This is a relatively straightforward question, but it's still important to be strategic with your answer. You don't want to take yourself out of consideration for the role, but you also don't want to promise more flexibility with work hours than you can handle.
By demonstrating your willingness to adjust, as much as you can, to your employer’s needs, you will set yourself apart as a potential employee dedicated to the company’s success. Here's more information to help you prepare and deliver an effective response to this interview question.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
If the company needs someone to cover night shifts, or to work a Thursday through Sunday schedule, they'll want to make certain that the person they hire is available at those times.
Sometimes an employer will ask a more specific question, such as whether you are willing to work nights and/or weekends, or how many hours a week you are available.
How to Answer Interview Questions About What Hours You Are Available
When answering this question, be honest about your schedule, but also emphasize your flexibility. You want to show that you are willing to fill the hours they need and that you can be a team player.
If you are interviewing for a part-time job, temporary position, or shift work, think carefully about your schedule beforehand. Make note of particular days or shifts you know you cannot do.
If the job has flexible hours, think about how many hours a week you are willing to work.
Try to limit the number of scheduling conflicts you have. An employer will likely be sympathetic to family, education, health, or religious conflicts, but they will probably not care if your work schedule conflicts with a personal hobby. Try to remain as flexible as possible, and be open to rescheduling some of your personal activities.
Also, think about the particular job and company when you are considering schedule options. If this is a seasonal job, for example, you likely won’t get away with saying you cannot work weekends and holidays.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are a few basic answers that outline different schedule scenarios. These can be tailored to fit your situation, or you can use them as inspiration to craft your answers.
Example Answer #1
I’m available during school hours while my children are at school, 8:30 a.m.- 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. I have a network of friends and family members who stand ready to watch them if they’re sick or it’s a teachers’ workday or vacation. I am also willing and able to work on weekends. I would love to cover any shifts during those times.
Why It Works: This response is clear on when the candidate is available to work, while offering a reassurance about a potential employee concern (coverage for when kids are sick). Plus, it ends on a positive note by mentioning availability on weekends, which are often hard to fill.
Example Answer #2
I am flexible and available almost any time you would need me to work. I am looking forward to making this temporary position a full-time job for as long as your company needs me.
Why It Works: This candidate makes it clear that their schedule is flexible and they're prioritizing the job.
Example Answer #3
I am available to work at any time during the business week, including evenings, and I can also easily arrange to come in on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. My Sunday mornings, however, are reserved for church.
Why It Works: This candidate draws a boundary around one understandable time when they will not be available to work.
Example Answer #3
I’m happy to work anytime you need me, including on weekends, but I prefer evening shifts. My partner works evenings, and if I could regularly work an evening shift as well, this would allow us to spend more time together. Of course, I’d be available to work overtime during the day as needed.
Why It Works: This response gives a clear sense of the employee's availability, as well as their personal preference.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
- Be flexible, but honest: You want to demonstrate that you are flexible and willing to serve the company in whatever way they need. That being said, don’t lie about your availability. If there are certain weekdays or shifts you know you absolutely cannot do, say so. If you lie now, it will only hurt your chances of getting and then keeping the job later on.
- Be reasonable about schedule conflicts: While you do not necessarily need to go into great detail when explaining a reason for a schedule conflict, you might briefly mention the reason for your unavailability, especially if it is related to professional, educational, or family conflicts. For example, if you are a student applying for a part-time job, you might mention that you are in school during certain hours.
What Not to Say
- Don't be deceptive: Your employer will be frustrated if you say you can work a certain set of hours, and are then unable to. Similarly, you'll be in a jam if you are scheduled to work hours that aren't doable because of personal commitments.
- Don't be negative:If you do have a restricted schedule, try to spin it by keeping your response focused on when you are available, along with dates and times when you're flexible. That is, instead of saying, "I'm not available Monday through Wednesday," you can say, "I'm available to work on Thursday through Sunday, and happy to work nights and weekends."
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- When can you start working?
- Are you available to work nights? Weekends?
- What would you do if you were unexpectedly unavailable to work a scheduled shift?
- Do you have experience with your work hours changing from week to week?
- Are you comfortable with shift work and a changing schedule?
PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME. Having a sense of when the company likely wants you to work, along with when you're available, will help you give a smooth answer.
EMPHASIZE YOUR FLEXIBILITY. Whenever possible, put a focus on your flexibility, particularly if you're available to work during night and weekend shifts.
DON'T PROMISE WHAT YOU CAN'T DELIVER. Lying about your availability will cause challenges down the road.