Love them or loathe them, interviews at some point in your professional career are inevitable. There are endless styles to interviewing and thanks to the wonder that is The Apprentice we have been given an insight into a man who must be one of the world’s toughest interviewers: Claude Littner.
For those of you who haven’t witnessed this genius at work, he is Lord Sugar’s trusted business aide and is known for some of the most cutting and direct interview put downs. His apparent cynicism and in some cases complete disdain is palpable, making every candidate and viewer squirm.
His reputation and demeanour puts candidates on edge immediately meaning he makes for great viewing. Should this really be the role of an interviewer though and what can we learn from his unique approach? This blog looks at some of his ‘best’ put downs and also highlights what we can learn from them by looking more closely at the context. Enjoy Claude in action.
Cast your minds back to the fabulous interview with the candidate Stuart Bagg, S6.
‘“I’m Stuart Bagg, the Brand”, what on earth are you talking about?’ and later in the same interview…
“You’re not a big fish (repeated twice for effect), you’re not even a fish!”
Here’s Stuart interview in all its glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCOqDBbt1ak
Lesson – It is imperative that you have confidence going in to an interview, a self-awareness of how you convey your level of confidence is key, but be humble, no one likes a big-head.
The Personal Statement
The dreaded part of the CV yet perhaps one of the most important. This statement introduces you to the client and what you write here WILL stick with your interviewer.
Ricky Martin, the winner of S8 and with a recruitment business no less, claimed in his CV that he could “Teach an old dog new tricks” when referring to Lord Sugar.
Hmmm, perhaps in hindsight not the best line to use about Lord Sugar, as indeed Claude thought, along with the statement of “Call me Thor!” branding the statement as crass, obnoxious and infantile.
Lesson – Whilst you need to make the statement individual and engaging, you need to find the balance between standing out in a positive way and standing out in a negative way. Ultimately know your audience and make sure you can back up any statement you make.
Knowing your CV
“You’re talking nonsense!” was Claude’s curt response to Yasmina Siadatan, S5. Poor Yasmin got so flustered when talking about her stated profit and turnover figures that her response did not make any commercial sense.
Lesson – The devil is in the detail. If you are going to state facts and figures in your CV, which let’s face it is pretty much guaranteed if you want to showcase your achievements in past roles, make sure you know them inside out.
Possibly the harshest response from Claude was when he interviewed Soloman in S10.
How shocked we were when Mr Littner praised Soloman for his mature and extremely well presented CV, Claude being nice, surely not. However, this was briskly followed up with a full force tirade of his business plan, calling it a “bloody disgrace” with Claude then ending the meeting with a disdainful “you can leave!”
Lesson – If you are asked to complete a task ahead of the interview then there is usually a good reason for it, i.e. the client is wanting you to showcase your talent/knowledge. Invest the time to do it properly, don’t try and ‘wing it’ as poor Soloman did. He declared he left the ‘airy fairy stuff out’ claiming it was all in his head, oh dear!
We’ve all been there thinking that you don’t want to cram too much information onto your PowerPoint slides, however make sure you find the right balance and convey that you have made the right level of effort.
This may sound like a really straight forward rule to follow when you are in an interview, but not for Jordan in S9 who claimed he was a shareholder in a business. As a result Claude came out with this gem “You are a parasite. This interview is terminated, you can leave now!”
What caused such an incensed response? Well, as it transpires Jordan was not a shareholder in the business. Quite a simple fact for Claude to check out really.
Lesson - In the wonderful, digital infused world in which we live now, it is even easier for potential employers to ‘vet’ you before you even step into the room, therefore make sure the information about you is correct and suitable for everyone and anyone to view. (This is a whole other blog in itself!).
Be clear, concise and don’t try to be too clever – sound easy?
Enter James McQuillan S5, who jovially joked that he ‘could bring ignorance to the table’
Hmmm, perhaps something more along the lines of “I feel I can bring a fresh pair of eyes to the business” would have been slightly more appropriate. Claude, true to form did not agree with this comment nor did he agree with use of large parts of the language James’ used in his CV:
Claude: “When asked 'What do you do for living?' your answer is 'In a nutshell, I put a leash on people who spunk money up the wall'. Now do you really think that Sir Alan, as a serious businessman and entrepreneur, is going to want to hear that kind of language to a serious question?”
Lesson – Know your audience. We all know how easy it is to misinterpret the written word. How many times have you read an email and second guessed the ‘tone’ of it? Your CV is your selling document, make sure it is written in a professional manner. This is not to say that you cannot inject some ‘personality’ into it, just be wary of how you do it.
So, there we have it – some of Claude’s most memorable discussions with potential candidates. Whilst I am sure some of his lines are dropped in to engage the viewing audience, I do believe a lot of what he says is spot on.
Working at Forward Role we regularly hear about weird and wonderful interview scenarios, but fortunately for our candidates we don’t know anyone as scary as Claude. We’d love to hear your funniest and most embarrassing interview stories, so please comment and share on this blog….
Thea Parry is a specialist Marketing and Business Development recruiter in the Professional Services sector. She’s worked in recruitment for over a decade, so if you need some helpful advice on interview skills or your career, please feel free to call her on: 0161 914 8563