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The Worst Job Interview
I admit to having watched every second of both seasons of The Apprentice, the show where Donald Trump conducts a 15-week "job interview" to find an executive-level employee to run one of his companies. Last night, on December 16, 2004, Kelly Purdue, a 37-year-old ex-Army Ranger, became the second winner. The first winner, Bill Rancic, hails from the Chicago area and presently is overseeing the construction of the Trump apartment/hotel/retail complex on the Chicago River, which will when done be one damned tall building among shorter buildings.
Do I think Mr. Purdue unqualified? No, far from it. Were I hunting for a top-quality executive, heíd be a shoe-in. Thatís not the problem. The problem is the selection process itself. The way The Apprentice works, it is a contest. The team that sells the most, or gets the most thumbs-up from the reviewing group, wins. The losing team loses a member in the "board room," in reality a television set designed more for dramatic pop than corporate work. The deadly words come straight from Donald Trump: "Youíre Fired." The words already have a pop-slang connotation to them by virtue of their use in the top-rated TV spectacle.
"The Apprentice lets mediocre candidates "slip under the radar" by laying low on the winning team. Better candidates end up getting "fired" while marginal candidates end up going on to the next task."
The Apprentice lets mediocre candidates "slip under the radar" by laying low on the winning team. Better candidates end up getting "fired" while marginal candidates end up going on to the next task. Many pundits lamented Mr. Trumpís firing of "Bradford." He had the look and the chops to go all the way. But Bradford made a rash act. He won the first task and gained an "exemption" from being fired the next task, should his team lose. His team lost task #2 and he rashly surrendered his exemption. This ticked off Mr. Trump, who rightly canned Bradford. The pundits were wrong on this one; Trump was right on.
The two that really stung: "Stacie J." owns a Subway sandwich shop in Harlem. The rest of the female players except one ganged up on her, and in essence convinced Trump that Stacie was a nut job. He fired her based on the comments made by a group of people who were already known to him to be contentious and fraught with infighting and intrigues. Bad move. The woman cracked a joke about a "magic 8-Ball" toy. She was one of the stronger candidates and got dumped from consideration for no good reason.
Then "Pamela," who up until the moment she got "fired," was my choice, ended up in the "board room" in a close contest. Trump gave her, after being on two straight winning teams, the job of trying to unite the women who had just dumped Stacie J. She did so by being tough and rough, as was sorely needed. Her team lost by ten dollars! There were others who were there who had not pulled their weight, Pamela was wrongly fired.
In the end, marginal candidates like "Wes" and "Ivana" progressed further than superior ones like "Pamela" and "Stacie J." So, when the final five people were there, Ivana had a spot that, were things done differently, probably belonged to Pamela. Had Pamela made it to the final four, there would probably have been a different final two, and a different winner.
"The Apprentice viciously penalizes failure, although that is a critical part of forming a great executive. Trump himself has suffered setbacks and failures. He learns from them and progresses."
The Apprentice viciously penalizes failure, although that is a critical part of forming a great executive. Trump himself has suffered setbacks and failures. He learns from them and progresses. Part of choosing a great executive should be their ability and poise when coping with failure. Candidates that did well got booted.
Were I Donald Trump, I would restructure the "Board Room" so that both team leaders are required to present themselves and their recommended choices to be dumped. Then Trump could use advice from Carolyn and George (the executives who observe the tasks) to determine who deserves to get the boot. If a leader brings in people based on personal, not performance issues, then the leader can be dumped. If the leader brings in the poorest performers, then the whole of the process is satisfied. Early in the season, when "Jennifer C." got the boot, Bill Rancic sat in for George. He told her, emphatically, "This is not a game!"
If this is a real interview for a real job, then it ought not to be a game. Treating a job search like a game is indeed the worst job interview.