Fearsome interviewer Claude Littner is set to return to The Apprentice next week in his traditional role grilling candidates over the holes in their CVs.
But he has now recovered enough to be back in next week's interview episode - although the businessman, whose main role was interviewing candidates on the show before being signed up as an aide, says he's mellowed with age and he doesn't think viewers want to see people being "really mean" any more.
Littner, known for skewering candidates with tough questions, said: "I have mellowed with age, but it’s important when we get to the interview stage that we really interrogate the finalists.
"By this stage in the process the candidates are, whilst apprehensive, full of confidence and they think they’re brilliant. The fact of the matter is, Alan is going to invest in one of these individuals, so it’s important to be thorough.
"It’s not like a traditional interview where you’re inviting them in to sit down and make themselves comfortable and ask if they want a cup of coffee - we’re there to put them on the spot and make them answerable."
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But he added: "You can’t expect a mild-mannered, gentle interview because that’s not the idea. All that said, I also think the truth of the matter is that both the viewers and the general appetite for being really mean has changed.
"In this day and age, a change of approach is probably more appropriate, and I certainly don’t think I am as forthright as I once may have come across."
Littner has been replaced this series by former Apprentice winner Tim Campbell and hinted that he may make a full return next series.
He said: "The whole team went to so much trouble to have me back. I had written off this series, but it would seem Lord Sugar and the production company had other ideas! I’ve had so many messages on social media too from viewers saying they hope I’m coming back for the interviews and how much they miss my smiling.
"It was quite funny how it came about - Alan arrived at my house one day (although he phoned me almost daily!) and he just said, 'You will do the interviews, won’t you?' and I replied, 'Yes, of course'.
"The moment it came out of my mouth I was thinking, how on earth am I actually going to do it?"
Littner added that he had felt much better by the time he was due to film and said of a future return: "I certainly feel well enough to come back and am very optimistic."
The Apprentice interviews air on Thursday, 17 March at 9pm on BBC One.
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