Inside Scoop of the Apple Interview Process

Apple Aug 22, 2022

Being one of the world's most prestigious and prominent tech companies, it should be no surprise that the Apple interview process is long, rigorous, and challenging.

Candidates will face several rounds of interviews, assessments, and personal evaluations.

Truth be told, only a mere 0.5% of applicants make it to the hiring stage. And, if you're going into the Apple interview process blind, your chances are even slimmer.

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Getting ready for an Apple interview? Learn how to source a referral at Apple to increase your chances of getting an interview or job. This information was compiled from existing and former Apple employees.

Part of the problem is that Apple is infamously secretive and cagey.

Unlike other Big Tech companies, Apple doesn't spend time guiding potential candidates through its interview formats. Nor does it share its desired hiring traits and won't make its recruiters available to you.

As such, Apple has developed a reputation for being the most difficult Silicon Valley firm to interview with.

So, we developed this guide to help make this process a little easier for you.

Check out our role specific Apple interview guides below:

The Apple Interview Process

Initial Phone Call(s)

The Apple interview begins with an initial phone interview or two.

Your first phone interview will be with a recruiter at the company. After that, the recruiter may schedule you for another call with an Apple team lead or hiring manager.

These calls will likely only take 15 to 30 minutes.

You can stay in contact with the recruiter throughout the entire process. It's perfectly okay to reach out to them with questions.

These initial phone screenings are meant to confirm your basic information and ensure that you'd be a good fit for the position you're applying for before going further.

This stage of the Apple interview process is similar to that of other companies. You can expect to review your resume and background information, explain why you want to work at Apple, and answer a few behavioral interview questions. While these phone calls will not be technical, they are still critical. Therefore, treat them as valuable opportunities to make a solid first impression.

Technical Facetime Interviews

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

If you pass the initial phone screens, you'll need to complete a technical phone screen with Apple hiring managers.

The number of technical interviews expected of you may vary depending on the position. However, most candidates need to complete five or so.

The first technical interview will be scheduled around a week after the initial recruiter phone calls. Subsequent technical interviews will be scheduled for 1 to 3 days after the previous interview.

Apple runs these interviews via FaceTime. The first interview may include some resume questions but the rest focus on behavioral and technical questions.

You should be prepared to answer a coding question on data structures and algorithms during this stage of the Apple interview process. This assessment will be done with a shared editor tool like Codility.

The behavioral questions can get pretty personal and introspective. You'll need to dig deep to give an Apple hiring manager a worthy answer that'll impress (We'll cover answering behavioral interview questions in more detail later in this guide).

These interviews are done one-on-one and typically last for 30 minutes.

Position Assessment

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

The next stage of the Apple interview process is the Position Assessment portion.

Once you've completed all your technical interviews, you'll need to complete some form of an assessment.

Some candidates are given exercises to complete at home.

However, most applicants, especially new graduates and corporate hires, are asked to go into an Apple Assessment Center. (Apple hasn't entirely virtualized its in-person assessment portions.)

Once there, you'll need to complete written, group, or roleplaying exercises.

  • Apple's Written Exercise: These exercises are often a previously unseen case study. Apple will give you a candidate brief with the question and a prompt.
  • Apple's Group Exercise: These exercises ask you to work together in a team to solve problems related to your intended job. This exercise will assess your problem-solving, creative-thinking, and role-specific skills, along with your collaborative abilities and capacity to work well with others. Apple employees will be directly observing candidates during these exercises.
  • Apple's Roleplay Exercise: These exercises involve Apple's retail employees roleplaying various customer scenarios.

Depending on the position you're applying for, you may not need to complete a written or group exercise.

Some applicants are only asked to do the written exercise at the Apple Assessment Center. Nevertheless, you should still prepare for each of them if you get called in for a Position Assessment.

As you may know, many tech company interview processes don't include something like this.

These Assessments are just one of the reasons why the Apple interview process can be so challenging to get through.

However, they do allow you to mingle with Apple employees and other candidates.

On-site Interview Loop

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Making it to Apple's on-site interview loop is a massive accomplishment. But unfortunately, you usually enter this stage of the Apple interview process two weeks after position assessments are done.

Each interview takes roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. Therefore, it can take 5 to 6 hours to make it through the on-site interview loop.

During these interview rounds, you will meet at least 8 to 12 people, sometimes over 15.

These interviews will cover behavioral interview questions, domain knowledge, and coding tests. If you are a more experienced applicant applying for a higher-level position, you will also be asked questions on system design.

Apple's on-site interviews are done one-on-one or with two interviewers. Many candidates find that the rounds with two interviewers are some of the most demanding.

The interviewers may take turns grilling you, pose questions differently, and find new ways to challenge you.

The traditional on-site interviewing process includes meeting with prospective team members over lunch. This lunch interview will cover technical and domain knowledge.

How Long Does the Apple Interview Process Take?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

With all these different rounds and meetings, you're probably wondering how long the entire Apple interview process takes.

Well, it'll take candidates anywhere from 1 to 4 months to complete the entire Apple interview process.

Unlike other companies such as Microsoft or Meta, Apple isn't as consistent in its processes. So, there's no way to tell you how long it will take.

Types of Apple Interview Questions

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

As we mentioned, the Apple interview rounds will cover several types of interview questions. The most common apple interview questions focus on:

  • Technical Knowledge,
  • Behavioral Questions,
  • Domain Knowledge,
  • Coding,
  • System Design.

Domain Knowledge

During the interview process, Apple hopes to place particular candidates with specific teams. Therefore, you need in-depth knowledge of this team and the Apple products or services it builds if you want to be successful in your Apple interview.

You'll have to do more than recite technical knowledge. Apple wants to see high-level thinking and creative input with practical applications from its candidates.

You should know what the team is working on and what problems or challenges they might be up against. Also, think of the team and its work in the larger context of the economy and customer base.

Behavioral Questions

Like most tech companies today, Apple will ask its candidate's several behavioral interview questions throughout the process to assess many behavior-related professional skills.

Specifically, if you're hoping to ace the Apple interview, you'll need to demonstrate that you're collaborative, creative, and adaptable and grasp all the required social and soft skills.

Even so, the cultural fit you demonstrate is one of the most critical parts of answering Apple's behavioral interview questions.

As you likely already know, Apple is a culture and brand-heavy tech company. This quality is how Apple ultimately made its mark and distinguished itself from firms like IBM and Microsoft.

So, brand and culture fit is still a huge priority during an interview at Apple. You have to prove that you fit in and belong there if you want to receive a job offer in the end.

The most successful candidates will demonstrate that they understand what Apple's about, care about the company, feel deeply passionate about it, and have a sense of loyalty to the brand.

You need to know the company, products, services, and customers inside and out. Then, you need to make valuable contributions with creative ideas and intelligent suggestions.

"Why Apple?" is a classic behavioral question that almost everyone gets. It's simple and might be a little overplayed, but don't brush it off, don't take it lightly, and don't give a cheesy answer.

Apple takes itself seriously, and so should you. Show that you're already a member of the cult.

Technical Knowledge (Coding and System Design)

The technical questions in Apple's interview process are focused on coding. However, some candidates, especially higher-level ones, are also asked system design questions.

The coding questions cover the standard data structures, algorithms, and math. For example, Apple is known for asking about:

  • Data structures: Arrays, Linked Lists, Stacks, Queues, Trees, Graphs, Heaps, Hash sets, Hash maps
  • Algorithms: Depth-first search, Breadth-first search, Binary search, Quicksort, Merge sort, Dynamic programming, Divide and conquer

You may be asked to:

  • Determine the sum of three integers,
  • Merge overlapping integers,
  • Clone a directed graph,
  • Add two integers,
  • Merge two sorted linked lists,
  • Determine if two binary trees are identical,
  • Mirror binary tree nodes,
  • Find all palindrome substrings,
  • Reverse words in a given string,
  • Write an algorithm to find the largest sum subarray,
  • Complete power of a number calculations,
  • Find all sum combinations,
  • Search in rotated array,
  • Implement an LRU cache.

That should be easy for you, right?

The system design questions asked during Apple interviews will vary depending on your experience level and the position you're applying for.

Be prepared to answer system design questions about:

  • Operating large systems,
  • Failure detection and resilience,
  • Reliability, scalability, maintainability,
  • Data models and query languages,
  • Storage and retrieval,
  • Replication and partitioning,
  • Faults and reliability,
  • Consistency and consensus

Apple reportedly spends the most time on linked lists, arrays, string, and system design topics of all the technical questions.

How to Prepare for the Apple Interview

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

Identify Your Team and Develop Domain Knowledge

Before you go into your Apple interviews, you should already be familiar with the team you're applying to and where it fits into the Apple organization.

Let's say you have a penchant for productivity tools and want to join the team that works on Pages. Start by looking through Apple's general team categories:

  • Software and Services
  • Machine Learning and AI
  • Hardware
  • Design
  • Operations and Supply Chain
  • Marketing
  • Corporate Functions
  • Sales and Business Development
  • Apple Retail
  • Support and Service

Find the category you're in and look for the right spot. The Software and Services team includes:

  • Apps and Framework
  • Cloud and Infrastructure
  • Core Operating Systems
  • DevOps and Site Reliability
  • Engineering Project Management
  • Information Systems and Technology
  • Machine Learning and AI
  • Security and Privacy
  • Software Quality, Automation, and Tools
  • Wireless Software

Once here, you can see that the team working on productivity applications concentrates purely on Apple applications and frameworks for third-party developers.

This team's tech skills include application development, API design, user interface design, networking, application protocols, framework development, and performance engineering.

Your domain includes every Apple app and framework, along with the core skills used by the cross-functional team. In addition, it extends to the third-party app ecosystem, independent developers, consumers, and the marketplace.

There's a lot to cover. You should always know where your role fits into the Apple ecosystem and stay abreast of current news.

Choose Your Coding Language

Apple lets you interview in the coding language of your choice. So it's a great idea to go in ready to code in the one listed explicitly in the job listing or one that's most in-demand.

According to Apple job listings, the most popular programming languages are:

  • Python
  • C++
  • Java
  • Objective-C
  • Swift
  • Perl
  • JavaScript

Python is by far the most popular language. So it should always be a safe choice.

Drill Your Coding Problems

Practice, practice, practice. That's the only way you can reliably ace the Apple interview rounds.

You want to have a solid mental library waiting to pull from.

You already know how to do this.

So, find a good source for practice coding topics and questions, then fall back into the study routine that got you the tech skills in the first place.

Learn Behavior Question Response Frameworks

The Apple's interview process confronts you with open-ended, vague, and esoteric interview questions. Even so, you will have to respond to them quickly with genuine and meaningful answers.

Your responses must be conversational and sincere while remaining clear, concise, and coherent.

You need to prepare for this.

But you can't get ready by analyzing prompts, memorizing a cheat sheet, or reciting a few catchphrases (or you really shouldn't, anyway).

The most effective way to ensure your answers are genuine and meaningful while remaining concise and coherent is by using a structured interview question framework.

When it comes to behavioral interview questions, there are two great choices:

STAR (Situation Task Action Result) or PAR (Problem Action Result).

The STAR method is highly recommended by hiring managers. PAR is similar but condensed and a little more straightforward.

So if you're a little overwhelmed by everything else you have to learn, focus on PAR.

STAR:

  • Situation: tell the interviewer about a particular situation, challenge, or experience, including relevant contextual information. Use this to start giving the answer some deeper meaning.
  • Task: describe the task or responsibilities you had.
  • Action: describe your actions and how you completed the task or met the challenge. Use concrete terms and frame the action around you as the hero and main character – not a team or anyone else.
  • Result: describe and showcase the outcomes and results generated by your actions. What did you learn and accomplish?

PAR:

  • Problem: describe a problem or challenging situation. You can include the possible negative consequences to make it more imposing.
  • Action: tell what steps you took to resolve the situation or accomplish something.
  • Result: describe the outcome of your actions and their impact or transformation.

Which one do you think will work best for you?

The streamlined PAR method can help prevent you from rushing through answers.

But the STAR method is excellent if you prefer to break every response down into discrete sections.

Try them both. You'll still need to practice to become familiar enough so that responding through this framework becomes second nature.

You can do that via mock interviewing.

Mock Interview

Interviewing is a learnable skill.

Just because the Apple hiring process is incredibly challenging doesn't mean you can't improve your chances through rehearsing and practicing.

That's what mock interviewing is for!

Mock interviews help you pull everything together and learn how to ace your interviews by simulating a real interviewing experience.

The best mock interviews are done with the company's former hiring managers, a professional career counselor, or trained peers that you feel comfortable with.

This is what it takes to get you into a firm like Apple.

Everyone who gets brought into the Apple hiring process is incredibly qualified. Your tech skills will likely be at par with everyone else's.

The make or break will come from how well you perform in the numerous interview rounds.

Don't wing it. Train for it.

How to Get Hired by Apple (Key Skills)

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Apple hires top-level technical capabilities applicants who can make outstanding personal contributions.

The technical skills vary by team and functional unit. But Apple seems to hire for a core skill set.

Here are the top 15 tech skills listed in recent Apple job postings:

  • Python
  • Software Engineering
  • C++
  • Software Development
  • Debugging
  • MacOS
  • Objective-C
  • Java
  • Machine Learning
  • Swift
  • SQL
  • JavaScript and React
  • Computer Engineering
  • Hardware Experience
  • Simulation

Python, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are three of the most in-demand skills.

So what else is Apple looking for in applicants?

Apple prides itself on being an elevated place to work. It looks for team members who can get the company and align with its values. It looks for people who are passionate about its vision.

It looks for those who care deeply and are excited about its technology. It looks for team members with imagination, vision, and a sense of originality.

Is that you? Find out how to make it through the Apple interview and tell them you're the right candidate to hire.

FAQs about Apple Interviews

  • Do you need previous job experience to work at Apple? / Is it hard to land a job at Apple with no experience? You don't need experience, and Apple is open to training new hires. However, it might make you less competitive. So work with a consultant to better tailor your approach.
  • Apple contacted me to schedule an interview but hasn't responded since. What's going on? That's normal, and everything's fine. Apple's recruiters are known for not responding to communication and taking their own time. They'll get back to you when they do.
  • What teams is Apple hiring for? Apple is expected to hire for engineering, technical, and other critical roles. It's also likely to continue moving into AR/VR.

More Interview Prep Resources

Here at Exponent, we have dozens of different interview prep tools and resources to help you breeze through the Apple interview process:

Complete Software Engineering Interview Prep Course

Our software engineering interview course helps you review the most important data structures, algorithms, and system design principles, with detailed questions and mock interviews.

Start Learning

💬 Get prepared with example Apple interview questions

📖 Read through our Apple interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral and interviewing skills with our interview practice tool.

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