Maxwell Stephens

BBC The Apprentice... and how to not get ahead in your FM career

The Apprentice

The two Sarahs facing down Siobhan, promotional billboards full of typographical errors, a body-popper, Anisa and Jade wrestling over who was going to be project manager.


Yes, it’s The Apprentice and it’s back on the BBC.


All of the Maxwell Stephens team talk about it the following morning. It purports to be a business show but, given how the candidates behave, you feel the same sense of cringing embarrassment as if you were watching Alan Partridge or David Brent.


They seem so blissfully unaware of how the British public will react to them. In some ways, I’m relieved for them. Introspection and self-awareness would damage their own bloated sense of self-confidence. With nearly all of them, the gap between what they can do and what they think they can do is of Grand Canyon proportions.


In 2015, the University of Sheffield examined the previous ten years of the show and came up with their four top tips for winning the show:


  • Candidates should not volunteer to be team leader because even if you win the task, having been a leader does not increase your odds of winning the show
  • If you’re on the losing team, make sure you do enough so that you’re not called into the boardroom – being left out gives you a better chance of progressing is actually better than being on the winning team
  • Be aged between 24 and 31 as all ten winners up to that point had been in the age range
  • Have strong academic qualifications as candidates who have them have performed better in recent years.

What lessons should FM candidates take from the show?


Behave normally, don’t mimic the behaviour of what you think they want.


One of the oldest saying in sales is “Don’t assume, because it makes an ass out of “u” and me.”

The same goes for interviewing, particularly if you’re applying for a position that’s considered more senior than other jobs you’ve held.


Part of interviewing is assessing how you’ll fit in with the mix of people you’ll be working with. One person behaving in a way that other team members don’t appreciate can slowly grind down team spirit and resolve over time.


You’re not only assessed on your qualifications for the job but also your personality and the part you’ll play in a department, especially if you’re leading it.


Prepare to be questioned – in-depth – by everyone involved


Remember when Soloman was completely unprepared to face the interviewers in 2014? That was car-crash TV.


From your recruitment consultant to your telephone interview to your face-to-face interview, you have to know your stuff about not only your career but the responsibilities the job you’re going for has.


When you get the job spec from Maxwell Stephens, go through every point individually and be prepared to answer questions on the theory and application of every part of FM they want you to carry out.


Practice on a loved one, practice in front of the mirror, practice where you can. When you memorise answers or the structure to the answers you’re going to give, you speak with greater confidence, assuredness, and orderliness of thoughts.


Performing well in an FM role requires these three qualities in abundance and the place to demonstrate them is when you’re in competition for a new role.


Be informed about the company and the property they look after


There’s nothing more dispiriting for any interviewer who’s got a great candidate in front of them when it becomes painfully obvious that they don’t have the first clue about the company. It communicates a lack of seriousness for the role.


Put in the additional time and effort you need to show how much you know about the business and this approach will really pay dividends.


In addition, try to find out as much as you can about the buildings your prospective employer looks after. Give examples of how your FM abilities and qualifications have been put to use by previous employers in similar environments.


Make sure your CV reads well, is appropriate for the job for which you’re applying, and stands up to scrutiny


Always try to adjust your CV and the points it makes to the specific role you’re pursuing. Although your interviewers will never know it’s been done especially for them, they will appreciate how close your experience, qualifications, and skills are to the ideal candidate they’re looking for.

For all the claims you make on your CV, make sure you have a fluent and cogent story that justifies its inclusion and that your story goes to just the depth needed to get your point over.


Be positive and persevere


The FM jobs market is full of opportunity and you have access to those jobs (and lots of highly attractive unadvertised roles) through Maxwell Stephens.


Work with our team to exploit every opportunity that’s open to you and, whatever setbacks you get, stay focused and keep on looking.


To make sure your CV is on the Maxwell Stephens database, call us on 0207 118 48 48 or email

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