This week, there was no task. Instead, contestants each had to endure 3 rounds of interviews with Tony’s long-trusted business associates, namely:
- Stuart Dean – President and CEO of General Electric ASEAN
- Aireen Omar – CEO of AirAsia
- Ruben Gnanalingam – CEO of Westports Malaysia
2 would be eliminated! Tony told his business associates to show no mercy – and they certainly took it to heart!
The Toughest Interviews Of Their Lives
Though Sam was occasionally a little lost for words (unusual for him!), he seemed unfazed: “I was being true to myself. So to me, it was easy.”
Alex was definitely not having it easy. When Alex boasted about his strengths, Aireen shot back, “You sound very cocky to me.” And when an unimpressed Ruben commented, “All you talk about is branding and marketing,” Alex actually seemed to start babbling on nervously!
Jon was as intense as ever, and became emotional and defensive when asked whether or not his intense emotions can get the better of him. Ironic.
Andrea was the most nervous of the four, but got through without too much bumbling.
Tony met with the 3 interviewers to discuss the candidates.
Ruben thought he had the best blend of energy and experience, but noted, “I could not get a sense of his personality. He answers in a very textbook manner.”
Aireen was smirking! “I find Alex is the weakest,” she said, “When he explains things, it’s all too general. It’s mostly fluff. And I don’t think he understands the market as well as he think he does.” (Alex did in fact mess up, when asked to name the ASEAN market with the most potential.) “I think if he joins AirAsia, he will probably be quite distracted by the flight attendants,” she quipped, to much laughter.
Aireen thought Sam was quite analytical, and that “he’ll complement what we have right now in AirAsia.”
Stuart asserted, “This is a guy who can contribute better than the other three right out of the box.” Ruben agreed.
But Kathleen reminded Tony that Sam’s long-windedness would frustrate him, and Ruben also noted that Sam seemed to know the least about Tony’s businesses. “He seems to think he’s a maverick,” Aireen laughed, “I think he wants to be like you!” Ruben laughed too, because Sam had sung a self-composed song called ‘The Maverick’ during the interview! But everyone agreed that Sam was the least “maverick” of the four.
Everyone thought Andrea was very smart.
Stuart enthused, “She’s not going to contribute in day one, month one, year one. But over the course of her career, she could be huge – a superstar.”
But seeing how she gave up on being a lawyer so quickly, Ruben questioned if she would stay long enough to become a “superstar”. And though he noted that she seemed to be the most genuine of the four candidates, he pointed out that she had the least experience.
Tony was quick to declare, “I had zero experience in the airline business. Honestly, I don’t care whether she has experience.”
Everyone had good things to say about Jon.
Although Stuart was not convinced that Jon was being real, Stuart liked him.
So did Ruben. “A lot of energy,” Ruben approved, “And I would say that he’s probably the easiest to mould.”
In the boardroom, the guys all came under fire! Alex claimed that his people skills were his number one asset. Tony challenged him to recall the names of the people from AirAsia he’d worked with two tasks ago.
All the guys were stumped, but Andrea could name all of them!
“You all talk about people and culture – b*******!” Tony admonished, “These guys say all the right things, but they didn’t know anybody after one and a half days!”
Tony left the boardroom to think.
When he came back, he’d made up his mind.
Sam was fired for being too analytical, and for his relaxed persona. “It irritated me that he was quite nonchalant,” Tony said, “I WANT you to feel nervous. I’m nervous every decision – because THAT’S passion.”
To the cameras, Sam, cheerful as ever, surmised, “I think what really happened in the boardroom was that emotional appeal won over content, matter and career.”
Alex was also fired!
“I wasn’t convinced of your motives – of wanting to be my apprentice.”
“But you’re a top class person,” Tony conceded, “You will succeed in whatever you do.”
To the cameras, Alex, gave the predictably textbook-ish spiel of not being bitter, and about having learnt a lot.
And then, there were two.