The Apprentice – Week 11 – The Interviews

Come on, let’s be honest and admit that interview week is generally the reason that we all watch The Apprentice.  We want to get to know the smug, self satisfied little faces so that when Claude, Claudine, Mike or Linda call the candidates out on a terrible business plan or a lie on their CV we can see that same face going red and looking less smug than it’s ever looked before.

The interview week finally arrived and we were left with the five candidates Courtney, Grainne, Jessica, Alana and Francis.

The first interview snippet that we see is between Claude and Francis.  Claude is back in the zone and tells her that after watching her for 11 weeks he finds it hard to find anything good about her performance to date…and we’re off.  The argumentative candidate has nothing to say and is opening and closing her mouth like an over excited fish (if that causes them to open and close their mouths more often!)

The next interview is a curious one between Claudine Collins and Courtney.  The candidates had to answer the question: what is the one thing you would do if no one would ever find out.  Courtney had answered that he would like to fart in a lift full of supermodels.  I mean, that answer defies belief, how little ambition does that demonstrate?  You can do anything and you’re farting?!  We all have dreams but I’d rather ride a Segway around the Whitehouse or do something a lot more fun than farting!

Mike Suter interviewing Grainne draws the first ‘blood’.  Grainne has shown in her business plan a statistic of 90%.  Mike asked her how many people she had questioned to come up with her statistic and she told him 6.  She went on that 5 of the 6 had answered the question to give the 90% statistic.  Mike questioned whether 5 out of 6 was 90% and she had no idea and started to flounder and admitted that she had no idea!

Linda Plant meets Jessica and asks about the business she ran prior to the one she intends to run with Lord Sugar.  Linda confirms that this business was loss making and asks Jessica questions about why, Jessica just gets confused and starts to fumble so Linda cuts her off and asks if she knows what she’s talking about.  Jessica simply says ‘no’.

Alana walks into the interview room with Claude with little packages.  Claude asks what it is and Alana tells him it’s a sample of her product so he tells her to leave it on the desk.  The funniest moment then comes when Claude tells her to sit back – instead of looking miserable Alana’s face shows a bit of surprise – I suppose it makes a change from miserable.  Claude tells her that throughout the process she has not been a forceful character – Alana underlines this by umming and erring rather than giving an answer.

Mike asks Jessica to tell him about the business.  In her usual fashion Jessica starts to waffle about celebrity contracts.  Mike asks her what went wrong with her last business and asks if she knows that her old business is still listed on Companies House with her as the only director – she has no idea!  Oh dear.  Furthermore Mike enjoys telling her that she’s also registered as a director at another company, she states that this is a part ownership scenario but Mike tells her that the other directors have resigned…oh dear!!

We go back to Alana and Claude where the most important question is posed.  Claude congratulates Alana on having saved a lot of money over the years that she has been working but asks why she’s unwilling to invest her own money into her business.  Alana tells Claude that she’s worked hard for her money and wants to buy a house.  Claude tells Alana that Sugar has also worked hard for his money – if she’s unwilling to invest her own money why should he.  Very good question.

Courtney has an interview with Linda.  On his application he was asked to describe himself in one word and he chose the word ‘awesome’.  Linda enjoyed telling him that one area in which he wasn’t awesome was sales.  She asked him to sell himself; he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights and started to drone on in his boring way before we switched away.

You can see the wheels start to come off as Claude interviews Grainne.  Grainne is currently a sole trader and wants to move to being a company with multiple functions.  Claude tells her that the jump is too big.  I’m an accountant so I don’t think that a move from sole trader to company is too much as many people do it but I don’t think this is what Claude was getting at.  Grainne wants to switch from being a make-up artist to running a company that is a training school, applies make-up to customers, a recruitment consultant for the industry and a retailer of make-up not to mention Grainne creating her own brand of make-up…did I miss anything?  Possibly.  Grainne seems to want to ‘do it all’.

Francis meets Mike and he asks what makes her different.  It took me a while to work out what she was doing but I finally fathomed it was buying at end of line children’s clothing and selling it on.  I immediately wondered how she was going to compete with TK Maxx who does that on a massive scale.  Mike asked her how she was different and she explained that they have good customer service in their shops, breast feeding rooms and colouring tables.  Well, if you’ve got all that then you can’t go wrong – or can you?  Mike then asked about the two stores that she had failed to mention in her business plan that had failed and closed.  Of course, there was no answer given.

Jessica was in yet another terrible interview with Linda.  The biggest problem for Jessica here is that Linda knows about clothing manufacturing.  Linda asks how many styles Jessica will be stocking, Jessica starts, ‘we’d have, sorry, no, sorry,’ and continues like that without giving an answer.  Linda asks about the manufacturing and Jessica has no idea about pattern cutters and seamstresses, etc.  Linda tells her that she’s living in a dreamworld.

Alana meets Linda and she’s the first one to try the little package of cakes.  Linda is very impressed with Alana’s profit margins learning that her cakes cost 19p to make but sell for more than £3 – we’re all sitting at home thinking if we saw this stuff there’s no way we’re buying it knowing what it’s true worth is!  Linda is sceptical of the turnover in Alana’s business plan compared with the turnover she currently has.  Linda asks what turnover and margins her competitors are achieving – she admits that she has no idea – she tries to fill with unknown guesses but Linda tells her, ‘you don’t know, that’s enough.’

Claude tells Courtney that he has no drive or vitality.  He asks him ‘where’s the passion.’

Alana doesn’t like Linda asking her about her staff as her only staff member is her boyfriend.  Linda asked if her boyfriend could be replaced as a staff member for the good of the business, Alana really doesn’t like it but says he could.

Claude continues to bait Courtney and tells him that talking to him is like pulling teeth.  Claude finally gets him to reveal a bit of passion about his work and Claude gets excited.

Mike tells Grainne that the numbers in her business plan do not add up.  Grainne tells him that she got a bit spendy happy!  He asks what her roles in the company will be, when she lists everything he tells her that the managing director cannot be applying make-up.  She asks him what she should be doing – not in a sarcastic way but she’s actually asking.  Not impressive.

Claude is funny when he meets Francis.  He confirms that Francis used to have a partner that did the books and accounts and he tells her that she must miss them as the business plan looks thrown together and there are pages in it missing.  Francis tells him that when it was put together it didn’t feel real.

Mike takes on some of the lies in Courtney’s application.  Courtney has sold himself as the top telecoms salesperson in the country – Courtney says it was a typo and should have been county – big difference!!  He also asks about him being head designer in his last employment – how can he be the head designer when he was the ONLY designer?!  Mike then pulls out a sketch pad and asks Courtney to sketch him an idea for a new product.  Courtney says that’s putting him on the spot rather but Mike states that a top designer should have no problem thinking up a new product.  He draws a strange Lord Sugar dispenser – basically a PEZ machine…

Linda is unimpressed that Francis wrote that she’s unorganised and keeps her filing in her handbag.  Francis says that she wrote that flippantly and it’s not true.  When you’re going on a show that you know is looking for something to call you out over why on earth would you write a flippant application form?  If you want any kind of job or investment why would you ever write anything flippant?

Linda puts Grainne on the spot – as a top make-up consultant.  She reaches into her make-up bag and pulls a couple of products out and asks her to explain the USP of the products.  Grainne doesn’t even know what the products are, let alone their USP!

Mike asks Alana how she’s quoted that there are 7,000 independent deli’s in the UK.  Alana says that she’s looked at her own town and extrapolated the information – Mike asks if that’s really a reasonable way of estimating.  Alana has no response.  Of course it’s not!  Some towns have dozens of independent’s  and some have none so trying to look at one town and guess is not reasonable.

Linda has the catalogue of 140 products that Courtney sells and asks why only 33 of them are his own designs.  Courtney thinks he’s been very successful by creating 33 products during his trading time.  Linda asks him why he’s running the business from his bedroom at his parents house if he’s so successful.

Claude tells Jessica that her business is very risky with her paying out thousands of pounds to celebrities for them to wear her clothes with no guarantee that anyone will buy them, wear them or like them.

The next interview showed two women that really didn’t like each other – even a little bit!  Linda asks Francis how she’s got to her stock figure of £121,000, Francis starts to answer but saying that it’s calculated backwards from the selling price (note: that’s not how you value stock!  It’s valued at the lower of cost or what it will sell for – generally cost unless you’re making a loss on it).  Linda interjects but Francis glares at her and tells her ‘let me finish’.  Linda looks back at her with a face like thunder – the screen shot should have been replaced with two wolves bearing their teeth at each other as they snarl and circle around seeing which one will attack first.

That then ends the interviews – as usual it doesn’t last anywhere near long enough.  I’d love a much longer programme dedicated to the interviews – each candidate should have a one hour programme so you can see so much more!

The candidates sit in the waiting area while the interviewers file past them, studiously ignoring them, into the boardroom.  With Lord Sugar and Karren they talk about each candidate in turn before they file back out and Lord Sugar rings to phone.  I’d love his receptionist to pick up the phone as say to him, ‘no, don’t tell me, do you want the candidates in there?’  Please one year can they have a really sassy and sarcastic receptionist?!

Lord Sugar turns to Jessica first and asks if she really wants him to invest in a business called ‘Lust & Lies’.  He is very concerned about her predicted £10,000 per month outlay on celebrity payments.  He is also concerned that her previous business was doing the same thing but the bank balance ‘dwindled away’ because there were so many returns – sounds like a massive quality issue to me.

Sugar then moves onto Grainne and says that her whole idea is confused.  He asks about all of the aspects of the business and one of them is teaching make-up which costs students £7,000.  Karren asks if she’s qualified to teach this and she admits that she’s not yet…she’s only half way through her own course.  Sugar tells her that he can’t see it and he fires her there an then.

When Sugar talks to Alana he asks her about the cupcake fad of a few years ago and she says that she’s far away from that end of the market and her products are not a fad.  Claude once again asks why she’s unwilling to invest her own money into the business when she’s been able to save so much.

Courtney is next and he’s asked why he’s different.  Sugar tells him that if you put novelty gifts into a search engine you get 20,000 or more results.  Courtney says that he has speed on his side but Sugar is concerned that any of his ideas can be copied if it’s successful.

Francis is told that her weakness is scalability as she has no way of knowing what stock she’s getting and in what quantities.  He is also concerned about whether she’s able to handle paperwork given her flippant answers about keeping it in her handbag.

Sugar then decides to fire Jessica as she’s repeating a business that she has already failed at.  Francis is also fired for her business not being scalable.

That’s it then – Alana and Courtney are the finalists.  Are they the most deserving from the process – definitely not but that’s what we’re left with.

 

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