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A reader writes:

I’m currently interviewing for a position with a large tech company. I’ve had a phone screener, an interview with team members, and an interview with the head of the team. This all happened over the course of two weeks. A few days ago, the recruiter emailed me asking to set up a call. It was a pretty nice chat where he let me know that timelines had changed a bit. He said it may be a week or two before he has any updates, and that I shouldn’t interpret silence from him as non-interest in me as a candidate. Really a genuinely lovely chat and a nice setting of expectations.

On to my question: he started the call by asking me “how the interview went/how I liked the team” and “how my expectations from the job descriptions matched up to the role as described by the team in the interviews.” I tried to be honest (the interviews went very well, we had pretty thoughtful/not surface level discussions, and the role aligned to my expectations from the job description). I’m worried that my answers came off as too simple or obvious, but I was being totally honest. I’m curious if you have more insight into why recruiters ask these kinds of questions/what types of responses they’re looking for.

A related aside about why I’m asking as well: when I was offered my current job, the recruiter used the tactic of asking repeatedly if I’m “excited for the role” and “liked the team” to steamroll me into accepting the lowball offer. It was only my second time ever negotiating, so I admit I was a bit naive/green, and I was also desperate to leave my previous job. However, the impact of that offer on my salary growth at my current job has had repercussions to this day. That mistake makes me not want to ever appear too excited for a role or have over-excitement used against me, which is why I’m a bit conflicted about how to answer how an interview went in this context.

Anyway, I’d appreciate your insight or any stock lines that you recommend. I don’t want to make that same mistake again, but I am incredibly excited for the role that I’m currently up for and don’t want to mess it up.

A recruiter asking how the interview went and whether it matched your expectations is a different thing from a recruiter repeatedly pushing you say you’re excited about the job.

Asking how the interview went is just a way to make sure you’re still interested and find out if you have any concerns. The same is true of asking whether your expectations matched up to what you heard in the interview. They want to ferret out any problems so if you do have concerns, they’re not surprised by them later.

Your answer to those questions sounds fine. That kind of straightforward “yes, everything was great and I’m interested in next steps” is what they’re hoping will be the case. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t raise concerns if you have them! If you do, they’d rather get the chance to talk those through now than much later down the road.

That previous recruiter who repeatedly asked if you were “excited for the role” and if you liked the team sounds like he was trying to pump you up so he could sell you on the job. That’s a sales tactic, and you should be wary of it.

There’s nothing wrong with showing excitement about the role, though. Obviously there’s a point where it crosses a line — you don’t want to sound so excited that you’re not seeing things clearly or like you have a level of pep that will be exhausting to work with — but genuine enthusiasm is a good thing, not a bad one. You ended up feeling it was used against you in salary negotiations, but it sounds like that’s because you were dealing with a crappy recruiter, not because you showed your hand. You can show enthusiasm and still make it clear that you expect to be paid appropriately for your work. In fact, that enthusiasm can be a part of your negotiation — “I’m excited about the work you’re doing and I’d love to come on board. Can you go up to $X?” And if so someone cites your enthusiasm in pushing you to accept a lower salary, you can hold firm — “I do think it’s a great role! If you can go up to $X, I’d love to accept.”