How to Answer Interview Questions About Shift Work

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The ability to change up shifts or work through the night, whether in a hospital or a shipping warehouse, is a special skill of its own. If you're applying for a job that requires shift work, you can expect to receive some questions about your ability to navigate this schedule. 

Why Shift Work Is So Challenging

People who work at night may have trouble balancing their work and family lives, let alone their sleep, health, and well-being. Energy can diminish if you're not accustomed to late hours, weekend work, or all-nighters, and morale can wane if you don't feel like a part of the company's daily activities.

Shift work often requires a great deal of flexibility with a worker's schedule, too. One week, you may work all morning shifts, followed by another week of night shifts. That kind of schedule can make it challenging to maintain relationships, do chores, or arrange childcare. 

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know 

Employers are well aware of these challenges, and look to hire people who can handle this unpredictability. 

During interviews, hiring managers will ask questions to help try and understand if you understand the realities of performing shift work. They'll want to pick candidates who are prepared to handle the scheduling and work-life balance challenges involved in this kind of role. 

How to Answer Interview Questions About Shift Work 

Consider your personal situation carefully before answering. 

If you are unwilling—or unable—to work certain shifts, it's best to be straightforward in your response. That way, you and the employer won't have any unhappy surprises when schedules are issued. 

Consider mentioning the reason that you would be unavailable during certain hours. Be brief! No need to share a complicated story. You can simply say, "I take care of an elderly relative after 5 p.m. on weekdays, so I would not be available for shifts starting then." or "I can work any shift if I have enough notice to arrange child care." 

If your hours are flexible, or you're comfortable working unpredictable hours or nights and weekends, make sure to say so in your response. 

Questions About Shift Work 

Some questions you may receive about shift work are: 

  • How do you feel about shift work? 
  • Are you comfortable with shift work and a changing schedule? 
  • What is your preferred shift?
  • Do you have experience with your work hours changing from week to week? 
  • Are you available to work nights and weekends?
  • Are there any times when you would be unavailable to be on the schedule? 

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are sample answers to the job interview question about your interest in working different shifts, taking into account different values and outside commitments.

  • Absolutely. I am single, live alone, and I don't mind keeping hours that take me out of the nine-to-five routine.
  • As long as I would know at the start of a placement what the hours would be, I would be willing to work any shift. I would prefer to keep one shift throughout each placement.
  • I am really only available during regular business hours as I have an elderly family member who I need to care for during other times.
  • I wouldn't prefer to work at night and weekends, but during peak workloads I am ready and available to work whenever you need me.
  • Night and weekends are the only time I can spend with my family, and that's very important to me. But in the case of an urgent situation, if you need me then I will definitely be available.
  • I enjoy night work because, to me, it's a very peaceful environment. However, I need my weekends to refresh and recharge.
  • If there is an urgent need or an emergency, I'll definitely work whatever shifts you need; the company's growth and success are mine as well.
  • I'll definitely work whatever shift is needed because I feel a responsibility towards the company to complete the necessary work.
  • I have no problem working different shifts as needed. I consider the organization and my coworkers to be my family, and if they need me, I'll be there. 
  • I can work any shift you require; it's my duty to be there when you need me.
  • I would be happy to work night and weekend shifts if you have a proper security guard in place.
  • I am not comfortable with night shifts due to safety concerns, but I am happy to work any other shift as needed.
  • I'm a self-starter, and I'm confident making decisions during any shift.
  • I can stay focused for a long period of time without getting tired, so I'm available for any shift.
  • My schedule is very flexible, and I'm open to whatever shift you offer.
  • I do value a work-life balance, so while I'm available for any shift, I would like to create a consistent schedule so I can make other plans.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

  • Demonstrate flexibility. Often, people who do shift work must be able to accommodate schedules that shift from one week to the next. Aim to show that you're capable of handling an ever-changing schedule. 
  • Share examples. If you've been a shift worker in the past, do mention it in your response. This will help show that you understand the challenges involved in shift work, and are prepared to handle them. 
  • Emphasize your responsibility. Employers may be concerned about employees not showing up for shifts. Another concern hiring managers may have is about how potential employees will handle themselves if they're working during shifts with minimal supervision.

It can be helpful to show that you are capable of doing self-directed work, regardless of the hour (and won't spend a shift scrolling social media). 

What Not to Say 

  • Dishonest responses. It may feel a bit tempting to fudge the truth in order to land the job. But if there are times you know you cannot work, it's best to mention it. 
  • Overly lengthy responses. If you have times when you are unable to work, mention it. But keep the focus on your overall flexibility during other times. And there’s no need to go into great levels of detail about why you're not available during any particular time — keep your explanation to a single sentence. 

How to Make the Best Impression

  • Be honest. Consider your specific situation and if you will be able to handle a shifting schedule or going into work on nights and weekends. If there are times when you are unavailable to work, mention it.
  • Show your comfort with shift work. If you are OK with shift work, show it in your response. Aim to demonstrate your flexibility and that you can be a good worker, no matter what time you're working.