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  1. Career Advice
  2. Interviewing
  3. Sample answers to the "When can you start" interview question
Sample answers to the "When can you start" interview question
Patrick Innerst

Patrick Innerst

Sample answers to the "When can you start" interview question

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • Why do employers ask “When can you start”? 
  • Things to think about before you answer this question
  • Tips for answering “When can you start?” effectively
  • 6 Sample answers to the “When can you start?” interview questions
  • Key takeaways

At the end of an interview, a recruiter may ask you when you can start. In this blog, we’ll help you navigate this exciting query and provide some answers to the “When can you start?” interview question.

When you’re interviewing, there’s nothing better than hearing “When can you start?” Although it might seem like the interview is over, it’s important to take your time and answer this question correctly. Your answer can tell the interviewer a lot about your approach to your new job, and you don’t want to create any false expectations.

In this blog, we’ll give you all the help you need to answer the “When can you start” interview question correctly. In the following paragraphs, we’ll cover:

  • Why employers ask “When can you start?”

  • Things to think about before you answer this question

  • Tips for answering “When can you start?” effectively

  • Sample answers to the “When can you start?” interview question

Why do employers ask “When can you start”? 

There are several reasons that an interviewer might ask when you can start. The first and most obvious is that they like you and they’re ready to give you the job. If so, they probably want to know when they can schedule your training and onboarding.

A recruiter might also ask you this question to gauge your availability compared with other candidates. If you can start sooner, you might be a better choice than an applicant who needs a month to prepare. Finally, your answer can tell employers whether you’re serious about the job and if you’re excited to start.

Things to think about before you answer this question

Before you answer this question, you should consider a few factors. Make sure to think about these things before you go to your interview so that you can give a prompt answer:

Are you currently working?

If you currently have full-time employment, you might need extra time to make the transition. Make sure and represent your situation accurately to the interviewer in order to avoid any confusion later on. If you’re in between jobs, you don’t have to worry about this question, and you can start as soon as your personal life allows.

How much notice does your employer require?

If you’re working currently, you’ll need time to inform your employer that you’re leaving. Each company has different rules about resignation, but most expect at least two weeks' notice. If possible, it might even be better to give them a month’s notice. This gives them time to find a replacement. It will also help you maintain good relationships with your former employer, which could come in handy later on.

Do you have any vacation plans or personal responsibilities?

If you have any vacations or time off planned, it’s important to make this clear to your interviewer. Telling them early is the best way to avoid issues later on. If they’re ready to hire you, they may be able to push your start date back or schedule some time off after you start. Most companies require employees to work for at least a couple of months before taking time off, and if you don’t tell the recruiter about your plans, you might miss your vacation or lose your new job. 

Do you need any downtime or prep time before you start?

Even if you’re not working, you might just need some downtime before you start a new job. Leaving a little space can help reduce stress and ensure that you start your new job at the top of your game. 

Do you really want the job?

Before you give a start date, it’s important to ask yourself whether you really want the job. If you’re waiting for feedback from other companies or have more interviews planned, try to give yourself time to explore your options. If the job is perfect and you’re excited to start, feel free to schedule your first day ASAP.

Tips for answering “When can you start?” effectively

Here are a few additional tips to help you craft the perfect answer to “When can you start?”:

Know your answer before your interview

During your interviews, you’ll be in a time crunch, and it’s important to plan ahead. Make sure that you ask yourself the questions listed above so that you have an answer ready to go when you arrive. This demonstrates courtesy, preparation, and an interest in the job. 

Don’t give in to pressure

When a recruiter asks you when you can start, you might feel pressure to start as soon as possible. It may seem that you need to start right away in order to remain competitive. However, it’s important to resist the pressure and give an answer that reflects your personal and professional needs. Your recruiter will value your honesty, and if they really like you, asking for a little extra time is unlikely to affect your chances of being hired. 

Don’t see the question as a guarantee

When a recruiter asks you “When can you start?” it might seem like a definite job offer, but that’s not always the case. Before a recruiter extends an official offer, they might want to find out more about your availability. With this in mind, remain hopeful but don’t think that you have a guaranteed position. 

Don’t answer “Tomorrow!”

Even if you’re excited to start, try not to let your enthusiasm get ahead of you. If you answer “Tomorrow!” the recruiter might think that you’re not taking the question seriously. In the best-case scenario, they might take you up on your offer, giving you no time to prepare.

6 Sample answers to the “When can you start?” interview questions

Here are a few sample answers to “When can you start?”, based on 6 different scenarios:

1. You can start right away

“My schedule is currently wide open and I’d be happy to start at the earliest convenient time for your team.”

2. You need some time to transition

“I’m excited to start but I want to make sure I’m at the top of my game when I do. Two weeks from today would be ideal if that works for you and your team.”

3. You want to explore your options

“Before I give you a hard date, I have to look at my calendar and talk to my current supervisor. Would it be okay if I called and let you know before the end of the week?”

4. You can’t start on the suggested date

“Unfortunately, I won’t be ready by that date. I’ll need a bit more time to transition out of my current position. Would [X date] be ok for you?”

5. You need to give notice to your current employer

“I should be able to start two weeks from Monday. That way I can give notice to my current supervisor.”

6. You have a scheduled vacation

“I have a vacation scheduled from the [X date] to the [X date]. Would I be able to start two days after I return?”

Key takeaways

  1. Before you give a definite start date, think about how much notice your current employer needs, whether you have scheduled plans, and whether you really want the job.

  2. Be honest and avoid giving answers that you think the interviewer wants to hear, including “Tomorrow!”

  3. Make sure to consider your needs before the interview so that you have an answer ready to go.

  4. Don’t give in to pressure and don’t see the question as a guarantee of a job.

Patrick Innerst

Patrick Innerst

Patrick is a Nashville-based writer and editor who loves a good turn of phrase. He has worked for a variety of clients but has a special interest in career services, travel, and the arts. When not writing, Patrick is an avid musician who enjoys exploring the sights and sounds of Music City.

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