How to get a job at Apple How to get a job at Apple

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How to get a job at Apple

Update: Tim Cook’s in charge and Apple’s started hiring hackers

It’s the dream ticket. The chance to work in one of the most exclusive tech playgrounds in the world, rub shoulders with renowned designers, engineers and even jockey with Tim Cook for position in the lunch queue. But how to get a job at Apple? It’s a tricky question, but we think we have the answer.

We’ve consulted with Apple employees past and present, done some digging, trawled through fine print, and found there are several tried and tested routes to a job at Apple. Want to jump from the dole queue to Apple’s inner sanctum? Read on, and we’ll give your career a leg up.

Table of contents

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Study up

Being a stereotypical brainbox is, generally speaking, not the best route into Apple. Sure, you need smarts, but you also need the right personality. We’ve heard countless times from our contacts within Cupertino that it’s attitude as much as aptitude that makes a difference at an Apple job interview, even now that the enigmatic Steve Jobs has passed. That said, if you’re studying, honing your skills and transforming yourself into the perfect Apple candidate, there are a few tips that’ll help you along the way.

Step 1: Study the right things
Whatever your discipline, there are things you’ll need to specialise in if you’re to do well at Apple. If you’re a programmer, that means shunning technologies Apple hasn’t invested in. At times that might seem painful, such as turning your back on Flash, and even Java, and instead concentrating on Apple certified standards.

Windows fanboys, however, might be surprised to know that the door to the Cupertino campus isn’t entirely shut to you. Apple requires your services: Don’t forget there are Windows versions of two major Apple products: Safari and iTunes, both with hectic release schedules, so don’t feel discounted.

Apple has tons of developer resources to point you in the right direction here.

But what if you’re not a code-monkey? What if you’re looking for a place in the hallowed halls of Apple’s Industrial Design department? Our contact at Cupertino says this is “considered the “best” place to work within Apple. They have a beautiful specially designed office environment, and all the equipment they need, with a great sound system. They are considered to be Steve’s “blue eyed boys” who appear to get everything they need.”

Obviously, competition is fierce, so you’ll need to get yourself noticed, which brings us on to the next step…

Step 2: Study in the right places
Apple’s Senior Vice President for Industrial Design is Jonathan Ive, a soft spoken Brit born and raised in Chingford. He studied at the Newcastle Polytechnic, now Northumbria University, originally on the Design for Industry programme, and was later awarded an honorary degree. That might be a long way from Cupertino, but Apple’s design boss still has close ties with his alma mater.

Rumour has it Ive often heads back to his old university, giving guest lectures and searching out the most talented students for recruitment to Apple. If you’re seeking a route to his notoriously secretive inner sanctum, you could do worse than following in his footsteps.

Step 3: Never stop studying
It should go without saying that Apple won’t hire you unless you’re up to speed on the latest and greatest tech. To that end, you should enroll yourself into Apple’s developer programme, even if you’re not actually a developer.

It offers access to all of Apple’s latest documentation, guidelines and design instructions. If you’re thinking of becoming an Apple interface designer, you might not write reams of code, but you’ll need to know its Human Interface Guidelines document back to front and inside out.

Make first contact

Getting your foot into the door at Apple is, obviously, step one in finding a place on the payroll. It’s not as tricky as you might think though, and regardless of the type of job you’re after, we’ve got tips to help you.

Route 1: Get a referral
It’s easier than it sounds, and getting yourself talent-spotted is often a direct route into the Cupertino campus. In the earlier days of Apple, recruiting was often done on the recommendations of existing employees and while there are more spaces to fill now, Apple still places emphasis on referrals.

Apple staff are usually happy to recommend newbies for upcoming jobs (as long as you have the relevant experience and skills, of course), and they even get a payment for the privilege.

Back in the 1980s, Apple’s rewards for employee referrals were pretty weak: just a gift token that could be exchanged in the company’s on-campus store. Now though, the stakes are much higher, starting at $250 and up to $5,000 per successful referral, depending on the position.

Our insider tells us that getting work at Apple on the back of a referral, and often after freelancing for Apple as an outsider, leads to a less intense hiring procedure. We’re told that, if you’re a “known entity” rather than a CV crossing a recruiter’s desk, you’ll get an easier ride. No practical tests at the interview stage, no intense interview, and more team introductions than interviewer inquisitions.

There’s also a chance you’ll start work sooner. Where previously we’ve heard Apple can take months to hire a new employee, our insider says recommended applicants could start within a few weeks.

Find a referee
What’s that? You don’t know anyone who already works at Apple? Try hitting LinkedIn and see if you can get an introduction through your network of contacts, and here’s another tip: don’t go straight for the department manager, but find someone who works there and ask them to refer you to their boss.

Doing this is easier than you might think. Head to LinkedIn and set up an account (if you haven’t already got one). Next search for someone matching the discipline you’re working in, who already works at Apple. For example, you might want to find a designer. So head to the search bar and type “Apple, designer”. Hit enter and you’ll see a ton of results. From here, it’s a simple case of filtering.

Scroll down and expand the “Current company” filter in the toolbox on the left, select “Apple Inc” and you’ll only see designers currently working at Apple. Now, skim the list, looking for a “2nd” badge next to their name. That means one of your friends knows them. Ask that friend for an introduction, and set the ball rolling.

For a broader search, check out Apple’s company page on LinkedIn and look for those tell-tale blue badges. Anyone sporting one is ripe for an introduction through your circle of contacts.

Route 2: Get yourself head-hunted
If you can’t get yourself referred by a current Apple employee, the next best thing is to get yourself talent-spotted by a recruiter. Apple uses both agencies, and internal recruiters. The company has plenty of eyes looking for new recruits, and you can increase your chances of being spotted by proving your abilities in areas Apple is already paying close attention.

Contribute a fantastic iOS or Mac app to the App Store, and you might find they get in contact. Apple forums, such as MacRumors are full of such tales. It’s also the way one-man-band developers find their way to the stage at Apple keynotes, hand picked to show off new iOS features, and tout the simplicities of Apple’s SDK in one fell swoop.

Want to leapfrog straight into product development? Prove your chops with hardware Apple is interested in. That’s how Hugo Fiennes went from Warwick University in the UK, to Rio and then to Apple where he heads up iPhone hardware development: By proving a long-standing and intricate knowledge of the ARM hardware at the heart of the iPhone. You can read Fiennes’ story here (PDF link).

Of course, there are as many routes to entry as there are different types of jobs at Apple. Something as simple as answering questions within the Apple support forums is also rumoured to have lead to employment too, and of course there’s the developer’s back door: generating valuable input and code to an open source project Apple invests heavily in.

That’s the route taken by Jordan Hubbard, a big name in the open source community, having co-founded FreeBSD. He moved to Apple’s Core OS Engineering Department as its manager of BSD Technologies in 1999.

BSD, for the uninitiated, is a form of Unix that grew amongst the open source community. Much of its code has been aggregated into Mac OS X, which is why Apple was understandably keen to hire Hubbard. Can you create something Apple needs? If so, you’re a shoe-in for a top job within its walls.

You don’t necessarily have to go the legitimate route to get noticed. In August 2011, notorious iPhone hacker Comex (AKA Nicholas Allegra) did a Bill Gates; he was awarded an internship at Apple after routinely jailbreaking each iOS version to come out of the gates. Apple may have just wanted to keep one of its enemies where it can keep an eye on them, but it still shows that more morally dubious coding can get you noticed.

Route 3: Get yourself bought
You don’t have to be an open source advocate, or spend years slaving away on forums to score a spot on Apple’s payroll. Plenty of people have created commercial products and found their companies bought by Apple, along with themselves and their employees. That’s the way Lala founder and CEO Bill Nguyen got his Apple employee ID number.

Last year, amid much gossiping that Apple was about to launch iTunes in the cloud, Bill Nguyen sold Lala to Apple for a reported $80 million. He didn’t just receive a large lump sum though, as Apple wanted access to Lala’s technology and team. All his employees went to Cupertino. We imagine, with a song in their heart as well as a cheque in their pockets. Similarly, Dag Kittlaus, the man behind Siri, found himself buried deep within Apple HQ after the company was bought up for use in iOS 5.

Do you have an idea for a next-gen web technology? Lala’s streaming service was an obvious competitor to iTunes and Siri had highly enviable technology. Can you create something similar?

Route 4: Send your CV on spec
Of course, Apple accepts applications direct to its front door too, from anyone with the correct credentials and skills. Check out its jobs page, and you’ll see there’s no shortage of opportunity at Cupertino.

Our insider on Apple’s campus says there’s no harm in sending in your CV, and Apple will often keep you on file for other openings too. However, they would “highly recommend trying to locate an insider” before doing this. A little goodwill goes a long way at Apple.

Route 5: Get an internship
So you don’t know anyone at Apple already, e-introductions leave a sour taste in your mouth, and creating a product that Jobs and Co might want to buy is off the to-do list for one reason or another? There’s one last way to get your feet under the boardroom, or at least the canteen, table: get an internship.

That’s right, Apple accepts interns, and while you’ll need to be studying for a relevant course and willing to work for lower-than-Apple-average pay, it’s a neat route in. Here at Electricpig, we’ve worked with Apple’s PR interns in the past and can say with confidence that they’re bright, enthusiastic and extremely good at what they do.

It’s not all good news though. Internships have a shelf life. Apple’s maximum internships are for 51 weeks, so expect to be back on the job hunt within a year. You’ll find internships listed on Apple’s regular job site.

Route 6: Start at the bottom
Still haven’t found a route into Apple’s corporate structure that suits you? Your options are getting thin, but there’s still the tried and tested method of working your way from the ground up. In Apple’s case, the ground floor entry is its retail stores.

Constant expansion, and customers queuing out of the door, mean Apple’s constantly hiring retail staff. Start your search at the Apple Jobs website.

But beware the competition for Apple retail jobs. Estimates currently put the number of applicants for each Apple retail job at around 200. That’s right, you’ll need to out-perform 199 other people to get that coveted Apple ID badge.

Our contact inside one of the UK’s largest Apple stores has some advice here though, and recommends showing up at an Apple Store of your choosing and asking current employees about attending a “Recruitment seminar”. These are Apple’s group interviews, where they separate the strong potential employees from the weaker ones.

It’s not crucial that you’re an Apple expert, or even that you know much about their products in detail. Instead, the advice we’ve had from insiders is to be “passionate about people, and be able to hold meaningful conversations with all kinds of individuals.”

Also, unlike the corporate environment, there are few benefits to knowing someone who already works at an Apple store.

You will, however, be expected to work well in a team. Apple’s recruitment seminars include exercises where you’ll be thrust into situations with strangers also vying for a job. If you don’t play well with others, you won’t fit in at Apple retail.

Be prepared for the interview

You’ve got this far, but now the pressure will start to mount. If you’re invited for a job interview at Apple, whether it’s for a retail position or one within its corporate departments, you’ll need to go prepared.

Introduction, not inquisition
If you followed our advice and scored yourself a referral from somebody already working at Apple, you should find the interview process less nerve-jangling. We’ve heard tales of a single group meeting with eight people leading to a start date in just two weeks’ time where new employees come with an Apple-approved employment history.

That’s not to say you won’t be given a grilling. Apple doesn’t favour traditional job interviews with one person grilling another, alone in a room, but expect to have your knowledge of your chosen subject highly scrutinised by at least one person in each group meeting.

One thing you shouldn’t expect too much of is practical tests. From our research, it seems Apple does its homework and thoroughly investigates your previous achievements before issuing an invite onto campus. For that reason alone, an interview with Apple is cause for a sigh of relief: They like what you do and how you do it, the rest is mostly down to your personality.

If you didn’t get a referral, you’ll likely face a phone interview or two before being invited to see Apple in person. These are more like screening interviews than aptitude tests.

After that, you’re likely to be interviewed by your peers, rather than a manager. Expect around two days of interviews, with several different groups of people, but don’t expect a fast decision. Our source tells us “it often takes weeks, maybe even a month for them to come to a decision.”

In most cases your first interview will concentrate on assessing your technical abilities. The second, if you get one, will be to learn more about you as a person. If you didn’t get a referral you’re more likely to get a more traditional one on one interview with a manager at some stage too.

If you’re heading to one of Apple retail’s Recruitment Seminars, IFOAppleStore has a great guide to the interview process for sales assistants, but the selection process for more senior positions is more hazy.

After even more detail? Check out Glassdoor’s discussion boards. Here you’ll find reports of Apple’s interview process first hand. Some are old, some are incredibly recent. Unsurprisingly, the most frequent reports come from retail staff, so if you’re after guidance for those jobs, it’s a must-read.

Practice makes perfect
An Apple interview is likely a one-shot deal. You’re not going to want to mess it up, so do as our source says and “practice telling your story.”

You should try to find out as much as possible about the position you’re applying for, and the department you’ll be working in. If you can, try to find out what it is that the department you’re applying for is working on, what they need you to accomplish, and then be prepared to talk about it in great detail.

Identify previous experiences that would helpful to them in achieving their goals. Be clear about where you want to go. Have lots of questions prepared, and know that each group within Apple has an individual culture.

Dress for success
It’s probably a question which won’t pop into your brain until the night before the interview, but seriously, what should you wear to an Apple job interview?

Our insider put their fashionista skills to good use with this advice: “Business casual. Definitely not a suit. Certain groups dress a little smarter than others. The legal teams and some marketing types tend to dress up a bit more. Apple is proud of its diversity. You see it all… men in long skirts, kilts whatever… as long as you don’t expose too much, or wear clothes that stink, then pretty much anything is acceptable. Don’t wear a lot of perfume or cologne”

Know the internal Apple culture

We’ve mentioned several times that Apple expects employees to ‘fit in’, but how do you do that if you don’t know the internal culture? Easy. Read our simple guide!

Expect secrecy, but also treat it as a benefit
It should come as no surprise that Apple expects most employees to work in secrecy, but what might cock your head is that most employees value it as much as the company does. Our insider on campus tells us: “I find it quite good. You have a limited team that you discuss the project with and therefore a limited number of opinions to deal which all saves time.

“You don’t bore your family and friends by talking about work because you cannot share the details with them.”

Work hard, work fast
The late Steve Jobs often stated in interviews that Apple “runs like a start-up”. That doesn’t mean it struggles financially, or experiments a lot, but rather that there are small teams working with a tight focus on one project at a time.

It’s an environment described best by Hugo Fiennes: “The direct result is that we can get a lot done, very quickly. The first iPhone had only a handful of people in the core electronics team, but they were supported by hundreds of specialist from other groups including industrial design, mechanical engineering, touch, marketing and software.”

Our own insider has another take too, explaining that life working in a small group can be tough: “The only downside is if you are totally overloaded with work and aren’t allowed to bring anyone else onto the team without permission, which can take a few days to acquire.” It’s still the same, even now that Tim Cook is in charge.

Reward yourself
If all that sounds like hard work, it’s because it is. In all our research, one thing is clear: Apple doesn’t carry dead weight. Teams are small, and each employee is expected to give everything they have to make a product a success. However, there are some sizable perks that come with the job.

Apple awards discretionary bonuses to employees beyond the usual Christmas lump sum. Expect to be rewarded for devising a new process that speeds up development, increases revenue growth or reduces manufacturing time and cost. In some cases, you’re likely to be rewarded for working incessantly to meet a deadline, thinking up creative solutions to awkward problems, going above and beyond your assignment or job descriptions and coming up with new inventions which Apple later holds the patent for.

Good luck
We asked our source what they would miss most from Apple. The first response was “A CEO (who at the time was Steve Jobs) and executive team with great vision and a clear direction that ripples down through the company.” There’s been a change at the top since then, but the structure of a hard-working but diverse and talented team from top to bottom remains. Now, go polish your CV and show Tim and Co what you’ve got.

  • TheLip

    “each employee is expected to give everything they have to make a product a succes”

    yes like your life, if you have small kids you can expect get know them when the are teenagers. Apple is as bad as Cisco on the 14-16 hour days /6 days a week. As much as I love Apple products as an engineer it is one of the places in Silicon Valley I will not even consider.

    • Connie lord

      I’m with you. I worked at Cisco for 7 years and handled three separate jobs. I put in 14-15 hr days and weekends too. It got so that I neglected my health because there was no time for me. Did Cisco understand? No, when i needed surgery my boss wanted to transfer me out so that she could be sure to make her MBO so she could get her large bonus. I was very sick and needed two operations and they kicked me to the curb after winning various awards for Teamwork, individual achievement etc. You are nothing to those big corporations, but a dollar sign. When i think of all the time I invested and the money I generated it makes me sick to my stomach.

  • Anon

    This is total BS, some is true, the rest is sheer crap! Just apply and see what happens.

  • tom

    As someone that has family at Apple and has placed people at Apple this article is interesting but really is far from accurate. I was one of those recruiters mentioned in the article. Let me break it down, if you want the truth:

    - Get a referral: true, but it also requires luck & timing
    - The referee on LinkedIn: you need a professional & compelling reason to get a referral. What are you going to do for them in return?
    - Get yourself head hunted: Yeah, I was that guy. Wanna know the truth? If your portfolio is not in the top 3% you will go unnoticed. Period. No exception. And I mean online portfolio, not a PDF or your student work. Sorry, had to be said. They already HAVE the top designers, they are not going to take a mediocre designer and “let you work your way up”. The same goes for web developers and iPhone app devs.
    - Send your CV on spec: that is adorable! Not gonna happen. Look, you are competing with Standford MBAs, Google employees and talented folks from all over. The internal HR department does not have time for that crap.
    - Start at the bottom: actually… that is sound advice! However… I know about a dozen people that have gone in and stayed at the same level for years. Getting in does not mean going up.

    - Be prepared for the interview: actually, wow, where to begin. First off there is a whole section missing: the skills assessment. For example, if you are going for a front end web dev, you are given an assignment and expected to hand code it. Then, you might get an interview. Also, let's clarify… it is not 1 interview. Expect to come back several times and expect to speak to 15-20 people. Seriously. It is a 3-4 week process.

    Sorry to be a buzz kill. They are the top company in the world and they can be picky.

    • Photomanbrad

      exactly on several points Tom… this is like an article taken out of a Job Hints And Suggestions posting at the government employment office or something…

      It also appears to be covering the coding/designing 'guts' end of things more, when easily a larger part of Apple is the consumer interfacing through stores and teaching positions such as Creative or Genius. Granted, the article seems to be relating mostly to getting a job at Cupertino, however I doubt very much 2 billion eligible job applicants can or will be considered 'only' at Cupertino HQ.

      I can tell you HERE in my country, (the Apple Store being the 'practical' application of this article's job hints), that if you get a referral, make it for Apple related work or personnel that extends back no further than 4 years ago…while 'lying' isnt what I am suggesting, I would say drop all reference to any and all Apple knowledge and experience prior to that (fake it if you have to, be vague, let THEM ask how far back you know), in your CV and in prepping for your interviews (phone, written and otherwise). It will actually work against you in all aspects if you dont… whether its Apple's concerted effort to weed out 'stale knowledge' or past technologies or intentionally being discriminatory despite having excellent current Apple knowledge, they seem to have a hate on for that sort of thing (for gawd sake dont even pretend to know that Newton was an Apple product…it will end the interview right there if you do)

      Apple has a sharp, clear, absolute and indelible repulsion to 'knowledge' and experience to anything before the Intel based machines, now they have been around a while… if you have years of direct PPC or client/customer service on Apple-related behalf, concentrate on all current year knowledge instead…

      as for 'dressware', not sure how the bald headed guy with tatts, or the multiple earring guy with tatts and jeans, dressed when they went and got interviewed… they have permanent and clear 'fashion statement' lifestyle which makes me think Apples 'front line' approach is 'NO ONE UNDER 25 and NO ONE who doesnt dress to make a clear cool hip youngster impression'… I highly doubt the guys at the local Apple store even know what 'clean semi formal, no tie' means… they wear 'lifestyle' fashion

      Completely Windows-only people have been hired over PPC technicals, as far as I can see, based solely on this kind of look and approach and enthusiasm… they are blank slate and programmable… compared to 'older Apple Guys'

      you can have a longer Apple history of knowledge and experience, enthusiasm and customer service A+ record, but if you dress anywhere near formal, forget it… two things working against you in above scenerio…

      • Xavier

        Do you have any serious recommendations for Me?? I am seriously considering trying to get an internship with the company soon.

  • Words Matter

    I worked for Apple for nearly 10 years, first in retail then in Cupertino. In my experience, the advice in this article is pretty solid. There are a LOT of former “Mac Geniuses” in Cupertino in all sorts of roles.

    Getting hired at Apple is very much about who you are as well as what you know. Since much of the work is done by relatively small teams, it's critical that new people mesh well with the existing team. Be prepared to talk about a wide range of subjects during the team interviews (often plural) as the team members discover whether they'd like working with you.

    Some groups do have practical tests (mine did). In many cases the entire team will review your work both for technical correctness — do you know how to do the job? — as well as to find out how you think and whether you're able to identify the critical “next questions” that need to be answered to get the best possible results.

    Good luck!

  • M444

    I got an offer at Apple and turned it down. The company is design-driven, not technology driven. Most of the interesting stuff they ship is either acquired or copied from competitors. There are many companies out there that do much more interesting R&D. Apple is not the company to go to if you love technology.

    • Faloopa

      Really? So USB2.0 and FireWire and (coming soon) Light Peak have *nothing* to do with Apple? Just look at HTML5 and tell me we'd be where we are today in HTML5 if it were not for iOS. Apple is often (but not always) on the bleeding edge of technology. I'm not saying Apple Inc. is for everyone, but your arguments are totally misplaced and not informed.

    • Drew Dayton

      Don’t forget WebKit, something Apple created which is now used by pretty much every smart phone and many browsers.  They may not have created smart phones, but they shaped the market into what it is today.  Capacitative touch screens are now standard issue because of Apple.  They didn’t invent apps but they revamped that model, and every other company has followed.  How about the music industry?  Apple (or Steve Jobs) single handedly changed the music industry forever.  I don’t care if you don’t like Apple or their products but don’t say they are not a technology driven company or don’t do interesting R&D.  You might as well also say Microsoft did nothing to reinvent the PC and change the way people use an OS on a PC.

  • Alain Chappaz

    Nah, I wouldn’t work for Apple even if they paid Microsoft money.

  • Arzich

    Loved the article,true or a myth,at least it gives a little idea of what to expect. I always liked high tech,product design,internet,computer systems which made me to investigate this subjects for years. I don’t know programming but I’m still aiming at Apple and one day I might get an opportunity there,even not having formation in computers which I regret since my area of studies is other. If I point at the universe I might hit a star! I never know!
    Great article ! And loved to hear from Apple people here,it gives the real world picture. 

  • Angel Morales

    I just realized that I don’t want to work there THAT bad. I’ve had interviews but they want younger people. Someone really should take them to court for discrimination against older people

    • Anonymous

      Total. Bullshit. One of my most respected co-workers (hired three years ago) is well over 60 (which is old for someone who still writes cutting-edge code for a living). The Apple work environment is by far the most diverse I’ve ever worked in: Men, Women, Old, Young, Hot, Ugly, Straight, or Gay, if you’ve got they are looking for and aren’t an asshole they will hire you.

Hot chat, right here!

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