Personally, the interview task has always been my favourite bit of The Apprentice. I’m a people person & people watcher and the interview section ticks all the boxes for me. However, it is important to note three things: 1. This is not an ‘interview’ it is a ‘task’ 2. It’s television and the usual rules don’t apply and 3. After 4 hours of interviews (I met each candidate for an hour each) x 4 interviewers (16 hours of filming) you get to see about 15 minutes.
Instantly likable, trustworthy and nonjudgmental – it was nice to interview Will first. However, the moment he opened his mouth it all went wrong. Will is not eloquent, confident or strong. He is simply a lovely guy who is loyal, hard working, optimistic and not over smart. You may have noticed that not much was revealed of Will during the show and I suspect that was for two reasons: 1. There wasn’t much to reveal. Will left home to work and help support his family after his father had an accident. He went into sales with Bank of Scotland before they pulled out of Ireland and was made redundant. 2. I suspect all the interviewers went easy on Will. I know I did. I just didn’t think he could cope with a grilling and I just didn’t want to subject him to that (whatever the TV show may have wanted). I think Will is going to make a great husband, father and employee one day. Giving his all to everyone and everything. You can’t help but wish him well, but he was not a patch on the three to follow in terms of a €100,000 a year job as Bill’s Apprentice.
I thought she was excellent from the get-go. Confident, sensitive, determined and able. She had the experience to cope with the questions, able to speak fluently and logically. We even had a couple of moments of laughing out loud because she tuned into me, and while my job as interviewer is to analyze, I’m experienced enough to understand that Michelle was working me, and working me well. Again, I could have been tougher with Michelle, but I didn’t see any reason to. She was open & honest with pain and pleasure openly expressed. I thought she was excellent apart from two things: 1. I think she lacks a tiny bit of intelligence in an IQ sense (intelligence quotient average)…, but her EQ (emotional quotient is high) and 2. I think her need to excel is dissipating. I don’t see Michelle doing much in 5 years and I wouldn’t be surprised if her successful career peters out in two years. I think she applied for the challenge of The Apprentice as a way of reinvigorating herself and her career, but once the fire begins to dim, you can keep it alight for only so much longer…
Michelle has fought for herself for many years, so during the interview when I pushed her, she fought back, but when I lulled her, she shared her dreams with me. Good dreams, but no longer dreams of being the next big thing! In short, Michelle came / escaped to Ireland at 17 to get away from her family who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. She felt they were strangling her because she didn’t share their beliefs. She didn’t tell her folks, she just left as she didn’t have the heart to tell them because Witnesses or not, they loved her. This told me much, including that she was sensitive, determined and also brave… yes brave. There are different types of bravery and we all have complicated psychologies and while she showed bravery in running away, she also showed cowardliness in not being able to stand up to her parents. She is capable of being bullied and if bullied, will shrink. However, given the right environment Michelle can be strong and that is the Michelle that I recommended for the final two – because Bill is a strong man and no doubt a strong boss, but not a bully.
Came in, looked me in the eyes and shook hands confidently. Frankly, I thought she was excellent! I didn’t take to her as much as Michelle, because there is something endearing about fallible people like Michelle, but I liked her and was impressed. Highly intelligent, I tried to push Niamh, but she dealt with everything I threw at her, and easily. It wasn’t just that she answered my questions intelligently, she had genuinely considered everything. She knew exactly who she was and was confident in her ability to cope with anything thrown at her. She knew she wasn’t perfect or the finished article, but that she was already good and going to get better.
Niamh has a 2.1 degree in Business studies with a Major in Marketing, followed by one year’s experience in marketing where she was responsible for all marketing matters in an SME. I’m sure these skills stood her in good stead throughout The Apprentice, but more important was this remark from her application form where she says “I was voted both class comedian and most likely to succeed in my year of graduating secondary school. While never short of a witty remark I have a drive that never sleeps” I didn’t see much wit, but her steely determination shone throughout. Even more, her fellow candidates recognised her abilities and drive. Of course, we also took references on Niamh and they were quite outstanding.
Was very disappointing in interview. He came in and sat in front of me with dead eyes as if to say ‘I’m ready, bring it on, I don’t care’! That was such a shame because the very essence of Panos is his effusiveness, imagination and flair. While I’m sure his attitude had much to do with the essence of the interview task which can be intrusive, it is his challenge to bring out his attributes and he didn’t. What was revealed instead was a slightly self-centred man who didn’t want to bust a gut to get what he wanted.
Panos is well educated, with a background in sales. His latest role was in Google where he successfully sold advertising space. He has been successful, but wasn’t able to wow any of the interviewers. He didn’t understand what his real strengths were and I suspect it’s because he doesn’t spend as much time as he should asking himself what it takes to get to the top, what do I have and what do I need to develop, to get there?
Having seen enough of Panos from first programme to You’re Fired Show, he is the only person I saw and considered as a Consultant for Brightwater. He has sensitivity, leadership and an innate ability to understand people. Where he falls down flat is in what my Aunt used to tell me when she was trying to encourage me to practice harder “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”. This lack of grind also annoyed his colleagues on occasion and we saw Jamie, Tara & others, pointing their fingers at Panos for his lack of effort.
OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT FIND OF INTEREST
This year Bill prepared a Job Spec for us and it explained that it was principally a marketing role where he wanted someone to exploit the new social media’s of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all manner of e-marketing. Coupled with that, he was looking for an impressive individual who could work with Bill, and even accompany him on trips at home and abroad as a top Assistant. Sales skills were ‘a given’ as Bill requires everyone in his organisation to be good at sales.
David Bloch: I am the MD of Brightwater Recruitment and my style tends to be empathetic, strong, passionate and focussed. I am an excellent reader of people and naturally empathise with them, at the same time as being able to view the candidates dispassionately, as an interviewer must.
Mairead Fleming: Is the Deputy MD of Brightwater and is a very hard working, honest, forthright, organised and intelligent person. She is fast, efficient and effective. Decisive, she is surprisingly sensitive and insightful with it. People are sometimes intimidated by her strength, but always respect her.
Sheena Clohessy: Is a Human Resources Consultant and she meets and performs psychometric tests on the candidates before the show starts. She is then able to watch how they progress through the show. A really warm lady off air, on air she is cool, dispassionate and analytical.
Gavin Duffy: Well known for his role on Dragon’s Den, he is hired by Bill to dig deep, rough up the candidates a bit and see what they’re made of. I had the dubious pleasure of watching him trying to break through Niamh’s guard and he was brilliant! However, the measure of the man is that when he came out, he explained how impressed he’d been by Niamh’s strength and ability. On air he is astute, tough, insightful and ruthless, missing nothing. Off air he is funny and great company.
All 4 interviewers agreed that Niamh and Michelle should go through and that Panos and Will should be let go. For the role that Bill wants, we recommended Niamh over Michelle, but it was a close thing. What I’m guessing is, it will ultimately depend on whether Bill is more tempted by Niamh’s e-marketing experience, or by Michelle’s sales experience… as well as by her age and life experience. NB. Bill absolutely decides who he wants and while he listens and watches, he ultimately makes the decision. Indeed for TV, the Producers wanted Barry to get through to the interview section as he would have made fascinating TV, but Bill fired him. So who will Bill Hire?
Last night, weather or no, we held an Apprentice party and had a full house! I admit I was surprised, but I think it is a measure of the popularity of The Apprentice that people were prepared to come even in that weather. We also had Panos, Will, Nagaite, Sarah and Steve Raynor come for the evening as well as the production company, ShinAwil. Such a nice bunch, I was most interested to speak to Steve Raynor about how much he’s enjoyed his job and how well it’s going altogether. Now a short plug for some of the Apprentices who are available for work: Will, Nagaite and of course, one of next week’s finalists…!