Extreme Interviewing: The Apprentice shows us how!


The UK series of  The Apprentice is drawing to a close (sadly, in my opinion:  I still find it compelling viewing after all these years).  They’re down to the last 5 (with a majority of girls, much to their delight), and on Wednesday  they are going to be further weeded out by what I think is one of the most gruelling challenges of them all:  The Extreme Interview.

Has someone upset you, Lord Sugar?

Has someone upset you, Lord Sugar?

This is where Alan Sugar (oops, make that LORD Sugar), subjects them to to what is less an interview and more an inquisition, in which their CV and Business Plans are put to the test by four of his toughest and most sceptical business partners, including my all time favourite baddy, Claude Littner.

Oh Claude, my blood runs cold just at the sight of you, let alone when you get that previously highly motivated and clear thinking prospective business partner on the run.  I honestly have never seen anything like it.  I Blogged about this in a previous year with one or two quotes, my favourite of which was the one which went along the lines of:

Claude: “It says here that you are great at getting on with people.”

Victim:  “Yes, that’s right.”

Claude:  “Well, you’re not getting on very well with me, are you?”

They’ve shown us a few preview clips for tonight’s episode, and my excitement level is once again running high.  There’s a shot of Littner behind his big scary desk, arms out in front of him as if he is about to leap across it and physically squeeze the truth out of his interviewee.  All we get are these immortal words:

If looks could kill, Claude

If looks could kill, Claude

Claude:  “You’re a parasite.  This interview is terminated.”

It’s wonderful entertainment.  Whether it gives Lord Sugar any sort of meaningful data on whether the candidate would make a good business partner I very much doubt.  It might tell him how assertive they are, but I’m not sure how relevant that is.   I always thought an interview was meant to be a two way process, in which both parties get an opportunity to assess how good the fit is for each other.  Giving the candidate a chance to open up and talk about their strengths and weaknesses in a meaningful way is the best means of making a fair assessment , and that does not involve intimidation, bullying or outright aggression, as exemplified by previous Apprentice interviews.

Still, this Extreme Interviewing approach seems to be gaining popularity.  I have my doubts about it.

Back to Lord Sugar.  Let’s assume assertiveness is a quality he is seeking to test: I wonder what the correct assertive response should be to this type of bullying?  Which one of these do you like best?

1.  “I’d rather be a parasite than a slug.  Yes I would, if I could,  I surely would (to the immortal Simon and Garfunkel number).

2.  “Interview?  Is that what you call it?  I call it an inquisition of dubious validity, sir, and if Lord Sugar chooses a business partner based on this he has less common sense than I had previously given him credit for.”

3.  “Good.  I think we can both agree it was a waste of my time.  I’ll tell Lord Sugar to expect a reduced fee from you for a job only half done, if that.”

Have you ever experienced this type of interview?  Do you see any merit in it, and if so please comment on what it was?  I for one am dying to know!

For UK viewers this episode is on BBC 1 at 9.00 on Wednesday 10th July.  My apologies to those who had an email from me telling them it was being shown on Monday 8th.  They had to do some rescheduling:  something to do with a certain tennis player’s success at Wimbledon, I believe.

For everyone else, here’s a bit of previous Claude action.  Enjoy!

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About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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