While the 13th series gets underway, where is the winner of series 4?

In 2008 there were 16 candidates but only one winner for the £100,000 job on offer on The Apprentice reality TV series. And that winner was Lee McQueen. But it wasn’t just the winning that made him an overnight celebrity, his success had a dark side too.

Not too many of us knows what it feels like to be hung, drawn and quartered on TV. Millions watched the excruciating, gut wrenching and agonising pains of Lee being found out for fibbing on his CV. Yet just like Braveheart, Lee looked his executioners square in the face, but unlike the Scottish warrior he lived to tell the tale, and in doing so revealed someone prepared to take on the plight of the people. That plight is now the basis of his thriving business, Raw Talent Academy.

Thinking back to that time we asked Lee how he felt after Lord Sugar’s final words of the series, ‘Lee you’re hired’. “It was fantastic all that hard work that turned your life upside down, to get through 12 weeks, and then to know that I had beaten 20,000 people to the job, so yes it was absolutely fantastic to hear those words”.

But The Apprentice competition starts long before the 12 televised episodes. Known as the ‘ultimate interview’, your talent needs to shine through at audition, even before you’re accepted onto the show.

Speaking about this Lee says, “It’s tough before you get on the show you know. Before you get on you go through 6 or 7 interviews but I made a decision and a commitment I’m gonna do it; I’m gonna be myself, do my best, I’m going to build relationships and do what I’ve done throughout my whole career, and that is work hard. And don’t’ get fired in the first week, luckily for me that was the case. I think I am the only one to date never to be in the final three of the boardroom across the 12 series of the apprentice and I’m proud of that.”

In describing Lee’s business as the ‘plight of the people’ it might appear to some rather altruistic, so let’s be clear, Raw Talent Academy is a profit making concern, a very successful one at that, yet its foundations lie deep into helping those who have enough plucky courage to get up and audition for a job, instead of sitting at a PC, waxing lyrical on a screen, about a work experience that they’ve never had.

After Lee’s win the media had a hay day; couldn’t wait to get the headlines out, but it didn’t matter one jot to Lord Sugar, he had every opportunity to choose a different a candidate, but he didn’t, he chose Lee. And this is a key point for all employers. Lee had performed well across all 12 episodes.

Nine years on Lee McQueen and his catch phrase ‘that’s what I’m talking about’ is running a thriving recruitment firm based on the Apprentice philosophy; that abilities and behaviour are more important than what’s on your CV. A philosophy that says, these are the competencies that employers should be seeking that lead to success.

Lee spent not one but two years working with Lord Sugar before starting his own business. He’s said much about giving people a chance who find it difficult to find a job on just their CV. And he finds it difficult himself to understand why we’re still using a methodology that’s 50 years old. Is it still the right thing to do in 2017. His clients agree with him.

For the last 6 years Lee has be staging auditions, the platform that Raw Talent Academy uses to recruit for his clients which range from Red Bull energy drinks to Tottenham Hotspur football club.

Of the process, his clients admit to a recruiting method like none other.

John Abularrage, chief executive of TP Icap Americas, said he was “sceptical” before the first day “because it’s completely different to the way we normally recruit”. But he said that the day had changed his perceptions because “candidates are put under real pressure in different scenarios – a good way to judge how they would perform in our industry”.

And Rachel Barr, global head of resourcing at TP Icap. “It’s so easy to hire someone that is a carbon copy of yourself. What I found when I joined is that we had an aging demographic, a lot of people in their mid 40s, white, male,” she says. “A lot of people think the Square Mile is an old boys' club [but] we’ve created an opportunity for everyone and anyone to apply.” The cost per candidate stacks up too.

While Lee’s past might outrage those who were brought up with a job for life, never having to compete on raw skill, others of a different generation find comfort in the fact that their future does not have to be dictated by what life has dished out in their early years. As for employers, what better opportunity to find the talent, that they all say they need, so they can grow their businesses.

 “The fact of the matter is, talent will always shine through if you let it, but not if you keep the lid on, or don’t give the opportunities for people to cut through the red tape. But the biggest loss is for the employer” says Lee.

It does take a ‘Braveheart’ to do something different. “That’s what I’m talking about”, says Lee who is just about to do an audition in New York. 

Follow the link for more information on the Academy process