Nick who? The Apprentice's Karren spills all on new boy Claude, hook-ups and ‘drippy’ candidates
She’s survived six years as Lord Sugar’s right hand woman, and now as a fresh crop of candidates battle it out on The Apprentice, straight-talking Karren Brady, 46, isn’t joking when she says this is the most jaw-dropping series so far.
‘You can’t bullshit in the boardroom,’ she snaps at one hopeful in the opening episode – reminding us why she’s one of the country’s leading businesswomen, with an estimated worth of over £80 million.
And if you’re wondering what exactly the secret of her success is, it’s simple: ‘I never trust my first impression,’ she tells us during our refreshingly honest interview…
Hey Karen! How are you feeling about the new series?
I’m excited! It’s been a long time in the making and has taken up such a large chunk of my life, but it’s always good to see how it all works out.
How’s Claude Littner settling in as Lord Sugar’s new aide, now that Nick Hewer’s gone?
You’ll have to wait and see – but he doesn’t laugh a lot. Let’s put it that way.
Oh c’mon! You have to tell us more…
I don’t get to see what he’s doing with his team, but he’s settling in very well. He’s worked with Lord Sugar, so he knows exactly what it takes. He was a good choice.
Would you have preferred a female aide so that you’re not the only woman?
It doesn’t matter what I want, it’s what Alan wants. I’m happy to work with whoever.
Why should we tune into the new series?
There have been some really jaw-dropping moments – one of the tasks was to set up a DIY company from scratch and some of the candidates didn’t know the difference between a screwdriver and hammer. We have an interesting bunch this year.
Can you tell from the first time you meet them who’s going to go all the way?
When someone walks in, you might think: ‘That person has something about them,’ but then it usually turns out to be not the case. Or sometimes you’ll think someone looks a bit drippy, and then they’ll surprise you. I never trust my first impression.
Is that a rule you apply to other aspects of your life? It sounds like a quote you’d see on Instagram!
I’ve never really thought about it [laughs]. Thanks.
Do you think people use The Apprentice as a platform to become famous? James Hill has, obviously, just won Celebrity Big Brother…
I hadn’t noticed, but I suppose some have taken non-business opportunities. I think everyone starts out wanting to set up a business – especially now you get a £250,000 investment as well as a job.
Has the calibre of candidates improved since the prize has been changed?
I think it has this year, it’s really attracted a different type of person. Which is what has caused lot of the tension. This year we have people from all types of backgrounds, including a man and woman from the navy.
Do you ever get a bit too attached to the candidates as you spend so much time with them?
Not really, though I did on the junior version of the show and I’m still helping a young girl and her cake business from that. It’s really nice to help a young person achieve their potential.
So by the end of a series, are you just like: ‘Right, bye! Have a nice life!’?
It is a bit like that [laughs]. They’re either not there long enough or you don’t follow them enough, so you don’t really build up any rapport.
There have obviously been a few controversies previously with candidates hooking up; do you think this distracts them from the tasks?
To be honest, I’ve never noticed anything. There’s no time for them to do anything, Claude and I are with them all the time. The only time we’re not with them is when they’re at the house – unless we’re filming there or having a meeting – so I’ve never been aware there has been any romantic involvement until way after it’s happened. I don’t know if I’m just oblivious to it, or it’s just not particularly obvious.
Do you think the workplace is a good environment to meet a partner?
I think a lot of people do. I met my husband [Canadian footballer Paul Peschisolido, who was playing for Karren’s club when they met] in the workplace 20 years ago, and we’re still married.
*The Apprentice returns to BBC One at 9pm October 14th