Use the 80/20 principle to find a job you love

Apr 01, 2020
Orla Doyle outlines the job search activities that reap the biggest reward.

The Pareto principle states that 80% of outcomes are borne from 20% of the causes. It is one of the cardinal philosophies in business that ultimately guides business leaders in selecting the most productive inputs to drive maximum efficiency. However, this principle can be applied in many settings, including in the job search.

See how you can harness the benefits of the 80/20 rule in your job search strategy to target the right company, the right culture, the right management team, and help you get a job you love.

Wasted time

The job market is a fickle beast, where the amount of effort you put in doesn’t necessarily correlate with the results you get. Working smart rather than working hard is vital.

For instance, many people spend a significant amount of time tweaking their CVs and cover letters. While it is important to spend time on this, people often spend too much time, with any subsequent additions unlikely to move the needle.

Interestingly, the majority of job seekers choose the job site route to apply for new jobs. Don’t get me wrong; job sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor are great tools to use when searching for a new job. However, churning out 10-20 applications per day on one of these sites is a lot of work that won’t necessarily yield the results you want.

The truth is, nobody taught us how to look for our dream job. Most people don’t have a real strategy and as a result, everyone ends up doing the same thing. There are better ways to conduct your job search. It may require stepping outside your comfort zone, but it will ultimately raise your chances of making the right next step for your career.
Both approaches described above are passive. There are more downsides to this than the time spent sitting back and waiting for an answer. In many cases, applicants later find that the job isn’t what they wanted or that compensation is too low or, in the worst-case scenario, they get no response whatsoever. Over time, this leads applicants to conclude that the job market is unfavourable, and they adopt a negative mindset. If you have been cranking out a large volume of applications daily without much luck, then you need a catalyst – a change in mindset, approach or methodology that places you on the path to career success.

The psychology of spending time on inefficient job search tactics

When you read the above, a fair question may be: “Why do people choose to put themselves through that?” The most common answer is that it helps people feel productive. Sending out ten applications a day across four job sites may not be the optimal way to land an interview, but at the end of the day, it helps the sender feel that they have done something or that they have put adequate effort into the job search. It’s a flawed perception, but a satisfactory outcome nevertheless for most job seekers.

The other reason is that most people love passing the responsibility to someone else. The thought process here may be that if they want you, they will come back to you; if you spoke with a recruiter, they will come back to you when a relevant role comes in. In a competitive and globalised job market, though, this is rare. With the advent of technology, talent is now available across borders and the labour pool is larger than ever. Hence, if candidates are not accountable for their job search, it is an uphill battle to find suitable employment as hiring managers are likely looking at a dozen profiles that are similar or even identical to yours.

To achieve success, you must be willing to do what the others won’t to achieve what they can’t.

Applying the 80/20 principle

So, what are the things that most people don’t do? Below are three things that you can inculcate in your job search.

1. Get specific

Do you know what you want to do or, are you merely seeing what you can get? After some rejection, many people throw in the towel too early and start working their way down in terms of the jobs they are willing to accept. To prevent this from happening, get specific about the type of job you want, the size and the culture of the company, and the particular industry in which you would like to work. And then, do not deviate from that. Do you know the types of companies that hire for these jobs, the exact ones for whom you would like to work? Once you have this clarity, you will automatically be inclined to work harder to source those types of jobs and apply accordingly. You will increase your chance of getting results as your whole approach – from your CV to your references – is streamlined for the position you want. This is not to say that you should be rigid in your job search and operate within this one defined box. It is merely a tip to ensure that you are not aborting the search for your dream job before the appropriate efforts have been expended.

Second, get specific about the goals of the particular job search tactic you are using. If it doesn’t work, stop and try a different channel. Many people continue to do an activity without ever stopping and asking: is this working? They adopt the attitude of “try harder” rather than analysing the results of a particular method. Set yourself a goal. For example, aim to secure five interviews through a specific channel. This could be achieved by utilising three different recruiters – but if it isn’t working, stop and take a fresh approach.

2. Network

Relationships go a long way in the job market. The best jobs are often snapped up before they are even advertised on a public platform because the candidate had a good relationship with the hiring manager (or at least someone that knew them). A CV is a piece of paper that outlines your experiences at a high level. But, if you can have a conversation with someone where you articulate your expertise and ambitions, they now have a ‘face to the name’ on the CV and can understand your value proposition at a more holistic level. Start by developing a networking strategy (i.e. identify who can help you get to where you want to go and go to them directly). Other people won’t even know what they are looking for, making it impossible to know whom they need to talk to, or what they need to ask. As with all things, practice makes perfect – but it all starts with the first step.

3. Show, don’t tell

The next time you have an interview, add an additional dimension to your preparation. Try to understand some of the problems the company or unit you are applying to is facing, and formulate a solution. This could involve producing a one-page document at interview, which outlines what you would do in the first 30, 60 and 90 days in the job to remedy the situation. Make no mistake: this is much easier said than done. However, a lot of successful applicants employ presentation materials where they can demonstrate what they bring to the table. Words are easy to say but tough to back up. Hence, if a hiring manager can concurrently see your work along with your words, you are automatically better than almost anyone else competing with you for the same job.
Orla Doyle is Head of Marketing at Lincoln Recruitment Specialists.