Stop Requiring Job Applicants To Be Passionate

Stop Requiring Job Applicants To Be Passionate

I read many job ads, both international and Finnish. As a freelancer, I need to be aware of new opportunities and the kinds of expertise companies are looking for. I think the writing quality of the ads has increased, they have fewer ridiculous requirements (requirements such as greater than 10 years' experience with a specific technology), and they focus more on soft skills (such as communication). In this blog post, I'll talk about an annoying, trendy word: passion.


Job ad trends are interesting. Searching for a Ninja/Guru/Sensei developer, for example, is a trend that has been around for quite some time. I think that was busted a long time ago, so let's not go down that path now. Using the word passionate is another trend. I have been listening to some podcast discussions (for example, boagworld) about the word "passion", and everyone seems to either hate the word or feel uncomfortable with it.

According to's definition, passion has five different meanings:

  1. having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling;
  2. easily aroused to or influenced by sexual desire; ardently sensual.
  3. expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling.
  4. intense or vehement, as emotions or feelings.
  5. easily moved to anger; quick-tempered; irascible.

Most of these describe someone I would not like to be. I assume that the third definition is what companies are looking for in applicants. As an applicant, you should express intense or strong feeling about something the company considers important.

Passionate about what?

Do these sentences sound familiar?

"Are you a passionate web developer who wants to..."
"You're passionate about user experience..."
"You feel passionate about..."
"You should be passionate about finance..."

When asking an applicant to be passionate about something, a company should be able to provide something to support the future employee's passion. I have seen job ads specify that applicants should be passionate about user experience. Unfortunately, the hiring company offered projects that would never give the developer the opportunity to meet users. Maintaining passion is difficult in that kind of situation. Another example: applicants were expected to be passionate about software development, but the company offered low-quality projects made for not-so-passionate clients.

Sure, developers should be interested in, for example, software development, but are we passionate every day or for every project we work on? Nope. Maybe some aspects can be interesting, but passionate is too strong a word to describe interest.

One reason why software developers are switching jobs is their dead passion. They might hope to restore their excitement by making a career change. Requiring passion doesn't support that decision.

What does a well-written job ad look like?

If you're looking for a developer that is a teenager or has a teenager's mind, then go ahead and add Ninja/Guru/Sensei developer to your job posting.

If you're searching for an expert, then honestly describe the typical day. If your work environment lacks a typical day, then you should mention that. What kind of output is expected from employees? I use the term "output" in a broad sense; the output may be communication, design, business development, etc.

I would not mention anything about applicants' previous technological skills; instead, focus on what they are going to learn and use daily.

These are my two cents on the topic; what are your thoughts?

Discuss on Hacker News