I was recently contacted by a recruiter at a tech company. She wanted to find out what my interests were to see if there were any matching opportunities available for me at her company. I told her honestly that I was interested in solving challenging problems - big or small - and was not tied to any particular technology or topic like machine learning or AI. I wasn't trying increase my chances of matching up with an open position - I genuinely don't care about front-end or back-end, small scale or large scale, internal or public as long as the problem is challenging and I have free reign to think of solutions.

I did not hear back from the recruiter and was a bit disappointed. Did my answer make it seem like:

  1. I wasn't passionate enough about any specific topic?
  2. Am I better off focusing on specific sets of technologies / interests?
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    This isn't a duplicate. Recruiters are trying to match people to employers so need to slot skills/experience into vacancy slots - employers interviews are different.
    – user44108
    Aug 21, 2018 at 12:28
  • Are you sure you did not misunderstood the recruiter I would have almost 100% taken the Q to mean my outside interests - you may have come across as two insular and /or not a team player. Aug 21, 2018 at 22:15
  • That's hard to believe you have absolutely no preference or special interest in some aspect of your job. More than a lack of passion, I would interpret it as a lack of reflexion on yourself and your current situation. Maybe a red flag if I am considering you for "big picture" positions. If you really have no specific preference, there is a big difference between "there is nothing I specifically like" and "I usually enjoy X, but I have no problem working with Y".
    – Taladris
    Aug 25, 2018 at 5:45

5 Answers 5


The thing is with recruiters is that they're not asking you questions on behalf of the employer - they're asking you for search terms to match you with an employer.

Not many recruiters will try to understand your general needs, they're not trying to date you, they're not going to remember you after they've placed you - they want to get you matched up as easily as possible and earn their commision. If you're too hard to match, they'll drop you and move on to another easy win.

To get the best out of recruiters, you need to be fairly specific and help them to do their matching.

Basically, give them stuff they can type into a search box - you can talk in general terms but they're going to need enough detail to match you.


Yes, it is bad to say you would like any tech. Actively a bad thing that hurts your chances of being hired. I know you don't think it should be. Who wouldn't want to hire someone who can work with any tech in the whole world?

But employers, and especially recruiters, want to hear "I am doing a lot of work in X right now and I love getting a chance to apply it to A. It works super well with B." They look on their desk where it says "Need an X developer with some B skills for an A project" and say "Bingo!"

You think you're saying "you can hire me for anything and it will work out because I am smart and these things are not that different." They hear "yeah whatever, I don't necessarily know any of them but no big deal right I'm sure I can figure it out." And they move on to the person who is actively saying they can do X for A.

Once you're in the pipeline as a known X developer, you're in a great place to say "if you ever want to expand into Y and Z as well I know them a little and am happy to learn more." But put some sort of stake in the ground about what you're great at, to get things started.

  • What would worry me in this case is, from an applicant perspective, let's say you say "I'm really good with A and want to apply A to B", but then the recruiter doesn't have an A job or a B job. Then you're SOL. Whereas if you come off as more of a generalist, then maybe you have a better chance of getting placed with whatever is available? Or am I just totally off-base?
    – Ertai87
    Aug 21, 2018 at 13:45
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    That's a common thing to think. But yes, "I am only good at A" excludes you from non A jobs, but "oh whatever it's all good to me" also excludes you from both A and non A jobs. Aug 21, 2018 at 14:06

Personally, I rarely ask that kind of question, as I am unsure whether it is relevant.

When others do, I am looking for some tech interest – but I prefer passion for something non-tech related over generic tech babble. E.g. I would rather hear passion for sky-diving or miniature railways than “well … you know … I played about with a raspberry Pi” (with no real details).

I don’t expect you to do work related stuff in the evenings, just because I do. But showing me that you can really get your teeth into something like cake baking gives me hope that you can really get into my project, whereas generic waffle tells me nothing.

If you anticipate such questions then prepare a tech project which you can discuss in detail and appear passionate about. You don’t have to implement it – it could still be in the planning phase – but do plan it in enough depth that simple questions won’t catch you out. Perhaps something that would teach you a new technology?


Just like us, recruiters trade on their reputation.

The importance of a good fit cannot be understated and giving a vague answer to a recruiter is like giving vague requirements for a project. Someone is going to get annoyed.

Remember, if the recruiter places you in a job that turns out to be a bad fit, it will make the employer less likely to engage that recruiter again. Therefore, a recruiter is not going to take a chance with someone who cannot or will not clearly state what they want.

From the recruiter's perspective, you are not only putting her fee in jeopardy for placing you, but also future earnings being lost due to diminished trust from the employer.


In my experience, in the tech industry there tends to be two kinds of employer.

Type A just want someone who has all the relevant experience and is going to be able to slot in to their tech stack; as well as being a good cultural fit.

Type B values people with more curiosity - and are more likely to hire people who perhaps don't have the exact experience they're looking for, for example - so long as they've demonstrated a passion and ability to pick things up.

Regarding the 'what are you interests' type question, if the company is Type A - all they want to hear is 'I'm passionate about [all the technologies the company is trying to recruit for].

For a Type B employer - the answer you give gives a indication about your passion and interests in tech, and your ability to talk about tech. If you're responding with 'I don't know, just tell me what you want me to do' that kind of tells them 'I just want to be told what to do, I'm not one to investigate technologies myself'.

Personally, if I was in a hiring position and someone had absolutely no opinion about what tech they like or are interested in, I'm not sure I'd want to work with them. After all - what would water cooler conversation with them be like?

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