The interesting aspect of "The Apprentice" is it demonstrates that the traditional job interview and resume do not necessarily predict teamwork skills, task dedication, and job performance. And they certainly don't reveal any hidden agendas. In other words, a good indicator of potential may be to see a job applicant in action which is the point of "The Apprentice". People vying for a corporate position may hand over a sugar-coated resume and put on their best personality attire for the interview, but these are not necessarily the best indicator of strengths, weaknesses, and performance.
Briefly, "The Apprentice" involves 16 job candidates competing for the ultimate career opportunity: a position in real estate magnate Donald Trump's investment company. "The Apprentice" refers to the winner who will win a salaried position, learn the art of high stakes deal-making from the master himself, and, presumably, gain prime corporate connections. The position is a dream-come-true for those wanting to make more money than the GNP of some foreign countries. To entice the candidates, Trump shows off his private jet, his private luxury apartments replete with statues and artwork, his limos, his connections to celebrities, and other aspects of the life of a billionaire magnate.
The road to success is not easy. The group is divided into two teams that compete against each other. Each has a corporate-sounding name, such as Versacorps and Protégé Corporation. The teams are assigned tasks that entail an entrepreneurial venture such as creating advertising, selling merchandise, or negotiating. Teams select a project manager who provides the leadership and organizational skills to complete the task. If they win, the manager receives a lot of credit, particularly in the eyes of the final arbiter. If they lose, the manager may also become the scape-goat. Some of the tasks are monumentally difficult with only a day or two to complete. Tasks may involve creating a TV commercial, or print ad. Others may involve selling at a retail outlet or on the street.
The tasks bring out the best and worst in the participants. They often show immediately who is the most reliable, who is the most trustworthy, and who is hard working. And the tasks also expose who is not a good team player, who is inefficient, and who seems only out for themselves. The tasks invariably reveal in unexpected ways the strengths and weaknesses of the participants and in particular the project manager. How well the manager communicates with the team, delegates work, organizes time, and sets specific goals will largely determine the outcome, but it does not necessarily predict the winner.
The single-most telling aspect of someone's potential is when he or she is assigned as a project manager. Their real abilities as opposed to their self-propagated abilities immediately show through the veneer that cannot be hidden by a $100 silk tie or a beautiful makeover. Leadership qualities and/or weaknesses often become agonizingly obvious after only a few minutes. Those promoting themselves as top-notch leaders are not always as strong when put into a real-life leadership situation. It is always easier to "toot your own horn" than to actually engage in leadership. Project managers, even those on the winning teams, often do not formulate a cohesive strategy. They often believe that by diving off the deep end to complete the task at the first minute rather than taking a little time to organize and discuss how the task will be completed is more efficient. More often than not, members of an ill-strategized team are running around like headless chickens figuring it out as they go along, and in the long run they end up wasting far more time.
The winning team gets a taste of the high life, such as eating dinner at an exclusive restaurant, flying in a private jet, and/or meeting a celebrity. The losing team comes to the dreaded board room where Trump hears the lame excuses of the members and knocks off one or more of the contestants like pieces off a chess board with the now infamous "You're fired". Often, the project manager is held partially responsible for the team's loss, and may be the target of Trump's accusatory rhetoric. Every week, at least one person becomes a casualty from the losing team.
My least-favorite aspect of "The Apprentice" is the board room. While the tasks themselves bring out the strengths and weaknesses in the candidates, the board room often brings out the worst. Unfortunately, the rules of the game insist there is one winning team and one losing team, even if the competition was close. Members of the losing team start accusing each other, often ruthlessly, about who was at fault. And sometimes more than one person gets fired. I seldom see an under-performing candidate take responsibility for their actions in the board room. Kristi Frank and Kwame Jackson were possibly the only candidates who took full responsibility for her team's losses and received no recognition for this selfless act. For me, Kristi Frank and Kwame Jackson had the most integrity of all the candidates. However, Trump saw Kristi as weak and fired her, claiming she wasn't standing up for herself, which may mean he values ego more than integrity. No one should sacrifice their integrity for this. Kristi Frank may not have become the apprentice but she can live with herself knowing she did not blame others unjustly. Isn't that worth as much as "winning"?
The strength of "The Apprentice" is also its weakness. Because team performance is evaluated strictly by winners and losers, other evaluation opportunities are overlooked. Barring huge gaps between the winning and losing teams, sometimes a losing team exemplifies a high standard of teamwork and efficiency. I have seen losing teams sometimes appearing better organized than the winning team. We Americans are so often obsessed with winning and losing that we often overlook excellence.