Interview Questions: 'What is Your Availability?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 November 2022 | Published 6 August 2021

Updated 17 November 2022

Published 6 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The interview process provides an opportunity for potential employers to assess the suitability of job applicants. This includes finding out more about your personality, skills, experience and also your availability to work. When getting ready for an interview it's a good idea to prepare to explain your availability to work and also outline any potential conflicts in your schedule to the interviewer. In this article, we explain why employers ask 'what is your availability?' and discuss ways in which you can respond to this question.

Why do employers ask 'what is your availability to work?'

There are multiple reasons that employers ask about your availability to work during the interview process. Knowing when you can join their team and what hours you can work helps employers plan upcoming work schedules and ensure they accommodate staffing needs. Your response can also help interviewers determine whether you understand the requirements of the position. In some cases, you may not be able to commit to the working hours required of the role and therefore both you and the employer can determine this prior to accepting an offer for the position.

Related: Show Hiring Managers That You're Ready to Work

Other ways interviewers ask about your availability

Asking about your availability is one of the most common questions that come up in a job interview, particularly if the work schedule is not a standard 9-to-5. As well as the phrase 'what is your availability?', interviewers may use one of the following variations to gauge a timeframe in which you could start work and what hours are suitable for you. Examples include:

  • What days are you available to work?

  • What are your ideal working hours?

  • When are you available to begin working?

  • Are there any dates you know you cannot work?

  • What hours are you available each day?

  • Would you be open to possible overtime?

  • Can you work evenings and weekends?

  • How soon can you start?

In some instances, a company may advertise a job role as a part-time position with the potential to develop into full-time at a later date. In which case an interviewer may phrase the question 'Would you be willing to take on part-time work if it could turn into full-time work in the future?'. All of these questions require similar answers that effectively explain your availability to the interviewer. Anticipating these variations can help you to prepare your answer with confidence.

Related: The Pros and Cons of a Zero-Hour Contract

How to answer 'what is your availability?'

Before attending your interview, it's best to assess your availability and prepare your response so that you can answer this question with confidence. Here are some steps that you can follow to effectively explain your availability during your interview:

1. Research the company

Typically, the job description gives an indication as to whether the role is part-time or full-time and if there are any shift requirements, such as evening or weekend work. However, it can also be useful to do some research on the company prior to your interview. Professional networking platforms and employee company reviews can indicate the typical availability requirements for roles similar to the one you are interviewing for.

Be sure to look into the company culture, as every organisation operates differently. Consider some of the following questions such as, is it common for employees to take work home with them or stay late at the office? Will they require you to attend training outside of your normal working hours? Does the role ever require travel and working away from home? You may also want to consider some of the social aspects of the company, such as whether there are regular social functions or potential for team building work trips you may or may not wish to attend.

2. Check your schedule

Before your interview, be sure to check your schedule to assess your availability and make note of any prior commitments you have in place that you can't change or cancel. If you have a holiday booked for later that year, classes you must attend once a week or childcare commitments such as picking your children up from school every day, you need to be prepared to inform your potential employer.

When identifying any recurring events that may interfere with your work schedule, the interviewer may ask for an indication of when you are available to start. In some cases, you may be available to start work immediately, but if you're leaving your current job, make a note of your notice period. This is the time you continue working between handing in your resignation letter and your final day with the company, ranging from one week up to a few months.

Related: What Is a Notice Period?

3. Emphasise your availability throughout the interview

While discussing your strengths during the interview, it can be a good idea to emphasise your availability, particularly if you are very flexible. If you're willing to work any day of the week and happy to take on overtime when offered, explain this to your interviewer. Show that you are willing to deliver high-quality work whatever your availability, but if you're willing to also commit to evening and weekend work, it's a good idea to make this clear, particularly if the job role involves potential shift work or additional hours.

4. Consider your future plans

Although your schedule may be open now, you may have future plans that could impact your availability at a later date. Take note of any life changes or events that may cause changes to your schedule. For example, you may be planning to take evening classes later in the year, which could impact your potential working hours. It may be worth mentioning this to your interviewer to establish whether these changes affect your suitability for the role.

Related: How Many Hours Per Week is Part-Time?

5. Always answer honestly

While it can be tempting to state that you have a completely open schedule to appear more attractive than other candidates, it's best to always answer honestly. If a potential employer proposes a schedule that you would be unable to commit to, then be open about your limitations. Interviewers understand that conflicting schedules can arise and family commitments or furthering your education are valid reasons for not always being available to work. Briefly explain to the interviewer why certain days or hours aren't suitable and share your willingness to work at any other time they need.

6. Keep your availability

There may be an occasion where an interviewer says something about the working hours that you were not expecting, but it's important that you don't change your mind about your availability because of this. If you can't work the occasional weekend shift, then be truthful about this with your interviewer. It is better to identify that the role is not the right fit than to say you are available and then retract yourself once they have offered you the job.

'What is your availability?' example answers

Here are a few example answers that you can use to prepare a response to interview questions regarding your availability:

Currently employed

This is a clear and concise answer that clearly explains your current employment and notice period. It explains why you are not immediately available but emphasises your flexibility regarding working hours:

'I can be completely flexible with working hours and available to work seven days a week. My current employer requires 4 weeks' notice which I can inform them of once I receive your job offer.'

Family commitments

This answer clearly explains your weekday commitments while demonstrating flexibility towards weekend work:

'I'm available between 9 am and 3 pm from Monday to Friday as I need to take my children to and from school. I am also freely available during the weekend when my partner is off work and able to take care of them.'

School commitments

'I'm available Monday to Thursday and can be flexible with regard to my shift hours. I have university lectures on Fridays which take up my entire day but I am willing to take on additional weekend work if necessary.'

This is a good answer that clarifies you are still in school and need to attend classes once a week. It also demonstrates your willingness to prioritise work for the rest of the week with flexibility towards shift and weekend work.

Completely flexible

This enthusiastic answer indicates that you are willing and able to work whenever needed, with an immediate start if necessary. This is a good answer if your schedule has no other commitments:

'I'm free and available to start whenever you need me. My schedule is completely flexible and I am willing to work whatever hours most benefit the company and the team.'

Night shift work

This is a great answer to use when accepting night shifts. It shows that you have previous experience and also find the working pattern enjoyable. This can provide the employers with confidence that you are suitable for working unsociable hours:

'Yes, I am available to work night shifts. I used to cover the night shift in my previous role and although at first I found it challenging, I quickly established a routine that helped me to adapt. I now find it more enjoyable to work at night when there are fewer distractions, allowing me to achieve more.'

Explore more articles