Interviewing the Apprentices

As previously, this past week we got two chances to find out a bit more about the remaining Apprentice candidates, firstly with a programme profiling each of the semi-finalists with contributions from friends and family, and secondly with the traditional tough interviews from friends and colleagues of Sir Alan.

Taking the family contributions first, it showed what a diverse background the candidates come from. Some like Alex have had a relatively privileged upbringing, being schooled privately, whilst Lee is the son of a milkman and is driven by wanting to achieve more than his parents did. There were also some troubled backgrounds, Lucinda for example refused to discuss her parents and they did not appear, whereas Helene grew up having to cope with an alcoholic mother.

There were one or two interesting insights from talking to the friends and family, for example Alex, despite his relatively quiet exterior is regarded as being an expert manipulator by his family. The biggest embarrassing comment from a parent has to go to Claire’s Mum who when asked about the fact that her daughter talked too much agreed, and then added that during her early life Claire seemed to scream continually, before almost instantly going over to talking non-stop! She also added that Claire’s technique for dealing with Sir Alan is very similar to how she handles her own father.

The other tit bits that came out included some hints about the candidates current jobs – only Lucinda is currently paid more than Sir Alan is offering – although from comments in the interviews later in the week, Claire is achieving more with her bonus, although her basic salary is below the rate that Sir Alan is offering.

Moving on to the interview show, as is quite often the case, it did turn out to be a bit of a text-book demonstration of things not to do in interviews or job applications. Lucinda committed the classic error of starting to waver over whether she wanted the job at all, and worse than that telling the other candidates. She also had a hard time being the candidate taking a pay cut, a move which for some of the interviewed is incomprehensible – why change jobs for less money! After having disrupted the previously stable working relationship between Lee and Lucinda since he swapped teams a couple of tasks back, Alex continued by bringing this up in the boardroom after the interviews, certainly a move that lost him some fans in the audience. It should be said that this was partly because Alex was on the back foot after the interviews anyway as he had taken a lot of heat for an apparently boring CV. His standard excuse for this has been that he is only twenty-four – the problem being that on this occasion he was being interviewed by people who had achieved significantly more at a younger age.

Alex and Lucinda came out relatively unscathed compared to Lee, who had a catalogue of interview disasters, all the more amazing considering that he has previously worked in recruitment. First off Paul Kemsley asked him to demonstrate his dinosaur impression, something he has done on the show before – this was a test, and what Lee was supposed to do was politely decline – unfortunately he didn’t, and was then on the back foot trying to justify why he had done it in an interview but wouldn’t do it in front of Sir Alan. Claude Litner then picked Lee up on some spelling errors on his typed CV – as he and probably the rest of us were wondering, why didn’t Lee either use a spell checker, or get somebody to proof read the thing. The biggest faux pas however was spotted by Bordan Tkachuk CEO of Viglen, who had checked up on the candidates CV claims, and had been suspicious by some of the attendance dates that Lee had submitted. After giving Lee a couple of opportunities to correct them, Bordan then presented Lee with a letter from Thames Valley University confirming that rather than attending for two years as Lee had claimed, he had only been there for four months. Amazingly, that didn’t get him sacked – a number of people who I’ve chatted to about the programme who have been involved in interviewing for roles have said that something like that almost instantly leaves you to question what else on the application is untrue, and when presented with other suitable candidates, generally means that the person who has lied is out. Considering the problems that Sir Alan later had whittling the candidates down to two, it is a massive surprise that Lee was allowed to stay.

This year, the interviews were changed slightly by the addition of Karen Brady, who had a rather different opinion of some of the candidates, in fact whilst others were expressing concern at Claire’s incessant talking, she went so far as to say that if Sir Alan didn’t offer Claire a job then she would. All of this contributed to a quite surprising conclusion, with Sir Alan being unwilling to reduce the numbers down to two. There were no massively stand-out candidates, each had good points and bad points, so in the end he sacked Lucinda – to be honest she probably would have gone a lot earlier had it not been for the fact she kept being on the winning team. Her doubts about her fit were probably accurate, certainly she probably wouldn’t be a good fit with Sir Alan, and since she is in a well paid job that she enjoys anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

Amongst the four that are left, I think probably the most obvious potential winner is Claire. She has grown considerably over the series, but the main negative point about her is the amount she talks. However she has been shown to be able to modify that behaviour in the later part of the series. Lee has seemed to be a generally good candidate, but the issues over his CV seem to be a big negative, equally Alex has good points, but for me he still doesn’t stand out. Helene is interesting in that she seems to have got this far by virtue of keeping a low profile. Certainly her profile has been low enough that Sir Alan doesn’t seem to feel he knows what she does. She is also from a very different background than the others, coming from a corporate rather than sales background. After the interviews there was some accusation that she was playing on the tough childhood and alcoholic mother, which I thought was rather unfair – certainly it hasn’t really been mentioned until now, and it’s more that it came up in the interviewing than anything else. Sticking my neck out I’d say that Claire will take the prize at the end, but as before I’m not going to be surprised if Sir Alan gives it to somebody else.

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