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Margaret Mountford Apprentice Watch Week 11

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  Quote Bren Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Margaret Mountford Apprentice Watch Week 11
    Posted: 03 June 2009 at 09:46


By Margaret Mountford
Published: 6:12PM BST 02 Jun 2009

'King of the one-liner': Apprentice candidate James McQuillan Photo: BBC

In tonight’s penultimate episode, the candidates are put through a series of gruelling interviews. The interviews always provide a fresh perspective. Sir Alan, Nick and I have seen a lot of the candidates over the past 11 weeks; we’ve watched them veer between triumph and disaster, seen them work in teams and got to know them as individuals.

By contrast, Sir Alan’s interviewers come to the candidates cold, as if they’d just walked in off the street clutching their CVs and application forms, which, of course, were written many months ago. As James observes at one point, “The hardest thing about [the interviews] is having to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. It can be pretty hard to take.”

Three of Sir Alan’s panel of interviewers will be familiar to viewers of previous series: Bordan Tkachuk, the CEO of computer and IT firm Viglen, which is one of Sir Alan’s companies, Claude Littner, Sir Alan’s former global trouble-shooter and Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham City Football Club. There is also a new face: Alan Watts, a litigation partner at my old law firm, Herbert Smith. I worked alongside Alan years ago. He’s a very tough litigator, well practised in telling whether people are telling the truth or not – so someone ideally suited to tonight’s interrogation process.

While working for Herbert Smith I conducted a lot of interviews. I always thought I could tell as soon as someone walked in the door whether they were right for the job – though I’d hate to say that was my “instinct”!

The panel will have to be at their probing best because I think it is tough to separate the five surviving candidates, who all have different strengths.

Yasmina approaches her first interview seemingly brimming with confidence. “I’m going to be brilliant in absolutely every area,” she declares modestly. But is this bullishness merely a façade? She certainly has the wind taken out of her sails by Claude during their interview. I think she was lucky to survive the cosmetics task, where she miscalculated the soap ingredients – but, as Napoleon said, lucky generals can be even more valuable than brilliant ones. Yasmina has shown herself to be a capable leader, especially on the catering task, and she has a ruthless streak. Indeed Yasmina’s determination to succeed comes out tonight via a startling revelation about her restaurant business.

James, on the other hand, could never be described as ruthless. He’s funny, likeable and has become the king of the one-liner. But I would suggest to James that his CV and Apprentice application form are not the place to indulge in this habit. However, beneath his air of boyish charm, there’s a shrewd, competent businessman. On the fitness task, for example, the Ben-inspired “gym in a box” was a terrible product but James didn’t say so for fear of deflating his team. That’s good management.

It’s hard to imagine Lorraine adopting that approach. Throughout the series she has often demonstrated sound judgement – or “instinct” as she refers to it. She knew that “Pants Man” was a daft idea and she had good and sensible input on the Margate poster campaign. But she also tends to bang on and on about other people’s mistakes until she’s driven them completely up the wall. Lorraine certainly winds up Claude up tonight; he accuses her of being “delusional”.

Debra has also struggled to make friends, even though she has done well on most of the tasks. People keep pointing out how young she is – 23 – but I don’t think age is that big a factor. Yasmina and Kate are both just four years older. That said, Debra is still young enough to be mouldable, though tonight you don’t see much evidence of this malleability in practice! At one point James quips that the interviewers should be more terrified of Debra than she is of them. But whatever you make of Debra, she is certainly passionate about getting the job. Passion is the one quality that the interviewers struggle to locate in Kate. She’s a good communicator and has proved herself a skilful co-ordinator (especially in the cereal task). But I don’t think we’ve seen any creative spark. One of the interviewers describes her as “robotic”. This lack of emotion could be a reaction against those people in business who might presume, wrongly, that her good looks make her a dumb blonde. It’s certainly harder to get behind Kate’s façade than the others’.

There is an extraordinary outpouring of emotion later on in the boardroom, when the firing of one candidate reduces the others to tears. One thing you can say about the remaining candidates is that all five really want the job. No wonder Sir Alan says that the decision as to which candidates should make it to the final is “the toughest” he’s had to make on the show.

A final note to all Apprentice viewers and followers of this column. The final will air on Sunday, June 7 on BBC One at 9.00pm, while my last column will appear in this Saturday’s Daily Telegraph.

The Apprentice is on BBC One tonight at 9.00pm

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  Quote Jonnyboy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 June 2009 at 09:51
It will be James, Loraine and Debra fired I reckon
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