HR · 4 July 2016

Why The Apprentice could be putting people off business careers for good

Alan Sugar 2
Alan Sugar’s ruthless character on The Apprentice makes for good TV, but does the show accurately reflect the world of business?

Television show The Apprentice is tarnishing impressions of British business and putting individuals off a career in the sector, according to a recent study.

Revealing the wider impact of reality TV shows – such as Educating Essex or One Born Every Minute – on the UK industries they claim to portray, a survey of over 2,000 British jobseekers from job site CV Library showed that over two-thirds believe the Alan Sugar-led hit show damages the appeal of being a businessperson.

The survey indicated that on the whole, viewers believed that reality shows gave a realistic interpretation of their respective industries, with as many as 70.5 per cent of workers stating that these kind of shows added benefits to the professions they represented.

CV Library founder Lee Biggins said that the growth of profession-based reality television, of which The Apprentice was just one example, was becoming a contributing factor in peoples’ career choices.

“Reality TV series, like Kitchen Nightmares and Traffic Cops, provides a new way to learn more about a particular industry. While this can benefit some organisations in certain industries, it can be harmful to others, as some shows might be scripted or over-dramatised for the cameras,” added Biggins.

Ranking how beneficial or damaging certain reality shows have been on their respective professions, workers voted The Great British Bake Off, Pet Rescue and Masterchef as most beneficial, while Hotel Hell and Kitchen Nightmares joined The Apprentice as the most damaging series.

Biggins advised business owners to find ways to alter the negative impressions these shows may portray. “Businesses must combat the stigma associated with certain industry-focused TV shows to help candidates see the real profession, not the dramatised version, and ensure their pipeline of skilled talent is not harmed,” he added.

The survey is not the first time The Apprentice has been accused of providing an incendiary and potentially harmful impression of the world of business. Late last year, CEO at Simply Business – the insurance firm deemed the best company to work for in the UK by the Sunday Times in 2014 – Jason Stockwood, said that the show was “about an aggressive, platonic ideal of individualism”.

“It’s about backstabbing and intrigue, breeding a mutant offspring of Machiavelli and Mrs T,” he said.

Although it may put people off entering the world of business, all that backstabbing and intrigue undoubtedly makes for some exciting, often hilarious, television. Business Advice has pulled together some of its all-time favourite quotes from The Apprentice candidates. Could you work with any of this lot?

  • “I’m a Swiss army knife of bouncy skills, business skills, enthusiasm, I’ve got everything highly-tuned and highly-chiselled.” – Richard Woods (2015).
  • “If we went to Mars right now, I’d find a way to be excellent” – Steven Ugoalah (2014)
  • “I couldn’t live a more interesting life. Even when I’m sleeping, I’m not really asleep.” – Stuart Baggs (2010)
  • “When it comes to business, I’m an animal, and I’ll roar my way to the top.” – Gabrielle Omar (2012)
  • “As a salesperson, I would rate myself as probably the best in Europe.” – Jennifer Maguire (2008)
  • “I’m not a show pony, or a one-trick pony. I’m not a jack-ass or a stubborn mule, and I’m definitely not a wild stallion that needs to be tamed. I am the champion thoroughbred that this process requires.” – Jim Eastwood (2011)
  • “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Melody Hossaini (2011)

Star of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar, was reappointed last month as the government’s enterprise tsar. Read on to find out more.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

On the up