As an interview coach, I take a keen interest in how recruiters work, so I read articles they read. In doing so, I recently learned something new about how to answer the question, “If we offered you the job, when could you start?” And no, it’s not a matter of saying “Whenever you want me to.” You need to understand why they’re asking. It’s a test!
Recruiters don’t want to make you an offer unless they’re confident you’ll accept it.
As a candidate, you want multiple offers, right? Then you can play those offers against each other, pick and choose, negotiate a higher salary, better perks, even changes in the structure or title of the job.
That’s exactly what recruiters don’t want – a “bidding war.” Another thing they don’t want is to make an offer that isn’t accepted, then have to move onto another candidate and make another offer, which in turn may not be accepted. Meanwhile the hiring manager grumbles “What’s taking so long?” That’s called “churn” and it makes a recruiter look really bad.
In the LinkedIn Talent Blog, recruiting expert Lou Adler tells recruiters to avoid this situation by asking the following question.
“If we offered you the job, when could you start?”
Here’s what they may be looking for, according to Adler.
“If the candidate gives specific details about a start date, it’s a sign that they’re quite interested. If they’re vague or noncommittal, it’s a good sign that they’re not too serious about your role. “
So, depending on the company’s needs and your own, an answer like this might work well:
“I’d definitely need to give two weeks’ notice, and I’d prefer to give three, because a major project I’m involved in will be wrapping up. Then I’d really like to take a week’s vacation, which will be my first in over a year. So (date) looks good at this point. How does that sound to you? ”
Your answer might sound totally different. My point is that you’ve given a specific answer that reassures them you’re serious. You’ve passed the start date test.
Now, is your answer a commitment? Not really. Notice that you’re saying a certain date “looks good at this point.” A promise would probably not be appropriate, since they haven’t yet made a promise to you, ie, a job offer. That said, it’s important to answer in good faith. Don’t talk about starting in a month, or in a week, if you know you can’t actually do that. Insincerity can destroy rapport and jeopardize an offer.
Let’s say you’ve successfully answered “If we offered you the job, when could you start?”, Among other questions, and they’ve made you an offer. Firming up that start date is one of many parts of the offer you can negotiate. Read my post, Salary Negotiation, How to Do It for smart methods to negotiate any aspect of the role.