The Apprentice season 6: Would you employ any of the final 8?

Eight down, eight to go. With half of the original 16 candidates looking to become Lord Alan Sugar‘s Apprentice now departed after Sandeesh Samra became the latest victim of the boardroom last week, let’s run the rule over those who remain in the running for the £100,000 job.

First, though, some facts and stats:

  • Each of the eight surviving candidates has now been project manager on one task. Only two – Jamie and Laura – failed to win their respective tasks.
  • Christopher (Farrell) and Stella are the only two candidates not to have faced possible elimination in the boardroom so far.
  • Stella has the best overall record, having been on the winning team in six of the seven tasks to date.
  • Chris (Bates) is the least successful survivor, with a record of two wins and five losses.
  • Chris and Stuart are the only remaining candidates to have survived two boardrooms. (Sandeesh was finally fired in her fourth boardroom, Alex at his third.)
  • Four of the candidates have faced each other head-to-head as project managers. Stella defeated Laura in episode two’s Beach Accessory task, while Chris beat Jamie in the week four Selling to Trade assignment.

Let us now examine the runners and riders, in alphabetical order:

Chris Bates (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Chris Bates

Profile: Investment banker, 23.

Record: 2-5 (1-0 as project manager – Selling to Trade). Two boardroom appearances.

Superhero name: Mister Monotone.

Most likely to: Send you to sleep during a sales pitch.

Strengths: Willing to try his hand at everything, from sales to directing a TV ad to wearing a silly oven costume. Dependable, hard-working, intelligent. Articulate and can make concise and precise points under pressure in the boardroom. Young, with potential to learn and grow.

Weaknesses: Appearances in the last two boardrooms suggest a degree of over-confidence. Monotone and generally uninspiring. Doesn’t drop enough aitches for Sugar’s liking?

Employability rating: 7/10. The best of the boys.

Christopher Farrell (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Christopher Farrell

Profile: Mortgage broker, 28.

Record: 4-3 (1-0 as project manager – Advertising). No boardroom appearances.

Superhero name: Backroom Boy.

Most likely to: Suggest something sleazy involving tassels or a sitcom-style double entendre.

Strengths: An excellent organiser and process manager. 100% dependable when asked to complete a job. Attention to detail.

Weaknesses: Alarming tendency to sleaziness. Proved to be a poor leader and lacked vision as project manager.

Employability rating: 4/10. As his superhero name suggests, a dependable backroom boy, not a front man.

Jamie Lester (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Jamie Lester

Profile: Overseas property developer, 28.

Record: 4-3 (0-1 as project manager – Selling to Trade). One boardroom appearance.

Superhero name: Back-Seat Driver Man.

Most likely to: Tell you what a bad job you’re doing, then tell the camera what a bad job you’re doing.

Strengths: Sales ability. A hard worker with plenty of drive and energy. Capable of coming up with ideas. Plenty of self-confidence.

Weaknesses: Self-confidence too often comes across as arrogance. Lost control of his sub-team as project manager (but then, it did have the uncontrollable Melissa in it). Sulks when he doesn’t get his way and generally exudes a lot of negative energy. Not backward in coming forward when asked to provide “excellent feedback” on other people’s (lack of) performance.

Employability rating: 5/10. He’s not bad, but he’s nowhere near as good as he keeps telling everyone he is.

Joanna Riley (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Joanna Riley

Profile: Cleaning company owner, 25.

Record: 5-2 (1-0 as project manager – Sausages). One boardroom appearance.

Superhero name: The Cleaner.

Most likely to: Be getting on with things.

Strengths: Volunteered to be project manager on the always chaotic week one task and won, demonstrating she is not afraid to stick her neck out. After some fiery early exchanges with Melissa, has responded to boardroom feedback and calmed down noticeably. Sells well. Calm under pressure. Pragmatic.

Weaknesses: Tendency to run off at the mouth. Efficient rather than inspiring.

Employability rating: 7/10. The dark horse – and she is getting stronger as the series progresses.

Laura Moore (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Laura Moore

Profile: Business development manager, 22.

Record: 3-4 (0-1 as project manager – Beach Accessory). One boardroom appearance.

Superhero name: The Whinger.

Most likely to: Complain about how her skills are being under-utilised on the current task.

Strengths: Um, er. She sold some DVDs.

Weaknesses: Dismal performance as project manager on the Beach Accessory task, where her people management skills were shambolic and she made a nonsensical decision to deny Boots exclusivity which cost her team the win. Has yet to shine in any way, being generally overshadowed by bigger, louder personalities. On the last two tasks, she has been given minor jobs away from the spotlight, perhaps an indication her fellow contestants don’t rate her contribution either – and has then complained endlessly about it.

Employability rating: 2/10. A walking, talking disaster.

Liz Locke (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Liz Locke

Profile: Investment banker, 24.

Record: 4-3 (1-0 as project manager – Fashion). One boardroom appearance.

Superhero name: Doe Eyes.

Most likely to: Be found tapping furiously at a calculator.

Strengths: Strong grasp of the numbers and finances of each task. Has often worked hard in the background, but also performed well leading the Fashion task. Builds strong rapport with both customers and suppliers, and has sold well too. Seems to be well-liked among her fellow contestants, despite clearly being one of the strongest individuals.

Weaknesses: Her relatively hands-off approach meant her team were an hour late opening their store on the Fashion task (although they still won). Has yet to show she can make tough decisions under pressure.

Employability rating: 8/10. Has tremendous potential, but perhaps lacks a little in terms of experience and strong leadership skills.

Stella English (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Stella English

Profile: Head of business management, 30.

Record: 6-1 (1-0 as project manager – Beach Accessory). No boardroom appearances.

Superhero name: Ice Queen.

Most likely to: Be on the winning team.

Strengths: Cool, calm and collected. Credible and professional, numerate and business-savvy. Showed strong management skills in corralling an out-of-control men’s team to victory in the Beach Accessory task. Knows when to step forward and when to take more of a back-seat to let other people utilise their strengths (and, where necessary, take the fall). Well-organised, thorough and a good planner.

Weaknesses: A good businesswoman, but does she have the entrepreneurial drive Sugar wants? And how will she react to being brought into the boardroom?

Employability rating: 9/10. The best all-round package of ability, experience and confidence.

Stuart Baggs (image courtesy of welovebusiness.co.uk)

Stuart Baggs

Profile: Telecoms entrepreneur, 21.

Record: 3-4 (1-0 as project manager – DVD). Two boardroom appearances.

Superhero name: Syndrome (as in the character from the film The Incredibles – see picture, right).

Most likely to: Spout self-promoting soundbites at his teammates, the camera and random passers-by in the street.

Strengths: Young (at 21, he is the youngest candidate, with plenty of time to round off his many rough edges). Unquenchable self-belief and drive. Selling ability. Makes decisions fast. Capable of flashes of entrepreneurial brilliance – he is the candidate most likely to earn Lord Sugar a million pounds out of nothing …

Weaknesses: … But is also the candidate most likely to oversee a loss-making and litigation-riddled disaster as a result of his impulsive, instinctive nature and a lack of attention to detail. Dictatorial, with appalling people management and listening skills. Unlikely to be effective in a team environment, as his natural tendency is to put himself at the centre of everything.

Employability rating: 1/10. He could be great, but he is just as likely to lose the shirt off his back. Needs to work for himself, not for someone else – so would consequently make a terrible Apprentice.

So there you have it. My opinion of the candidates evolves with every passing episode, but I would certainly say the girls are looking stronger than their male counterparts overall. Stuart is undoubtedly the most entertaining candidate, but he is just a train wreck waiting to happen – when it does, it will be spectacular.

I will be amazed if Stella, Liz and Joanna do not form three of the final four, and for me Stella remains very much the one to beat, as she has been since her stint as project manager in week two. That eye-catching 6-1 record cannot be a coincidence, and it should give her a get out of jail free card should she endure a bad week. Mark her down for the final, and I would make her no worse than even money for the overall win. (So, that’s cursed her then.) We shall see how events unfold over the next five weeks, starting with this week’s jaunt to Germany …

Link: BBC Apprentice home page

Previous episode reviews

Episode 6.01: Sausages

Episode 6.02: Beach accessory

Episode 6.03: Bakery

Episode 6.04: Selling to trade

Episode 6.05: Fashion

Episode 6.06: Advertising

Episode 6.07: DVD