Interview Questions About When You Can Start Work

How to Answer Interview Questions About the Date You Can Start

Job Interview.
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During job interviews, employers are likely to inquire about how soon you might be available to start work, especially if the position you're applying for is currently open and essential to the company’s operations.

This also may be a question you will need to answer when you fill out a job application. The most common time frame for starting a new position is two weeks after you have accepted the job offer.

However, there is a possibility of negotiating a different start date if you are interested in starting sooner or possibly later, have an employment contract that requires you stay for a longer period of time, or if you would like to take some extra time off before you start a new position.

What should you do if your current employer wants you to stay longer? How about when you want to take some time off between jobs? There are several different options to choose from when you're discussing starting a new position.

Options for Answering Questions About When You Can Start

When You Can Start Right Away
Generally, the best response is to convey a willingness to start working as soon as possible. However, if you do have another job while you're in the application process for a new one, you need to be tactful in how you answer.

This type of question can be a mechanism to test your ethics, so avoid the temptation to say "tomorrow" if you're currently employed elsewhere.

If you’re out of work or if your current job is about to end, of course it’s fine to say you can start immediately or as soon as the employer would like.

When You Need to Give Two Weeks – or More - Notice
Giving two weeks notice is the standard when resigning, so your interviewer might begin to wonder whether you would exit a job with their organization on such short notice and leave them in a difficult position if you don't provide it to your current employer.

You may have a commitment that requires giving an even longer notice. If that’s the case, if you can take a vacation day or two for training or orientation, you could let the prospective employer know about your availability. 

Also, your current employer may offer you the option to leave earlier than you think. In that case, you could say you'll check with your company on how soon you can be available. It’s unlikely, but there are cases when an employee is told to leave right away once they give notice. If that happens after you’ve been hired, you could mention that you’re available to start earlier than you expected. Again, don’t mention any exceptions to the standard guidelines at this point in time.

When You Want More Time Off
If you need to take some time in between jobs for a vacation, to relocate, or simply to decompress or recharge, then the scenario might be more challenging. It’s not a good idea to share that information before you have a firm job offer.

Instead, you could turn the question around and ask the interviewer about the preferred start date for the position. You might find that their time window is more flexible than you thought.

Overall, it's generally acceptable to indicate your need for an adjustment period as long you also express great enthusiasm for the job and some flexibility to accommodate the employer.

Don’t Make it About You
When answering this type of interview question, it’s important to not make the response all about you. Rather, try to address the employer’s needs and be as flexible and accommodating as possible. The candidates who are will be the ones who get further consideration.

Related Articles: How to Answer Interview Questions About Yourself | Tips for Negotiating a Start Date for a New Job

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