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HR Insights - Extra 
Over the next few weeks and whilst The Apprentice is being shown on the BBC, we will be running a second blog, concentrating on the programme and the candidates... *** Spoiler Alert*** - the following blog will reveal the results of this week's episode. 

10th July 2013 
 
“It’s like inviting chickens to come and eat at Nando’s!” – Andi Osho ‘You're Fired’ Episode 11 
 
Well, well, well... Here we are now at week 11 of the process and we now know who the two finalists are... More of that later though; let’s review what happened in the interviews first... 
 
I’m not the biggest fan of reality TV shows, which is perhaps a bizarre admission from someone who has spent the last 11-weeks writing about one; I do admit to watching four: The Apprentice (obviously!), Celebrity Masterchef, Strictly Come Dancing and Undercover Boss (watch out for my thoughts on that after next week’s final!). But what always amazes me about these shows is that they always follow their own formula and whilst those who appear in ‘series one’ and at a stretch, perhaps ‘series two’ are not familiar with that formula and can therefore perhaps be forgiven for making stupid mistakes, once you get to ‘series nine’ you would expect that participants have familiarised themselves with the format sufficiently to avoid making silly mistakes... Wouldn’t you?!?!!? 
 
Clearly not if this week’s interviews are anything to go by... I think that this is the fourth or fifth series of the Apprentice that I have watched (not including ‘Junior Apprentice’) and whilst as a HR professional I do cringe a little at some of the ‘interview techniques’ adopted by Lord Sugar’s advisers, there is absolutely no doubt that the people he selects to advise him are at the very top of their game. They are all leaders in their field, with a proven and considerable track record of achievement to back up their status and more importantly, not one of them will ‘suffer fools gladly’! Yet series after series, candidates will put forward exaggerated claims, figures that are plucked from thin air without any basis in fact, weak business cases that have not been thoroughly researched etc. etc. and somewhat ‘naively’ expect that those errors, omissions and frankly, bare-faced lies are not going to be exposed during the interview process. 
 
And this year, was no exception... Firstly, there was Jordan. 
The cracks in his facade began to show last week in the Boardroom and this week, turned into great gaping ‘sinkholes’; which were so wide, it was a miracle they didn’t swallow the Institute of Directors building where the interviews were being held and the rest of West London to boot.  
It transpired that his ‘great business idea’, was not his idea at all; it belonged to some other person with whom he only had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and far from the 50/50 share of the business that has been hammered home from day one of the process, buried deep within ‘his’ business plan was the fact that he expected Lord Sugar to accept only a 15.4% share of the business... It’s amazing that he has been able to fool everyone in the process for so long and must be incredibly frustrating for the other ‘fired’ candidates, some of whom probably did deserve to stay in the process for longer than they did... 
 
Jordan was exposed as the ‘parasite’ with whom Claude Littner wouldn’t give any airtime to and his was probably the quickest ‘firing’ ever to have taken place in the Boardroom; in fact, he was even denied the customary ‘exit’ of being driven away in the taxi and having a final opportunity to share his thoughts on the outcome... 
 
One of the biggest problems that Jordan now faces is the damage to his credibility and reputation having been exposed as someone who appears to be something of a ‘Charlatan’ on national television – would you trust him if he approached you about a business opportunity or even for an employment opportunity??? 
 
This highlights the dramatic shift in today’s society. Twenty, fifteen or even ten years ago, such a ‘faux pas’ being committed by a candidate on their CV or application form would be limited to only the organisation(s) to whom the ‘dodgy’ application had been submitted... These days, with the prominence of social media in our society, even the teeniest of ‘flaws’ can be exposed nationally and even internationally within a matter of minutes... And even quicker than that when you expose yourself on national television! 
Jordan wasn’t the only candidate who was left a little exposed during the interviews last night... Francesca opted to state that her existing businesses had given her a ‘turnover’ of £5 million... Would you really need to go onto the Apprentice for a £250,000 investment if that was truly the case???  
The principle difference in these two cases though, was that as soon as Claude questioned her on this, she admitted that it was a figure she had plucked out of thin air and later admitted that ‘it was a round number that she could calculate easily in her head...’; whereas Jordan continued to perpetuate his own little facade, even though it was evident that he had been well and truly rumbled.  
 
What Francesca's downfall did highlight to all budding entrepreneurs and business-people though is the importance of 'knowing your numbers'! You might have to have an Accountant or Analyst explain them to you, but when asked, you should be able to give a reasonable and accurate account of you and your business. 
 
Francesca was the ‘third’ candidate to be fired after the interview round last night, placing her in third place overall... An achievement of which I’m sure she can be very proud. So who was the second candidate to ‘bite the bullet’...? 
Well, in a bit of an upset to the ‘form’ book predicted last week; the second to be fired was Neil!! A guy who quite literally ‘snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’... All of Lord Sugar’s advisers tried to tell him that his business plan was flawed and all of them were willing him to accept this advice and produce a ‘plan B’ that could rescue him and see him into the final... 
Remember a couple of years ago; when the Apprentice first switched to the format of looking for a ‘business partner’ as opposed to an employee, when ‘Inventor Tom’ was the ‘surprise winner’? If I recall correctly, his original business plan to produce an ergonomically sound office chair was not well received, but having pulled his ace out the hat in the dying moments of the final Boardroom; by recounting the story of how he managed to get 15 minutes in front of the Chief Buyer for Asda to pitch his nail file to them, he persuaded Lord Sugar that he was worth a punt. Subsequently, in the few short moments between him being ‘hired’ in the main programme and appearing in the follow-on show, ‘You’re Hired’; his business idea had shifted from his ‘office chair’ back to developing and enhancing his range of nail files. 
 
Okay, so I get that by the ‘power of television’ those ‘few moments’ during which the business plan changed were in fact several days, possibly even weeks. But at the end of the day, what this demonstrated was that it is the ‘person’ and not the ‘plan’ that is the most important part of this process for Lord Sugar. As was said in the programme on more than one occasion last night ‘Neil was the right man, he just had the wrong plan’... 
 
And so it transpired that one of Neil’s greatest strengths in the process, his ‘dogged determination’ became his biggest fallibility; it was his lack of flexibility and willingness to accept seasoned advice that saw him take the taxi-ride home one week before the ‘grand final’... 
Here we are then; the grand final just one week away and not one, but two females in that final... Leah v. Luisa! It’s an outcome that I would definitely not have predicted 11-weeks ago, far from it!! 
 
The final task will see ‘fired candidates’ returning to provide support to the two finalists as they prepare to launch and market their business ideas. The trailer suggests ‘tears and tantrums’ is on the cards; but what will be critical for both Leah and Luisa is to show that they have exceptional leadership skills in this task. They will need to demonstrate that they can properly manage the other team members – who, at this stage, have nothing to lose or gain by their involvement, but who could completely derail either Project Manager in their quest to become 'The Apprentice'. 
 
It will be down to them to ensure that the finished product that is pitched to Lord Sugar and his colleagues truly reflects them, their idea and their business acumen... Because once they get into the Boardroom next week, there will be nobody for them to hide behind, nobody to pass the buck to; it will be all on them... Warts and all... 
... And whilst I know who I would like to see ‘hired’; after the twists and turns of the last couple of weeks, it really could go either way at this stage... 
And finally; I just loved Mike Soutar’s approach to pulling out those ‘little white lies’ on a person’s CV... In response to Jordan’s somewhat bizarre claim that ‘he could complete a Rubik's Cube in under three minutes'; Mike reached into his top drawer and pulled out a Rubik's Cube and then promptly timed Jordan trying to complete it!!! It’s a tactic that I am very tempted to add to my little HR toolbox for the future!!! 
Performance anxiety got to Jordan as he failed to complete the Rubik's Cube in one of his interviews last night!! 
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