Zipf’s Law and the importance of being #1 in the recruitment space

It pays to be #1.

Seth Godin, in his books (first in the Ideas Virus and in The Dip), often referred to Zipf’s Law which basically asserts that the most widely used word in English is used ten times more than the tenth most popular word. In other words, the #1 player in any field get significantly more returns (revenue, web hits, exposure …whatever you are measuring) than those ranked below.

Does the #1 IT recruitment firm have ten times more revenue than the third ranked firm? How significantly does the top job board in the country  have more traffic than the rest? Is a highly recognised employer brand getting significantly more applications (Google receives 20,000 resumes a week) than those with lesser profiles? Isn’t it enough if you are #2 or even #5 in your field?

Let’s explore further. The chart below is Hitwise’s March 2010 data on the most popular employment sites in Australia.  SEEK, perched at the top of the ladder, thumps everyone else by wide margins. The top ranked SEEK isn’t just a little better than the second ranked CareerOne; the gap is wide. Zipf’s point is – it’s significantly better to be at the top than anywhere else.


There are two lessons here:
There is immense value in being the best;  the payoff is significantly greater than being #9 or even #2. So, no efforts and resources ought to be spared to reach the top. Why not eliminate all other distractions and try to be the #1 in your space?

If you can’t be #1 in a particular area, would you settle for #3 or find another niche where you can be  #1. The payoff from being the best PHP recruiter is probably larger than being the #23 ranked IT recruitment firm. Why settle?

Is Zipf’s law relevant/applicable in your field?

(PS: Hitwise’s rating is used merely to illustrate Zipf’s law)

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