Interview Do’s and Don'ts

Lessons from BBC's Apprentice


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Interview Dos and Don'ts - lessons from BBC's Apprentice

I have worked as a Headhunter for many years and I always look forward to the Interview round on the Apprentice*.

It is an excellent guide for interviewers as to how NOT to conduct an interview. I realise that the interviews are edited for maximum entertainment value, and the annual demonstration of hectoring, poor listening skills and bad manners on the part of the Interviewers never ceases to entertain me, for one. However, this is a BLOG for people who are sitting on the other side of the desk and there were some good illustrations on the show last night as to how to perform well at Interview.

What can we learn?

Preparation. Leah has moved from also-ran to front-runner in no small part on the strength of her performance in the interview round. She was very well prepared. She clearly impressed all of the interviewers with her mastery of her brief. She knew her numbers and she knew her market. In contract Francesca did not know her numbers and elements of her business plan were literally plucked out of thin air (£5 million anyone?) Lesson? Be Prepared.

Passion. Leah and Neil both stood out for their passionate self-belief. This was clear from the way they spoke, their posture, the way they held eye contact; they were animated and convincing. By contrast Rebekah seemed diffident and unsure and Jordan came across as somewhat smug. Lesson? It’s important to be passionate and enthusiastic in an interview, it is infectious.

Assertion. It has been pointed out that Luisa has at times been strident and overbearing but she has listened to feedback and has become much more aware of her impact upon others. In the interview, when challenged, she asserted herself in just the right way. A good interviewer will challenge you. They do this to see if you have some fight in you. But also to see how well you have prepared and whether you believe in yourself. When challenged, push back. Lesson? Stand up for yourself.

Listening. Neil clearly emerged as one of Lord Sugar’s favourite candidates. But he fell at the last hurdle because he did not listen to the Interviewers. They all recognised that his Business Plan was flawed, and gave him several opportunities to re-think. He did not listen, however, and as a result went home. An interview is a two-way process. Listen to what the interviewer is saying, and look also for the non-verbal messages they are sending you. Be prepared to think on your feet. Lesson? Listen and react.

Truth. Don’t make claims in a CV or at interview that you can’t back up. Jordan’s Rubik’s Cube claim was asking for trouble, and he got it! If the turnover of your business is £5 million – well it better be; I think Rebekah got off very lightly for that particular bit of creative thinking. Your CV must be an accurate record, and it does not pay to exaggerate or obfuscate: you will be caught out.  Lesson? Tell the Truth, in person and in print.  

If you would like some expert help preparing for an interview take a look here Live Interview Preparation with your CV Coach.

*this article refers to the 2013 series of The Apprentice.       



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