The Apprentice analysed…

Each week we watch as Sir Alan Sugar yells ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’ at one of The Apprentice wannabes.

More deliciously salacious is watching these wannabes trying to make the most of Sir Alan’s tasks. With only one six-figure salary on offer the contestants declare all out war to get their hands on the prize.

Inevitably, this raises questions about the ethics used by some in the reality programme. Our expert panel of employment lawyers discuss the legal issues raised in this show.

05 June 2008: What happened this week…

The penultimate episode dispensed with the tasks in favour of a series of pressurised interviews with candidates in which Sir Alan drafts in four business buddies to help out – including Birmingham City FC Managing Director Karren Brady.

Lee is busted for lying on his CV, and also asked to demonstrate the ‘dinosaur impressions’ he had listed on the hobbies and interests section. Alex, meanwhile, hopes that his youth will mitigate his crimes and misdemeanours, endlessly repeating the line “I’m only 24.”

However both escapes the chop when Sir Alan reveals another surprise he has in store – that just one, not three candidates will be sacked, leaving a final of four candidates. Lucinda is the one…

Alan Nicholson, McGrigors

Interviewing, or, as Lee would put it, “arse-chewing”, is an employment law minefield. Many businesses fail to appreciate that their recruitment processes can be scrutinised under the anti-discrimination microscope.

Spare a thought then for Sir Alan’s recruitment panel, trying hard not to discriminate against a lip-sucking holiday rep and a reverse pterodactyl.

Yeah, yeah – so Lee lied on his CV. Very naughty; grounds for withdrawing any offer; yada yada yada. What’s more concerning to me, however, is that his CV listed dinosaur impressions as a hobby.

Though if he managed to spell pterodactyl correctly, I’d give him the job (even if he is a winker).

Alex’s ultra-defensive stance on his age may be down to a common misapprehension about our age discrimination laws. Unlike in the US, where legislation protects only older workers, UK laws deal with all discrimination on grounds of age, including discrimination on the grounds of youth.

Anyway Alex, dynamism and agility aren’t peculiar to 24 year-olds. Can you do a reverse pterodactyl? I didn’t think so.

Emma Sanderson, Withers

So Lee, Clare, Helene and Alex made it through to the final despite – or perhaps because of – their cheating, chatting and ratting.

Lucinda avoided these controversial interview techniques but still found no favour with Sir Alan, who seemed persuaded that playing a little dirty at interview is not such a heinous crime. But is life so sweet for interviewees in the real world?

Take Lee’s creative CV. Most people would accept a little bit of ‘truth manipulation’ as par for the course, but it is surprising just how many people tell full-blown, whopper-sized fibs – mainly about qualifications and earnings.

However employers are getting wily and the risks for individuals are getting greater.

Pre-employment screening is now commonplace and individuals have landed in jail over their CV tall tales.

To this day, it amazes me that a job applicant who applied for a job with a pre-employment screening company didn’t figure this out before he embellished his CV (true story).

I’ve even heard of lawyers lying about their degree results to secure their City training contracts. Though surely that can’t be true…

Hannah Ford, Stevens & Bolton

Forget the interviews, this week’s mind games played out on the reception’s red sofas.

Like the hyped-up swot you were advised to avoid on exam day, Lee busied himself by reminding the contenders how nervous they should be. Never was a truer word spoken.

Upstairs, Sugar’s headhunter was waiting for him, ‘smoking-gun’ fax from Thames Valley University in hand. Two hours and a ‘reverse pterodactyl’ impression later, Lee was back on the sofa in stunned silence on a CV mis-rep charge.

Predictably, the interview sessions were a fertile ground for discrimination claims.

Claire schmoozed up interviewer Paul Kemsley, retorting that she’d been lusting to plant a smacker on him, while Karen Brady’s flirtatious “personality” testing of the pouting Alex also made for uncomfortable viewing.

Only a bold (or naïve) employer would adopt that line of questioning with a female candidate without fear of reprisal.

In a shock twist, Alex squealed on Lucinda’s lapse in confidence. A flash of pillar-box red and fishnets, and she was gone….

Juliette Franklin, Russell Jones & Walker

Lovely Lucinda finally departs, giving us time to reflect on the thorny topic of dress codes.

For all of Lucinda’s complaints about being treated differently, would Suralan have put up with Claire arriving as the local lollipop lady?!

How many witterings about someone being 24 are allowed before everyone in the room has an age discrimination claim? Was Alex’s revelation that Lucinda didn’t want the job a protected disclosure?

And what of the interviewers – imagine the boardroom had they been candidates!

“I ran a football club at 23.”

“I ran my own business at 22.”

“I sold my grandmother whilst at primary school.”

“That’s nothing; I was trading nappy futures in nursery!”

On a serious note, was Helene’s choice of language appropriate for interview? Should the interviewers have questioned whether Lee’s spelling on his CV could highlight the possibility of dyslexia?

And, yet more bullying of Lucinda – should it be unlawful to discriminate against someone on grounds of accent, class or, more importantly, being “zany”?

And so to the final – are the FOUR best candidates really going forward? Bring it on!

Ellie Hibberd, Dawsons

I thought last night would be about the interviewers’ inappropriate behaviour, but it was actually the interviewees who didn’t know how to behave:

– Claire arrived in something more like a traffic cop’s hi viz outfit than a business suit.

– Lee’s (in)famous pterodactyl impression was a dubious start to his interview, but let’s be honest, the subsequent combination of the spelling mistakes in his CV and the perpetuation of his blatant lies about his qualifications when given the chance to own up really should have kicked him into touch.

– Claire’s suggestion of using her ‘feminine charms’ was wholly unsuitable, saying of interviewer Paul Kemsley, “He’s hot. I should’ve leant over the desk and sucked his lips off”.

-Maybe we should forgive him because he’s “only 24”, but in the boardroom Alex showed himself to be the snake I’ve long suspected him to be.

– Helene wrote off her competitors as “15 gobshites”.

Lucinda wasn’t the right person for Sir Alan but had I been interviewing the other four, I certainly would have sacked at least two more of them.

Who’s going to take the title? And who should have taken it? Our pundits’ verdicts:

Alan: Claire should win: if Sir Alan can get her to shut up long enough to get a word in edgeways, picking her would make up for his mistake of picking Michelle over the Badger in series two. But Alex will actually win – I can’t imagine Lee and Claire creating an aftershave any man would wear. And with a Helene/Alex final, pretty boy Alex will be default winner as Sugar has it in for Helene.

Emma: Claire’s going to win. She seems to have the best relationship with Sir Alan, and people recruit on gut instinct more than anything else. But Raef should have won: he’s bright, funny and ridiculously camp. Just what every organisation needs.

Hannah: Barring major blunders, motormouth Claire will win because Sir Alan is cuckoo for her money-hungry sales skills.
Silent assassin Alex should win because he’s got the most untapped potential and is therefore true Apprentice material.

Juliette: Lee’s a liar and a bully, Alex came unstuck at interview and untrustworthy Helene’s a miserable meanie – would totally kill any sense of fun at work and the Sugardaddy would have his staff resigning in droves. Claire’s gobby, full of it and a bit of a bully, but she’ll win because Lee lied & Alex gave up at interview.

Ellie: I think Claire will win because she’s learned to play the politics best. I also think she should win but because she is, at this point, the best candidate out of, let’s face it, a bad bunch. For the record, the Dawsons Employment Team’s preferred finishing order is as follows: Claire, Lee, Helene, Alex.

click here to see what the bloggers had to say last week.