Shift-Based Job Interviews: How to Answer "What's Your Availability?"

Although many people work regular 9-to-5 hours, there are many industries which work beyond typical business hours or even 24/7. Whether it's hospitality, security, retail or medicine, knowing your open availability will allow employers to evenly and appropriately spread shifts across their team. Besides being asked questions like “When can you start working?” when interviewing for those jobs or some part-time positions, you might also be prompted to disclose your open availability in many ways, such as:

  • What are your hours available to work?
  • Do you have any regularly scheduled events?
  • What is your weekly availability to work?
  • Do you have open availability?
  • What days/hours are you available to work?

It’s important to know your schedule and convey this confidently in the hiring process. We’ll go through how to explain your availability for work, and provide samples to help you prepare.

What is Open Availability? Definition & Meaning

By definition, open availability simply means the days, times or hours you are available to work. When someone indicates that he or she has open availability, it means he or she is flexible and available to work whenever the employer requires him or her to. This is typically asked when jobs are part-time or casual, such as shift work, or for jobs which are not within normal 9-to-5 hours. Your availability to work will be asked for at some point in the hiring process, such as:

  • Job application forms

There is usually a dedicated section in job applications titled “my availability” or similar.

Your hours of availability are typically asked during the end of the interview. Interviewers will note this down, so having a concise description will be appreciated.

  • Job interviews: 

Tips on How to Answer “What is Your Availability?” in an Interview

Apart from knowing your earliest date available for work, another important piece of information that interviewers and managers also look for is your availability to work, so it's a good idea to have an answer ready. However, when preparing your hours of availability, it's important to keep your priorities and work-life balance in mind. Below are items you can reflect on when thinking of your hours of availability:

Review your own schedule

Think of your current commitments, such as school or university, sports you play, lessons you take or downtime you dedicate to yourself. Reflect on your current schedule and prioritize commitments, making adjustments if your current hours of availability are low or not conducive to work.

Research company hours

Although job postings should outline expected working hours or shifts, researching the company hours can help you understand the expected hours of availability for work. Checking company hours in advance helps you throughout the job hunting process, to avoid disappointment if you can’t commit to the expected hours of availability. If you are working at a franchise or chain store, make sure you research the hours for the location you will be working at, as opening hours can vary between stores.

Be honest

Although you’d want to stand out in the interview, be honest with yourself and the interviewer when discussing your availability to work. Provide candid answers about your current commitments and hours of availability, so as not to sacrifice your work-life balance.

Let the interviewer know your future plans

If you have a commitment scheduled in the future, such as a holiday, school assessment or important event, let the interviewer know. Recruiters understand that nobody has totally open availability with no plans, especially if the plans were made long before you were hired. 

Offer alternatives if there’s a schedule conflict

If you do have a conflicting schedule, or your hours of availability aren't ideal to the interviewer, offering up alternatives shows you are committed and flexible. Being open to shift switches, covering, or taking on night shifts can be brought up when discussing your hours of availability. Employers ultimately want a consistent schedule, but appreciate flexibility as well.

Example Answers to “What is Your Availability to Work?” Questions

Created by Cake

Although it is a typical application or interview question, your availability to work can be difficult to articulate concisely. Once you have reflected on the times you have open availability, think of the best way to clearly communicate them in the hiring process. You don't need to give too much detail and over-explain your hours of availability, but mentioning context can be helpful. 

Here are ways to answer questions about your open availability depending on your situation: 

When you are still in school

“My school hours are 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. My availability for work is after 4:30 from Monday to Friday, and any time on Weekends.”

When you are currently employed

I put in my 2-week notice at my current job yesterday, so I will be available to work full-time hours from the 14th. My hours of availability are from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm.

When you’re applying for a shift job 

“I am available for 3 shifts per week from Monday to Thursday, from 9 am until 9 pm. The starting and end times are flexible within my hours of availability.” 

When you’re available for night shifts

“My hours of availability include the company’s normal business hours, and I have hours of availability for night shifts until 2 am.”

When you are free and ready to start a new job

“I currently have open availability, and am able to start ASAP. I can work anytime within the advertised business hours, and on weekends as well.”

When you have family commitments

“My hours of availability are from Monday to Friday, and I am flexible on starting and finishing times on those days. I don’t have availability for work on the weekends, since I take care of my young children when they are not at school.”

When you’re available during the weekend

“I am available to work on average 3 days per week. I have open availability both during the week and both Saturday and Sunday.”

When you can work overtime

“My hours of availability are from Monday to Friday, 9-5, but I am able to work overtime hours and pick up weekend shifts if necessary.”

When you have commitments in the near future

“My hours of availability are from Wednesday to Sunday, 9 am to 9 pm. However, I have a family event during the first weekend of June, and I am unavailable to work on those particular days. Aside from that, my availability for work is consistent.”

When there is a schedule conflict

“My availability for work is only from Thursday to Sunday, as I am currently studying full-time and have classes on the other days. However, I have open availability on those days and am flexible with the shift schedule.”

What to Consider When Filling Out Open Availability on a Job Application?

Often the question of open availability will appear during the application process. This removes being put on the spot during interviews and can allow you to plan in advance what time commitment you are ready to make for the job. There are important factors to consider when deciding on your hours of availability for both yourself and the job, including: 

Recurring Schedules 

Your open availability should have no schedule conflicts, so list down any commitments you have, such as classes, sports, lessons or any other recurring event that is a priority over work. You can then maintain a work-life balance by staying clear from recurring commitments when filling out questions regarding your open availability during your application.

Commute Time 

Unless you know the job is work from home, check the commute time (both ways) to the office or store you’ll be working at. Include peak hour traffic and parking time as well, and factor that into the hours of availability that you’re willing to commit.

The Hours the Company Expects You to Work 

If it's not listed in the job posting, research the company business hours or the location you applied for. You can also use online job review sites to get insight into the expected shifts or hours of availability for the employees.

Once you have decided on your availability for work, write them out clearly and logically in the “my availability” section when applying for jobs. You don’t need to explain the reasons for your availability to work, only the times and hours you are available to work. 

Here are examples of how you can fill out your availability to work in job applications:

Example 1:

  • Monday to Friday: 9 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday, Sunday, School Holidays & Public Holidays: All day
  • Available to start ASAP

Example 2:

  • 3 shifts per week from Tuesday to Saturday, anytime between 8 am and 10 pm
  • Overtime or night shifts: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 pm until 2 am
  • Public Holidays: all day
  • Available to start from June 2nd

Key Takeaways

To recap, your open availability is the hours you are willing to work. Even if you available to work on any day and at any hours, make sure you think of all the commitments and personal time you wish to maintain in your lifestyle. Employers are understanding of the commitments of individual lifestyles, so stating your hours of availability clearly in a job application will help avoid ambiguity and disappointment in the job-hunting process. 

Cake is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides you with hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples that help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---

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