The Law of the Vital Few

The Law of the Vital Few

Did you know that a vast number of people when applying for a job online will apply for the same job more than once, on purpose?

Really! I don’t mean apply to multiple positions with one employer, I mean actually apply for the same role at the same employer more than once, in one sitting.

When I found out about this I was baffled, I just could not get my head around why someone would make the effort to do the same thing twice or in some cases three of four times.

Do they believe that they might have a better chance of being shortlisted if they appear in the candidate pool multiple times? They do know that recruitment is not like playing a Tombola don’t they? It doesn’t matter how many tickets you hold in your hand, if you have the right skills and are a good fit then you will be shortlisted, if not then no amount of applications are going to change that.

I did a quick scout online and found people asking in forums, if it is bad form to apply for the same role more than once. Some replies say yes, it is bad form and it has the potential to work against you, while others actually advocate that it is the only way to do it in such a competitive space.

Having read quite a few of the discussions and arguments for and against I have to say I don’t agree with either, I fall more on the, ‘don’t waste your effort’ side of the fence. 

I have been trying to come up with a way to illustrate my thinking for a while, so that I could write about it. After a couple of false starts, and partially written posts that I discarded in frustration, I wasn’t having too much success, until, one day, a man called Pareto appeared in my life and rocked my blogging world.

The day was like many others, I was in my local library, browsing the shelves, enjoying the peace and stillness that only ever seems to be present in the reference section. 

Walking the aisles, running my fingers along the spines of the books selecting one at random every now and then is kinda my thing, one of my favourite things in fact. I have learned about some pretty random and yet super interesting stuff this way that I would never normally read about. 

This library ritual is exactly what I was doing, minding my own business and seeking inspiration when I pulled out a book that referred to the Law of the Vital Few and ‘Bam’ there he was, in a grainy black and white picture staring back at me.

Allow me to provide a brief synopsis to bring you up to speed.

Some time ago, there was a guy, his name was Pareto and he liked to grow things in his garden. He seemed to be pretty good at it and managed to grow some peas.

While gathering his bounty, he discovered that 80% of the peas produced in his garden came from just 20% of the pods he planted. Yes, he did apparently have too much time on his hands but bear with me, I do have a point.

So, he surmised that the ‘rule’ would suggest 80% of effects came from just 20% of causes and being an ambitious kind of guy, he wanted to test the theory, to see that this may be true not just with peas but for, everything.

After some research he found that when he applied it to economics, the principle is the same, 80% of the total income and wealth in the world is produced and possessed by just 20% of the population.

Now he had moved away from vegetation and into the realms of humans he got a little bit of attention and the principle got itself a name, The Law of the Vital Few. Other people, as so often happens, started to join him on his quest to prove the rule. Exploration on the principle by economists found that he was indeed right:

  • 20% of time = 80% of results
  • 20% of criminals = 80% of crime
  • 20% of drivers = 80% of accidents

Now, I know what you are thinking, 20% of criminals cause 80% of the crime, are they sure? If this is the case, then why do we have overcrowding in our prisons?

I thought this too but it would seem we are thinking too literally, what this principle really means is that 20% of criminals cause 80% of crime not that they commit 80% of crime, darn that small print.

Pareto, it turns out was well ahead of his time, and thanks to his peas, the Law of the Vital Few became a highly regarded and well-documented principle.

You see, 20% of time = 80% of results is exactly what I had been trying to explain.It wouldn’t matter if we spent 100% of our time applying over and over again for the same role, 80% of our results are going to come from 20% of that investment of time. Why waste more time repeating the same task?

The more logical approach would be to invest 20% of our time into good, thorough, well-researched applications across a few different employers, and a few different roles that we feel we are well-suited for.

If each 20% time investment has the ability to produce 80% of results, then we need to see these pockets of time as valuable seeds that, when well-sown and carefully tended can produce 80% of the harvest. 

If we were to give a pocket of time to each essential job hunting endeavour

  • Update your CV
  • Research an employer
  • Write your personal statement
  • Apply for those positions you are ideal for.

Each of these time investments will then return their own 80% of results. Spend your time wisely and while everyone else is stuck playing the application tombola you can take your own job-hunting technique to the next level. 

If you want to put the theory into practice why not click over to the Blue Arrow featured employers pages, you can research some employers, see the jobs they have available and start working out your time investment strategy for successful job seeking.