Nick Hewer: I’d seem incompetent if I was an Apprentice contestant

Lord Sugar's aide explains why The Apprentice's candidates aren't quite as dim as they appear

From my point of view, having 20 contestants this year was awful! Following ten of them around, trying to write everything down – who said what to whom, how so-and-so reacted, what happened next – and then reporting it all back to high command… well, remembering their names was the least of my problems!

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Although Lord Sugar may appear to be more brutal in his culling of candidates this year, I wouldn’t say that widening the net, in terms of the number we had, jeopardised their quality. I’m not saying they are necessarily the brightest business brains in Britain, because the danger there would be that, first of all, those kind of people wouldn’t have the confidence to withstand the white-hot heat of this process, and secondly that nine million people might not actually understand them.

So what we’ve got are a group of confident, smart kids who may on occasion seem incompetent because of the immense pressure they’re under. It’s like some sort of pressure cooker in there. I’d look incredibly incompetent if I was thrown into that mix – common sense very often flies out of the window! They’re not all geniuses, but any frailties they may have are amplified ten-fold when they’re in The Apprentice hothouse. It’s a difficult place to be. So the winners really are extraordinary people and go on to be very successful.

Admittedly, others in the process don’t. All of the candidates apply to be on the show for the right reasons – they want to work with Lord Sugar and start a business. But sometimes they get a little flattered by having cameras stuck in their faces, and then the thing airs, and they’re walking down the street and cabbies are recognising them and then some agent gets onto them, thinking they can make a few quid, and before you know it, they think they’re Gina Lollobrigida!

Take Luisa Zissman from last year, for example: she’s actually a bright girl but decided to takes her clothes off at the drop of a hat, and that may be something she’ ll come to regret. Katie Hopkins has carved out a niche as a rent-a-right-wing-gob in the hope that by being nasty to everybody she’ll find enduring fame. But who am I to judge? I hope they’re very happy. 

As told to Alexia Skinitis

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The Apprentice is on BBC1 tonight (26th November) at 9:00pm