How to Answer the Interview Question “When Can You Start?”

“Tomorrow.” Never ever answer like this one when asked in a job interview, “When can you start?”. If you’re currently employed, this answer will create a bad impression to your prospective employer. They might think that you would do the same to them — leaving them right away when offered a new job. On the other hand, if you’re unemployed, this answer will show desperation. They will feel that you’re hopeless to find a job. So, what really is the right answer to this question? While there’s no exact answer to this, what matters most is you can demonstrate eagerness to work with their team, flexibility to accommodate their needs, and work ethics to respect their timeline. Here are the ways on how to answer this question in a professional manner.

1. When you’re available to start immediately    

Letting the interviewer know that you can start as soon as possible is good. This shows your excitement for the role. However, the way you answer it can make or break your chance of getting hired. There’s a big difference between enthusiasm and desperation. So, to avoid making the latter impression, it would be safe to say, “I can start as soon as possible, if that aligns with your timeline. When are you planning to have the role in place?”      

2. When you need to give notice at your current employer    

Employers know that you need to give notice at your current job before they can have you on board. Thus, leaving your present company immediately without giving notice is indeed a bad move. This will harm your professional image. Therefore, you will just ruin your chances of getting hired. Even if your job interview really went well, this move can still damage your employability. To avoid this predicament, you may answer it this way, “I’m excited to work with you soon. On the other hand, I have projects to finish with my current job. I plan to give them [number of weeks] notice so that my coworkers would be fine with the tasks before I join your team here.”      

3. When you want to take a break before you start a new job

Some employees want to take some time off between jobs. It’s for them to feel fresh and recharged before starting a new role. But sometimes they just need to attend to their personal matters. If you need to take a break after your previous job, then you could respond like this, “I’m looking forward to joining your team. But I have some scheduled commitments to attend to after giving notice at my current employer. That said, my ideal start date would be [number of weeks] upon receiving the potential job offer.” On the other hand, if they make it clear that they need someone who can start right away, then answer like this, “Though I have an ideal start date, I’m still flexible to adapt to the needs of [company name]. So I would be glad to set a date that meets your timeline.”  

4. When you need to relocate    

If you need to relocate due to the demands of your target job, set a realistic timeline to make it happen. It entails a careful research to be able to determine the estimated time and cost of relocation. Doing so will also help you properly answer “When can you start” with a strong basis. Thus, your answer to this question can be like this, “I really see myself doing the role with [company name]. I am excited to take the next steps. But since the job requires relocation to [place], what timeline do you give to a candidate who is making a transition from another city?”      

There you go. You see, the answers given in all conditions above are about meeting the timeline of your target company without sounding desperate but at the same time showing eagerness for the new position. Also, it’s about treating your current employer well. So, be prepared to answer the job interview question “When can you start” based on your strong work ethics and genuine excitement for your new role and team.  

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Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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