How To Answer "When Can You Start?" in an Interview
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated September 14, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020
Updated September 14, 2022
Published February 25, 2020
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.
Interviews offer both employers and candidates the opportunity to learn more about each other and to determine whether the candidate is the right fit for the position. Interviewers often ask qualified candidates when they can start working to determine how soon they might be able to fill the position. Learning how to respond to this question properly can help you demonstrate to employers that you're eager to begin working in a position and allow them to establish an appropriate time frame for providing you with a potential offer.
In this article, we explain why employers might ask this question, provide a step-by-step guide to answering it appropriately and offer a few example answers to help you craft your own response.
Why employers ask "When can you start?"
Employers ask when you can potentially start working to determine whether your time frame for beginning a new job aligns with their own. It allows them to assess how prepared you are to leave your current position for a new one. If you're currently working with another employer, an interviewer may want to gauge your willingness to leave your position with little prior notice to fill the new position quickly. How you treat your current employer can also indicate how you might treat the company with whom you're interviewing.
Many employers ask this question, regardless of their intention to hire the professional they're interviewing, while some might only ask it if they're considering a certain candidate for the position. While your answer to this question is likely to vary depending on several factors, employers typically prefer that you're as honest about when you can start. This allows them to structure the workloads of current employees and organize their resources for the onboarding process.
How to answer "When can you start?"
Regardless of how you respond to this question, structure your answer in a way that's as truthful and straightforward as possible. How you answer this question likely depends on a number of factors that relate to both your personal and professional life. Here are the steps you can take to provide a thoughtful answer to this question:
1. Consider your current employment status
If you're currently working for another employer, you may want to provide adequate notice to them before leaving your position. The length of your notice depends on your contract with the company, but most employers prefer you to notify them of your intentions at least two weeks in advance. Ensure that you're able to give your employer proper notice before you leave your job so you can retain a positive relationship with them. Many interviewers also prefer candidates who demonstrate proper etiquette by notifying their employers before accepting another position.
If you're not currently working, determine any other offers you might have and consider structuring your answer accordingly. It may take you some time to compare your different offers and notify employers of your intentions. Even if you can start working right away, it also might be necessary for the company to prepare for the transition, so consider providing a time range rather than a specific date. Indicate that you're flexible and able to meet the company's needs.
2. Consider your personal life
In addition to considering your employment status, think about the components in your personal life that may be important for you to address before you accept a new job, such as a vacation you already planned or family matters. For example, if you have children and you're interviewing at a company in another state, it may take you some time to relocate your family and enroll your kids in a new school. Rather than informing potential employers of these obligations, simply provide a response that gives them insight into when you can start.
Related: How To Prepare for 9 Interview Types
3. Think about time off
If you're leaving your previous role, you may want to take some time to decompress and prepare before you begin a new one. Taking some time off by going on vacation or simply spending time with friends and family can help make your transition easier and provide you with the support you need. Consider how much time you might prefer between positions.
When planning your answer, indicate your desire to adjust before you start working again, but make sure you express your enthusiasm for the position and highlight your competency. In addition, consider the employer's willingness to let you take some time off before you start. If you've already completed several interviews and you feel confident that you may receive an offer, you might have more leverage to take some time off.
Related: FAQs: Taking Time Off Between Jobs
4. Understand the interviewing company's needs
Consider the immediate hiring needs of the company you're interviewing with so you can respond in a thorough and thoughtful way. Before your interview, review the job posting again to see if it includes any details about when you can expect to start. Some employers indicate in their postings that they prefer candidates to be willing to start working immediately, while others may provide a preferred starting date range. Plan to ask your employer when they hope for you to begin in the position before you provide an answer.
5. Respond confidently
Give yourself a few seconds to form a concise and straightforward answer after asking your interviewer when they hope to have the position filled. Make sure that you express enthusiasm for the new position and state your flexibility in your answer. In your response, include a date range that meets your current employer's needs and your personal needs. Make sure that you provide a realistic timeline and factor in anything that may delay your ability to begin working, such as the time it may take you to relocate.
Here are a few example answers to the question "When can you start?" to help you in creating your own:
Example 1: Starting right away
"I have a flexible schedule, and I hope to start in the new position soon. I'm able to start at the date that's easiest for you, and I look forward to meeting the team if offered the role. When would be the best date for me to start working here?"
Example 2: Providing advance notice
"My current employer expects me to provide at least two weeks' notice before leaving my job under the terms of my contract. I'm able to start as soon as I meet that requirement, and I look forward to getting to meet the team if you offer me the position. Would beginning the third week of the month work for you?"
Example 3: Desiring time off before starting
"I hope to ensure a smooth transition before after leaving my current job and I have some personal matters I hope to attend to before I begin working in a new position. I'm able to start the week of the 24th, and I look forward to meeting the team if you offer me the position. Would that work for your company?"
Example 4: Unsure about when you can start
"At the moment, I'm not sure of what might be on my calendar that might prevent me from starting in this position. I can check my calendar and let you know more about my current obligations as soon as I get the opportunity. When would you prefer for me to start this position?"
Example 5: Needing additional time to relocate
"Since this position requires me to move to a new state, I'm going to require a few weeks to establish a new residence and relocate my family. Once I do, I'm happy to begin working. What's your timeline for candidates who are transitioning from my state?"
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