By Francesca James

BBC One's multi-award-winning and critically-acclaimed business entertainment series The Apprentice returns for a sixth season tonight, as a new line-up of corporate contenders face Lord Sugar as they battle for boardroom supremacy.

From all corners of the country, 16 aspiring tycoons have come to London to face the biggest challenge of their careers to date — embarking on a 12-task job interview from hell with multi-millionaire tycoon, Lord Sugar. Selected for their entrepreneurial flair and burning passion for business — Lord Sugar has spotted something in all of them, but only one can succeed in becoming The Apprentice.

Before tonight’s programme airs, here is an introduction to the contenders facing the boardroom this year:

Joanna Riley from Leicester is 25 and owns her own cleaning company. She rose from humble beginnings to corporate success with her Midlands based cleaning company after setting up the business at the age of 22. She describes herself as 'honest, direct and funny' and is inspired by her twin sons.

Joy Stefanicki, a 31 year old marketing Director from Southampton now resides in Birmingham. A keen traveller, her adventures here cut short as a result of the recession. Joy believes that you should ‘Be careful who you tread on as you go up as it's likely you'll need them on the way down.’

The next female contestant is 22 year old Laura Moore who currently works as a business development manager. Laura the youngest of the girls is a trained violinist and keen astronomer who originally dreamed of being a pilot before finding her niche, single-handedly bringing in over £500,000 of sales in her first year as a management consultant. She calls Anita Roddick one of her biggest business inspirations and has lived and worked as far afield as Boston and the Philippines developing new business ideas.

Investment Banker Liz Locke from Birmingham describes herself as 'ambitious, energetic and loyal'. She has recently ventured into property development and project management. A self-confessed health fanatic, Liz visits the gym three times a week and lists badminton, tennis and running as key interests. Liz says that she sees herself in a Lamborghini, “fast, exciting, stylish and successful."

Melissa Cohen works as a food Business Manager and lives in London, she started her working life as a hairdresser but since successfully venturing into food business management, she has single-handedly increased the share of the Kosher food market for a major retail chain. She is inspired by the entrepreneurial prowess of Richard Branson and Kimora Lee Simmons and describes herself as 'analytical, effervescent and intelligent'.

Paloma Vivanco has built a career as a Senior Marketing Manager, she was born and raised in Peru, and has lived an international life with stints in North America, Australia, New Zealand and now the UK. Paloma is a self-confessed 'no-nonsense' candidate, and says "I'm a hyper-achiever. Everything I do is always a success."

Next up is 26 year old Sandeesh. Born and raised in Nottingham, Sandeesh Samra describes herself as 'ambitious and opinionated' and believes that repeat business is the key to success. She admires the Tosphop brand and their ability to remain on trend and would love to have been the brain behind digital giants Facebook and Google.

Stella English is a Head of Business Management and cites 'resilience' as her greatest strength and has managed to forge a flourishing business career as the only female in the management on the trading floor of a Japanese investment bank, despite leaving school with no qualifications. The mother of 2 describes Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as 'phenomenal' inspirations and defines herself as 'passionate, funny and energetic'.

The first of the boys into the boardroom is Alex Epstein. Alex spent much of his childhood dreaming up new products and as a young boy conceived a concept which he likens to the bendy bus. Sacked from his first job making ice-cream at Haagen Dazs, Alex later found his forte in corporate communications and fell victim to the recession before he applied for The Apprentice.

Chris Bates is an avid rugby player and scuba diver, and has previously worked for leading investment bank JP Morgan after graduating with 1st class honours from Nottingham University. His past jobs have included working in an off-license and a pub and he considers his intelligence to be his biggest strength.

The second Chris to come face to face with Alan Sugar is Christopher Farrell. He is an ex-Royal Marine Commando and served his country for 10 years, enlisting at the age of 16 and going on to serve in areas of conflict including Iraq, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Afghanistan before moving into a new role as a mortgage broker.

Father-of-two Dan Harris is a former triathlon competitor and Ironman enthusiast and has completed three marathons as well as climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. His first business idea came as a university student where he launched a nightclub promotions company and he later worked as a recruitment consultant before moving into the IT sector. Upon applying for the show, Dan said that "In business there's no place for shirkers and no place for passengers. I insist that people who work for me deliver."

Former estate agent, 28 year old Jamie Lester is a big fan of dogs, cars and skiing. Hugely into property development, he owned two properties by the age of 23 and started his own company at 24, turning over £1,000,000 in two-and-a-half years. He describes himself as 'honest and trustworthy'.

22 year old Raleigh Addington is an unemployed Graduate. Raleigh studied Economics and Politics at Exeter University and once elicited a donation of £1,000,000 when working in the university's fundraising department. He refers to John Cadbury as a business inspiration and describes himself as 'enthusiastic, friendly and ambitious'.

Shibby Robati who says "My first word wasn't Mummy. It was money", got his first job working as a paper boy at the age of 17 and went on to become a fully qualified surgeon. He since turned his hand to business development and says that his biggest strength is in knowing his weaknesses.

Final contender Stuart Baggs is the apprentice's youngest ever candidate at just 21 . His first venture into business came when he started selling yo-yos in the school playground and he later went on to launch his own telecommunications company at the age of 18. Stuart describes himself as having 'no sense of political correctness' and says that he has a certain type of charisma."

For these elite professionals it is make or break time in the most daunting challenge they will ever face. With gripping boardroom showdowns and ambitious candidates, this series promises to be the most tense and unpredictable yet.

One job. 16 candidates. Lord Sugar's search for his Apprentice is about to begin...