Last month a client emailed me about a free critique she received from TopResume as part of the submission process for a job opening. Below is our correspondence and the critique she received.

Email From My Client

Good Day Stefanie,

One of the sites that I used to apply for a role, automatically does a resume review. This is what I received. I’d love your insight on the feedback and any suggested tweaks.


Top Resume | Resume Revivalist

Critique from TopResume

Hi Anne,
This free resume evaluation is intended to give you an honest, straightforward assessment with some suggestions to help in your job search. I personally review hundreds of resumes each month so I’m able to provide insight into how you compare to other job seekers competing for the same positions.

Visual Presentation and Organization
We’ve all been told that looks don’t matter as much as substance, but in the case of your resume this just isn’t true. I found your design to be visually uneven. The appearance is not polished, and it doesn’t say “high potential” as your experience suggests. Remember that your resume is your marketing tool. It’s the first impression a potential employer has of you.

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

Resume Writing
You need a career summary section to define you as a professional and cover those areas most relevant to your career level and job target. A career summary should provide hiring managers with a brief, yet detailed synopsis of what you bring to the table.

From the way the resume is worded, you come across as a “doer,” as opposed to an “achiever.” Too many of your job descriptions are task-based and not results-based. This means that they tell what you did, instead of what you achieved. This is a common mistake for non-professional resume writers. To be effective and create excitement, a great resume helps the hiring executive picture you delivering similar achievements at his or her company. Here are some examples of task-based sentences in your resume:

“Managed the plants talent acquisition and onboarding programs, collaborating with hiring managers to improve the recruiting, candidate selection, interviewing, offer administration and onboarding processes”

“Developed action plans for improving employee performance across business units, coaching managers on appropriate interventions to address employee conflict while maintaining the company’s mission and core values”
Employers want to know about your previous contributions and specifically how you’ve made a difference. More importantly, they want to know how you are going to make a significant difference at their company.

When I read your resume, I did not find the kind of compelling language that would bring your work to life. Instead, I saw passive words and non-action verbs.

Phrases like “developing” and “experience in” are overused, monotonous, and add little value to your resume. Strong action verbs, used with compelling language to outline exemplary achievements, are essential parts of a well-constructed resume.

Now, let’s put it all together. Here’s a real life example taken from a former client’s resume. By changing the language, we helped to improve the perception of the candidate.

Passive language / Doing: “Negotiated contracts with vendors”

Action language / Achieving: “Slashed payroll/benefits administration costs 30% by negotiating pricing and fees, while ensuring the continuation and enhancements of services.”

A change like this makes a dramatic improvement.

It may not seem obvious, but a regular review of every word and sentence in your resume is a good idea. 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 a lot of time with your own resume.

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

<link to purchase a rewrite>

Please feel free to email me with any questions. We’re here to help you put your best foot forward.
Thank you,
Katie Warren

My Email Back to Anne

Hi Anne,

Thanks for sending this over.

In general, sites like TopResume are what I consider to be resume factories. To make their business model work, they have to be able to pump out reviews for a high volume of resumes quickly. And when they do that, they over generalize their feedback, but make it sound like it’s unique to you.

Here’s a good example of standard language they used in your critique:

“We’ve all been told that looks don’t matter as much as substance, but in the case of your resume this just isn’t true. I found your design to be visually uneven. The appearance is not polished, and it doesn’t say “high potential” as your experience suggests. Remember that your resume is your marketing tool. It’s the first impression a potential employer has of you.”

Even if they did write this specifically for you (which I guarantee they did not), it sounds generic and makes them seem untrustworthy. What does “visually uneven” mean? What does “not polished” mean? Notice that they used vague terminology and didn’t not explain to you how to fix the “problem.”

I know for sure that your resume will get you interviews. I know that because I use a method that works for all of my clients. Every person that I’ve written a resume for who uses my guidance on how to find jobs and customize their resume for those jobs, gets an interview (and most of the time, a new job).

What TopResume seems to do is standardize feedback assuming that you’re going to use the same resume to apply for every position. I know from experience, and I teach my clients, that submitting the same resume for different jobs is a path to nowhere.

The job market is SUPER competitive and you need to stand out from the crowd. The most effective way to do that is to customize your resume so that it only includes what matters to the hiring manager for each individual job. It’s a shift in the way that job candidates think about their job search, but it works.

Another example that proves the critique is not unique to you is where she said that you need to include a career summary. If you submitted the resume that I wrote for you, the summary is very clearly at the top of the page. Again, they don’t look credible when they provide feedback that doesn’t reflect what’s on your resume.

It’s also clear to me that they see you as just another paying customer and not someone who deserves personal, thoughtful feedback. For example, they said, “From the way the resume is worded, you come across as a “doer,” as opposed to an “achiever.” We know that your resume is full of results and metrics, so this statement is simply untrue.

Their attempt to make you feel stupid by saying in bold, “This is a common mistake for non-professional resume writers” is insulting and they should remove that language from their critique.

I know that it looks like they’ve provided specific feedback on your resume, but what I see is a standard critique document that includes some copy and paste text from your resume. It pains me to see people pay for these kinds of reviews when the truth is there is a very clear way to get a new job, and it’s through customized resumes and a targeted job search.

If you’re customizing your resume for every single job you apply for AND you’re applying for jobs where you meet 75% of the requirements AND you’re applying for more than 5 jobs per week and still not getting interviews, THEN there may be an issue with your resume.

Again, thanks for sharing this with me and I am happy to help you in any way I can!

Closing Remarks about Resume Factories

Just for fun, I did a quick google search for Katie Warren at TopResume. While I can’t confirm that she’s a real person, I can confirm that real people have had problems with TopResume.

The problem with big companies churning out resume critiques is that the only way to scale the business is to automate systems that should be personalized. Believe me, I thought about setting up Resume Revivalist that way. Wouldn’t it be great to pump out a ton of resume reviews at a low cost to millions of people?

Actually, no. It wouldn’t.

The whole point of a resume is that it’s personal. It should be a documented reflection of all the interesting twists and turns your career has taken, and it should tell a story that only you can tell. Companies that write or review resumes should always care for the person first and the bottom line second.

Even my resume writing course includes a free personal review from me for every single person who invests in the course and writes their own resume. That level of personal interaction is important to me, and it should be important to these companies too. Unfortunately, we see time and time again the effects of trying to automate what should be personal.

People are unique, their stories are different. Don’t treat them like just another cog in the machine.

If you’re considering a job change or if your resume needs an update, you should absolutely get a professional resume writer to help you. But beware of resume writing factories like TopResume and prices that seem too good to be true. Chances are you’ll get what you pay for, and you’ll quickly be back on the hunt for a better resume writer.