Often recruiters have internal deadlines and procedures, so asking “When can you start” is a way of checking that your availability aligns with the company’s timeline.
There is not a perfect answer, and generally you should be honest with your availability. This is an opportunity for you to set expectations, to find a start date that works for both you and your future employer, so you can start your new job on the right track.
But of course, there is still a strategy. There are various answers to this question depending on your situation, but here are 4 of the most common types of replies to “when can you start?”:
Even if you are available now, you should respond in a professional manner.
Maybe you have been job searching for a long time, and you really are available now. Being flexible and accommodating is always a good idea but being over-eager could come across as desperate.
No matter the circumstances, you should still respond in a professional manner. Saying you can start “tomorrow” may not be realistic, and if the recruiter does come back with an offer it will reflect poorly on you if you suddenly need more time.
“I am really interested in this role and I think it’s a good fit for my skills and experience. I’m available to start next Monday.”
Maybe you are currently employed and need to give notice before leaving. Giving 2-weeks’ notice is a minimum professional standard, but many European countries have far longer notice periods. Stating the truth without giving too many details is the best option.
“I would be happy to join this company. I want to ensure a smooth transition for my current employer, so I need to give 3 weeks’ notice before leaving. I would be happy to join your team on or after [estimated date].”
Maybe you have been working hard at a job you can’t wait to leave, and you really need a break between starting fresh. Joining a new company takes a lot of energy, so time off is usually a good idea. Needing time to prepare is just a part of life. But, be more careful in this kind of reply, stay professional and don’t overshare (for example, no need to say you’ll be taking an extravagant vacation or getting drunk with friends).
“I’m looking forward to joining this team. I do have some previously scheduled plans and commitments to attend to after leaving my current job and before starting this role. Ideally, my start date would be [weeks or days] after receiving the offer.”
“I’m looking forward to joining this team. I do have some previously scheduled commitments; my ideal start date is [weeks or days] after receiving the offer. I’d be happy to work with you to find a date that works for both of us.”
Relocating for a job is a deeper commitment. It may involve moving with a partner, kids or pets, which all have their own timelines. The recruiter should be aware of any relocation, because the company may be able to help you with it – by providing you with a package to support the move financially. Make sure to do your research on this though, because smaller companies may view relocation as an obstacle, so in that situation you should avoid dwelling on it.
“I’m excited to join this team. What’s your timeline for the start date? [pause]
Because this role requires relocation for me, I will need [weeks or months] to prepare my move after receiving the offer. I’d be happy to work with you to find a start date that works for both of us.”
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