The 80/20 Rule and the Hiring Interview

The 80/20 rule has had various applications in business. Some examples:

80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. In other words, 20% of your customers end up, over time, providing 80% of your revenue.

80% of your results in marketing comes from 20% of the methods used. If your promotion uses five different methods, it’s not unusual for one of the five methods to generate the most income.

80% of your sales are produced by 20% of your salesforce. I’ve seen this quite often.

These are of course not hard and fast rules. But sometimes this 80/20 rule does pan out. So how could this be applied to the hiring interview?

I would suggest you, the interviewer, spend 20% of the interview time talking and let your applicant use 80% of the time.

The problem is: some interviewers like to editorialize or comment in depth on an applicant’s answers. While that can be valuable in establishing rapport, you’re really there to find out as much as you can from the person who soon may be a part of your team.

If you ask an open-ended question such as “tell me about a very difficult project you had to deal with” and your applicant seems to only partially respond, ask for more details. Ask additional questions regarding this difficult project:

“On this project, how would you gauge the help you received from co-workers and your supervisor?”

“How would you approach a difficult project like this in the future?”

And of course ask for more details on these additional questions if you feel the applicant could be more forthcoming.

Back to the main point of this tip. Focus your time in the interview on acquiring insights into your prospective employee. The more time you allocate to the applicant, the more you’re going to find out. That’s pretty simple math, right?




As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.




Watch our three minute video to see how we can help you hire the right people.

Scroll to Top