Hiring: Availability Is Not a Skill

hiringFrom the desk of the snarky, inexperienced recruiter: As a leader, it’s always tough to find great talent. Because of this, one of the most important things to consider is whether or not the person is actually available when you need them. What this means is that you need to pay attention to the ones that are available precisely when you need them. It’s better to have this as a criterion than to actually go out and find someone who won’t come to work for you anyway. I call this successful method of hiring the Availability Method.

I discovered the Availability Method the hard way while dealing with an HR manager who was always trying to use recruiters (who, by the way, are very expensive), and then she would delay hiring anyone because she said the talent pool was not very good. I kept telling her that I wanted to hire someone NOW. Getting my position filled was much more important to me than waiting for the exact right person, knowing that might never happen. I can make people into what they should be, so I’m not waiting around for the perfect prince or princess. Who needs the best when good enough will do?

I instructed her that she had two weeks to find candidates for me and I was going to hire from that bunch—and they all better be available! I also let her know that I was done paying ridiculous recruiting fees when all they did was place ads and not much else. I gave her the impression that her job might be the next to be replaced if she didn’t stop dragging her feet looking for that perfect candidate. Let’s get on with it! One of my great skills as a leader is my decisiveness and ability to make decisions quickly. People frequently admire me for it.

So, after two weeks she presented me with three candidates, and none of them were what anyone would call stellar, but they were all available! I sorted through them, interviewed them, and—all things being equal—I hired the one who said she didn’t need to give two weeks’ notice to her current employer. That’s my kind of availability!

I needed someone who could start right away and hit the ground running. She started the following Monday, and as far as I know, she’s doing OK. It takes time to learn some of our systems and processes, so I’m sure she’ll learn what she needs to in time. That’s what I call fast hiring based on availability. If they have the right skills and aren’t available, what does it matter?

This seems so obvious, but I have to repeat myself multiple times.  The other way this can be a great leadership lesson is to grab up any good person who comes your way when they’re available, even if you don’t have a spot.

No time like the present to grab up top talent. I hired someone on the spot this way about six months ago, and he has fit right into the team. I did find out later that he was fired from his last position and the reason is a little sketchy but find that it’s best not to ask too many questions. You might actually have to deal with it if you find something that you’re not happy with. That’s business. In this case, it’s really true that ignorance is bliss!

Don’t worry if you hire someone not quite right for the role when using the Availability Method, because you’ll have someone to take their place in no time if you adhere to the method. It’s not a failure; it’s fast hiring and it works! Turnover is good. Knowing I don’t mind firing them keeps people from getting stale and on their toes. Some will tell you that there is so much more to hiring, but I’ve found I can train for almost everything, and if not…let ’em go. There are plenty more fish in the sea if you believe there are and adhere to the Availability Method of hiring!


Hiring someone based on the fact that they are available is like hiring the house painter to cut your hair because he has a few hours between jobs. It’s not likely to turn out well for either of you. We’ve seen this used as the deciding factor in so many hiring decisions, and it shouldn’t be, or at the very least it should be at the bottom of the list.

If you hire with only availability in mind, you will potentially be hiring the best of the worst, which means they ultimately won’t work out. You’ll eventually downgrade your entire team. Oftentimes the reason they’re available is that they got fired, quit, or are otherwise not a great candidate for any job, let alone the one you’re hiring for.

First, create a great job description with required and desired skills, characteristics, and experience. Then create interview questions around values. Interview for cultural fit, test for skills and a willingness to learn what they may need to, and then ascertain if they’re available. If you pick the weaker candidate because they’re available before the better one, you will regret it down the road. There is almost no position for which not filling it immediately will be catastrophic for the organization.

Availability is good only if all the other hiring factors are in place—a match for skills, job description, culture, values, experience, and compensation scale. Then, and only then, if all is equal, would you want to consider availability as a factor. Last, not first. In some cases, you can entice the right candidate to leave their current job, but only if the package you are offering is consistent with your compensation practices. Creating a great team starts with your ability to attract and retain good talent; it doesn’t have anything to do with how quickly you do it based on the availability of C players.

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