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Knowing how to answer “When can you start?” in a job interview may not be one of the questions you’re most preoccupied with preparing for, but you do need to tackle it professionally. It seems simple enough, and it’s probably not the toughest question you’ll get, and generally the interviewer’s motives are mostly just to see if your timeline matches the company’s needs. But how best to answer this query still calls for some thought.

As is usually the case, there’s no one-size-fits-all right answer for everyone. A lot depends on your situation—particularly if you’re currently employed. Plus, you want to show your enthusiasm for the position, but you don’t want to come across as desperate.

So, here are some things to think about and some recommended approaches when deciding how to answer “When can you start?” at your interviews.

 

Tips for Answering “When Can You Start?”

    • Don’t just blurt out “Tomorrow!” or “As soon as you want me to!” Again, you don’t want to seem desperate, and you also don’t want to look like you aren’t giving the question any thought.
    • If you aren’t currently employed, say you can begin working the following week. This avoids an air of desperation, but is accommodating. It also shows that you understand the company may still be meeting with other candidates and probably needs a little time to make a decision.
    • Know how much notice you intend to give your current employer. Two weeks is standard, but in some roles, it’s better to give a little more. Hiring managers expect and understand that you need to give notice, and they definitely don’t want to see that you’re willing to leave your current employer high and dry without adequate time to find and train your replacement.
    • If you have a job, state how much notice you’ll provide, explaining that you want to give your employer time to find your replacement and that you want to stay on to help with a smooth transition. So, say something like, “I will give my employer three weeks’ notice from the time I get an offer, and would be available to start the following week.”
    • If you’ve just left a job and would like a bit of downtime before starting a new position, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Simply explain that you have some prior commitments that you made after leaving your last position, and give a start date within two or three weeks.
    • Relocation for a new job can complicate matters, but the interviewer will understand that. Ask what sort of timeline they allow for when a new employee is moving from another city. If it’s common at their company, or if they offer relocation assistance, they should have standard answers. Even if it’s not common, they should be able to give you an idea of how much time you’d have to make the move, and you’ll need to make the determination as to whether you can manage it.
    • Regardless of how you answer, ask the interviewer if it works for them. You don’t want to miss out over the starting date if it’s avoidable. If you have flexibility—especially if you’re just taking some downtime between jobs—and the employer needs someone who can start sooner, tell them you’re excited for the opportunity and will work something out to meet their needs. If you can’t leave your old job soon enough, express your excitement for the opportunity but explain that you’re not willing to make things unmanageable for your current employer and coworkers; ask if there’s any way the timeline can be figured out.

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