11 Brilliant Resume Tricks That Worked

rizal999, iStock
rizal999, iStock

A mildly terrifying, but true, reality: A hiring manager spends 15 to 30 seconds, maximum, looking at your resume before deciding whether it belongs in the "yes" or the "no" pile (and some say they can do it in fewer than 6 seconds. Which means that no matter how qualified for your dream job you may be, none of it matters if your resume can’t prove it in less than a few blinks. Scary, right?

Thankfully, there are a few tweaks you can make to your CV's content and formatting to help it stand out the way you know it deserves to. Here are 11 tried-and-true tricks, care of the experts, that have actually worked to get a resume into the "yes" pile.

1. KEEP IT CLEAN.

"I've spent most of my time in corporate settings, so a format that has clean lines and is easily scannable is best," says Casey Carr-Jones, PHR, Founder of JumpStartResume. "Remember: A recruiter or hiring manager may only spend 15-30 seconds looking at your resume, so if it's a big jumbled mess they'll toss you into the 'no' pile without a second thought."

2. TAILOR YOUR RESUME TO THE JOB YOU'RE APPLYING FOR.

Make sure your resume fits the role, whether it’s corporate or creative, and edit it as you see fit. Resumes that stand out in a bad way, says Carr-Jones, could cost you a job. Her examples? "A cringe-worthy funky design for an accountant position. A three-page resume for a recent college grad with no work experience. An objective statement that reads for a position with Google, not my company." Don’t let yours be a document that gets discarded simply because of inappropriate formatting (or worse, for listing the wrong company!)

3. UPDATE CONSTANTLY.

The best thing you can do for yourself, just in case your dream job opens up? Keep your resume current. "I've seen many friends and colleagues scramble to update or put together a resume last-minute for a dream job," says Carr-Jones. "Plan ahead and try to revise your resume at least once per year to save yourself the stress and likely sloppy rush job."

4. SHOW OFF WHY YOU'RE A PERFECT FIT FOR THE ROLE.

Use the structure of your document to make your main qualifiers really pop off the page. "Organize and customize your resume to highlight the transferable skills and experience so they can tell in 10 seconds that you are qualified," says Carr-Jones. "Focus on the job posting's terminology and reflect that in your resume and cover letter."

5. ENLIST AN EXTRA PAIR OF EYES.

After staring at the same objectives and skills for hours (or in some cases, years), you’ll wind up seeing what you want to see, and won’t necessarily be able to recognize any faults. "Send it to a friend or relative who you trust along with the position to which you're looking to apply," says Carr-Jones. "Have them proofread for spelling and grammar, and ask for their honest opinion on the content."

6. USE HARD NUMBERS.

Hiring managers ultimately want to know how you’re going to save them money, so the more you can hit them with facts, the better. "What’s been very successful for candidates I’ve placed with prominent businesses is using hard numbers," says Mark Rubick, a Cincinnati-based Regional Developer with Patrice & Associates. "A hiring manager will spend 15 to 30 seconds looking at your resume, so put your quantifiable numbers up front and give them a reason to interview you within the first 15 seconds." Include things like your conversion rate and how much revenue you’ve brought in with your past roles to show how much you could really be "worth" to the company.

7. SEND SOMETHING PEOPLE WANT TO KEEP.

Your resume doesn’t necessarily need to be a traditional one-page document. "Create something people will find hard to throw away—something that can't be added to a pile of other resumes and forgotten," says graphic designer Jon Ryder, who cheekily sends his resume on a pill box. "Send something that they think is worth keeping on their desk, even if it's only for a few days longer than all the other resumes before it's chucked in a drawer." Especially if you’re applying for a job in a creative field (we wouldn't necessarily recommend this route for lawyers or bankers), consider spicing things up a bit with an outside-the-box resume, like one of these.

8. MIRROR THE JOB DESCRIPTION.

If it’s in the job description, it should be on your resume … in the right way. "Using a specific job posting, structure your current or most recent position to reflect the language and responsibilities listed in the posting—in order," says Jaclyn Westlake, a San Francisco-based career coach. "This trick works because it makes it hard for a recruiter to miss the fact that your experience lines up perfectly with what the company is looking for and shows that you took the time to tailor your resume. It'll help with keyword optimization, too."

9. LOAD UP ON KEYWORDS.

"Using word counting tools to scan job postings for relevant and recurring keywords can help you to figure out which terms you should include on your resume," says Westlake. "You can then create an 'areas of expertise' section where you can list each and every keyword you come across. Bonus points if you're able to weave them into the body of your resume. Loading your resume up with the keywords you find in a job posting will help you to get past those pesky applicant tracking systems and in front of a real live recruiter."

10. POP IN SOME EASTER EGGS.

Recruiters spend hours (and hours, and hours) reading through boring resumes, so sneaking in fun little "Easter Eggs," as Westlake calls them, can help you stand out. "It could be something as simple as hiding 'Crushed the office all-time highest ping pong score' between a bullet point about your project management and budgeting experience," says Westlake. "I've also had clients purposely include interests that they know the hiring manager shares or a pie chart with a breakdown of their day, in which 5 percent of every day is spent 'being awesome.' Just make sure whatever you’re including would still be considered appropriate for the job you’re applying for."

11. UP YOUR TEMPLATE GAME.

A little bit of design goes a long way. "Most resumes look pretty similar—adding pops of color, leveraging unique layouts, or designing creative headers can really help you to stand out from a sea of black, white, and boring," says Westlake. Just be sure you don't sacrifice readability for design.

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11 Cooking Hacks From Real Chefs to Elevate Your Pasta Dishes

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s one of the easiest and most popular dishes to make at home. Just boil noodles, heat a jar of sauce, and voila! What many don’t realize, however, is that with some attention to detail and just a few extra steps, you can take your spaghetti with marinara sauce from serviceable to restaurant-quality. Here are a few tips from the pros.

1. Make your own sauce.

This may not sound like a “hack,” but it’s way easier to do than most people think. All you need are four ingredients, according to celebrity chef Fabio Viviani: garlic, olive oil, basil, and a large can of whole plum tomatoes—he and others recommend the San Marzano variety of tomatoes, which derive from the volcanic soil around Naples. (If you’re so inclined, use a salad spinner to rid the tomatoes of their seeds before you get cooking.) Heat six smashed garlic cloves with some olive oil, add in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, adding the basil at the very end.

2. Use a potato masher.

To break down those sauce tomatoes, you could smash them by hand, or use the same wooden spoon you use to stir. (You could also puree them, but most chefs say that’s a no-no.) Or, you could do like Scott Conant of Scarpetta does and use a potato masher, which allows for an even consistency while still keeping the sauce thick and flavorful.

3. Use the right amount of water.

Using too little water can cause noodles to clump while they’re cooking, according to Giuliano Hazan, son of legendary Italian chef Marcella Hazan. He recommends using six quarts of water for each pound of pasta. When in doubt, use more than you think you’ll need—but not so much that the pot overflows while boiling.

4. Don’t add olive oil.

Many believe that adding olive oil to the pasta water will keep the noodles from sticking together. Not true, says renowned chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, who points out that well-cooked pasta should be naturally stick-free. Adding olive oil can also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta, according to Alton Brown, which keeps ingredients separate that should meld together.

5. Salt liberally—and at the right time.

Just a pinch won’t do it, according to Del Posto chef Mark Ladner. To truly bring out the flavor of the pasta, add one tablespoon of salt per quart of water. As far as timing goes, wait until the water is boiling, but before you’ve put in the pasta. This allows the salt to infuse the water without affecting the boiling time—because, contrary to what you might have heard, adding salt right when you put the pot on the burner actually increases the time it takes for water to start boiling.

6. Turn off the heat and cover the pot.

Rather than boiling the water until the pasta is ready, do what famed chef and cookbook author Mary Ann Esposito recommends: Let the water return to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and wait for seven minutes. “Works beautifully for cuts like spaghetti, ziti, rigatoni and other short cuts of pasta,” Esposito writes. “Saves energy too.”

7. Cook the sauce in a skillet.

Forget using a small pot, or even a saucepan, to heat your sauce. As Bastianich tells it, a skillet is the way to go, mainly because it cooks evenly, allowing the sauce to thicken quickly. With its flared sides and lighter weight, a skillet also lets you toss the pasta and the sauce together.

8. Add a pinch of sugar to your sauce.

A touch of sweetness can help balance out the flavor of your sauce. Brooklyn chef Jen DePalma says she always adds a pinch of sugar to her sauce, which tones down the acidity and keeps it from tasting too bitter.

9. Cook the pasta with the sauce.

This might be the most crucial hack of all. As numerous chefs point out, pasta and sauce should be cooked together so that the sauce coats the noodles. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello recommends taking the pasta out of the water four minutes before the cook time listed on the package, transferring it to the sauce skillet and cooking the two until the pasta is al dente. You should only bring your sauce to a boil after adding the pasta, then simmer the two until finished.

10. Use the pasta water.

Don’t pour out that water after you’ve transferred the pasta. As Jason Pfeiffer, chef-de-cuisine at Maialino tells Epicurious, a splash of starchy pasta water on the noodles and sauce will help bind the two together. (You can also use it to make a cocktail, if you’re so inclined.)

11. Don’t forget to add the finishing touches.

Chef Ken Arnone recommends adding fresh sliced basil to your sauce five minutes before it’s done cooking. If you’re going more indulgent, do as Scott Conant does and add a tablespoon of butter. After plating, you could go the traditional route with Parmesan cheese. Or, you could follow chef Elena Karp’s recommendation and add shaved pecorino cheese along with a hint of parsley.