I tried out for Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV show this weekend. In preparing for this, I found a dearth of information on their tryout process on the net, so I’m fixing that. The preface is that leading up to my audition, I waited for several hours – arrived at 8 AM, received a wristband at 9 AM, interviews began at 10 AM, and I finally got to the front of the line around 12:30 PM. If you’re curious, I didn’t make the cut, but I have a nifty “Apprentice” wristband to show for it.
Now about the audition. I’m putting this out here because honestly, I don’t think it will actually help anyone game the system, but it is interesting. We were ushered into a room 20 at a time and seated at a set of tables configured in a rectangle – candidates on 3 sides, and the casting director on the 4th. He was a reasonably young-looking, [proud] Irish Catholic from Philly named Paul, and was already nursing a glass of bourbon. He seemed to enjoy his job as he positioned himself as provocateur and incredible multi-tasker. He told us that we had 10 minutes, and if he had to talk much during that time, then we weren’t doing well. He was going to give us topics, and we were supposed to pick a position and support it with a decent argument.
The first topic was “Did the right guy win the election?” and I can only describe what ensued as chaos. Yelling, lots of yelling. Everyone trying to make their position heard, trying to stand out. It wasn’t a subdued roundtable discussion, it was 20 people all clawing to get noticed above the rest. Some people clammed up, initimidated by it all. Some yelled into space, not talking to anyone in particular. More topics flowed, with each one ramping from silence to uproar in about 5 seconds.
I can’t tell you what they were looking for, especially since I didn’t have the stuff. I can speculate a bit. I think they were looking for quick responders, people who would articulate a strong position with good supporting points right off the bat. If you haven’t finished making a solid point on each topic in 5 seconds, I think you’re losing. This is why so many lawyers make the show. I think there are some intangibles in the mix – he probably looks at body language, style of speaking, ability to grab the attention of others. Some of it probably depends on what they’re trying to cast. The current season is “Book smarts” vs. “Street smarts” – I would expect they were looking for people to fill certain roles on each of those teams from the time they had their first audition.
I responded a bit slowly on some topics, did make some points loudly, did back up some of my points well, did hold some smaller, more direct conversations with people around me. I did yell to nobody in particular a couple of times (many people were doing this), but I don’t think that’s productive unless you;re the first one. So can I give you interview tips to get on the show? No way – I don’t even know what they want, but this is what you could expect in the audition process.
So why’d I do it? I don’t idolize Donald Trump, but I do respect some of his accomplishments. Between the knowledge and connections that a winner (or even runner-up) on that show develops, especially working with Trump, it IS a golden opportunity. If nothing else, I knew it would be an interesting experience, an amusing story to share, and a good time to reflect on things I can do better.