There is a web-based application form that is open to anyone. For series 4, there were 20,000 applications registered on the website. On the basis of that list, a smaller number of candidates are invited to interviews around the country. On the basis of the regional interviews, about 75 candidates are called back for a second round in London. At this stage, the candidates are assessed in groups, and asked to do various exercises to test business skill and how they work in a team. After this, between 20-30 candidates are then assessed by a psychologist, references are taken and other checks made. It is from this group that the final line-up is chosen.
The tasks are designed by Sir Alan and the production team, working closely together. They are carefully chosen to test the core business skills: sales, marketing, design, teamwork, negotiation etc.
The production team, including all crew, is large – about 80 people. On each task there will be 4 crews filming (each with a producer and researcher) – one for each half of the two teams.
The shoot takes place the autumn before transmission.
In order to make it possible to properly film the boardroom, where there are up to 19 people around a table, a lot of cameras are needed. In order to direct those cameras properly but not interrupt proceedings, the series director needs to work from a gallery. Therefore it is not possible to film the boardroom scenes from Sir Alan’s real boardroom. They are filmed in a studio.
Sir Alan is not given a script of any kind for the boardroom. He himself is entirely in charge of what happens in the boardroom. He doesn’t wear an ear piece so the production team cannot interrupt him or feed things to him in the boardroom. Everything he says and all decisions he makes are up to him.
Sir Alan decides the winner on the basis of the final task, the boardroom, and their overall performance throughout the series. He makes his decision on the day of the final boardroom. Because there is a gap between the shoot and transmission (to leave time for editing), there is a concern about keeping the secret of who has won during that time, so as not to spoil it for the viewers. In order to ensure that the secret is kept, two endings are filmed, and Sir Alan doesn’t reveal his decision of who he has chosen to the finalists and the production team until the day before transmission of the final programme.
As both finalists would not be able to seek employment until after transmission, and they cannot be out of pocket as a result of that, Sir Alan finds both of them temporary jobs somewhere within his group of companies.
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