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HR Insights - Extra  
 
THE APPRENTICE - Task Three 
“So your 'Jimmy Choos' became 'Jimmy Poos'” Lord Sugar, Episode 3 

Image supplied by www.tv.bt.com 
If you ask anyone who works in HR or Recruitment, they will always advise you that before you go for an interview, you should do your research beforehand; find out about the Organisation, their services/products, customers/users etc. and then demonstrate within the interview that you have actually done this. It struck me though, last night as I settled down to watch the latest episode of the Apprentice, that whilst this is a somewhat unconventional recruitment process, at its base level, that is exactly what it is… 
 
Why is it then, that none of these seemingly high-flying entrepreneurs have got the basics right and done their research?? 
 
I’ve only watched the Apprentice since it went ‘mainstream’ and transferred to BBC1, but in that time, what I have been able to ascertain is that; for each series, the same basic business skills are tested, the method by which those skills are tested is the same, so it is only the content-specific aspect of the task that changes year-on-year… Yet once again, the approach to the task – by both teams, but more especially by the ‘girls’ team, was so haphazard that it was inevitable that it would be a catastrophic failure… 
 
The task last night was the negotiation task; which as ever, comprises of the teams being given a list of items – some obvious, some not so and they then have to source those items and then negotiate the best rate possible at which to buy them. The team who loses this task is the team who spends the most money once any penalties for missing/incorrect items have been taken into account. 
 
The twist in this year’s task though was that half the team would be sourcing items in Kent, whilst the other half, channel-hopped across to France and consequently, some of the items would be best sourced in France whilst others would be best sourced in the UK…  
Presumably because of the timing of the ferries, what this task also brought was additional time to do the planning for the task. In previous years, the candidates have been given the task in the morning and have been expected to return to the Board room by 6 00 pm that evening. 
 
Did the candidates use this extra time wisely?? From what we saw on the programme, I would have to say that that would be a ‘big fat’ NO!!! In fact, the girls approach to the task was so shambolic, it prompted a quite unusual outburst from Karren, who normally manages to retain a calm composure – but which made for good viewing! 
Image obtained from keepcalm-o-matic.com 
Tuckman's Model of Team Development ~ 'Forming - Storming - Norming - Performing' 
Thinking about the formation of teams; that which has previously plagued boys’ teams in past years appears to have firmly taken hold within the girls team this year ~ that is, they don’t appear to have moved through any stage of Tuckman’s model of Team Formation as yet. The overwhelming bitchiness and back-stabbing amongst them might suggest that they are in the ‘storming’ stage; where members vie for position and power.  
However, if you watched them throughout last night’s task, they were all operating as individuals – they may have been forced to go around in a ‘cluster’, but that very definitely seemed to be more down to logistics than teamwork – i.e. Lord Sugar only provides two cars per team and they therefore had to travel around together!!! In fact, Jenny did make the point that ‘she would be able to do the task better if she was left to her own devices to get on with it…’ 
 
Communication amongst the girls also appears to be a real issue - look at how they dealt with the selection of the PM; a few of them were sat in a row and the remainder were stood behind forming a standing row, they didn’t make eye contact with each other and they each displayed very closed body language, suggesting the existence of a lot of conflict amongst the team. Vana, who was seated at the time and who had put herself up against Elle as PM, didn’t even turn around to engage with Elle or any of the other team members as she suggested they took the vote on who should be PM. Whilst she won the vote by a majority, it seemed evident that the team were in fact quite wary of her, as there was a lot of hesitancy as they raised their hands... But with that unanimous vote, we witnessed the third of the female PMs thus far, approaching the task in a highly autocratic style… Her concession to Elle was to make her the sub-team Manager in Kent, which she also did without turning around or making eye-contact with her. 
 
Poor communication skills were also evident in their lack of ability to listen to each other; I was very surprised that, at the point at which Vana raised her hand to silence Selina in the car, it did not result in ‘fisticuffs’… 
 
On learning that ‘leavers lace’ was a speciality lace from Calais, the search for that item was switched to the team in France; however, Vana gave short shrift to Jenny who tried to explain that her father was in the antiques business and that there would potentially be shops in Canterbury, Kent where they would be able to source the Louis Phillippe mirror and instead they were given the mussels in place of the lace… 
 
By the time they started looking for the mussels though, it was too late and although not shown on the main programme, it was revealed in the follow-up programme, ‘You’re Fired’ that they had in fact discovered that fishmongers did not have mussels in stock at that time and hence why they were shown foolishly trying to deplete supplies of mussels from local restaurants to no avail. 
 
Ultimately, the girl’s team was not able to secure the mirror in France or Kent and the penalties applied on this item were significant and is probably what cost the girls the task… At this point though, I would have to disagree with Lord Sugar; who posted on his Twitter feed during the programme that the 'clue' was in the name and that the mirror should have been an item sourced in France… A quick check on t’internet (and yes, I am aware that they don’t get access to this during the tasks!) shows that not only are there numerous antiques stores in the UK who carry Louis Phillippe mirrors, but there are also a good few of them based in Kent!!! 
 
Had they listened to Jenny and gone to antique stores in search of the mirror, they wouldn’t have ended up purchasing that ridiculously expensive dinghy and the saving from that, coupled with the removal of the penalties for not getting the mirror, might have given a different outcome… 
 
Once again, my focus has been on the girls and not the boy’s team; they weren’t particularly hot either; standing around waiting for an antiques shop to open in a time-bound task, didn’t demonstrate a particularly good use of time… And Rich, starting his negotiation at 20 cents higher than the price actually marked on the cheese, did not show him to be a particularly good negotiator; but despite their problems, they did manage to win a second task and stay under my radar… Next week, it looks as though the teams will be back to being mixed, so perhaps a different dynamic to look out for then… 
 
Back to the girls and Vana took Elle and Jenny back into the Boardroom; cattily (even though it was her who had said she didn’t want cattiness amongst the team!) describing Jenny as ‘deadwood’ as she did so and, having failed to inspire Lord Sugar over the three initial tasks, it was Jenny who faced the ‘fickle finger of fate’… 
 
 
 
 
Image obtained from picstopin.com 
But who should have gone? 
I picked up on a tweet earlier in the day from Claude, which gave the loosest of hints that more than one of the candidates was for the ‘chop’, but that turned out not to be the case. However, had the decision been down to me, I would have to say that both Vana and Elle would have been saying goodbye to the process… Vana for her bad judgement on the task, her inability to listen and unpleasant manner; Elle, on the other hand, would have been gone on the basis of her lack of decisiveness and inability to make a decision and stick to it when it came to the purchase of the dinghy, not to mention the lack of any negotiation skills!! 
What we learnt about the Candidates… 
 
Although she has now gone; we learnt that Jenny not only has to have the last word, but why use one last word when 73 will do… Her departing speech was worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow or Halle Berry’s Oscar acceptance speeches and her proclamation that it would indeed be Lord Sugar who would be knocking on her door for a job in the future was perhaps laughably delusional… 
Image obtained from newallphoto.blogspot.com 
... And then there were 15... 
 
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