A 5 star candidate vs a 3 star candidate

The 70% Rule of Hiring: Why ‘Good Enough’ Can be Better than ‘Perfect

16 Min Read
The 70% Rule of Hiring Why 'Good Enough' Can be Better than 'Perfect

In the early 2000s, Michael was looking for a junior subordinate for the office. He had scouted universities for their most excellent students. He had a list of qualities he wanted this personnel to have and using that list as a reference, he interviewed a majority of high rankers from the universities. The thing is he found candidates who fit the bill perfectly, but then he realized they wanted a lot more in return than the company could offer at the time. 

But he wasn’t willing to lower his standards. Compromise is for losers he said, and decided to continue his search with much fervor. After all, a persistent, long-suffering attitude is nothing to sneeze at. One day, a candidate, James, walked in for the interview. James was a brilliant young man who wanted to take it easy in life. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his talent, so was looking to rest his head somewhere. He almost was too cavalier in his attitude because he thought he was too good for the job, but this was what he needed at the time. Michael was beside himself after the interview. His search had finally come to a fruitful end. James not only ticked all the boxes but almost surpassed his last of most favored characteristics in his workforce. For Michael, it was a dream. He had proved with his fixation on finding the perfect candidate that it was possible to conclude the search the right way. 

Only the dream was cut too short. 

A few months later, James was seen slacking at his job. He was seen loitering around and disappearing for lunch for hours, sometimes as much as the whole of the day. But Michael kept quiet considering he was smarter than most of his other hires from the last quarter. He decided that he would mend his ways, eventually. Also, smart people have smart ways and he was bound to deliver at some point, wasn’t he? Other employees at the office felt shortchanged by the way James comported himself and suffered almost no consequence for his lack of accountability. 

The bigger tragedy was what James faced. He felt stuck. He knew he could do better but at the same time, didn’t think he owed anything to the company. And even when he decided to just push through and do his best, he found that the job just didn’t challenge him enough. 

At the first offer from a friend to start his own business, James found himself writing a resignation letter without any contrition. He had decided that if anything the whole drill had just been a waste of time.

Perhaps, Michael should have been a little more prudent in his approach towards his search. He wasted a lot of time and lost chances on real people who’d actually want to be a part of the team to make a real contribution. He thought he was saving money by hiring somebody who could do the job efficiently but little did he realize that in this quest that lasted for months, he lost a lot of money in terms of time, resources, and opportunities. 

And perhaps you need to also carefully think through how you want to select your future team. Especially in light of the great resignation that continues to shadow the world of hiring when you can’t afford the same amount of time and effort. 

In this blog, we are going to address a common mistake most managers are susceptible to in the hiring world. Well, it might not be a mistake entirely, you might actually find some really valuable candidates or lessons. However, in the present world of dog-eat-dog, it’s always better to secure your chances and above all, to save time. In the coming few minutes, we are going to discuss a low-risk and high-return strategy for hiring. In many cases, this strategy has been proven to be better than finding the perfect fit, but we will let you decide the efficacy of the method once you have tried it yourself. 

Are You Ready for the Big Reveal?

It’s called the 70% solution. Experts in the hiring world are even calling it the 70% hiring rule given how useful it’s proved to be in the last decade.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And what we are dealing with in the outer world with the current manpower crisis and rising demand is nothing short of a battle royale. In these times, one war strategy borrowed from our very own US Marine Corps is a 70^ solution. 

According to this method, when you do not have all the resources you need, rely on the majority of the availability, i.e. 70%. The US Marine Corps teaches their young officers that when they do not have all the information or the resources they’d like to have, they should ask themselves if they have 70% of what they think they’ll need. 

How Does the 70% Method Translate into Hiring?

As the rule states, if you are not sure that your candidate can fulfill all the skill/ qualification requirements, you readjust your strategy of finding the perfect candidate and see if you can find someone who fulfills at least 70% of these requirements. 

Why Might This Approach Work, You Ask?

It’s easy to get fixated on finding the ultimate best to build your solutions but what you might be overlooking is that good enough can become best in due time, with due effort, And even if you find the perfect candidate, their performance at your organization remains a contingency, one that might cost you severely, as we saw in Michael and James’s case above. The most fatal disadvantage of finding the ultimate best is that it shifts the scales against you in some cases. Now because you are demanding the best, it goes very naturally that you will have to give them the best as well making it a vicious circle of offering advantages that may in time not even be worthwhile. Also, their definition of the best might be different from how you see it as well and if it cannot turn into a dynamic for both you and the candidate, you know that it won’t be entirely sustainable. 

We have seen raw examples of this happening in American pop culture as well. In most corporate-based shows like Mad Men to Succession, we have time and again seen that the conquest of finding the perfect candidate is a long-winded and quite often, an abortive conquest that can never really be concluded.

Moreover, the strange fixation on finding the perfect might even reveal the managers’ lack of motivation to continue investing in their workforce over the long course of time. It might depict their short-sightedness in guessing that once the search is over, their job is done while most HR professionals know that hiring personnel is only one of the first steps in making a candidate a significant part of the team. 

To further illustrate the usefulness of the 70% method, we made you a list of its advantages:

Save Time

The obstinate need to find the perfect for the business is very normal, after all, why would you settle for anything less but a brief tour d’horizon in the world of business will reveal that time is the ultimate currency and you need to ask yourself every step along the process if losing time is worth it. Can your stakeholders afford it? Can the project afford the delay? A long-winded search for the perfect one looks good only in romantic comedies, to be honest, and you need to have a more realistic approach, especially if you are in the world of business. So perhaps, good enough might actually save you effort and time by expediting the hiring process and getting the necessary talent on board more quickly. 

Adaptability and Growth Potential 

Regardless of the level of the new hire, training, and development to allow them to acclimate within the new environment is paramount for a successful partnership between the candidates and the business. In recent years, training has become an essential code of conduct to be followed when onboarding a new candidate. All companies who have engaged in this investment have seen its value. If this is the baseline anyway, why not hire a good enough candidate and invest a little more in their training, and make them your valued assets? Save the time and effort you would otherwise spend in your search and just bring on committed and talented employees who will eventually become the best with some training and resources. It is not a difficult choice. You have to recognize the uniqueness of your organization and the ways it functions and if you have to spend time and money to bring even the most perfect candidates up to speed with the unique culture of your organization, why not save time and money on the conquest and invest it in training the ones who will become great workforce anyway? 

Diversity and Inclusion

The fact that tends to get lost in the haystack is that looking for the perfect can pose several constraints on your search. For example: you might be looking to find top grads from top universities, which is fair in its own right but in recent times, we have also come to see that the most talented minds essentially don’t necessarily come from the best colleges from the best mindsets. And these mindsets can be nurtured anywhere. The search for good enough can be great for the possibility of new avenues as well. Now instead of looking at the top known sources, you can diversify your search and dare to dig deeper and find ways unknown to most thus giving you exclusive access to great resources.

Avoiding Overqualification

While hiring the perfect candidate, in that sense, even an overqualified one can be severely tempting and we totally understand. However, it might not be the most agreeable choice for your organization. Unless you know how to make use of this abundance of talent and have enough opportunities lined up and planned carefully, hiring an overqualified candidate might be one of the worst decisions you can make as a hiring professional. Overqualified candidates can quickly become disengaged and seek better opportunities if they don’t find the job challenging enough. Studies in psychology and the process of flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have also revealed that the ideal state of work is when challenge meets skill in balanced amounts. So when a particular candidate’s skill surpasses the challenge of the work, the failure of such undertaking is writ large. Alternatively, hiring someone who is “good enough: can ensure a better fit for the role and reduce the risk of high turnover. 


The close quarters of the perfect fit can be a precarious place to be in. Although it’s an adage in human civilization that perfect does not exist, we as humans tend to lose sight of the motives behind our actions. In this case, as well, you need to remind yourself at every step of the hiring process that you are not searching for a perfect candidate who will not require any training, will have all the essential skills, and then some, or will be from a source that you recognize. The primary rule of business is that you need to learn and adapt yourself and find the best solution in response to the current environment you face with all its merits and disadvantages. 

Similarly, the search for the right candidate is fraught with confusion, hassle, and an interminable process already, more so with more workers quitting their jobs. And your task here is not to make your own job more difficult but to find ways to work around the present dread of the ‘perfect’ candidates. The solution that has been tested in this vein is finding a good enough candidate you can shore up with your efforts of training and development. This definitely doesn’t mean that you have lowered your standards. Hiring a candidate who is ‘good enough’, moreover, someone who meets 70% of the criteria is an old faithful in the hiring industry. It’s time you test it for yourself and see if it works for you.

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