We speak to former Apprentice-winner Mark Wright to get his views on the The Final Five – which airs tonight on BBC1 at 9pm.
Five Apprentice hopefuls Scarlet, Carina, Lottie, Lewis and Pamela go face-to-face with Lord Sugar’s partners and aides to dig deep into their backgrounds and business plans.
Over 5 million people will tune in tonight to see these candidates go through the motions, often described as the most terrifying part of The Apprentice process.
How do you prepare for The Final Five interviews?
Mark Wright: “The day before, you are given one full day to work on your business plan, from scratch and to add any insights or ideas from the previous weeks. You are given a laptop with Microsoft Word and no access to Internet.
You are placed in a separate room to all other candidates and a chaperone is watching you. Interestingly, it is the first time that you are pretty much alone in the process or not surrounded by other candidates. The preparation itself is a strange feeling.”
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What are the interviews like?
Mark Wright: “The interviews start in the morning, you are feeling fresh and full of energy. But as the day goes on, you are getting grilled, they are starting to wear you down and you feel really bad about yourself. You get hungry, you get tired and worn down and when you have your 5th or 6th hour of interviewing – that’s when the fireworks start to happen.
You only see the pinnacle on TV, but most of these interviews last an hour, and they mostly show you slipping up or at your worst.
You get tired and worn down and that’s when the fireworks start to happen.
In terms of the judges, you have two people like Claude (Littner) and Mike (Soutar) who are able to rip your business plan into pieces and then others like Linda (Plant) and Claudine (Collins) who dig deeper and play on your emotions.
They must have a team of researchers who are going through your CV, social media and getting references from your employers – and any weaknesses, big or small, will be exposed.
You leave there just feeling very bad about yourself, and then you have to go do it again and again.”
What is the best way to respond to this kind of grilling?
Mark Wright: “Don’t try outsmart these guys, or you will get your pants pulled down on national TV.
A lot of these candidates are in their 20s and you are coming up against someone in their 50s or 60s with tonnes more experience.
Don’t try outsmart these guys, or you will get your pants pulled down on national TV.
If you miss things out, say ‘yes I will add that in’ or ‘that’s a good point.’ You are not going to beat them or win an argument.
Just be honest – the truth will get you in more trouble.”
What do you think about this years’ candidates?
Mark Wright: “Once again the girls are coming up trumps with 4 female candidates out of the 5.
Interestingly, our finalists are a recruiter, digital marketer, Irish entrepreneur with a beauty product and bakery – literally all companies that Lord Sugar has already invested in. There seems to be a pattern here.
I think Scarlet reminds me the most of myself. She is confident, very composed and has a natural business brain. She has a good future ahead of herself.”
Mark Wright won the Apprentice in 2014 and launched digital marketing agency Climb Online. To date, he is the most successful Apprentice candidate with over 50 staff members and an annual turnover of over £7 million this year.
The Apprentice Final Five airs tonight on BBC1 at 9pm.