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At last, The Apprentice is returning to our screens for an eleventh series, with 18 new candidates competing to become Lord Sugar’s business partner and win a £250,000 investment. From hairdressing and building to corporate management, events and charities, the nine men and nine women taking on the challenge certainly have a range of careers and backgrounds – and we’ve got a feeling it’s going to be another gem of a series. Aiding Lord Sugar on his quest once again is the fabulous Karren Brady (w&h columnist), alongside one of Lord Sugar’s trusted advisors, Claude Littner, who replaces Nick Hewer. Lord Sugar tells us more…
You’re mixing up the teams (boys and girls) for the first time in episode one, what was the motivation behind that?
We always look to do something a little bit different. There’s an expectation of the candidates when they are in the boardroom where they think they know what’s going to happen next, so it always amuses me to throw a curveball occasionally. I mention many times on meeting them in the boardroom for the first time that they shouldn’t underestimate what’s going to happen – and that’s one example.
Does it worry you that people might be using the show to get onto reality shows, rather than to try and get a job with you?
We do our best to try and recognise that at a very early stage when recruiting people – we look at their CVs and there’s a lot of in depth investigation done about who they are. Fortunately, the social media availability enables us to have a look at people’s claim to fame on their Facebook pages and all that type of stuff. I see them first of all and there may be some people who are there for the wrong reason – but they don’t last through the process.
What role do you play in selecting the contestants?
anything to do with production, you have a team of people who have done
it before and it’s for that reason that they know what
kind of people will be suitable for the show and what kind of
people I’m looking for as a business partner. It’s a combination of
those experienced production people
together with consultation with me. We will have a
discussion when they start to hone in on the last 25 people or
something like that. It’s a very complex piece of science.
You see the candidates’ business plans at the start – how much does that influence who you hire and fire? First
of all, I just look at the headlines and as long as they’re
not objectionable to me, I have a complete open mind because I’m not going to do any of the work – you’re the
expert, you’re the person who wants to be in that business, I’m going to
just be there as a mentor and an advisor. The business plans get
parked, then we get going. It’s not until we get to the very end –
episode 11 – that there’s a deep dive into
the business plans.
What do you think it is that keeps people watching the show year after year?
It’s very simple – the BBC and the production company and myself are not interested in gimmicks and trying to change things. If it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it. It’s the consistency of keeping things the same – with slight tweaks, such as mixing the teams up initially. I’m the same – getting a bit older, I suppose – but what’s not the same is the candidates, and it’s those candidates, who make for compelling viewing. It’s the uncertainty of what they’re going to say and do.
The Apprentice starts on 14 October on BBC One at 9pm. Episode two will air the following evening.
See our inside story with Lord Sugar and Karren Brady in the November issue of woman&home, out now.