The Apprentice candidates in this series have been battling to win a £250,000 partnership with Lord Sugar. It therefore made sense that the concluding episode, traditionally a head-to-head task in which two finalists led candidates fired earlier in the process, should this year involve rigorous scrutiny of the CVs and business plans of four potential partners.
Fun though it would have been to watch aggrieved former colleagues seeking ‘kharmic retribution’, this year Lord Sugar instead used the interview from hell format to help him determine who was worthy of his investment.
I say ’rigorous scrutiny of CVs and business plans’ but to my mind the interviews were designed more to test the resilience of the candidates than the robustness of their business propositions. Margaret Mountford came across as shrewd and insightful, as ever, but in the other interview rooms we had Claude, who mistakes rudeness for shrewdness, and two young entrepreneurs seemingly in serious need of selection skills training.
Tom was first in front of rude Claude: ‘Would it be fair to say, Tom, that your career is floundering at the moment?’
‘I don’t believe that to be the case but I’m wondering what would point you in that direction’, was Tom’s response.
‘Well, just your CV really.’ Clearly Claude believes in bringing the best out of candidates by easing them into an interview.
In another room Mike Suter, a ‘pioneer of Britain’s free magazine market,’ greeted Jim with the observation that ‘your CV is packed with clichés, buzzwords and blarney.’ Fair comment, perhaps, but hardly the warmest welcome.
Meanwhile Susan was receiving an even more unsettling reception from Matthew Riley, young entrepreneur of the year in 2007. ‘Stand behind the chair for a second. Don’t sit down,‘ he instructed before inviting her to deliver ‘the elevator pitch’ (i.e. summarising her business proposition in a 30 second ‘lift ride’).
Susan’s smile slipped for only a split second before she smoothly and succinctly explained her idea for a mass market organic skincare range.
Only Margaret was willing to open her interview with a degree of warmth, applauding Helen on her outstanding performance in the process thus far. However, if Helen was reasonably relaxed at this early stage, she was anything but at ease when Mike Suter confronted her with what I consider to be a horrible and wholly inappropriate interview question (even within the context of a TV programme).
‘You come across as very professional, very controlled,’ he began. ‘Tell me something that shows your human side. Tell me a joke. Make me laugh.’