1. Career Advice
  2. Interviewing
  3. Be prepared to answer the question: "When are you available to start?"
Be prepared to answer the question: "When are you available to start?"

Be prepared to answer the question: "When are you available to start?"

Artwork by: Stas Podgornov

  • Why employers ask this question
  • They may have an immediate need
  • They need to plan accordingly
  • They want to measure your level of commitment
  • 3 Tips for responding
  • 1. in advance
  • 2. Negotiate if necessary
  • 3. Consider both professional and personal needs
  • Mistakes to avoid
  • Being too vague
  • Overcommitting
  • Underexplaining
  • 3 Example responses  
  • Key Takeaways

Win interviewers over with a thoughtful response to “When are you available to start?" Get example responses, key tips and mistakes to avoid.

You’re in the interview and you have prepared for questions about your career history, skills, and accomplishments. But the question you may not be prepared for is, "When are you available to start?" Although it sounds like a simple question, your answer can influence the hiring manager’s perception of your readiness and flexibility.

If you’re wondering about the best way to answer this question, don’t worry. In this guide, we address:

  • Why employers ask this question

  • 3 tips for how to answer “When are you available to start?”

  • 3 example responses for different scenarios 

Why employers ask this question

This question may come at any time during the interview process. Whether at the beginning or towards the end, interviewers may ask about your availability to start for a few reasons. 

Three reasons include:

They may have an immediate need

If they need to fill a position urgently, they may want to know if you can start immediately. This may be because of work demands that need to be fulfilled or business critical responsibilities that need to be completed immediately to keep operations running. Depending on the role and company, being able to start soon might determine whether you get hired or lose it to someone who can start right away. 

They need to plan accordingly

Because several activities are needed to onboard new employees, knowing your start date helps ensure that all necessary resources and tools are ready for you to start on the right foot. Setting up email access, computer equipment, and your workspace involves careful coordination across different teams. Knowing your start date allows them to align everything with the onboarding process. 

They want to measure your level of commitment

Asking this question might also gauge your interest in the role. For example, wanting an immediate start could show strong enthusiasm and readiness to join the team. Conversely, if you request a delayed start date, they may interpret this as a lack of urgency or interest. Ultimately, hiring managers want to assess your genuine interest and readiness to transition to their company.

3 Tips for responding

If you’re unsure how to answer, don’t wing it. Here are three tips for crafting the perfect answer about when you are available to start: 

1. Prepare in advance

While job searching, be honest with yourself about when you would be able to start working. Assess your availability, consider timelines for your current employer, and give yourself some time to get your personal affairs in order before committing to a new job. 

This might mean building in a two-week buffer to allow yourself to resign from your current role or taking a week for yourself to get into the mindset of going back to work after several months off. Regardless, get clear on your availability and have a specific start date in mind so you’re not caught off guard when the question is posed. 

2. Negotiate if necessary

Every job and situation is different. Tailoring your response to fit your circumstances and the job’s requirements can make a positive impression on the interviewer. Keep in mind that sometimes your start date may not align with the needs of the company. If that’s the case and your availability is flexible, communicate that you’re open to a discussion. 

This could look like asking for more time because relocation is involved or your new company asking you to start earlier because of a time sensitive project they’d like you to jump into. Either way, communicate what you need but also accommodate what your employer needs as well. 

3. Consider both professional and personal needs

While it’s important to be considerate of your professional responsibilities, don’t neglect your personal needs. Taking a break between jobs can benefit your mental and physical well-being, allowing you to start your new role with a fresh perspective. 

Mistakes to avoid

Here are some tips to help ensure you have the optimal answer. Try to avoid:

Being too vague

When responding to the question of your availability, provide a clear and definite answer. Making vague statements like, "I’m not sure yet" can make you come across as unprepared or disinterested, potentially raising doubts about your commitment to the position. 

Employers appreciate clarity and confidence in a candidate’s response. Instead, give a specific timeframe. This demonstrates that you have thought about your transition and are serious about the opportunity. 

Overcommitting

While expressing eagerness to start the job can be beneficial, it’s essential to avoid overcommitting. Promising an immediate start without considering your current obligations or the notice period required at your current job can lead to complications. 

For example, committing to start the next day might not be feasible if you have a two-week notice period. Being realistic about your availability builds trust and shows that you are professional and considerate of your current employer’s policies. 

Underexplaining

Stating your availability without any context can make your response seem abrupt or dismissive. For example, saying, "I can start on June 1st," without any explanation might leave the employer wondering why you need that specific date. 

It’s important to provide a brief explanation that adds context to your availability. This not only shows that you are organized and considerate but also helps the employer understand your situation better, making your response more acceptable. 

3 Example responses  

Not sure how to determine the best answer to “When are you available to start?” Here are three examples:

Below is an example if you can start immediately:

"I'm very excited about this opportunity and am prepared to start immediately. I can wrap up my current commitments quickly and am eager to get started with your team as soon as possible."

The following example applies if you need to give a two-week notice:

"I’m committed to providing my current employer with a two-week notice to ensure a smooth transition and to fulfill my professional responsibilities. After that, I would be able to start with your company." 

If you need to take a break between jobs, see the example below:

"I’m really excited about this opportunity. I would like to take a short break to recharge and ensure I start fresh and fully energized. I can be available to start on [specific date], which will give me enough time to transition effectively."

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Key Takeaways

  1. Employers ask about your start date to gauge your commitment, prepare for your onboarding, or determine if you can fill an immediate need.

  2. Understand your personal and professional timelines to provide a realistic start date that aligns with both your needs and the employer’s expectations.

  3. Offer a specific start date rather than vague responses to demonstrate your readiness and commitment to the role.

  4. Be open to discussing and negotiating your start date to accommodate the needs of the employer and any special circumstances that might arise.

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