The Apprentice: What NOT to do in a job interview

16 Dec

I always watch the interview episode of The Apprentice with glee: I love seeing the anxiety and sweaty discomfort of the contestants who I find annoying, arrogant or just plain incompetent. Above all, it’s an exquisite moment when the delusions, the defences and the lies unravel before our eyes. (And yes, I did cheer when the ghastly Stuart was finally kicked out of ‘the process’ – yet Brand Baggs the Blagger remained baffled as to why he wasn’t the chosen one.)

The episode seemed an exercise in how NOT to conduct an interview. Here are eight things the contestants should have known about interview etiquette:

Get the basics right: Know the name of the person who is interviewing you – but don’t use their first name unless invited to do so, as Stuart did with Margaret Mountford, greeting her as if she were a long-lost friend, – and then he asked Bordan Tkachuk what his name was.  It made him look conceited at best, and ignorant at worst.

Do your research: Joanna had only a sketchy idea of what Lord Sugar’s business empire comprised – making her look ill-prepared and ill at ease. It’s not difficult to obtain a basic outline of what a business’s interests are, and knowing your stuff makes you look alert, discerning and employable.

Use humour carefully: Jamie’s ‘third nipple’ joke on his CV fell totally flat. Humour is totally subjective, and what looked clever to him came across as ‘puerile’ to the interviewer (Margaret) – as did his red tie, in my opinion.

Don’t exaggerate: Chris was caught out when exaggerating his academic prowess and his selling skills. Sell your skills, experience and talents – but back that up with solid, measurable evidence rather than overblown self-importance.

Avoid clichés like the plague: The candidates continually and unimaginatively resorted to platitudes and clichés when attempting to sell themselves: I heard Stuart would work 24/7 and give 110%, and Jamie would be a ‘key cog’. These phrases are empty and unsubstantiated, and make a candidates look as though they lack eloquence and imagination.

Don’t downplay your achievements: Referring to herself as ‘Joanna the cleaner from Leicester’ did nothing to inspire the confidence of the interviewers. Be real, relevant and honest, and believe in yourself and your abilities.

Be assertive, not defensive: Bounce back from difficult or awkward questions with dignity and composure. Fair play to Stella for telling Bordan she felt insulted by being called ‘a very, very good PA’ – when she’s on the senior management team of a Japanese bank. Put the interviewer straight and clarify rather than attack.

And finally…

Don’t blag when you’ve been find out: When the truth about Stuart’s Isle of Man telecoms company was revealed, he tried to blag his way out of it. Big mistake that cost him his place as Lord Sugar’s apprentice. If an interviewer identifies discrepancies or inconsistencies, own up and move on – or, like Stuart, you may find yourself being shown the door.


One Response to “The Apprentice: What NOT to do in a job interview”

  1. Tim 16/12/2010 at 10:09 am #

    Thank God real world interviews are rarely as brutal as The Apprentice. Your points are spot on.It was depressing to see Joanna – so impressive in recent weeks – fall down on something as simple as basic research.

    Oh, how we’ve missed Margaret! The line of the night (as she talks about Chris’s academic achievements):

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if he put his certificates in frames and his idea of a fun night is to sit and admire them.”

    Stuart’s firing was brutal – but, let’s face it, it’s the moment we’ve been waiting 11 weeks to see. And, boy, did it deliver?

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