How NOT to conduct interviews – a TV masterclass

I watched the interview round of The Apprentice the other day. What an episode it was! I sat in impotent silence as Alan Sugar’s ‘titans of industry’ ground the dreams of the five hopefuls to dust before dismissing them from the room, crushed, dejected, and occasionally in tears.

Business plans

Only one of the five business plans sounded credible to me. The other four appeared to be based on fantasy mathematics and blind optimism. One candidate underestimated the cost of rent by £300k per year, and had forgotten that she would need to buy stock. Another expected her employees to work for free – not likely in the current climate – and a third confused turnover with profit and then admitted that she was ‘no good with numbers’.

Can this be true? Is this ridiculousness a true reflection of how the average 25-year-old in 2023 thinks?

There’s plenty of information available online if you want to learn how to run a business or put together a plan.

(I happen to think that basic business skills should be taught in schools – along with personal finance, critical thinking, and self-defence, but that’s for another blog.)

But however ignorant or misguided these candidates were, they didn’t deserve the treatment they received in the interview rooms.

Interview styles

It didn’t take the titans long to identify the flaws in the proposals put before them. They wasted no time on small talk, and they showed not the slightest bit of courtesy to their interviewees. On the contrary, they let rip straight out of the blocks, and didn’t stop until the interview was rudely terminated (by them) – or until they made their interviewees cry.

Karen Brady (‘Baroness Brady to you’) even had a box of tissues ready under the desk for this.

Obviously it’s a TV interview situation and therefore not true to life, but in all my years of recruitment experience I’ve never heard of such disgraceful interviewing methods by any of our clients. Frankly, if I did hear of it happening – I wouldn’t want to work with them again.

A better way

As the interviewee – be as prepared as you can for the job you’re going for. For example, if you’re applying to be Lord Alan Sugar’s business partner, educate yourself about the difference between turnover and profit, and watch previous editions of the show in order to know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Having said that – I think this was the most brutal one yet.

As the interviewer – be polite, don’t snigger at your interviewee’s lack of experience, give constructive feedback rather than dismissing their efforts as ‘rubbish’, and give praise if there are any positives. Don’t string them along though – if there is no chance of them getting the job, it’s fair enough to say this. As long as you don’t actively try to make them cry.


As a lesson in how not to conduct an interview, this show was a masterclass.

My way is better. Doesn’t make for such good telly though.