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

Chuka Umunna speaks at the launch of Labour's education manifesto during the general election. Photograph: Getty Images.
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After so badly misjudging the leadership contest, how will the Blairites handle Corbyn?

The left-winger's opponents are divided between conciliation and aggression. 

When Labour lost the general election in May, the party’s modernisers sensed an opportunity. Ed Miliband, one of the most left-wing members of the shadow cabinet, had been unambiguously rejected and the Tories had achieved their first majority in 23 years. More than any other section of the party, the Blairites could claim to have foreseen such an outcome. Surely the pendulum would swing their way?

Yet now, as Labour’s leadership contest reaches its denouement, those on the right are asking themselves how they misjudged the landscape so badly. Their chosen candidate, Liz Kendall, is expected to finish a poor fourth and the party is poised to elect Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader in its 115-year history. For a faction that never ceases to underline the importance of winning elections, it will be a humbling result.

Though the crash has been sudden, the Blairites have long been in decline. Gordon Brown won the leadership unchallenged and senior figures such as John Reid, James Purnell and Alan Milburn chose to depart from the stage rather than fight on. In 2010, David Miliband, the front-runner in the leadership election, lost to his brother after stubbornly refusing to distance himself from the Iraq war and alienating undecided MPs with his imperiousness.

When the younger Miliband lost, the modernisers moved fast – too fast. “They’re behaving like family members taking jewellery off a corpse,” a rival campaign source told me on 9 May. Many Labour supporters agreed. The rush of op-eds and media interviews antagonised a membership that wanted to grieve in peace. The modernising contenders – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt – gave the impression that the Blairites wanted to drown out all other voices. “It was a huge mistake for so many players from that wing of the party to be put into the field,” a shadow cabinet minister told me. “In 1994, forces from the soft left to the modernising right united around Tony Blair. The lesson is never again can we have multiple candidates.”

While conducting their post-mortem, the Blairites are grappling with the question of how to handle Corbyn. For some, the answer is simple. “There shouldn’t be an accommodation with Corbyn,” John McTernan, Blair’s former director of political operations, told me. “Corbyn is a disaster and he should be allowed to be his own disaster.” But most now adopt a more conciliatory tone. John Woodcock, the chair of Progress, told me: “If he wins, he will be the democratically elected leader and I don’t think there will be any serious attempt to actually depose him or to make it impossible for him to lead.”

Umunna, who earlier rebuked his party for “behaving like a petulant child”, has emphasised that MPs “must accept the result of our contest when it comes and support our new leader in developing an agenda that can return Labour to office”. The shadow business secretary even suggests that he would be prepared to discuss serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if he changed his stances on issues such as nuclear disarmament, Nato, the EU and taxation. Were Umunna, a former leadership contender, to adopt a policy of aggression, he would risk being blamed should Corbyn fail.

Suggestions that the new parliamentary group Labour for the Common Good represents “the resistance” are therefore derided by those close to it. The organisation, which was launched by Umunna and Hunt before Corbyn’s surge, is aimed instead at ensuring the intellectual renewal that modernisers acknowledge has been absent since 2007. It will also try to unite the party’s disparate mainstream factions: the Blairites, the Brownites, the soft left, the old right and Blue Labour. The ascent of Corbyn, who has the declared support of just 15 MPs (6.5 per cent of the party), has persuaded many that they cannot afford the narcissism of small differences. “We need to start working together and not knocking lumps out of each other,” Woodcock says. There will be no defections, no SDP Mk II. “Jeremy’s supporters really underestimate how Labour to the core the modernisers are,” Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, told me.

Although they will not change their party, the Blairites are also not prepared to change their views. “Those of us on this side of Labour are always accused of being willing to sell out for power,” a senior moderniser told me. “Well, we do have political principles and they’re not up for bartering.” He continued: “Jeremy Corbyn is not a moderate . . .
He’s an unreconstructed Bennite who regards the British army as morally equivalent to the IRA. I’m not working with that.”

Most MPs believe that Corbyn will fail but they are divided on when. McFadden has predicted that the left-winger “may even get a poll bounce in the short term, because he’s new and thinking differently”. A member of the shadow cabinet suggested that Labour could eventually fall to as low as 15 per cent in the polls and lose hundreds of councillors.

The challenge for the Blairites is to reboot themselves in time to appear to be an attractive alternative if and when Corbyn falters. Some draw hope from the performance of Tessa Jowell, who they still believe will win the London mayoral selection. “I’ve spoken to people who are voting enthusiastically both for Jeremy and for Tessa,” Wes Streeting, the newly elected MP for Ilford North, said. “They have both run very optimistic, hopeful, positive campaigns.”

But if Corbyn falls, it does not follow that the modernisers will rise. “The question is: how do we stop it happening again if he does go?” a senior frontbencher said. “He’s got no interest or incentive to change the voting method. We could lose nurse and end up with something worse.” If the road back to power is long for Labour, it is longest of all for the Blairites. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 03 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Pope of the masses