For jobs that are not standard 9-to-5 positions- one of the most common interview questions to be asked is- “What’s your availability?” Other variations of this question include “What hours are you looking for?” and “How soon can you begin working?” This question may also be presented as “What days are you available to work?” It is understandable why a lot of hiring managers ask this. They want to know if you will be reasonably available for whatever your position entails. Naturally if you are going to be busy all the time- then you are not the right individual for the job.
The important thing to bear in mind is that hiring managers do not ask this solely to disqualify candidates. They are merely trying to get a sense of what your schedule is like so that they know if they will be able to depend on you. It is important that your response is honest.
How to Answer the ‘What’s Your Availability’ Interview Question
Be Honest: You never want to lie for any interview questions- and that is especially important when you are discussing your availability. If your schedule is wide open and you are capable of working any day of the week or evenings- then that is fantastic and feel free to say it. However- if you do have a scheduling conflict- then you want to explain that. In the event you say your schedule is completely open and then once you are offered the job you mention you have something else going on- then the job offer may immediately be rescinded. Honesty also comes into play when you are discussing how soon you will be available to work. Do not say you are available as soon as possible if you will need to give your current job two weeks’ notice.
Talk About Conflicts- If You Have Any: In the event your schedule is not completely open- briefly mention what else you have going on. If you are a student- then you should explain what your class schedule is like. Many interviewees are hesitant to mention anything because they want to come across as the most attractive job candidate possible. However most hiring managers understand that you will have other things going on to an extent. If you are taking classes or have children to look after- then those are completely reasonable excuses for not always being available to work. You do not have to go into great detail unless the hiring manager requests additional information after asking- “What’s your availability?”
Be Mindful of Requesting Time Off: A class schedule is a consistent thing that remains the same from week to week. However- it is also possible that you have something coming up that you will need time off work for. If you will require time off in the near future- you need to be mindful of how you present it. For instance- if you will be starting school within the next couple of months- then you should mention that. Your schedule may be wide open now- but you want to make your new boss aware that it is going to change in the near future. However- if you have something like a camping trip planned with friends in the next couple of weeks and you are hoping for time off- then that might be something to avoid bringing up. You want to show that your priority is the position at hand.
Sample ‘What’s Your Availability’ Interview Answers
1. I have classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and Thursday. Outside of that my schedule is completely open- and I am willing to work evenings and weekends. I also need to give my current job two weeks’ notice- but I would be able to give that to them as soon as possible should a job offer be extended.
2. I have a five-year-old son who will be starting kindergarten in the fall- so I will need to pick him up from school at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday starting in August and look after him in the evening. However I am available between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during those days- and I would also be available on weekends because my husband will be off work to look after him during that time.
While these samples are examples of people who have conflicts- you should feel free to say that you are available all the time if your schedule is completely open. There is nothing wrong with giving a simple answer along the lines of- “I am available any time you need me.” Hopefully these tips and samples make you feel a little better if you do have scheduling conflicts. “What’s your availability?” is one of the more straightforward interview questions to be asked- and you should be confident in your response.
A cover letter can demonstrate to a hiring manager why you are the best fit for a position, so it's worth your time and effort to get it just right. However, it can be challenging to craft an effective cover letter that showcases your skills without making you seem self-important or succumbing to cliches.
To help you stay clear of the most treacherous cover letter pitfalls, Business News Daily asked hiring managers and business owners for the absolute worst thing a candidate can include in his or her cover letter. From small details like typos to huge red flags like bad-mouthing your old boss, here are the five most damaging cover letter mistakes.
1. Highlighting any lack of skills
It's easy to feel vulnerable when applying for a job, especially if you know that you have limited experience with some of the skills the position requires. However, starting off a cover letter by underselling yourself or drawing attention to the skills or knowledge you are lacking is never the way to go.
"I have seen one too many cover letters with the following phrase: 'Although I do not yet have...' If you do not have something, why are you emphasizing it?" said Lavie Margolin, author, consultant and career coach.
Instead, Margolin advised job seekers to focus on writing about existing skills, experiences and talents that will be of interest to the potential employer.
"If you are looking for a job, then you are in the sales business. What you write in your cover letter should most effectively sell the skills, experience and abilities that you do have, as opposed to emphasizing those things that are lacking. Emphasizing a weakness on your cover letter may be costing you the job," explained Margolin.
2. Lack of attention to detail
Sometimes job seekers get so caught up with trying to find the best way to express their big ideas that they forget to pay close attention to the fine details. Typos are one of the top mistakes job seekers make when it comes to cover letters, said Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing with Beyond.
Rigorously proofreading your cover letter will give your great content an opportunity to shine.
"Spell-check is your friend. Use it, but don't rely on it," said Weinlick. "Print out your cover letter, read it from start to finish and make sure there aren't any typos before sending it out. Your cover letter is the first impression you make on a hiring manager — make sure it's a good one."
You can reuse parts of your cover letter when applying for similar positions with different companies. However, failing to update the company information for each letter is an unforgivable offense.
"Nothing will get your cover letter thrown in the recycling bin faster than giving the wrong company name," said Chaz Pitts-Kyser, founder and author of Careeranista.
According to Pitts-Kyser, checking for accuracy includes making sure you have the correct company name and address, specifying the position for which you are applying, and including the name of the hiring manager, if available.
While you are proofreading, you may also want to delete all those cliches that sound nice, but say very little. Instead of using vague words to describe your work ethic or experience, provide specific examples that demonstrate the qualities that you'd like to highlight.
"Don't use buzzwords," said Bob Kovalsky, vice president of North Highland. "Including descriptors such as 'detail-oriented,' 'hardworking,' 'team player' and 'proactive' doesn't tell HR managers anything about your experience."
3. Remaining stuck in the past
Maybe you were let go from your last job or maybe you are just looking for new opportunities. But regardless of the reason for your job search, don't spend the limited space available of your cover letter focusing on your past.
"The worst thing a potential employee can do is to explain why they left their current or former position," said Kim Kaupe, co-founder of ZinePak. "It's like starting out a first date by talking about your ex! I don't want to hear about your past; I want to hear about your now and future, and how you are going to become an asset to my company."
Steering clear of the past is especially important if you had a contentious relationship with an employer.
"Saying that you're looking for a new opportunity because your previous employer was unfair or you had an incompetent boss will only make you look bad," said Tracey Russell, talent acquisition professional for 5-Star Staffing Solutions. "Oftentimes, if this type of negative information is in the cover letter, recruiters won't even look at the resume," explained Russell.
4. Talking money too soon
There is a time and place to discuss salary during the hiring process, but your cover letter isn't it. Lisa Benson, president and CEO of Mary Kraft Staffing & HR Solutions, recommends that job seekers not provide any unsolicited salary information in their cover letter, "unless they are specifically asked to do so, particularly if there is a disparity between what is advertised or indicated in the ad they are responding to."
"No prospective employer wants to hire someone who is only about the money," Benson added.
5. Making it all about you
Another common mistake that applicants make is using their cover letter to boast about their talents without acknowledging how they will use these skills to benefit a perspective employer.
"The worst thing a candidate can do in their cover letter is make it all about themselves and what they're looking for," said Ian Yates, co-founder and managing director of Fitzii. "The best thing to do is focus on why they'll be a great fit, how they'll make a contribution and what they've done, or will do, to support [the organization]."
"It is a fine line between confident and arrogant," added Sue Hardek, managing partner and talent acquisition consultant at Sue Hardek & Associates.
She noted that any candidate should avoid "overselling him or herself, or being boastful about accomplishments and strengths." Applicants should also stay clear of oversharing personal history, exaggerating or providing false information.
Ultimately, the job seekers who do their homework – researching the company, learning about industry trends, and identifying specific ways they can address challenges faced by the business – have a much better shot at setting the right tone with their cover letters.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.