Imagine a situation where several people are sent to an interview and only one has to pass. His knowledge is enough for the project. However, the customer asked for the several candidates so he can choose the best one. And the other people from your company are already engaged in other projects and should not get the job.

The question is: How to show that the other candidates are worse and at the same time not make them look stupid?


I've got the point but I need to clarify the primary idea. I wanted to know how another candidate [that should not pass the interview] has to behave at it?

I've left the modified question [1st one] because several answers correspond to it.

  • 9
    Maybe it's because I'm not native english but your question does not look very clear to me.
    – BenjaminB
    Jul 21, 2011 at 8:26
  • 1
    me neither.. what guys? what candidates? who is "other guys"? "other candidates"? i might need a diagram to understand this XD Jul 21, 2011 at 8:30
  • 7
    As I understand it, the point is that the company can only spare one developer, and he is definitely qualified, but the customer demands to choose between several; to the company has to game the interview process to that the customer chooses the right candidate while believing that they made the choice. Jul 21, 2011 at 8:31
  • 19
    So your customer wants a choice and you don't want to provide him with a fake one? I'm not sure I'd want to work with you: that isn't really a confidence builder. Jul 21, 2011 at 8:33
  • 5
    You're asking other developers to potentially damage their careers by presenting themselves as incompetent. This is not going to fly.
    – quant_dev
    Jul 21, 2011 at 10:28

8 Answers 8


If you haven't done so yet, tell the customer about the situation up front. If he still insists on interviewing the other developers, let him do it, in a fair manner (i.e. all developers answer honestly and to their best ability), and let him compile her order of preference.

Then let him know the cost (in time and cash) of transferring each developer to this project (including a replacement in the other project), e.g.:

  1. Bob (engaged in the Foo project - estimated replacement cost $50K and 4 weeks)
  2. Jane (engaged in the Bar project - estimated replacement cost $30K and 6 weeks)
  3. Jack (can start immediately)
  4. Nat (engaged in the Groo project - estimated replacement cost $80K and 10 weeks)
  5. Mary (can start immediately)

As long as he is willing to pay the associated price, he can choose whichever developer she prefers.

  • 1
    also, you might want to say how the other developers' skillset does not match the job requirement; you don't need and shouldn't downsell the other developers to lead the customer to choose the developer you want them to pick, the other developers just need to be irrelevant.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jul 21, 2011 at 14:16

Ah, the joys of using outsourced consultants :)

If you only have 1 candidate available, then you shoudl send just that candidate - tell the customer that you have others, but they are not available at this time. If the only candidate fails the interview (there is more to a person than the skills on the CV, they might not be a 'good fit' with the organisation, the customer may disagree with your assessment of the candidate's skills, etc) then you have to lose the contract, or change your business to re-assign the other people you have.

This question is a perfect example of how a company is focussed on their own needs, rather than the customers.


Why not state that upfront of the availability of the concerned guy for the project. Failing might create a negative impression of the people working with you which might be detrimental in the long run. Their remark would be Hey i found only one from a lot of 5 and Ohh God the rest failed miserably.(Since they would have to else one won't be the obvious choice)


If there is only one candidate available, then there is only one candidate available, and by definition s/he is the best of the test group. ;)

Seriously, the candidates face a derivation of the prisoner's dilemma. The candidates not available don't know what the customer thinks about the available candidate, so they don't know how much they should fail. Even worse, the candidate you want them to have may be already marked as "no hire". If they chose one of the other candidates, you have a real problem.

So it is best to be honest upfront, as mentioned in the other comments.

  • +1 for pointing out the similarities to the prisoner's dilemma.
    – user
    Jul 21, 2011 at 12:35

Whatever you decide to do, just don't be destructive. It's far better to represent yourself as "the perfect guy for job" then "all of them sucks".


If you are wanting people to intentionally do poorly in an interview, then there are several ways to accomplish this:

  1. Obscene language at regular intervals. Who wouldn't want to work with someone that is swearing every 3rd word out of their mouth and brings sample code riddled with profanity in it.

  2. Admit to having addictions that would make someone a poor choice to hire for a job. Granted there may be some places that will let that slide but I'm not sure how many would let a number of these go without wondering, "Why should we take the risk of this person?"

  3. Frequent violent gestures. Fist pumping, inappropriate physical contact, and various play punches and kicks may also led to someone being asked to leave or security to help see someone out without others being hurt in the process.

At the same time, I'm not sure I understand the point of the question as someone could simply cancel the interview as a far better option really.


My opinion is never try to make anyone else look bad. It only reflects on you.

Make yourself look the best that you can.
Do some research up front. If you can talk to someone who has worked with people who you will be interviewing with and find out what they value and emphasize those qualities in yourself.

You do not always need to be the best to get the job. Often companies choose the person they like the most rather than the one who is best for the job. So most important thing of any interview is to sell your self and your abilities.


Having interviewed a decent selection of developers in my career now the most clear cut way to fail my interview:

Failing the FizzBuzz Test. I've on multiple occasions had "developers" fail the FizzBuzz test so colossally to the point of bursting into flames. Some of the candidates that failed this even had numerous years of "experience".

The second most common way, failing to understand the key concepts of Object Orientated Design. I've had "experienced" candidates explain polymorphism where in their understanding of it is to directly violate the Liskov Substitution rule as the premise of how to use polymorphism. :(

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