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The Apprentice: what makes the perfect candidate?

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    Posted: 06 Oct 2010 at 15:55

The Apprentice: what makes the perfect candidate?

Tonight the latest batch of Apprentice applicants will begin the job interview from hell – and we'll be blogging every moment, live, from 9pm. But what makes for a compelling contestant?

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The Apprentice 2010: the candidates with Lord Sugar, Karren Brady and Nick Hewer. Photograph: PA

After a very long wait, tonight the new series of The Apprentice gets underway. Several things are a given: the show will be hilarious; most of the contestants will be total idiots, as Lord Sugar will remind them on a weekly basis; a glimmer of genuine raw talent will be swiftly trampled, but we won't care because we'll be laughing too much. And we'll be live blogging every episode for your delight.

As ever the Voiceover Man will also be in evidence – telling us that the 16 contestants are the best business brains in the country. This is clearly ridiculous. Rather, they are the most TV-friendly of a bunch of applicants who think they are the best business brains in the country and have no objection to being ritually humiliated and verbally abused on telly. Suddenly we're fishing from a much smaller pool, full of people who are at best wildly deluded, and often just plain bonkers.

So what makes the ideal Apprentice candidate? As an audience, we don't want sensible grown-ups who are consistently organised and execute plans in an efficient, well-thought-through manner. That's just boring. We want witless morons running about in a wild panic ordering 100 chickens for 100 chicken tikka pizzas or buying cheap Makro cheese to sell to the French, then screwing over their teammates in the boardroom in a bid to save themselves. We want them to wear berets, fat ties and stupid braces. We want them to talk entirely in management speak and say things like "I am a salesman. The spoken word is my tool" (© Raef Bjayou, 2008).

We want the female contestants to be a mix of no-nonsense Ruth Badger with Debra Barr's killer death stare, sprinkled with Lucinda's Ledgerwood's demented wardrobe and Katie Hopkins's fluttery eyelashes. For the guys, we want Pantsman Phil's deluded optimism mixed with Ben Clarke's ruthless self-promotion, all wrapped up in Michael Sophocles and Raef-style bromance and finished with a James McQuillan one-liner (my favourite being "I can bring ignorance to the table").

We want people who are prepared to hustle, cheat and, if necessary, beg on their knees for Lord Sugar to give them the opportunity to flog Sky boxes in Brentwood. We want obscure dinosaur impressions. Actually, we can do without those.

But of course Lord Sugar is looking for something very different. He wants ambition, grit and determination – hard grafters who have crawled out of the gutter and fought their way to the top pushing an East End barrow full of coals to Newcastle. If they are single parents with no qualifications and grew up living down a manhole with the other sewer children, all the better. He wants fighters, not plonkers, wafflers or fence-straddlers. Lord Sugar doesn't suffer fools gladly; as he once told James "you know, there might be a village missing an idiot somewhere".

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