Last night’s episode of the BBC show illustrated why it is critical to assess candidates, and not simply trust their enthusiasm.
Spoiler warning: if you don’t want to know who was fired from The Apprentice last night, look away now.
Comedian W.C. Fields famously said: “Never work with animals or children.”
In last night’s episode of The Apprentice, the challenge of selling products at a pet show proved to be the undoing of candidate Ruth Whiteley.
Despite working in sales training, Ruth failed to sell a single cat tower during a whole day of exhibiting at ExCel in London.
Ruth was fired because she confused Enthusiasm for Competence. She confidently engaged potential customers and chatted to them enthusiastically about the cat towers but was unable to convert a single discussion into a sale.
In interviews, very often we select the extrovert who is confident and enthusiastic because we confuse enthusiasm for competence.
This is why, like Alan Sugar, you should use exercises rather than interviews to assess candidates. In interviews it is difficult to differentiate between the two.
In an exercise, the evidence is clear to observe and record and therefore assess.
There are four types of evidence that can be gained from assessment exercises. In order of validity (the highest is first and is the preferred approach), they are:
- Observed – exercises (roleplays, presentations, tasks)
- Tests (online tests)
- Reported (interviews – where a person reports who they are and how they interact)
- Inferred (questionnaires – where you infer from the questionnaire how a person will be)
The lesson is to always make sure you include observed exercises as part of your assessment process e.g. a sales task, role play or presentation.
Just make sure it is not a group exercise. As I have written before, this is the main area where The Apprentice’s selection process falls down.
- Dr Amanda Potter is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist, and the CEO of Zircon Management Consulting.