When I receive a call from a recruiter or such (e.g. a seller etc.) they usually start by presenting themselves and thereafter glide into asking me questions. I've concluded that those can be split up into three stages: courteous, complimentary and investigative.

The first one is manageable; as is the second, if yet slightly annoying since its aim's to massage my ego and soften me into compliance to whatever crappy rest product of Mr. Cow they're about to lay upon me.

The last part's target is to obtain sensitive insight about my situation that I'd perhaps not share if requested directly. However, it still might be filtered out by analyzing a longer reply to a wide, open question. Examples of such two types could be as follows.

To-the-pointy type.

How long have you been with your current company?
Do you live close to Stockholm's central parts?
Have you worked developing in TypeScript?

Snoopy-sneaky type.

So, how do you feel about your current project?
Can you tell me what you would like to consider in the future?
What are your thoughts on a prospectively new employer?

Usually, when faced with the wide kind, I refuse to provide an answer inferring information I don't want to share. The problem's that being silent, saying "next question, please", dodging by "can't say" - all that leads sooner or later to annoyance or infected situation. And in the end, I want to give some information as it might be beneficial to me.

So I started to use the following phrase.

Oh, that's a very wide question. Could you be more concrete?

I have no sense of how it's being perceived by a native speaker, though. I considered terms like narrow it down, be more specific, ask to the point (as a substitute for be more concrete). I also played with broad, abstract, fuzzy (instead of broad). Didn't arrive in a satisfactory spot, though.

The message I'm trying to convey is to point out that I see through the trick and won't step into that pile of poo. However, and this is the tricky part for me, I also don't want to insult the counterpart by accusing them of trying said trick (since, humbly regarded, I can't know for sure). I also want to provide them with information as long as it's something that is okay to ask and not some kind of excavation on my inner considerations.

After googling, consulting both Webster and Oxford, checking a bunch of blogs on interpersonal relations, I arrived at the conclusion that I need to ask the question here. Which terms would be polite and inviting enough to encourage inquires but formal and strict enough to tell them to respect the boundaries?

  • No single objective answer can be given to this question. Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 23:14
  • I would use "Oh, that's a very broad question. Could you be more specific?
    – user3169
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 23:44
  • @JasonBassford Thanks for the tip. Would you be willing to suggest an improvement? I tried to be as specific as possible (running the risk of being lengthy, indeed) but the bottom line is whether wide and concrete would feel natural to a native speaker's ear. Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 16:29
  • @user3169 Would you say that it's what would sound most naturally for a native speaker? If so, please post that as a reply so it can be accepted as the answer. Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 16:30
  • 1
    @KonradViltersten I agree with broad/specific but there are many, many other ways to phrase these kind of evasions. I would suggest you ask over at The Workplace, if you want more options.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 17:33

2 Answers 2


This probably depends on who you ask, but I would use:

Oh, that's a very broad question. Could you be more specific?

See broad:

  1. adjective
    A broad description or idea is general rather than detailed.

specific is fine. concrete might be better in something like "a concrete idea/solution".

But wide wouldn't be used in this context.


In the terms you've already stated:

That's a very vague question. Could you be more specific?

These identify the problem more precisely:

That's a matter of opinion. Let us discuss facts.


That question calls for a subjective answer—ask me about something objective.

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