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My #Apprentice Audition Experience Left Me Cold

A frigid February morning in London. Tottenham Court Road tube station closed for upgrade, so a Central line train from Buckhurst Hill to Holborn and a walk through the quiet office canyons, tourists and street cleaners. Saturday. Counting Pret A Mangers. Nasty head cold, so into Boots for some dirt cheap painkillers and antihistamine tablets. There's another guy in a suit. It is Saturday.

"Apprentice?" I ask. He nods, smiles uneasily.

The email from the producers is drilled into me. Your interview time is 12:15. Please arrive on time (but no more than 15 minutes early) or we may not be able to see you. It's noon. I see a long queue outside the studio, decide on a Pret espresso. Probably the sixth Pret I'd seen.

So to the line. An hour at least out on the street, chatting to the other candidates around me. A guy tells me he's been through it before and that I should expect to have 30 seconds to pitch and to stick to 30 seconds.

Good advice. Even though we are technically competing against each other.

Due to the volume of applicants and the nature of the day, the selection process may be very short, but you should allow three hours in duration, possibly longer in the event of unforeseen delays. When you arrive, you will be asked to explain very briefly why you think you are a suitable candidate for The Apprentice. Some candidates may be asked to leave after this stage - so please note that it is possible that you may be required for only a very short time.
Please take into consideration your travel time to and from the venue and the possible duration of your stay.
Please come dressed in business wear.
Please note also that water will be provided at the venue but no other refreshments.
Unfortunately, due to the large numbers of applicants, we will be unable to provide any feedback in relation to the decisions made during the selection process.

Into the expansive, marbled lobby for another hour. Security guys - suits and earpieces - check documentation.

A copy of your passport to include; the front cover, any pages that contain personal details about you, any page with your photograph, any page containing your signature, any page containing an expiry date and any page containing a UK immigration endorsement. * If you do not have a passport, please bring a copy of your birth certificate and a form of photo identification, such as a driving licence. You will have to bring the original of any photocopied documents at a later stage if successful.
Proof of address (for example a utility bill).
Your up to date CV.
A colour passport photograph (taken within the last month).
Full application form (Download and print here)
If possible please type in your answers so we will be able to read them clearly and print a copy to bring with you
This form must be signed by you.
Applicant release form (Download and print here)
Please read this carefully. If you accept the terms, complete your personal details on the first page. must be signed by you where indicated. The contributor release form gives us permission to film, record and retain footage of you during the interview process.
Please note that due to the volume of people attending the interviews we will not be able to discuss the contributor release form with individuals or any proposed amendments. If you attend the interview with an amended contributor release form it may mean that you miss your interview slot and risk the opportunity to progress your application further. IMPORTANT NOTE Please note that if you fail to bring the above documentation, and completed and signed copies of the Application Form and Applicant Release Form you may not be permitted to take part in the selection process and will therefore miss the opportunity to be selected for inclusion in the programme.

A woman doesn't have a UK work permit and is sent away, dream crushed just as she got in the door.

We were taken to the lifts in groups of 12, by production assistants wearing the big earpiece mics so loved by the TV community. Up a few floors - TV production is big business, apparently hugely profitable - to what must be the staff canteen and general production waiting area, where the audiences get cheap booze before the recording. QI is playing on a big screen, sound off. A couple of staff at reception desks go through all the documents, make copies, allow us through to the chairs. Chairs! There are jugs of tap water and plastic cups. Printouts are taped throughout the space where maybe a hundred people wait, saying Do not talk.

I use this quiet time, at least another hour, to go over my pitch again and again in my head, getting it down to 30 seconds exactly. My name is called and, with 11 others, I'm taken to a small rehearsal studio, numbers on the floor, a man and a woman. Stand behind a number. He's got a stopwatch. 30 seconds to make your pitch, numbers called at random. People go over the 30 and are stopped mid-sentence. I make my pitch and it's good, bang on time. My business proposition is an original app in the financial sector. It's a good idea.

After the pitches, four of us are selected to go to the next stage and the others are thanked for their time. Another elevator ride to a half-used office space, some desks full of the clutter of paperwork and personal effects, other desks bare, some chairs and a waiting room. A view of the British Museum, just a block or two away. I'd hoped to get down to see the Rosetta Stone after the audition. After a couple of hours, the production assistants brought packets of Walkers crisps and cans of fizzy drinks and apologies. Some candidates were unhappy at the endless waiting and made this abundantly clear. I chatted with a Scottish guy and we wondered if this was part of the process.

My name was called and I was led to a room that looked like a smaller canteen, tables set up, maybe a dozen one-on-one interviews in progress. A woman interviewed me for about twenty minutes, along the lines of the questions from the application form. How would someone who knows you well describe your worst points? What intimidates you? What makes you angry? What is the worst lie you have ever told? What is your greatest regret and why? Describe something you would do if you knew you would not get caught? And some businessy questions. What's the difference between gross profit and net profit? Some mental arithmetic. What's 16 times 24? Or something similar. After a long day of waiting, this is hard. I try to focus on my business proposition, which is strong. I get the impression that my business idea is not so important.

Into the night with other candidates, single file. It's dark and the museum is long closed. Oxford Street is buzzing. I pick up some souvenirs.

Cheap, plastic tat. This may be a long day for you but we hope you enjoy the experience and we look forward to meeting you.

I don't get a callback. I don't know if any of the hundreds who shared that day did. I see the first episode of The Apprentice Series 11 and I wonder about the truth, the reality of it all.


The links to application form and release form are live - well worth a read.

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