Job interviews are conversations that are usually followed by a lot of anticipation, anxiousness, and eagerness that every moment passes smoothly and efficiently.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their previous experience and to hear great news about their potential upcoming employment.

Hearing “When can you start?” is a sort of hope to many candidates. However, it does not necessarily mean they will hire you after they pose that question. It is a type of assessment where they can evaluate whether you will be suitable as their future employee.

This is why you must come prepared for a job interview. Your answer will not be the reason they will hire you or not. But, the way you formulate your answer will. Stick till the end to find the ways you can cope with this issue.

To sound appropriate and professional, you will need to express yourself in a certain manner. Whatever reason may be lying behind your answer, try to think about your response before coming to the interview.

Consider what response they would like to hear and what does that tell you about them as a company. Contemplate on how that decision may change your life and who does it influence. Then try verbalizing that and imagine yourself talking to a hiring manager.

There are five ways you can answer this question and they are dependent on your current employment status. There are situations when you can start immediately when you need two or three weeks due to your existing employment, when you simply need more time, when you have to relocate and when you have personal obligations.

In any case, you are the one in control of your decisions. Thus, consider what category you fall into and take a look at how your response should sound like. Get comfortable, take a notebook and write down what you did not already know.


1. When you can start immediately

This is a tricky category as it may sound unprofessional and unfitting if not formulated in the right way. A lot of people have been in this position, usually the younger ones who are in the pursuit of the right profession.

Everyone has been in such a position and it is not embarrassing if you are still unemployed. However, that does give you another reason more to get prepared for these situations as you have more time on your plate.

In other cases, you have just lost your job and you are desperate to find a new one. This is also not distressing if you were not the sole factor for losing your job. In this case, you would be required to think about your previous employment and reasons for its termination. But that is not a topic closely related to this one.

Be that as it may, you are unemployed at the moment and you are searching for a job. You find a company that is willing to interview you and you want the interview to run smoothly (check here what to do in case it goes bad). This is the moment when you jot down the method of answering this question.

When you are available to start the new job every moment, do not make that the imperative for yelling “Right away!” or “Tomorrow” to the hiring manager. This type of eagerness is not going to profit you in any way. Suppress your keenness to start right away and think twice before answering.

Answering in this way can show your desperation and the hiring manager can perceive you as an unreliable person who is not choosing between jobs, rather accepting them as they come. Moreover, they might think that one day you will do that to another recruiter and quit this one.

When responding that you are available when the company thinks is best, maybe explain briefly why this job is something you are willing to commit that easily. If you express why you applied and for what reason this job suits you, they might understand your enthusiasm.

You can always ask the recruiter when it is suitable for them to commence your employment, but that might become a trick question that will lead you again to answer with “tomorrow”.

This is why you can always ask them if you can start on Monday or simply indicate that your time is flexible and you are willing to start your training when possible.

2. When you need two or three-week notice

This is a type of answer you will use when you are currently employed, but you are looking for a change of position. Concerning the question above, you will not be able to affirm to them that you can start instantly.

This is because many companies require two or more weeks’ notice before leaving your position. It is a simple case when you must inform your future employer about your current situation. Since it is a very common circumstance they will understand and respond fittingly.

The correct approach to this situation is inquiring your current employer about their policy of termination of your employment. After you have gathered the information you need you will notify the hiring manager that you need some time before commencing your work.

You cannot just make a decision that you want to change your position and go on an interview. This is why you need to come prepared. Always inform yourself on time about leaving a certain job, and then you can start looking for another one.

If you do not follow these rules, you might get into legal issues such as leaving one job before two weeks’ notice and applying for another too soon. Even if you manage to do that without major conflicts, the future employer will identify you as a very unprofessional and irresponsible candidate.

You can formulate your answer in the following manner:

“I feel grateful that you find me an adequate asset to your team. However, I do have certain assignments to conclude and inform the superior of my two-week notice. When everything is settled I can start my work here.”

Another significant aspect of this category is the training of your replacement at the current position. It is better that you inform the hiring manager that you will be obliged to that before starting your job in their company.

By doing this you appear as a mature person and a reasonable candidate for any job. Just because you are leaving one position does not mean that you do not have to care for them anymore. Making your termination easier for your previous co-workers and superior will affirm your compassion and common sense.

3. When you need more time

If you have already experienced the first two categories of answers you might belong to this one. You are currently employed and you wish to change your positions and start a job at another company. However, you feel like you need to step out of that situation and ask for some time off.

This is not an unusual circumstance as many people feel exhausted and overwhelmed when switching positions. You are saying goodbye to a firm where you might have spent a lot of years, and you are entering a new firm.

This means that you will be surrounded by new co-workers who might have a different workplace culture from your former co-workers. This is not something alarming, yet what you will have to get accustomed to.

It is your right to have a moment to compose yourself and think about the situation. What is also your right is not to disclose such information to the hiring manager. They might ask how long will you need and why, but you are obligated to answer only to the first question.

Although it is your right to take a break between changing jobs, you should not do that because you need the time to go on a vacation. Doing this would not go into your advantage as there are some candidates that will take your place while you take a break.

If you, as mentioned above, need time to train your replacement or finish some of the projects in your former position, then explain that to the recruiter.

They will be delighted that you are responsible and rational as an employee, and they will give you the time you need as they will profit in the future from hiring someone like you.

If you converse logically with the recruiter you will come to an agreement with them on your upcoming employment. This will only be accomplished if you are honest, understanding and patient.

Also, if you need time to prepare for a new job you should ask them if they can give you one week before you start. Every company has its own rules, types of training, so if you need additional self-preparation, ask for it. Since it is for the sake of your performance in their company, they will react positively.

The next two categories are connected to this one, so if you belong to this one, you might identify with the other two.

4. When you need time for personal obligations

As you can see by titles of numbers three and four, there is a connection between the two. If you need more time before your employment at the new company that may be for various reasons.

The above-mentioned instances explain what your answer should sound like if you need to respect certain policies in the former company or if you need more time to finish other projects. This category relates to your reasons for needing more time.

In case you have a family, you might need to talk to your partner on how the new employment might influence your life. On the other hand, if you are going through personal matters that require some time off from work, you will have to notify the hiring manager.

There are many instances when your transition from one position to another may correlate with the presence of some distresses in your life. Consider your health and mental state before putting work in the first place. You will not be of use to anyone if your mind is all over the place.

Compose yourself by giving yourself some time off. Naturally, you will not explain the details to the recruiter. Their job is to interview you and evaluate if you will be a valuable asset to their enterprise in the long term.

Some, however, do not need the time off because of recent hazards, but just to unwind before starting a new job. This is a tactic more experienced employees deserve; as they know how to manage their time, how much time they need to rest their heads and when they are prepared to continue the work.

Whatever the case is with you, be careful when asking the time off before the recruitment process as not every hiring manager will understand these instances as they will the ones relating to your two-week notice.

Always think about the interview before and then assess the conversation properly. If you hit off well with the hiring manager, you might get the chance to ask for this type of break.

5. When you need to relocate

The reason why numbers three, four and five are not put into one category is that there is a diversity of people, and this article intends to identify with each one individually.

For this reason, some may ask for more time before their new employment due to relations with their former firm, others for personal reasons and others for relocation.

Some may identify with all three categories, but for others who do not, it is better to discuss them in this manner. Keep on reading to find out what your answer should look like.

Relocation is a complicated process even when you do not have family, but with a family of your own, it does create additional issues and costs. Consider all the expenses you will have to incur and assess whether this position is the right one for you.

After you have contemplated on the expenses, affects this relocation may have on you and your friends and family, you can apply for the job at ease.

If you are keen on getting this job, your answer will sound something like this:

“I am thrilled to start working at your company. I believe I could contribute to your forthcoming endeavors due to my previous experience at (Company). Since this job would include my relocation, could you tell me what timeline is given to the candidate for the relocation process?”

Being in this situation is the hardest so if you need more time or consideration from the company, it will only be reasonable. Recruiters will have more understanding for candidates who are willing to make a transition from one city or state to another.

Thus, be patient and show them your eagerness to work in their company. Once you have indicated enough that you are serious about your relocation, the company will assist you with your transition.


As you have already gathered, job interviews are verbal examinations. The sooner you comprehend that, the better.

People who are always getting hired are the ones that have professional networks, who keep up with their area of interest, do their homework before the interview and try to appear professional visually and verbally.

This is a technique some of the recruiters use when they want to test your true intentions and objectives. They can observe based on your response whether you will be a determined and rational employee.

If they notice that you are too eager or too desperate just to get employed, they will most probably put your resume at the bottom of the pile of resumes. In an even worse scenario, you will tell them a specific date for your employment at their company, and you will not be able to fulfill that promise.

Cases like these will not only take away the chance to get a job at this company, but you may crush future employments at some of their affiliated companies. But this is the worst-case scenario. If you do not make false promises and always give your maximum, you will not experience that.

Obviously, they are not asking you this question just to test your honesty and personality in general. They are asking you because they need an employee who will start as soon as possible.

However, that does not mean that they do not examine the way you convey your answer. As stated below in more detail, you will not succeed by saying that you can start instantly. The hiring managers do not need to know that you are desperate and in search of employment for a long time.

They simply need to know if you are unemployed and flexible, therefore, able to start as soon as they indicate to you, and if you are employed, they need to know that you will make your transition as judiciously as possible.


As you would expect, there are certain details you need to have in mind when responding to this question. Some of them will be clarified below.

Remember what is said about this question in the introduction- it is not the affirmation that you are hired. It is just a test hiring managers use to evaluate how mature and reasonable employee you are.

This means that you need to consider your representation to the recruiters and be careful when expressing yourself, as well as when formulating your responses. Your goal is not just to charm them but prove to them that you are a respected candidate.

You can only do that with your previous successes and positive deeds, as well as with your responses that will designate how you would behave in the new company.

Some of the wrong formulations of responses are indicated in previous paragraphs, but mentioning them again could not hurt. Try and remember these, so you do not make a mistake:

  • Do not give away too much information
  • Do not accept the offer before finalizing your termination at the previous firm
  • Do not make false promises
  • Avoid too enthusiastic and quick responses

The advice given above will reduce your chances of being perceived as immature, desperate and irresponsible. Certainly, not the characteristics you would want anyone to identify you with, in the least your hiring manager. But not to worry, the fact that you are still reading this article affirms those are not your features.

Furthermore, remember to have your agreement for new employment sealed before starting your two-week notice at the former company. Follow the legal procedures and complete the transition fairly and rationally.

If you are simply honest with yourself, you will see whether you are suitable for a certain position. If you feel some answers might make the recruiter decline you, try and work on those flaws. No one is perfect. Try to be the better version of yourself and you will become the better candidate for a job.

In the interest of answering this question successfully pay attention to the next paragraph.


After you have realized what not to do, make notes on how to appropriately present yourself and answer this question.

Being professionally dressed is an aspect you already knew, but it is important not to overdo anything. Dress accordingly and present yourself as if you have already been accepted by the company.

Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to focus on your mental state when being interviewed. Pretend as if you will be accepted, work on your positive thoughts and it may improve your chances of getting the job. Unless, of course, you are already confident enough and do not need help in that area.

Answer each question honestly, but maturely. This means that you will not explain every answer based on what you like and do not like, what you think or disagree with. Relate every answer with your desire to be recruited by the hiring manager and with your wish to expand your experience. Other topics and opinions are pointless and needless.

In addition to being honest, you will need to show them that you are flexible and able to accustom to new circumstances. Whether you need to talk to your former superior, take some time off or relocate, you can point out to hiring managers that you are able to manage such issues.

You will have to be honest about that since starting a new position never ends well if it started with a lie. You may be too young or simply too unexperienced to face matters like this, but lying about them is not going to improve that.

In the end, these people are looking for someone to take up a part of their firm’s responsibility. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and estimate whether you would hire someone like you. Be fair and respectful.

What is more, do not try to be ingenious and innovative with this type of question. Do try to answer as simply and clearly as possible.

After all these instructions you may feel a bit overwhelmed, but this is explained in detail that you can use for other answers as well. A lot of qualities the recruiters ask for in their candidates are stated in this article.


All in all, there are not that many specifications you need to remember to answer this question adequately. Five cases in which you can individually comprehend what your response should sound like are expounded on above.

Whether you are unemployed, employed but in a search for a transition or required to relocate, you have the illustrations of what to do and what not to do.

It is vital to think about your vocabulary and body language. Your conversation should be conducted in a light mood, with moderate enthusiasm and it should not depict your flaws. As in any job interview, you should be careful about approaching the recruiter.

Pay attention to the needs of the company in question and question your values and qualifications. You can always do that before the interview.

Preparation is appreciated when it comes to this sort of interview and this specific question. That is why you have all the material needed for presenting yourself appropriately.

Most importantly, evaluate yourself! Think about your capacities and whether you are willing to sacrifice certain aspects of your life, such as time and personal relationships. If you believe that you could not fulfill their requirements, be honest with them.

On the other hand, if you have the right qualifications, try to present them in the right light. Show them your ability to be flexible and to get easily accustomed to different surroundings, routines, and co-workers.

It should be noted that when they ask you when you can start they are testing you, but remember that the whole interview is some sort of a test. This is just one aspect explained in pieces so that you can come prepared.

Be sure to pay attention to other possible questions that are evaluating you as well and prepare yourself well.

5 Ways to Answer "When Can You Start?" in an Interview

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