U graduates interview for’The Apprentice’

Hundreds of people lined up to audition for the Emmy-nominated show.

Chad Hamblin

It was Saturday, the day of University alumna Kristen Berning’s job interview, and she overslept.

The interview didn’t begin until 9 a.m., but she knew people had camped out all night for a chance at the job. To make matters worse, she expected more than 1,000 people to apply.

By 9 a.m., the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street, where the interview was to take place, was lined with people in suits carrying resumes and applications.

The people waiting in line were waiting to audition for the Emmy-nominated show “The Apprentice.”

The show lets 12 people compete for a $250,000-a-year job working with Donald Trump. In each episode, one person is “fired” from the show.

The show’s application asked participants to include their salary history, most embarrassing moment and why they should win.

Shannon Bourquin, owner of a local travel agency, arrived at 3 p.m. the day before, and was first in line to audition. Waiting outside all night wasn’t all that boring, she said.

“Drunk people would give me impromptu interviews,” she said.

“It was good practice,” said Robin Bongard, the next person in line who showed up 10 minutes after Bourquin.

Jim Dowd, NBC spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that 500 people came, but many people in line said they thought the number was closer to 200.

Among the crowd of suits, Carlson School of Management graduates Patton Fast, John Benzick and Chris Lash stood near the middle of the line.

Fast, who has the “perfect name” according to the other two, graduated in May. He is now a research consultant for the University.

Benzick, who graduated in 1999, was dressed in casual business attire adorned with a red backpack and wraparound sunglasses.

Benzick now owns an apparel and youth marketing company in Minneapolis. He said he got the idea for the company while at the University.

“I wrote the business plan at Carlson with a team of students,” he said.

Chris Lash, who graduated in 1998, wore a business suit and had a golf club in his hand.

Lash started his own business after graduation and sold golf clubs of his own design, he said.

“The company went up, kinda came down, ran outta money and I had to find a real job for a while,” he said.

Lash now works for Best Buy’s corporate office, but said he hopes to eventually return to his golf club business when the economy improves.

Though the three were confident, they acknowledged the odds of being selected.

“It’s a crapshoot,” Benzick said. “It’s just luck.”

Around 10 a.m., the line started to move.

Groups of 10 sat in a conference room with the casting directors for 10 minutes. The applicants had to state their names and pick someone in the room to hire, and someone to fire.

For the remainder of their 10 minutes, the applicants discussed issues like affirmative action and whether men or women were better in business.

“They put us in a room and had a casting director throw out a topic and basically instigate a riot,” Fast said.

“The whole time there was yelling,” said Benzick, who was in the same room as Fast. “You couldn’t get any air time.”

Benzick said he tried to interject his arguments when there was a lull in the yelling.

Lash had a different experience.

“Compared to what I heard from other groups we were moderately respectful,” he said.

“I was patient and observant and when I had something of value to say, I’d pipe up,” he said.

It worked. The show’s casting directors called Lash for a callback Sunday afternoon. The directors filmed the callback, which lasted 30 minutes, Lash said.

“They asked lots of personal questions,” he said.

Benzick and Fast didn’t make the cut. Fast said he talked to the other two and predicted the producers would want people to stand up and take control of the situation in the conference room.

“Well, I didn’t follow my own advice,” he said.

Even though Benzick and Fast weren’t picked, they agreed it was a fun experience.

“You get to see a cross section of people you wouldn’t normally see,” Benzick said.