Resume Heat Maps & Beating an ATS

Written by Jacqueline B

If you are currently, or have ever, been on the hunt for a new job, you know that it can be a seemingly impossible task. But why is it, do you think, that it can be so difficult to even land an interview, let alone a job?

Truth is, it most likely has nothing to do with you or your qualifications at all. There is, more than likely, one prominent cause as to why your resume isn’t getting you any callbacks: it isn’t getting through the recruiters or the ATS.

You may have the most qualified CV for the job; but if your layout isn’t perfect and the keywords aren’t there, you’re in trouble.

To help you perfect your resume and land you that job you’ve been eyeing, we’re going to take a better look at how to beat the ATS and how to make your resume stand out for recruiters.

What are ATS and How Can You Beat It?

What are ATS?

ATS stands for “Applicant Tracking Systems” – software created for and used by employers to electronically sort, scan, and rank resumes they’ve received.

Essentially, ATS are robots that will discard less-than-ideal candidates resumes in order to narrow down the pool of resumes the employer will have to look through manually. While this works in seeding out under qualified applicants, it can also pass over candidates with potential, should their resume be lacking proper format or important keywords.

Beating an ATS

The only way to beat an ATS is to ensure your resume is as ATS friendly as possible. To make sure your resume is ATS friendly, ensure you’ve followed these guidelines:

  • Select the correct file type for your resume
  • Do not put important details, such as contact information, in the header or footer
  • Optimize your resume with keywords
  • Avoid any form of image, chart, or graphic component
  • Stick to quick yet to-the-point bullet notes
  • Follow a proper, and simple to read, hierarchical design

Should you follow these guidelines, your resume should – given you are, in fact, qualified for the job – pass through the ATS no problem. If, however, you would like a little more piece of mind, you can always test your resume with an online ATS compatibility scan.

Who Are Recruiters and What Do They Look For?

Who are Recruiters?

Recruiters are individuals who are hired by companies to fill job openings. Some of their main duties include: reviewing applicants’ resumes, selecting those they feel are the most qualified, and setting up those individuals with interviews.

So why are the recruiters not selecting you, even though you are perfectly qualified? Well here it is: recruiters only spend an average of 6 seconds looking at each applicants resume.

Yes, you read that right. 6 seconds.

This means that if they do not see exactly what they are looking for out of your resume in those 6 seconds – regardless of if the necessary information and qualifications are on the resume or not – they won’t give you a second thought.

This means your resume needs to be laid out in a way that the information they are looking for is exactly the information that they see.

So what are they looking for and where are they looking for it? Cue resume heat maps.

What are Resume Heat Maps?

A resume heat map is basically a cheat sheet for how to format your resume. They showcase recruiters most (and least) frequently looked at spots on a resume – so you know exactly where to put your key information in order for the recruiters to see it.

Studies show that recruiters look for your name, current job title and company, current position start and end dates, previous job title and company, previous position start and end dates, and finally, your education.

By looking at a resume heat map, you can strategically place each of these pieces of information in exactly where the recruiter will be looking.

Get Formatting!

As you can see, the format of your resume is, more than likely, the culprit behind your struggle to find employment.

Take the advice we’ve outlined above – format your resume based on the heat map layout and ensure your resume is ATS friendly – and you’ll be sure to hear back from potential employers in no time.


  1. https://www.careergeekblog.com/resume-heat-map/
  2. https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/what-is-an-ats-resume
  3. https://blog.resume.io/resume/interview-and-resume-statistics
  4. https://www.topresume.com/resume-review
  5. https://energyresourcing.com/blog/what-a-recruiter-does/

About the author

Jacqueline B

Our favorite Canadian Jacqueline is a graduate of the University of Alberta. She freelances for variety of online publications, and we're thrilled to to have her as part of the Career Geek team.