Will Your Resume Pass the “Sink-or-Swim” Test?

Sink or SwimLou Adler, the well-known performance-based recruitment evangelist, believes an old recruiting method is making a comeback…

The method, referred to by Adler in a recent article on LinkedIn as “throw people in over their heads and see if they sink or swim,” is a theory that the best people will rise to the top, quickly learn new skills and gain the confidence to take on more responsibility.

According to Adler’s article, the biggest names in business were very well known for this back in the day including Pepsi, Mattel and Disney. However, for many years recruiters and hiring managers, it seems,  would hire individuals who fit into a certain box of qualifications rather than take a chance on a daring, creative employee and then seeing if they sink… or swim.

Over time, this hiring method – which led to hiring the safest candidate instead of he best candidate – led to stagnation within companies; predictably, new employees would have a difficult time acting outside of that particular role or skill set. So today, as Adler states, companies are willing to take more risk; they are reverting back to the “sink or swim” method.

This what-is-old-is-new-again hiring method begs the question:

How do you get your resume ready for the “Sink-or-Swim” test?

Here are three suggestions:

Focus on Overcoming Challenges

Rather than specific qualifications, recruiters are going to be looking at whether or not a candidate can overcome challenges; they want candidates who can solve problems, work under pressure and handle more responsibility. Otherwise, they aren’t going to experience much growth as a company.

Furthermore, they need to know that candidates can thrive in the face of a problem. Therefore it’s your responsibility to show them how you can handle pressure on your resume.

The STAR technique is a great process to have in mind to help you do this. You can also find several examples on how to do this on our resume samples page.

Showcase your Achievements

When determining whether you might sink or swim, recruiters are going to be looking for proven achievers. So highlight your go-getter personality by using an achievements based resume. In other words you have to answer the question:

“What results have you gotten for your previous employers?”

Specifically, according to Adler’s article, you may want to consider highlighting your biggest accomplishment where you had the least amount of experience. Simply put, recruiters and hiring managers want to know that you can solve problems even when you don’t have all the information or skills necessary. You can use our guide on how to write achievement-based bullets to help you out.

Show a Consistent Pattern of Success

It wouldn’t make much sense if under one job you listed all of these great achievements… and on the other jobs you listed only or mostly generic job description bullets. So  be sure to maintain a high level of consistency throughout; that way, the hiring manager sees you have a successful track record.

For each entry, outline how you made something out of nothing, perhaps. Or demonstrate how you worked with limited resources, budgets and labor to make great things happen. Demonstrate how you turned around disgruntled clients or rallied your team around a cause, leaving a positive impression with all those involved.

With the resurfacing of this old-school hiring model — and with companies willing to take chances again — your resume must pass the sink-or-swim test.

Right now, how does your resume stack up?


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Chameleon Resumes!


chameleon resumes


Lisa RangelAbout the Author: Lisa Rangel, founder and managing director of Chameleon Resumes, a Forbes Top 100 Career Website, has helped hundreds land the exact job they wanted. A former recruiter, she is a 7-time certified resume writer, job search consultant, and one of the few resume writers performing resume and job search-related work for LinkedIn. Lisa has been featured on Forbes, LinkedIn, Investors Business Daily, and many more publications. Follow Lisa on Twitter!



This entry was posted in Resumes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.