Over the last few days, I have been following the constructive-dismissal case of Stella English and Sir Alan Sugar and am keen to hear both sides to this story. Clearly the ‘Apprentice’ program is constructed for our viewing (in all seriousness who can get ready in 20 minutes?) but there is a serious side to the whole process.   Recalling the gruelling process Stella went through in 2010 for what she felt was a perfect role she has ended up feeling like it “was all a PR stunt” but if that was the case why give up your well paid job in the City?  On balance, why would Sir Alan offer a £100,000 salary to someone in his company if he didn’t want or feel they could make a considerable business impact for him? 

After 10 weeks of challenging tasks and the interview week that every recruiter enjoys watching, Stella has since described the position she won as being an “overpaid lackey” but surely she has to take some responsibility of knowing what she was leaving her previous role for?  In contrast Sir Alan claims that once she had started he “began to think that perhaps the reality of work rather than the glamour of show business was beginning to bite with her.”  Throughout the process, he had had ample opportunities to get to know her personality and motivations so would have had a good idea of who he was employing? 

Although this is a TV show, these scenarios are not dissimilar to what can really happen in any recruitment process.  On average, a candidate is required to attend 3-5 interviews over a 12 week period or is some cases, even longer. You can’t help but get the feeling the emphasis is being placed on spreading and removing risk rather identifying talent.  Heineken has taken it to the other extreme and recently released a clip of how they try and interview completely differently for example; the interviewer takes you by the hand like a child and walks you to their office, or they suddenly fall on the ground. How much does either of these extremes actually tell the candidate about the role and organisation and interviewer about the candidate?  We often hear candidates saying that a role they have taken is “not what I expected” or has not offered them the opportunities they thought it would. Similarly, hiring managers may be disappointed that new recruits are not making the impact they would have expected as quickly as they would have liked. 

No job we ever take is guaranteed to be ‘the perfect one’ and we are all allowed that career blip so it gets you wondering: is there merit in lengthy, highly vetted interview processes or is it better to take a calculated risk based on an honest and engaging process?  

Debra Harris is a Consultant in our London office and doesn’t recommend fainting as part of the interview process.