Three series in and the majority of the wannabes on the latest instalment of The Apprentice are still deluding themselves.
Almost every single remaining contestant hoping to land the £100,000-a-year job with Sir Alan Sugar has failed to learn one of the biggest lessons of the previous shows.
They still cannot come to terms with the fact that style won’t win the glittering prize for them, they need a lot more substance to impress the multi-millionaire businessman.
Their lack of awareness is understandable, however, simply because it is a fairly common mistake.
Think for a moment. How many people have you worked with who are all flash and no dash?
You know the sort. They dress sharply, they speak confidently, they glad-hand with the people they think will smooth their passage onward and upward, but they don’t actually appear to do anything of any note in their day-to-day work.
In fact, for a real indication of the sort of character I’m referring to, think back to the other two series of The Apprentice and cast an eye on the latest cohort of the six-figure salary hopefuls and you’ll be able to spot them quite easily.
We were treated to a first ever double firing in the latest installment, with both the apparently homesick Ifti Chaudhri and the woeful team leader Rory Laing hearing the dreaded words that ended their participation.
Both are classic examples of the style over substance approach. Ifti certainly said all the right things in week one, but aside from the motivational (sic) gobbledygook he contributed as much as he did in the second challenge – absolutely nothing.
Rory was anonymous in week one and is probably wishing he’d stayed floating stylishly around the background in week two as well. Sharply dressed, well spoken, apparently well-connected but completely ineffectual.
Elsewhere, Katie Hopkins as leader of the winning Stealth team took the majority of the plaudits – although her pitch presentation, in common with everyone else taking part, was abysmal. Simon Ambrose and Lohit Kalburgi were the only others in week two to display the right sort of mettle required, but there is so much more to do.
The others are still adopting the “he or she who shouts loudest is best” approach and failing to display the sort of maturity you want from senior executives – Tre Azam being the classic example. Tre actually speaks sense much of the time, but the way in which he presents himself and his opinions is horrendous.
It is not so easy to pick a winner at this early stage of The Apprentice, just like the previous two series, because the real contenders have yet to show their hand.
In both series one and two, the winner has been the underdog. Largely overshadowed by a seemingly more self-confident and certainly a more bombastic rival, Sir Alan Sugar opted against style and chose substance instead.
In series one, Tim Campbell landed the prized job. But it was Saira Khan who had stolen most of the headlines leading up to the final programme.
Equally, in series two it was Michelle Dewberry who was triumphant despite many predicting that it was Ruth “The” Badger who was an odds-on favourite.
Is it a coincidence that both Saira and The Badger have set out to forge TV careers for themselves after Sir Alan Sugar decided not to hire them?
Those who can, get on and do it. Those who can’t, present TV shows about it.
At the moment, in series three, we are still at the point where the irritants are stealing the show. They’re the annoying, overbearing, arrogant, superficial ones who might well survive to the final stages but still offer little in the way of substance required of the type of senior executive Sir Alan Sugar is aiming to appoint.
They are hogging the limelight at the moment, just the same way their type does in many offices around the country, but they are simply helping to boost the ratings rather than posing a realistic challenge for the top job.
The show itself also requires a bit more substance. Possibly we’ll start to get it next week when the contestants’ entrepreneurial credentials will really be put to the test.
I would still like to see Sir Alan’s shadows – Nick and Margaret – getting stuck into the contestants more vigorously. Their facial expressions and body language often scream their feelings, but a few cutting remarks could help the wannabes and the series itself in the long run.
It is also worth noting that both series winners so far – Tim Campbell and Michelle Dewberry – have now left Sir Alan’s company and set up their own business with their mentor’s full backing.
Despite the surprise many expressed at his final decision in both series, it appears the man himself has been delighted with his choice.
Yet on the evidence of the first two programmes of series three, few of the contestants seem to have done sufficient homework on their prospective boss to have grasped this fairly fundamental lesson.