The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule as it is most commonly known, applies to a lot of things, from land ownership to peapod’s pea production. Naturally, it also applies to top talent.

The 80/20 rule of talent is simple: focus 80% of your hiring and recruiting efforts on the most important 20% of the talent market. Not following this rule means you’re wasting both time and money.

But don’t worry, it’s never to late to fix.

The first step to finding the right 80/20 balance is accepting that there are two talent markets. There is the “active market”, filled with those who have an economic need for searching and applying for jobs. Then there’s the “passive market”, where the majority of talents are; those who aren’t actively looking for a new opportunity but are interested if the right one comes up. Looking at the Nova network the data clearly show which market to focus on; while only 19% are actively looking for new opportunities, 67% are interested if the right opportunity comes up (and 14% are not interested in new opportunities at all).

Your goal should always be to recruit from the passive market, not only because that’s where most of the candidates are, but also because that is where the greatest talents are. Why? Because another company (who knew what they were doing) has probably already snapped them up, and because those who aren’t looking, don’t spend their time on job board.

But how do you reach the “passive” market?

With 20+ years of experience, we can tell you that referrals are the no. 1 way of penetrating the “passive” market, followed by direct sourcing. And we know that generic job ads don’t do the job. This image (borrowed from The Adler Group) helps visualize the rule, and shows the difference in the quality of hiring depending on the source:

Active vs passive career moves
Violate the 80/20 rule at your own peril

So, find someone who knows great people, and who can help your opportunities appear for the right people: those who aren’t looking, but could be interested.

Refocusing your efforts to 80/20 will help your talent leaders, hiring managers, and recruiters. It will increase the quality of applicants, and decrease wasted efforts; saving you both time and, of course, money. It might feel like a strange approach, but in our experience (and according to the research); it’s definitely the right one.


If you want to know more about Nova, and how we can help you save both time and money, just click here. And if you are looking for our other knowledge resources, click here.