Who Gets the Job?

updated 12/20/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/20/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

When the two Apprentice finalists face off live in the Trump boardroom Dec. 16, two words will hang in the balance: "You're hired." And while this season lacked Season l's showmances (think Amy and Nick) and larger-than-life characters (paging Omarosa!), the product-oriented challenges deepened rivalries and tensions, making for tooth-and-nail boardroom fights. "We were much more type A, much more hypercompetitive," says ousted castmate Maria Boren, 32. "We were all, at the end of the day much more similar than we were different." So who'll be The Donald's next right-hand man or woman? As we head into the semifinal round (two get the boot Dec. 9), here's a look at the competitors:

As president of an L.A. software-development company, he has maturity and an Army-trained discipline. "Kelly's very direct, very efficient, a great logistics guy," says Boren. "He can map it out and make sure every t is crossed and i is dotted. As analytical as he is, he's also creative. He's also really fun and funny." Why he might win: "Kelly is very solid from virtually every standpoint," says Trump. "He's a very, very strong leader." And why he might not: "He can be rough and he can be condescending."

She opened a bridal store at 21 and now is a wedding and event planner in the Washington, D.C., area. "She's a street fighter," says I Boren. "She understands [the need to] control expenses, increase income, keep people motivated." Why she might win: "Sandy's been extraordinary in the last episodes," says Trump. In the bridal salon challenge, "there was more pressure on her because everyone expected her to do well. She totally stepped up and dominated the task." Why she might not: "She wants to be a leader so badly that I'm not sure she can follow."

An attorney of five years with degrees from Princeton and Harvard, the San Francisco native has an enviable poker face in the boardroom. Given to dry humor, she does a wicked imitation of Trump. "She's hardworking and always focused," says ousted competitor Andy Litinsky, 23. "She asked all the right questions." Why she might win: "She's a brilliant young woman," says Trump. Why she might not: "She sometimes tries to take credit where she doesn't deserve it," he adds. "She's not nearly as popular with the other candidates as I thought she would have been, and that can hurt you."

Loaded with academic credentials (he has an M.B.A. from Emory and is working on a law degree at the University of Chicago), the Silver Spring, Md., native is one of the more popular among his castmates. "Kevin is a good leader? says Litinsky. "He's very energetic and passionate. When you're that way, the people around you become that way. They become better for it." Why he might win: "Kevin's very strong," says Trump. "He's highly, highly educated." Why he might not: "I've never seen anybody with more degrees. It's time to go out and start working."

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