of work history in detail, and a list of skills, and here's the generated 'review'.

This free CV review is meant to give you a straightforward, honest assessment with some suggestions to help in your job search. I'm able to offer insight into how you compare to other job seekers competing for the same positions because I personally review hundreds of CVs every month.

Of course, this isn't a real person, but its written to suggest that it is, and that's deception.

Sometimes you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but in the case of your CV, this just isn't true. I found your design to be visually uneven. The look and feel of your document do not convey "experience" as much as your actual accomplishments do. Remember that your CV is your marketing tool. It's the first glimpse a potential employer has of you. You should consider using a few more bullet points to increase the impact to the employer. If employers see too many long sections of text, they might find it difficult to zero in on the most crucial details. The size and type of bullets should also be taken into account. Although seemingly minor, the visual impact of a CV is the key to ensuring that an employer will read it thoroughly.

This is the same on every one, just stock text thrown in there

A career summary is a key component to a good CV. That said, yours is too lengthy. Shorten your career summary to concisely define you as a professional and touch on the areas most relevant to your career level and job target. From the way your CV is phrased, you could be perceived as a "doer," as opposed to an "achiever." A few too many of your sentences are task-based rather than results-based. This means that they tell you what you did, instead of what you achieved. This is a normal mistake for non-professional CV writers. To be effective and create excitement a good CV aids the hiring executive envisage you delivering similar achievements at his or her company.

Again, the same every time even with three distinctly different CV's, it then goes on to give examples, which are poorly extracted sections of work history

Employers want to know about your previous contributions and specifically how you've helped make a difference. More significantly, they want to know how you are going to make a difference at their company. In reading your CV, I did not find the kind of active language that would bring your work to life. Instead, I saw passive words and non-action verbs. Phrases like “Responsible for” and “managing” are monotonous, overused, and add little value to your CV. Strong action verbs, used with engaging language to outline outstanding achievements, are essential parts of a soundly-built CV.

Yep, the same every time, just nonsense and actually I didn't use 'managing' once in the CV. It then goes on to give a 'real life' example taken from a former clients CV which, you guessed it, is the same every time.

A regular review of every word and sentence in your CV is an important thing to do, especially if you're the only one looking at it. Hiring managers are looking for an excuse to eliminate you as a candidate. You may not be able to see awkward phrases and grammatical errors if you've already spent too much time with your own CV.

Which is true, a regular review would be nice, but this is not that, its machine generated garbage, let's carry on with this journey

Your CV is saved in PDF format. 19% of CVs look like yours. While this may make viewing consistent for recruiters, some older Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) might not be able to correctly parse this. You might want to consider converting your document to a Microsoft Word file.

Yes it was PDF and I can guarantee 19% of CV's didn't look anything like this one. Stick with PDF and do not send CV's as microsoft word documents, and that's free advice right there.

We recommend limiting your work history to the past 10 to 15 years as most employers are concerned with your most current, relevant work experience. Not sure where to draw the line? Our writers can help you decide what to cut and what to include in order to craft a solid CV that accurately speaks to your experience and potential as a candidate. Consider removing dates from your education section. For someone as advanced in their career as you, your experience is what employers find most useful when forming an opinion of you as a candidate, and should be the focal point of your CV. Removing education dates can help you steer clear of unconscious bias and ageism without detracting from your accomplishments.

Well, That's clearly an advertisement for their service, I would remove dates from my education section, but there wasn't an education section and my work history was the last 10 years, what insights could possibly remain, let's move on.

93% of all Hiring Managers use CV scanning software called applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter candidates from the application pool. To illustrate how you stand up to the automation, I passed your CV through the very same software that Hiring Managers use to filter the real talent from the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of candidates that apply for a single open position.

Well that's a completely made-up number, its not 93% and its only those large corporations that do, smaller companies do not. The next section is dedicated to this 'ATS' and at this point the output does indeed seem to come from the CV provided, its just an extraction of the content, but of course its manipulated to make it look like it didn't work very well, highlighting skills at random and other nonsense. If you've uploaded your CV to sites like Indeed, monster, etc then they also use 'ATS' and you can see how their system effectively pulls out the data from your CV and in most cases it does it perfectly, as it did with this first CV, now more sales pitch

Batman, for a professional with 36 years of experience, your CV undersells you. This is the most important tool in your job search and it needs to clearly communicate your expertise, unique experience, accomplishments, and career goals.

This is incorrect, but regardless its the introduction to a section of 'suggestions' which includes

  • Use more bullet points to call out accomplishments
  • Show the outcomes of your efforts
  • Your CV does not make a strong visual impression

And then we have, as everyone was expecting:

TopCV writers are experts at fixing these kinds of problems. Consider working with a professional writer to get a CV that sets you up for success.

Followed by a big "Get an expert to rewrite your CV" button, and a "Please feel free to email me with any questions. We're here to help you make a great first impression." section with a made up name and a really low quality fake image.

The great Rewrite!

Given this fantastically inaccurate critique of my first CV, I rewrote the whole thing this time making it Visually impressive (Yeah I went overboard on colours, blocks, banners, and images), I bulleted pretty much everything, removed most of the dates, and wrote a massive introduction, AND I added rogue letters into words by replacing every 'ti' with 'C', so 'expertise' became 'experCse'. This was then uploaded to another job site, I did of course get the 'free review' offer, and I selected it. So what changed?

Virtually Nothing, except that

However, your use of bullets is splendid! They help the employer zero in on important pieces of details, and also break up long sections of text. At the same time, you shouldn't have too many bullets that it makes your CV difficult to read!

Which is indeed correct, EVERYTHING was bulleted, but if a real person was doing this review then they'd say it looks ridiculous, which it really does. In the next section it regurgitates my malformed words from my experience with

“I bring a commanding presence and deep experCse to every role”

So now the game is up, this is ALL automatically generated. The rest of it was identical except for the last section on "applicant tracking systems" which, like before just pulled random words out claiming that was what the ATS system found, again it wasn't, and the suggestions changed slightly to

  • Show the outcomes of your efforts. Your CV focuses too much on what you’ve done, not what you’ve achieved.
  • Your CV does not make a strong visual impression. Your CV should appear clean, uncluttered, and appealing to the eye.
  • Your CV needs to include more keywords and skills to help position you as a stronger candidate.

Now this CV only showed outcomes not experience, and it made a very strong visual impression, and was loaded with keywords. Regardless, we'll rewrite and go for a third shall we?

The Third and Final run

This rewrite returned the CV to a more sensible format, written as it should be with a sensible intro section, two previous work positions within 10 years, a bulleted list of achievements, and skills, and a summary. This is how I would write my CV if I were job-seeking, and it looks great actually, so let's see what our automated lead generation tool aka CV critique thinks of it.

However, your use of bullets is splendid! They help the employer zero in on important pieces of details, and also break up long sections of text. At the same time, you shouldn't have too many bullets that it makes your CV difficult to read!

My use of bullet points was only to highlight skills and achievements, not too many and in perfect proportion

The rest is the same, no example from this CV again its a 'past clients' example, the ATS section again begins with static nonsense, and again we have made up random words, and finally the "suggestions"

  • Show the outcomes of your efforts. Your CV focuses too much on what you’ve done, not what you’ve achieved.
  • Your CV does not make a strong visual impression. Your CV should appear clean, uncluttered, and appealing to the eye.
  • Your CV needs to include more keywords and skills to help position you as a stronger candidate.

And our big button to have an 'expert' rewrite it for you, and a footer from a made up person with a made up picture and email

The Spam

A day or so after your 'cv review', you're greeted by

Hi Batman,
Have you had a chance to review your CV critique?
Even the most experienced professionals can have a hard time crafting the perfect CV. You’ve probably accomplished more during your career than you remember, and it can be hard to balance sharing the details of your achievements and cutting to the chase.
At the same time, competition at the top is tight; when you apply for a job, you’re competing with an average of 250 other candidates.

And a day later...

Let’s get you past that gatekeeper and into the next round.
Hi Batman, Employers aren’t sorting through the hundreds of CVs they receive by hand—they use Applicant Tracking Systems to automate the process. The truth is, these systems search for keywords and reject 75% of CVs before employers ever see them*.
A professional rewrite will help you avoid being filtered out. At TopCV, our CV optimization experts know exactly what an ATS is looking for. We have a proven track record of catching your future employer’s eye; our ATS-optimized CVs generate 2-3 times more interviews. Our service is designed to make a high-quality professionally-written CV attainable for every level of professional.

And the same sort of thing pretty much daily now, and of course links to buy their services. All the spam thus far has come from "mta03-144.email.topresume.com" which is in the Amazon AWS range. Its not been long enough to quantify the level of spam this is likely to produce, but I suspect it will be persistent, and remember this is x3 for me because I used three different email addresses in this research. Here's a timeline for their Spam thus far:

  • +1 - Your CV review is here
  • +2 - Regarding your requested CV review
  • +3 - Regarding your CV
  • +5 - Triple your changes of getting hired
  • +6 - still thinking about a CV rewrite
  • +8 - Get hired in one easy step
  • +9 - let's craft a great CV together

So far, at day 7, there are now email's arriving from talentsource24.com, addressed to the specific email that was used to register with monster.co.uk. Not surprised really and I'm sure its just one of many. I will leave this running for another 4 weeks before blocking all these email addresses.

The company

You're providing your CV in its entirety to some company based who knows where to store, and probably sell on to whoever. From a quick look we find that the websites are mostly likely based in Virginia USA and hosts their websites on Amazon AWS. There is no GDPR consent and the privacy policy provides for:

  • To post testimonials. We post testimonials on the Platform that may contain personal data. Prior to posting a testimonial, we will obtain your consent to use your name and testimonial. If you wish to update, or delete your testimonial, please contact us at privacy@topcv.com and be sure to include your name, testimonial location, and contact information.
  • To send you marketing and promotional communications. We and/or our third-party marketing partners may use your personal data for our marketing purposes, depending on your marketing preferences. These communications may include information about new products, services, or features. You can opt-out of our marketing emails at any time (see the section “WHAT ARE YOUR PRIVACY RIGHTS” below).
  • To deliver targeted advertising to you. We may use your information to develop and display content and advertising (and work with third parties who do so) tailored to your interests and/or location and to measure its effectiveness.
  • To request feedback. We may use your information to request feedback and to contact you about your use of our Platform so that we can improve our products and services and develop additional products and services to better serve our users.
  • To develop our products and services. We may use your information to further develop our existing products and services or to develop new products and services.
  • To protect the Platform, us, and others. We may use your information as part of our efforts to keep the Platform safe and secure (for example, for fraud monitoring and prevention) and to protect others from harm or abuse.
  • To enforce our terms, conditions and policies. We may use your information to ensure you and others are complying with our terms, conditions and policies, including providing your information to law enforcement if we believe it is appropriate to do so and using your information in connection with legal proceedings brought by us or against us.
  • To respond to legal requests and comply with applicable law. If we receive a subpoena, discovery request, or other legal request, we may need to review and evaluate your information and potentially provide your information in response to the request. We may also need to use your information as needed to comply with applicable laws and regulations.
  • For other business purposes. We may use your information for other business purposes, such as data analysis, identifying usage trends, determining the effectiveness of our promotional campaigns, and to evaluate and improve the Platform, products, services, and your experience.

And in answer to that all important question: WILL YOUR PERSONAL DATA BE SHARED? = Yes, your personal will be shared between TopCV and its affiliates and subsidiaries. In addition, we may share your personal data with the following categories of third-party service providers and marketing partners for one or more of the purposes described above.

  • Advertising, direct marketing, and lead generation providers
  • Chat service providers
  • Content optimization service providers
  • Invoice and billing service providers
  • Social media companies to which you enable access
  • Social media site advertising
  • Software service providers that parse and matchCV with job postings and provide other resume-related services and analytics
  • Targeted advertising platforms
  • Website and application analytics providers
  • Website hosting providers
  • Website testing and optimization service providers

So, pretty much everyone and anyone. This privacy policy is NOT compliant with GDPR, and there is of course no physical contact information, just email addresses and phone numbers, but we do get a clue as to who this company is;

Imkey B.V. Based in Breda, Netherlands, and founded in 2012 by Menno Olsthoorn, Imkey B.V. operates a web application that builds online documents such as resumes and cancellation letters for its clients globally. Talent Inc. acquired the company in June 2021. The firm offers more than 300 business and management, construction, accounting and finance, education, beauty and wellness, administrative, accounting and finance, real estate, hospitality and catering, and information technology resume and cover letters examples. The company's platform also allows users to create their documents through their website. The company's revenue is generated by providing its customers tools, templates, tips, and examples on how to write a resume.

So now we know, Talent Inc are the company behind topcv, career.io and many other aliases, and finally we find them at

420 Lexington Avenue
Suite 1402-1063
New York, NY 10170, USA

At the time of writing the best information suggests that the chief operating officer is Armando Roman, and we in-fact find that Talent Inc was acquired by BV Investment Partners, a private equity firm in North America.

is it a Scam?

Maybe, or maybe it's an outstanding example of automated lead generation and data capture through misrepresentation, probably the best I've seen in my 30 years doing this, and I've no doubt that it generates a significant revenue stream. It is not GDPR in any way, but its operated from outside the UK so technically its 'out of scope', and from out short experiments here, it DOES NOT review or critique your CV in any meaning way, and it DOES then generate relentless spam, and in all likelihood, they will sell my made up details to everyone, but does it break the threshold into a 'scam'.

A Scam, is defined by Oxford English as

"a dishonest scheme; a fraud."

So let's break it down from that.

  • Dishonest Representation: The service presents itself clearly as a personalised review by an expert, but actually we know its machine generated.
  • False Claims: Its written and structured so that no one, not even a CV writing expert will be criticism free.
  • Deceptive Marketing: The service is advertised as 'free' but the primary purpose is to generate leads for selling CV writing, and selling data.

In these three counts, I'd say its a dishonest scheme. What do you think? How far over the line does it have to be before its dishonest?

Summary

I'm not even sure this is AI powered, and if it is then its poor at best. I think with a little work an AI solution could actually be functional and provide a 'functional' review of a CV, but that's not the intention here, is it?

You probably don't need this, it brings nothing to the party and is factually incorrect, selling their services on a falsehood. In the UK that's bordering on "obtaining money by deception".

I don't know if this company's professional cv writing skills are any good, or if they are worth the $700 for the super-expert-premium plan, they might well be, and they could be excellent CV authors, I just don't know and this article is exclusively about the fake 'review' or 'critique' service that pretends to be 'real' and isn't, so please don't fall for this sort of machine generated nonsense, and give up your contact information to be sold and distributed endlessly.

Its worth saying that I have PDF versions of all the 'reviews' they generated, the original .eml files of their email's, and the original CV's provided, just on the off-chance that someone wants to argue the point.


             26 Votes

Comments (5)

Yin Lee · 2024-07-08 15:30 UTC
Ah ok too late for me then, but does explain a lot.

Aaron D · 2024-07-04 19:50 UTC
Well, it sounds like a scam to me, and ticks all the boxes. Im not sure it is out of scope for GDPR even if the site is hosted elsewhere

Robbie olasi · 2024-07-02 18:33 UTC
I opted for a free cv review and the spam is endless. Big mistake.

Eric Barker · 2024-07-02 08:24 UTC
Yh, defo a super way to get yer info and sell it anywhere and that not good

Alfonzo · 2024-07-01 15:37 UTC
The bigger issue here I think is the sale of data to all and sundry, including name, email, date of birth if anyone puts that on CVs anymore postal address, phone number and more.

--- This content is not legal or financial advice & Solely the opinions of the author ---


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