Landing an interview for your dream job and being asked, "When can you start?" may tempt you to blurt out an unrealistic answer. First, consider all the reasons why the employer is asking the question, and then answer honestly, but strategically. The goal here is to communicate eagerness and flexibility without seeming desperate or disloyal to your current employer. Lastly, gear your response to the company's needs but allow yourself enough time to transition smoothly into your new and exciting role.
Analyze the Interview Question
To keep the process fair and consistent, hiring managers tend to ask the same structured interview questions of all applicants, including available start date. Indeed Career Guide suggests that employers ask this question to assess character. Applicants who are ready to jump ship even though they're currently employed may come across as disrespectful of their current employer. The question is also a test to see how well the applicant prepared for the interview and can provide a reasonable timeline that demonstrates professionalism.
I would like to give two weeks' notice at my current job and finish up an important project that I spearheaded.
Anticipate the Question
Instead of waiting for an employer to bring up the subject of when are you available to start, inquire about the company's hiring timeline and preferred start date. Consider the possibility that the company may not be in a position to offer an immediate start date. Knowing that information provides insight into how to answer the question.
Being willing and able to start whenever the company needs you can give you a leg up on the competition, whether that's tomorrow or next month. Answer the question of availability in a way that shows you're adaptable. Software Resources recommends asking whether your preferred timeline can work for the company.
Ideally, I would like to have a couple weeks to finish prior commitments before starting a new job. Could that work for you?
Prioritize the Employers’ Needs
Timing is everything when communicating your start date. If the employer's job posting states that the company is urgently looking to fill the position, mention in your cover letter that you are open to an immediate start date. For example, you might say, " I recently graduated with an MBA, live nearby and could start right away." But don't say, "I need a job immediately before I am evicted," even if that's true.
The employer is more interested in what you can do for the company, not vice versa. Remind the employer of what you can bring to the job in addition to your willingness to come onboard.
I am really excited about the possibility of joining your team as soon as possible. My familiarity with the software system you just implemented would make me an asset to coworkers who may need help figuring it out.
No matter how much you want to the job, don't promise that you can start immediately unless you're certain that you can make that happen, particularly if you're still employed. Before your interview, review your current employer's policies to see if you're required to give the standard two weeks' notice. Even if you're not contractually obligated to give advanced notice of quitting, you may burn bridges and ruin your chances of getting a good job recommendation in the future.
Job-hunt.org recommends taking at least a few days to prepare for a new job even if you've been out of work. A week or two can give you time to take care of practical matters such as buying work clothes, repairing your car or arranging childcare. You may want to ask about the possibility of working remotely if that would make the difference in whether or not you could start immediately.
I will need one month to relocate across the country and report to the office. However, if I can work from home, I can start immediately.