Five questions from the Apprentice that would never turn up in a real job interview

What is the worst lie you have ever told?

That exciting time in the business calendar is upon us again: The Apprentice graces our screens. Hopeful entrepreneurs line up to throw themselves through the most gruelling, bizarre, often humiliating and sometimes terrifying interview process in the UK. The winner of The Apprentice receives a £250,000 partnership with Lord Sugar. To put this in context, £250,000 a year is near about the salary of a CEO of a city council or a non-partnered lawyer in a large city firm and their interview questions would reflect their skill and expertise in the area. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions they're asked at interview:

Share a good example of the way you could motivate employees or co-employees.

Describe a choice you've made that wasn't popular and just how you handled applying it.

Maybe you have made a mistake that costs your company as loss? How have you handled it?

They are certainly never asked the following (taken from the Apprentice selection interviews). Here's my best shot at answering them.

  1. What is the most interesting thing about you?

Admittedly, you may have been asked this before, or something similar. Always a difficult one, especially if you’re a particularly boring person. If the most interesting thing about you is that you can balance a spoon on the end of your nose (after years of solitary practice) consider making something up. Or try ‘this one time I applied for The Apprentice, I know crazy right?) You probably wouldn’t be too surprised if you were asked this in a normal interview, but you should avoid mentioning your Apprentice candidacy.  

  1. What makes you different from all the other people applying for The Apprentice?

Not only does this require you to think up something ‘different’ about yourself but also second guess all the other contestants on the show. Don’t say ‘I’m not your average candidate,’ because just by saying this you are. The only thing that you can say to this is ‘I don’t want to be in business, I have no innovate ideas and I’m not intimidated by Karen Brady’s hair,’ you might just confuse them enough to get in there. Generally, normal interviews don’t encourage you to speculate on the other candidates for the job, this would in fact make you more nervous and prone to say something out of turn- especially if you personally knew the other candidates.

  1. Who is your role model (excluding Lord Alan Sugar,) and why?

Well of course your role model IS Lord Sugar, he created that really famous company who did…something or other with computers. And Karen Brady, who’s a woman working in football – what an inspiration. Oh and yes the other guy, Nick Hewer, the bloke who presents Countdown now. No but seriously, Steve Jobs, Richard Banson, Donald Trump and all other celebrity business names. ‘Who is your role model’ can sometimes come up in job interviews, but not generally in a high paying position as it’s not a technical or industry specific question: more designed to acquire sound bites of the candidates comparing themselves to James Caan.

  1. What makes you angry?

Don’t say: those times you’re watching The Apprentice and the candidates can’t work out the simplest thing, for example that driving through central London at 6pm might actually take longer than five minutes or that people on the streets at lunch time don’t appreciate bagpipes IN their face or no I don’t want to buy a five way foot file for £7. All while you sit on your sofa, eating cheesy snacks and pondering on how the winner will gain £250,000 while the average retail or bar job in London pays £6.25 per hour. Or maybe do… ‘What makes you angry’ isn’t usually something potential employers wish to know, rather how you would deal with a stressful situation or anger of another colleague.

  1. What is the worst lie you have ever told?

Never once have I ever heard of this question being asked in an interview. Of course the interview process not only has to wean out the wheat from the chaff but also which candidates are reality TV ready, because after all, this isn’t a real business interview; its an opportunity for people who wouldn’t ordinarily get a look in for a £250,000 job to humiliate themselves for the precious opportunity.

Alan Sugar Photograph: Getty Images

Katy Maydon is a journalist for Retail Banker International

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.