I always look forward to the interview stage of BBC’s The Apprentice. I like a bit of fantasy entertainment. As others have commented in the past, these overly brutal interrogations are totally unrealistic – nobody interviews like that, and if they do, most candidates under normal circumstances will either walk out or decide not to take the process any further.
The Apprentice is a different situation. In this case the interview is not a two way process as it should be. There’s no opportunity to question the interviewers about the organisation and the sessions are designed for confrontation.
But let’s remember that this is TV so we shouldn’t expect anything else. As the Producers themselves have said in the past following criticism of the interview stage, the programme is not a training course for interviewers. Nevertheless, it would be good if people could learn a thing or two.
In the end I was slightly disappointed after last nights show because overall there were some useful lessons to learn for job candidates rather than the unrealistic carnage that we’ve seen in previous episodes.
I’ve picked out five points to comment upon, all of which are useful for anyone in the job market.
- Jamie’s third nipple
Candidates are often advised to make their CV stand out from the crowd. They are also told that many interviewers like to see some of the candidate’s personality come through. Making a joke in an application form or CV as Jamie did, claiming he had a third nipple and then later citing the third nipple as his biggest lie was, as Margaret said, puerile. A CV or application form stands out with evidence of achievements, preferably quantified. Personality comes through when the candidate writes it him or herself, and writes it as if it comes from themselves and not as if they are trying to say the “right thing”. Be yourself.
- Stuart’s overfamiliarity
Greeting Margaret Mountford in such an informal way (Margaret!) was bound to irritate. Again, the extraordinary circumstances of the show mean that this is unlikely to happen in most situations. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that even if the environment appears to be relaxed and informal, the candidate should always behave respectfully. That doesn’t mean you should be unfriendly, it does mean that the situation of the interview is serious and demands decorum.
- Joanna’s unfamiliarity
There really isn’t any excuse not to do your homework on the business. Somebody fell down on this very question some seasons ago so Joanna really should have known better. However, to take this a bit further, you don’t research the company simply to show that you know the organisational structure, you do it in order to know the issues the organisation is facing, because only then will you understand what is behind the questions and concerns of the interviewer.
- No requests for examples of achievement
If the interviewers wanted to really see the best prepared candidates they would surely have asked for specific examples of achievements. They didn’t, or at least none were broadcast, and I can’t emphasise how important it is to go into the interview with prepared examples in the format of Problem – Action – Outcome: what was the problem or challenge, what did you do, what was the result. These stories should be relevant to the role and the capabilities you know will be required.
- Stuart’s embellishments
There is absolutely no excuse for lying on the CV or application. When it comes to facts be very careful not to over claim because, as Stuart saw last night, it’s easy to be found out. It’s also easy to over claim responsibility or performance and that’s why it’s important to understand your contribution to a project so you can explain exactly what it was you did, rather than trying to pretend the whole success of a project was down to you.
As it happens, I thought the biggest sin was perpetrated by Lord Sugar. While it’s clear that Stuart survived last week in order to facilitate this explosive scene (they will have known about Stuart’s license status from the start of the series), Lord Sugar showed remarkable inconsistency. He talked about how angry he was with himself for trusting Stuart and dismissed the young man sharply, yet wasn’t it only a couple of seasons back that Lee McQueen blatantly lied about his qualifications but went on to win the series?
Clearly Lord Sugar knows pretty much whom he wants to win from early on in the process and I doubt lying on the CV has a big impact. Stuart should have been released from the show weeks ago, and was only kept on for entertainment value. As I said, let’s not forget this is telly.
If you are in or approaching the interview stage please join my Interview Preparation Masterclass in London on January 11th. Click here for further details.