The Apprentice: You Ask The Questions special

So, Claire, if Sir Alan had turned up on one of your Club 18-30 trips, how would you have shown him a good time? Alex, why don't you have a shave and get a haircut? Lee, who's scarier – Nick or Margaret? Helene, did the programme editors portray you fairly? All finalists, who would you hire (with the exception of yourself)?
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You've all lived at close quarters for weeks now. Who's got the worst habits?

Angela Bateson, Hartlepool

Claire Young: The boys and girls had separate bedroom areas. But I went into Raef, Lee and Simon's bathroom and it was absolutely disgusting. The bath mat was covered in brown stuff. I dread to think what it was.

Helene Speight: Hair dye?

Lee McQueen: It was Simon. Me and Raef were immaculate.

Alex Wotherspoon: Simon's socks were awful.

Claire: Simon is a true squaddie, through and through.

How did all 16 of you shower in half an hour?

Afzar Afshad, Huddersfield

Alex: There were boys' showers and girls' showers.

Claire: There were some early risers. Jenny C [Celerier] and I always got up early doors.

Lee: It's like the trick I learnt at school, after PE. The teacher would shout: "Have you lot had a shower?" So you'd just quickly wet your hair.

Alex: So it wasn't Simon that was dirty, it was you!

Are you allowed out of the house between challenges?

Clive Rowntree, Wednesbury

Claire: No.

Is there actually anything in your wheelie cases?

Flora Curtis, St Albans

Alex: Yeah, that's all your stuff, in case you get fired.

Lee: Some candidates used to turn up with empty cases because they knew they wouldn't get fired. Mine was always packed. Raef had an extra-size case for all his clothes.

Claire: Michael had an extra-size case – it's his "short man syndrome".

Raef and Lucinda – style icons or fashion victims?

Nigel Keays, Stratford-upon-Avon

Helene: I think it's nice that they both had an individual style. At least they were both smart and presentable.

Lee: I nearly put a handkerchief in my suit pocket today.

Claire: For me, Raef's highlight was his slippers. It took a few weeks for him to wear them, but they were magnificent. I think royalty wear them – they had a fleur-de-lys on them!

Why do you never use the internet to do research on your tasks?

Jay Singh, Kentish Town

Helene: We're not allowed. It's classed as cheating.

Lee: We couldn't even use directory enquiries. We did it the old-fashioned way: Yellow Pages and a phone. That was it.

Do you think some candidates stayed in because they made good television?

Maggie Lowe, Whitstable

Alex: I think Michael was kept in for longer than he should have been, but maybe that's because Sir Alan liked him.

Helene: I think Sir Alan admitted that was a mistake. Some people never got a chance, but Michael had about 25.

Claire: Lucinda was lucky to be on a team with Alex and Lee in weeks nine and 10. They basically did the whole task.

If you were Sir Alan, who would you hire (other than yourselves)?

Mark Christie, Dollar

Helene: I'd hire Lee. He's got a lot of skills and was a brilliant team-leader. He's very driven and committed, but by his own admission he has a lot to learn. Sir Alan doesn't want someone with a fixed agenda. He needs somebody he can mould a bit.

Alex: From the start, I saw Lee as my main competition.

Lee: I identified Alex as the competition from the start. But as the weeks have gone on, I'd say my main rival is Claire. I'd hire her if I was Sir Alan. She's proved she can deliver under huge pressure, particularly in the ice-cream task.

Claire: For sheer enjoyment of the moment, I'd love Sir Alan to hire Lucinda. I'd love for him to arrive at work, with the office arranged by feng shui, candles burning and a yoga mat for when he's stressed out.

Did you cook and clean in the house?

Barbara Rudge, Boston, Massachusetts

Claire: You're working 24/7, so you have dry cleaning done. But we did cook for each other.

Lee: I cooked a chilli con carne, which came out quite well.

Alex: I made beans on toast.

Have you ever bought an Amstrad product?

Robert Newby, Ullapool

Claire: I had one when I was younger. We used to play Chuckie Egg on it.

Lee: I had an Amstrad CPC 464. It was the era of Spectrums, and all my friends had them. But I had the Amstrad with the colour monitor, which was fantastic. I used to play Roland on the Ropes on it.

Alex: My old man had an emailer.

Who do you prefer to have watching over your team, Nick or Margaret?

Graeme White, Greenwich

Lee: Nick won the first seven tasks, so whenever Margaret would say: "I think I'll follow Team Alpha," you'd think: "Oh no!"

Alex: They're both fantastic. Their stamina is unbelievable.

Claire: In Marrakesh, some guy went crazy and threatened to kill me because I'd bartered too low. I hid behind Alex, but Margaret intervened in French and the man shut up and backed off. She told me she used to go without sleep for five days when she was doing litigation. She's hardcore.

Lee, do you think your wink to interviewer Paul Kemsley was as cheesy as he obviously thought it was?

Alex Clarke, Manchester

Lee: It was cheesy. Watching it back with my friends and family, I was saying: "I didn't wink!" Then they showed me winking – twice! But then Paul Kemsley winked at Claire after having a go at me for it.

Alex: I think that was a different kind of wink...

Alex, did you fancy Karren Brady?

Petra O'Donnell, Exeter

Alex: I found her quite flirtatious, I won't lie. She's a very attractive woman. As soon as I walked into that room, there was the aroma of perfume mixed with the lilies.

Claire: It was a boudoir moment.

Alex: It was. It was a good interview. She's a lovely lady.

Have any of you, apart from Lee, lied on your CV?

Paul Marks, Caernarvon

Helene: No. In business you get fired for it.

Alex: People say everyone lies on their CV, but I never have. I can speak fluent English.

Claire: It's too easy to check up on, so it's not worth it.

Lee: The mistake on my CV was a miscommunication rather than a lie. It clearly stated on my CV that I didn't complete the course. You can see that if you watch the episode.

Helene, who of your 15 fellow contestants was the biggest gobshite, and was it good interview technique to label them as such?

Philip Swinden, via email

Helene: It's not my normal terminology, but The Apprentice is a rather different experience to what I'm used to. Claire talks the most, and I meant "gobshite" in the nicest possible way. You don't get a word in if she's around.

Claire, if you were working as a Club 18-30 rep again, and Sir Alan turned up, what would you do with him?

Ian Phillips, Stanmore

Claire: I'd take him on a booze cruise, then a St Trinian's hen-party. I'm sure he'd like that; he needs a bit of oestrogen.

Do you think the editing has portrayed you fairly?

David Walker, Sittingbourne

Alex: Sometimes I was perturbed by the way I came across, but it high

lights your negative attributes, so you learn. I realised that at times I came across as quite defensive, so I've learnt from that. But I don't sit around chewing the inside of my face all day.

Lee: Watching yourself is an education. I cringe at some of the stuff I do. I'm a passionate guy, but it can come across as abrasive.

Helene: I've come across as much quieter than I am in real life. Maybe I should have put myself into the limelight more, but that's just not the kind of person I am. I try to let my work speak for itself; I had the biggest winning streak until task seven, and people seem to have forgotten that very quickly.

Claire: I think the editing has been 100 per cent fair to me. All my friends and family just said: "That's you."

Alex, why can't you take criticism?

Ruben Gonzalez, Wembley

Alex: Nobody's perfect. Until I was on The Apprentice, I was high up in the organisation I worked for. The higher up you are, the fewer people there are telling you what to do, and the less criticism you get. In this process, you have 16 strong candidates critiquing each other every minute of the day. Then you go into the boardroom and it's amplified again. So it drives home the fact and you have to stop and think: "Hang on a minute, maybe I don't take criticism well." It's something I've learnt going forward.

Alex, can I have your phone number?

Alice Briggs, Liverpool

Alex: I don't think my girlfriend would like me giving it out...

Do you think that really really wanting something makes you more qualified to get it?

Clare Dougray, Hull

Helene: No, but I do think there were people there who really really didn't want it, and thankfully they're not in this group of four finalists.

Lee: If you desire something so much that you'll do anything to get it, that's not a positive thing. But being passionate about wanting it means that you might go that extra 10 per cent to do the job.

Alex: I think desire is like an engine. Everyone here has the tools to do the job, so if you want it the most, it does help you by driving you forward.

What's the biggest percentage you've ever "given" your boss? 100 per cent? 110?

Mark Shore, Lincoln

Lee: I've definitely given my boss 100 per cent.

Alex: I think Raef gave 150 per cent once.

Do they make you re-shoot scenes to make the show more dramatic?

Janet Spillar, Evesham

Claire: No, you can't relive that moment of pure anger!

Alex: It's not scripted in any way.

Lee: ... Unfortunately.

Does Frances exist, and is she really on the end of that phone?

Roger Brewis, Aix-en-Provence

Claire: Yes, but she's not called Frances.

Lee: Sir Alan's real PA is called Frances, but the one you see on screen isn't her.

Alex: She works for the production company.

Lee: She's well fit, but she smokes roll-ups.

Lee and Alex, why don't you shave more often? Are you trying to emulate Sir Alan?

Imran Labrom, via email

Lee: I get quite a lot of razor burn, so I just use clippers to trim my stubble.

Alex: I look about 13 when I shave.

Lee: How old are you again?

Alex: I'm 25, actually.

Is it that important to win The Apprentice? Everyone forgets the winners and remembers the memorable losers.

Michael J Smith, via email

Claire: I don't really care what other people think. It's very important to me and I want the job. I don't mind if people forget me.

Helene: We're all great candidates, so there will obviously be alternatives for those who don't get hired.

Alex: If you were here with an ulterior motive, being remembered would matter. But if you're coming to get the job, then it doesn't matter if you're remembered or not.

Why did you choose to apply for a job via a television programme?

Mary Baker, Welwyn Garden City

Lee: I want to learn from the master, which is why I want this job. This is the way to get face-time with someone of Sir Alan's stature. You can't phone him up and meet him for a drink to chat about your CV. If I put my CV in front of Sir Alan, he'd probably put it in the bin, and the same is probably true of the others.

Helene: Speak for yourself...

Lee: And where else could you run your own laundry, design your own posters, make your own advert? We'll come out of this as different people, who'll apply ourselves differently to business.

Isn't Sir Alan's HQ a bit grotty?

Dominique Vila, Horsham

Claire: I wouldn't say it's grotty, but there's no frills or chocolate biscuits.

Alex: It's not like Google...

Lee: No, there's no pool table.

Is Dragons' Den a better business show than The Apprentice?

Martin Johnson, Leicester

Claire: Definitely not.

Lee: Absolutely no way.

Helene: I don't even watch Dragons' Den.

Lee: It'll only be good once I'm a multimillionaire and I'm on it.

Did you regret laying into Sara when she escaped being fired?

Ana Davies, Crouch End

Lee: I knew that the following week I would be project manager and I was talking to everybody, saying: "If you don't pull your weight, you're going into the boardroom." It wasn't directed just at Sara. You give up quite a lot to be on The Apprentice, so you don't want to be with people who don't pull their weight. And, as it happened, Sara and Lucinda were fantastic in Marrakesh. I project-managed them and got the best out of them, and they got the best comments they'd had in the boardroom.

Alex: It was just a debate, and debates like that happen in business.

Helene: In the end, Sara told Claire to shut the fuck up. She wasn't a wilting violet.

Who were you most shocked to see being fired before the final?

Ciaran Hilferty, Dublin

Claire: Jenny C. During the process, even if you're on the same team as somebody, you can be in sub-teams. So I didn't see the whole Lucinda/Jenny argument, and I saw things from Jenny C that I was totally shocked by when I watched the programme. I thought she'd be in the final five or the final.

Helene: Jenny C is an incredibly capable woman with a lot of passion and drive, who's a really nice person. She made some mistakes, and to sit and watch the negative side on television was quite a shock, but I think I know her a bit better than the British public does.

Alex: I was surprised when Raef didn't come back from the boardroom. When Michael went up against Raef, I thought: "See you later, Michael."

Lee: Raef, 100 per cent. He was always in my top five. He bonded the lads during the laundry task and I couldn't believe it when he went.

Was Raef dim?

Margaret Murray, Glasgow

Helene: Absolutely not. He's a fantastic, lovely guy.

Alex: He was making everyone laugh the whole time.

Claire: I think Raef's made for TV, as opposed to business.

Alex: But I don't think he went on it to get on TV.

Lee: Simon summed him up perfectly when he said that Raef was an enigma – "Lawrence of Araefia". Interesting guy.

Does the losers' café do a good bacon sarnie?

JF Emerson, Cambridge

Claire: I don't know; we just had cups of tea.

Alex: Claire and I were in there so much, we'd just walk in and say: "The usual, please."

Bearing in mind that it was all filmed last year, how do you keep it a secret?

Aidan O'Neill, Ballymena

Helene: Well, the confidentiality agreement helps.

Lee, why is your pterodactyl impression in "reverse"?

Francesca Welch, Wimbledon

Lee: Because it's hovering just in front of you.

Helene: He's got others. I preferred Droopy Dog.

Claire: Lee's a really good beat-boxer, too.

Alex, why did you feel it was impressive to say that you had been to private school for 12 years?

Tony Sooke, Oxford

Alex: That's a good question. You do say those things as part of an interview, so they ask a question, and you answer it. I personally don't think it's massively impressive. I'm one of four children, I'm the only one who went to private school, and the others have all done as well, or better, than me.

The final of The Apprentice is on BBC1 tomorrow at 9pm