Interview Question: When Can You Start Working? (With Tips)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 17 August 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
During the final stages of an interview, a recruiter that's interested in hiring you for the role might ask you, "when can you start working?" Questions regarding a start date with the company are something to celebrate because it shows that you're closer to a job offer. However, it's important to frame your answer carefully, keeping in mind key details such as your notice period and whether you're ready for a fresh start.
In this article, we discuss why interviewers ask "when can you start working", how to develop an effective response and share examples and tips on the best answers.
Why do interviewers ask "when can you start working?"
When an interviewer asks you, "when can you start working", they want to understand how soon you're available and how they can accommodate your schedule. The question also examines your ability to present your answer with the proper reasoning. For example, recruiters value candidates that want to adhere to the notice period of their previous company and those that attempt to understand the company's hiring timeline and need for labour resources. If you're immediately available, expect the recruiter to wonder why, so prepare to address further follow-up questions.
Discussing your start date with confidence shows your preparedness, a key characteristic of successful job candidates. If the recruiter's intention is to hire you, make sure you answer with honesty. Treat this common interview question as an opportunity to establish trust and respect with your prospective employer.
How to discuss your start date in an interview
Before you can approach questions about your start date in a job interview, you need to plan a well-thought-out answer. This way, you can avoid misunderstanding in the future. The following is a guide detailing how to prepare for and answer this common interview question:
1. Consider your employment status
If you're currently employed, you need to review your employment contract for details about your company notice period. Most companies have a standard one-month notice period, however, this may change depending on your current projects, your role in the organisation and your employer's policy. Thus, consider your unique situation before making a commitment to a new employer. Planning in advance can reflect positively on your character.
If you're currently unemployed, you might be available to start work immediately. However, remember to consider other commitments on your calendar to avoid any clashes or confusion. If you need to move countries to take up a job offer, think about a timeline that gives you enough time to settle down in a new environment.
2. Think about whether you need time off
Whether or not you're currently employed, it's important to reflect on your emotions and personal circumstances when deciding on a start date for a new job. Think about if you want to take an extended holiday or spend time with family before making any promises to a new employer. Try to understand your emotional state of mind, especially if you're applying for a highly demanding role. For example, if you feel burnout from your previous job, you might want to take some personal time off.
Coming into a new job with a renewed spirit can help you make a positive first impression. It ensures you're motivated to perform well and form relationships with new colleagues.
3. Understand the needs of your prospective employer
Some recruiters state when they need a job candidate to fulfil a vacancy in their job description. Mentioning their requirements in your answer can increase your chances of getting hired as shows your consideration for their time and needs. Structuring your answer to show your intention to support them can help you stand out from other job candidates.
If the employer isn't specific about their hiring needs, you can ask questions to understand their situation better. Here are some questions to help you find out their intended timeline for the role:
When do you intend to fulfil this vacancy?
What do you believe to be the immediate priorities for this role?
How do you see this role fit into your current business climate?
4. Establish a tentative start date
After evaluating your notice period and personal needs, you might have a better idea of your ideal start date. Remember to be as honest as possible and try to avoid rushing into this major decision. Using this information, keep a specific date in mind. Explain your situation to the interviewer to help them understand why this timeline works best for you.
Since things are always subject to change, it's best to give yourself some flexibility. Thus, instead of sharing your specific date, give them a few options. For example, you could state that you're available "two months from now" or "towards the end of September."
5. Give a confident and focused answer
The structure of your response is crucial when answering questions regarding your start date. First, explain put your situation in context. Next, show your excitement to start working with the company. Last, state your date of availability. Following this simple structure ensures that you fill in any gaps in the recruiter's understanding about your situation. It can also encourage them to work with your timeline. Try to be as concise as possible in your response to appear more confident.
Example answers regarding your start date
The following are a few example answers you can use to make your own when approaching questions about your date of availability:
If you need to serve out a notice period with your current employer, the following is an example answer on how to approach this situation:
"I need to give a one month's notice to my current employer to hand over my duties and complete a few projects. While I am really excited to take on a new challenge, I hope you can accommodate this timeline. I realise you need to fill this vacancy as soon as possible and appreciate any support from your end."
Here's a sample answer from a job candidate who's happy to start a new job immediately:
"I resigned from my previous job a little over two months ago to encourage myself to take on new opportunities. Since then, I have travelled to five countries and spent more quality time with my family. The time-off has renewed my excitement to come back to work, that's why I am happy to start immediately."
If you need time off to rest and recover, here's a sample answer that explains your position:
"I have been working for close to eight years in my current job, and therefore, would like to take a break to be with friends and family. I respect your job offer and can't wait to start strongly. Ideally, my date of availability would be two months from now. However, I am also happy to discuss a timeline that suits your needs, too."
If you need to move to accept a job offer, it's important to explain your priorities during your job interview. Here's an example:
"Since this position requires me to move to Hong Kong, I expect it will take me about two months to organise my visa, enroll my children in a new school and get comfortable being in a new culture and environment. I would appreciate any support during this transition and hope to start within two weeks of arriving in the city."
Tips on answering questions about your start date
Consider the following interview skills tips to help you discuss your date of availability with confidence and clarity:
Be concise. Try to avoid lengthy explanations about your date of availability as it can appear evasive. Developing a concise answer shows your preparedness and can impress your interviewer.
Think about your decision carefully. Often, job candidates make hasty decisions in order to secure a job. However, to ensure you're prepared to take on new responsibilities, consider your mental health and personal circumstances. Avoid desperation to ensure a recruiter takes you seriously.
Don't assume you have the job. Respond with kindness and respect to the recruiter. Show that you have considered their situation and try to accommodate their needs. An approachable demeanour ensures you keep the recruiter interested in your candidacy.
Be honest and straightforward. If you have a notice period to serve or have other commitments on your calendar, remember to be transparent with your recruiter. This way, you can avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
Show enthusiasm. Convey your excitement towards the job opportunity to show recruiters your genuine interest in the role.
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