How to Ace “When Can You Start Working?” Questions - with Sample Answers


Now that you are at the end of your final round of interviews, congratulations! You might then notice that the next thing your recruiter asks is “when can you start working?” This is a common interview question that most - if not all -  employers ask candidates who are being seriously considered for the job. On the surface, this might seem like a simple question to answer; in reality, getting the appropriate answer requires time, effort and practice. 

This question also comes in various forms, for instance:

Take a look below at some tips for answering the “when can you start” question, with some sample answers that will help you get started with your preparation.

Tips for Answering “When Can You Start Working” Questions

Created by Cake

We have summarized 10 key points below that will help you prepare your answer for the ‘when can you start working’ question.

Consider the employer’s perspective

Before answering questions about your availability to start working, take a moment to understand the employer's business needs and preferred start date. Research their operations and any upcoming deadlines to ensure your response aligns with their requirements. Being transparent about any potential conflicts or commitments demonstrates professionalism and honesty, ultimately strengthening your candidacy.

Think about if you need some time off

This should be one of the first things you consider when preparing to answer when you can start working. Taking some time off before you start a new position is not necessarily a red flag. In fact, it can be helpful, especially if you are just graduating from school or switching between jobs. This can give you time to recharge and spend time with family and friends, and prepare for your new position rather than diving straight into it. Therefore, make sure to think about whether you need this before providing your available dates to start working.

Show interest

When the question of “when can you start” is asked as part of your interview, make sure that you continue to show your interest in the job and the company throughout. As simple as the question may sound, rather than simply stating your available dates, use the opportunity to convey your excitement about the opportunity and your eagerness to contribute. This showcases your proactive attitude and dedication, leaving a positive impression.

Know the rules about giving notice

If you are currently employed, another key to consider when giving your dates available to start working is to make sure you are aware of any rules with giving notice to your current employer. Your new employer will want to know whether you respect the contract you have with your current employer, or if you are thinking of leaving without advanced notice. Be aware that your treatment of your current employer will likely indicate to your new employer how you might treat them. Thus you should take this into consideration when answering about when you can start working.

Keep your answer short

When answering the question “when can you start?” make sure to give a concise and clear answer. Giving a response that is easy to understand will convey to your recruiter that you are a good communicator. Be sure to practice what you want to say beforehand to keep your answer concise and clear when providing dates you are available for work.

Don’t show desperation

As with a job interview, being too desperate is never a look you want to put on. While your recruiter will appreciate you being enthusiastic, too much of a good thing might show desperation and should be avoided. 

For example, even if you are available to start work immediately, it might not be appropriate to say that you can start tomorrow right away when asked about when you can start working. Instead, state that you are flexible and can meet the business needs of the company.

Don’t say “tomorrow”

As aforementioned, the only situation where you might consider saying this is where the company you are interviewing with has stated the need for someone to start immediately and you are realistically able to commit. A good response to the question of “when can you start” would instead be “when would you like me to start?” This shows that you are checking whether the dates you are available to start working match their needs, indicating a more promising and sensible response.

Don’t give too many personal details

If there happens to be a conflict in the start date your employer is hoping you can be available to, don’t start to go into detail about whatever plans you have next week with friends and family. Instead, simply say that it is not a suitable time for you and a later time would be preferred. In other words, overloading the recruiter with too much personal information should never be something you do, as he or she is not interested in the details, but just the exact time of when you can start working.

Avoid giving a specific date

While there are no strict rules on informing your new employer of your start date, specifying a particular date during an interview may suggest inflexibility. In general it's often more favorable to offer a range of dates, showcasing your flexibility and willingness to accommodate their needs.

Be flexible

As discussed above, when answering about when you can start working, your response should aim to address your employer’s needs. Flexibility is a strength, especially in today's fierce job market.. Hence, try to be as accommodating and flexible as possible; avoid making the response all about you, even if the date your employer would like you to be available for work is earlier than you hoped for. You should also account for this when scheduling your own events to make sure you have room for flexibility.

Sample Answers to “When Can You Start Working” Questions

Here are some sample answers that will help you prepare answers for the question of “when can you start?” in various situations.

When you can start right away

In the situation where you might have been on the job hunt for a period of time and want to get into this new role as soon as possible, keep in mind that getting the balance between enthusiasm and desperation is still important. It is best to play it slightly cool when asked about your available dates to start working.  

Sample Answer:

“Having known more about this job position and your business needs, I am confident it would be a great fit for my experience and skillset, and I can contribute positively to the team with my enthusiasm and passion. If needed, I can be available to start at the beginning of the next work week.”

When you need to give your company a notice

Depending on the stage you are at when asked about your available dates to start working, you may still have your current job and need to give notice to your current employer. 

A general rule is to give a two-week minimum notice, or maybe longer depending on your position and responsibilities. The recruiter will expect this to happen. Thus, it is fine to be honest. Take a look at the sample answer below to respond in this scenario.

Sample Answer:

“I am super excited for the opportunity to join your team. However, I have a few projects to wrap up in my current role and they require one-month notice to make a smooth handover with my current team. I am more than happy to come onboard afterwards and would greatly appreciate it if we can arrange my starting date accordingly.” 

When you plan to take a break between jobs 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to take a small break before jumping into a new role, particularly if you’re coming straight from a previous role. When asked about your dates available to start working, make sure to take this into consideration. 

Most employers can usually understand that job searching doesn’t fit exactly into our life plans and will be willing to work with your schedule. However, it may be best and more professional to position this as needing time to handle previously established commitments, rather than just me-wanting-some-time-off time, as a good answer for when you can start working.

Sample Answer:

“I’m very much looking forward to being part of your team; however, I have some previously scheduled commitments to attend to after giving notice at my current company. It would be ideal to start at the beginning of June, but I do have some flexibility and I’m happy to work with you to find one that works with your timeline.” 

When you are relocating

This is a trickier one to handle as relocating for a job would take up more time. It is then important to make sure you plan a realistic timeline for the move when giving dates you are available to start working, and take into consideration the estimated time you will need to find a place to live in a new city while preparing for a new job, as well as arrange any specific needs if you are moving with partner, kids or pets.  

Sample Answer:

“This job sounds like a great fit for me, and I’m excited about the next steps. As the role requires relocation to New York, could I ask what timeline you have in mind for a candidate who is transitioning from another city? Or perhaps, do you have any advice to share from other candidates who have done so?” 

When the employer gives you a start date that doesn’t suit you 

There will likely be a case where the date your new employer asks you to be available for work does not suit you. It may be because your previous employer requires a longer notice period, or that you need more time to complete the project you are currently working on. If this happens make sure to indicate that you need more time without giving too many details.

Sample Answer:

"I look forward to working with you and truly find this opportunity exciting. However, regrettably, I am going to need around three weeks to finish the project in my current position. Would it perhaps be possible to start at the beginning of June instead?’’

Key Takeaways

In summary, answering the question of “when can you start?” takes thought and preparation. It is important to be clear about your needs while being flexible and accommodating to your new employer’s business needs. Make sure to follow the tips above and check the sample answers before giving a response to the dates you are available for work.

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

--- Originally written by Wayne Chang ---

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