Apple’s interview process consists of the following steps:
Before we get into the details of each of these steps, here are a few general notes about Apple’s hiring process, evaluation criteria, and interview experience.
Humans in groups act out a chosen metaphor; Apple isn’t a sports team. They’re an army. Their army is made up of people obsessed with making great products. And they look to hire people who’ve embedded Apple products into their lives. Armies reward loyalty more than sports teams. Apple also has the longest tenured employees in FAANG (we're including Microsoft with FAANG for the purposes of this guide).
Apple is decentralized and lets candidates interview with different teams concurrently; if you want to maximize your odds interview with as many teams as you have the appetite for.
“I interviewed with like 12 teams. I got 2 offers. Along the way, I told one of the Apple recruiter’s I was interviewing for another Apple team and they shrugged it off; they didn’t care.”
Apple’s interview process is more like what you might see at a startup than any other FAANG – from assigning which questions to ask to interviewer training to how hiring decisions get made. Significant inter-team variance is the norm, with each team essentially acting like a startup that’s coming up with its own way of conducting interviews.
At Apple, there’s no formal interviewer training. It’s very ad hoc. Every team is different. There is literally no process. What each of the teams does is rely on one of their very senior engineers or someone very experienced. Apple has a lot of people with long tenures, like 15 years. One of my colleagues had been there for 22 years. At Apple, the more senior you get the more the team trusts you to come up with your own questions. So what the interviewers at Apple typically do: you come up with a question that's not online, and you make sure it’s relevant to what your team is doing. Then you pitch it to your manager or tech lead. Then you run with it.
“One thing not enough candidates know about is this: there’s no such thing as an Apple interview. You apply for a team. Not the company. When people ask me “How to prepare for an Apple interview?” I say ask the recruiter. Because they usually know what types of questions are asked. The recruiter spends 30 minutes or an hour per debrief where engineers are talking about the details about the code. So if the recruiter is paying attention or is at least a little bit technical, they should have a clue whether it’s LeetCode-style questions or embedded style questions. So ask your Apple recruiter a forced-choice question like, ‘Is this interview more X or more Y?’”
“I was one of the people to come up with a take-home assignment for candidates. Which was my favorite part of the process at Apple. We were hiring people for full-stack but not just any full-stack – we wanted people who were coding in Python on the back-end and a particular framework on the front-end. We cooked up a take-home which was a scaled down version of what they’d be doing on the job: an internal tool built in those exact technologies. We gave them that take home and had them work on it for a week. Then we discussed it at the onsite where we’d live-debug it and talk about architecture. I really liked this ‘Try before you buy’ style process. Because Apple really wants you to be productive in week 2, if not at the end of week 1.”
Apple is the most likely to shock you; they’re more likely to ask you something you didn’t prepare for. Out of all the FAANGs, they’re the ones you can expect to do something unexpected, and some of their tactics can seem mercenary. Apple is the only FAANG which sometimes has a process to cut interviews short if the candidate clearly isn’t meeting the bar – if you don't perform above the bar for the first half of the interview, they’ll cancel the rest.
“If by the fourth round, the hiring manager has gotten consistent feedback that doesn’t meet the bar, then they’d end the onsite early and reject the candidate.”
Apple is not results or process oriented. They’re motivation oriented. In other words, they care more about the “Why” than the “What” or the “How”, and as such, they value behavioral interviews more than coding.
Apple employees are obsessed with privacy. It’s not just marketing lip service. When asked if “privacy” is a buzzword at Apple, our interviewers said…
“Privacy isn't just a buzzword. We are obsessed with it. To drive that part home. Because it’s so important. And as I mentioned, I was a part of a group focused on gathering user data - users here being Apple internal employees – to inform future products.
Even at Apple, when we’re just getting data from internal employees, we anonymized the data. Just to practice what we preach. Privacy is huge. Another example to illustrate that is that people get fired for torrenting music.”
“Unless you’re interviewing for a security role, very rarely. Technical people at Apple are hired to do what they do best. They have a whole army of compliance folks and lawyers to take care of that stuff. They also have an internal police force called “InfoSec”, which is the team which takes care of the secrecy stuff. Engineers are needed to do what they were hired to do: engineering.”
Please see the section above called “A note about recruiter calls” for what to expect. We do encourage you to ask your recruiter what to expect for the rest of the process because as you’ll see, there is a lot of variance from team to team.
“Ask your Apple recruiter forced choice questions with two options, such as, ‘Is this coding round more of a typical LeetCode round, or more of a domain-specific open ended deep dive into a specific technology?’”
Like everything else at Apple, the format and technical questions presented in Apple phone screens can vary a ton. Verify this by asking your recruiter!
Technical phone screens are coding interviews that range from 30 minutes to an hour. This tech interview may be between you and a single interviewer or sometimes a panel of interviewers. It may even be a hiring manager screen with a mix of behavioral questions and coding.
In any case, the general format is a shared coding environment where the interviewer(s) can assess your ability to utilize basic data structures and algorithms concepts. Being able to provide a solution for coding questions and quickly analyze the runtime complexity of your solution are key skills to have going into this interview.
The tooling used in Apple’s technical interview rounds depends on the team you’re interviewing with.
Some teams give candidates a take-home assignment. They can give this around the same time they schedule a phone screen. The hiring manager is usually the person to decide whether or not candidates get one.
There will be roughly around six or eight in person rounds of interviews, each of which will be with people on the team members that you’d be working for. Each round will be between you and at least one, possibly two, interviewers.
Note that an onsite loop with one team at Apple will look very different than an onsite loop with another.
Interviewers can ask whatever behavioral, coding, or system design questions they want; there is no standardization for Apple interview questions. However, before an interview loop takes place, some teams will do a quick, informal assignment of what kinds of questions each interviewer is supposed to ask so that they don’t all end up asking the same things.
Moreover, Apple interviewers are untrained, and as soon as a senior engineer is hired they can start conducting interviews.
Apple’s unpredictable nature makes it so some of their interview rounds can’t be categorized into behavioral, coding, or system design. Is a philosophical question about products a behavioral question? Not really. But they might ask one in a behavioral round. Are rapid fire infrastructure-focused open-ended trivia questions more system design or coding? It depends.
For example, here’s how one Apple interviewer describes the behind-the-scenes top-down directive before an upcoming onsite. “Go find a question that would be a good one to ask for our team.” That interviewer then ran it up the chain to an engineer above them. Then, that question immediately got asked in the next interview.
At Apple, each interview loop is specific to the needs of individual hiring managers – there is no canonical “Apple interview”, and everything is “made to order” for each specific team. That makes it difficult for candidates to prepare.
Some teams at Apple prefer practical rounds. Sometimes, they’ll have you write a program on your own laptop and IDE. Other times, they’ll spend the whole round deep diving into a specific technology/use case that’s relevant for their team. For example, a team that wrote in Java and did a lot of work with concurrency had a whole round focused on concurrency in Java!
Other teams do medium-ish LeetCode-style questions.
At the end of the day, these interviews vary so widely it’s hard to give a specific directive, other than: ask your recruiter. For senior and above candidates, it’s more about demonstrating competence rather than needing to ace the question.
For everything you need to prepare for Apple’s coding interview, check out the section called "Apple coding interview preparation resources" below.
Apple interviewers tend to ask questions relevant to a specific team’s work. For instance, a team focused on building web services will tend to ask questions about that, while front-end teams may ask UI-related questions. It may be good to try to get a feel for the day-to-day work from the recruiter/hiring manager, as the job descriptions are not always the most helpful (remember: privacy!).
In system design rounds, Apple interviewers love to hear about reliability. If you don’t know what else to talk about, dig into reliability.
Apple’s most important round is usually behavioral or system design. Behavioral rounds are more important than coding rounds.
“In behavioral, you gotta be a rockstar. You gotta be a leader. If you’re abrasive, or if you’re not a cultural fit, how are you going to lead the juniors? And system design is going to weigh a little more than behavioral. If you can’t code or if you’re a little rusty –if you’re good at system design and behavioral–we’ll forgive the subpar coding rounds.”
An interesting paradox at Apple is: they highly value behavioral rounds but they don’t have a standardized way to assess candidates in those interviews
“Towards the end of my career at Apple, we had a huge need for mobile developers. People who were able to do iOS apps. I was part of an R&D team. We mainly built web products in the beginning, but towards the end of my career we started doing more mobile stuff. We didn't want to hire someone who could only do mobile. We wanted someone who would be half as good at mobile stuff and half as good at web stuff, so they could plug themselves in anywhere.
If the interview process was standardized across the whole company - you can imagine how hard that would be to test specifically for the niche skill set we needed. Within two days we cooked up a whole new homework assignment just for the ios candidates, we cooked up a whole new set of interview questions. We kept the behavioral part the same. But the technical part - we flipped it over just like that. And it was really good. We changed the way we graded, we were able to filter candidates based on the new set of questions. It was just fast. We didn't get any pushback from HR. We didn't have to work with compliance. We just did it. Really fast. Really nimble.”
Because Apple doesn’t standardize their interviews, they’re particularly prone to bias. Sometimes the top down guidance to Apple interviewers is something like: “In the behavioral round, just see if you like them. See if you’d like to get a beer with them.”
“Never. And I'll tell you why. Apple is a very secretive company. Everything is on a need to know basis. Also, it's a hugely political place. It was good for me because I understood the game. I didn’t blame the players I played the game. For those who understand the intricacies of politics, and simply accept the fact that it will happen when you have all Type-A people being paid a tremendous amount of money to do shitty little things, it's bound to happen. You have to accept it or you’re not going to play the game. Everything at Apple is very siloed. Even when it comes down to the cost center. Everything is super independent of one another. That's actually one of the strengths and weaknesses of Apple. We double effort for sure. But that doesn't matter to Tim Cook. They have billions of dollars to afford this – not a problem. I also really liked how it was siloed because teams and their priorities change, leadership changes, a lot of things change. Being able to decouple from the greater company enabled them to become one of the biggest, if not the biggest tech company in the world.”
Even if rounds aren’t standardized, you will definitely be asked “Why Apple?”, and your answer needs to be on point. Some interviewers reject candidates solely for not having a good answer to this question. “Why Apple?” isn’t always a single question; they can spread this out into multiple questions and drill down on this for a good portion of a behavioral round. You can also expect other motivation-based (or “why”) questions.
“A common red flag is giving generic answers to the ‘Why Apple?’ questions. If I didn't feel their passion or if they’re just treating Apple as another job, that’s usually a red flag for me regardless of their technical competence. They really have to somehow convince me – and this is an emotional response they have to bring out of me – they really have to convince me they really want to work at Apple, they really want to roll up their sleeves, and they really believe in our values: delighting the customer, sweating the details. Making awesome products… We only care about that. We don't care about anything else. That emotional response has to be drawn from me and if they don’t then I’m likely to say, ‘They were good but meh.’”
“I can tell you about a great answer one candidate had for ‘Why Apple?”. He said something like… His wife and him were university students dating across two continents. This person said they shared a recent feature – I think it was like when you facetime and you can watch video in sync – he shared how that changed his life. His wife and him went through the whole international relationship because of that. That significantly helped their relationship.”
Apple wants to hire candidates whose lives have integrated with the Apple products. And the reverse is true too. It's a fatal flaw to say, “I've never used an iPhone or a Macbook or an iPad” because those people clearly haven’t integrated Apple products deeply in their lives.
Apple knows what they like, and they like their products! That doesn’t mean all you have to do is gush about the products to pass the behavioral round. It means you have to tell a genuine story which connects you and Apple products or services. Ideally, a story they will remember.
Another behavioral factor debated among Apple interviewers is whether or not they agree with the idea that Apple is “cult-ish.”
“Apple cares most about the ‘Why’. You see that rooted deeply in every apple person's DNA. ‘Why Apple?’ Right? I guess this is where people get this notion of Apple being a ‘cult-ish’ company. Much like Tesla, actually. They have a huge customer following, but you also see the same pattern with their employees. Actually, I totally subscribe to this ideology. Because you want a person you work with day in and day out to have that same passion. Sometimes you're going to have to work overtime. You're not going to get paid extra for that. Sometimes you're going to work weekends. Sometimes shit’s gonna hit the fan. You don't want to work with someone who whines about it.
Our theory is that Apple is more likely to reward employees (and candidates) who act like the leader. If you listen to 1:00:36 - 1:02:05 in an interview with Steve Jobs, you’ll see some stark similarities to how Apple interviewers talk about the organization. In this clip, he says, “You know how many committees we have? None. We are organized like a startup.” He then describes the benefits of silos and dividing things up.
Privacy and politics are the natural consequence of a place intentionally designed to be siloed and divided up and kept separate. It’s a cost that Apple accepts because the gain is increased productivity. Put people in closed systems (teams and orgs that don’t talk to other teams and orgs) and watch them get more done. This system works like blinders on a racehorse: it keeps vision focused down the track, on the goal, minimizing peripheral distraction. That’s all they need to see and they run/work faster because of it.
One final aspect of Apple’s behavioral rounds is that they will ask you specific questions about relevant skills. For example, if a team works with big data, they will ask specifically about a time you have worked with large-scale distributed systems in the context of your answer. If you don’t have direct experience with the field, they will try to get as close as possible, like asking you for what tradeoffs you’ve made when choosing a storage system. These behavioral interview questions serve two purposes: showing you have had relevant experience in the context of what the team is hiring for and trying to get you to talk about a particular behavioral skill (e.g., leadership, conflict resolution).
As evidenced by the highest chaos score, Apple doesn’t do many things in hiring consistently, across the whole company. One trend is that Apple teams rely on post-interview live discussions to make hiring decisions. This varies from somewhat informal (compared to the rest of FAANG) to laughably informal.
“Post-onsite feedback for my org was 100% live discussions. At Apple I never had to write feedback. Which made me do more interviews. We made the decision on the same day. Everyone had to make a decision at the end of the day. Do an onsite, then at 5pm, we gather in a single meeting room, we do on the count of three: thumbs up, down, or in the middle. Then we talk after seeing the thumbs. And try to convince the people on the other side. If there’s less than 5 thumbs-up, then that might be an instant rejection. If there’s 6 or 7 or more thumbs up, the ‘thumbs up’ people try to convince the other side. Or in that same situation, the 3 or 4 thumbs down will try to convince the other side.”
Because of the informal decision-making process and reliance on live discussion, managing the impressions of your interviewers is more important at Apple than at other FAANG. In these decision-making meetings, if there’s dissent, they strive for consensus. The people on one side try to convince the other side. This process can last 15-30 minutes on average; all FAANG companies say interviewers fight for candidates, but Apple tends to fight more than most of them.
Because of their patterns of live-discussions and striving for consensus, Apple interviewers are more likely to fight for or against you (if your performance was on the fence) than any other FAANG, except maybe Netflix.
Ultimately, the hiring manager for that particular role has the most say, which means that that’s the person you should be working to impress the most.
“My manager wanted to hire this person. But he failed my interview so badly. I didn't want to argue with my manager but at the same time I didn't want to work with this person. Because we are hiring people we’d work with on a daily basis. So arguments happen a lot. And in this case, I was the only ‘no’ on the board and the candidate got rejected.”
We’ve aggregated a bunch of useful Apple content for you! We have replays of candidates doing mock interviews with Apple interviewers, long-form solutions to common Apple questions, and deep dives into technical topics that tend to come up in Apple interviews.
Below are a series of mock interview replays, conducted by Apple interviewers on our platform. Watch them so you can learn from others’ mistakes.
Below are common questions that interviewers from Apple ask on our platform. Since our data comes from mock interviews, questions may not be exactly the same as what you'd see in real interviews.
Given `n` pairs of parentheses, write a function to generate all combinations of well-formed parentheses.
Given an integer array nums and two integers left and right, return the number of contiguous non-empty subarrays such that the value of the maximum array element in that subarray is in the range [left, right].
Given a 2D matrix, where "1" represents land and "0" represents water, count how many islands are present.
Given an m x n integers matrix, return the length of the longest increasing path in the matrix. You may only move up, down, left, or right.
To figure out what technical topics will come up in your Apple interviews, we did two things. First, we spoke to a bunch of Apple interviewers in our community. Then we cross-referenced all the anecdotes we heard with Glassdoor data AND our own data-set of mock interviews in the style of Apple. Based on all of the above, here are the technical topics you’re likely to encounter:
For more in-depth information on Apple and their hiring process, or to learn more about Apple’s company culture, be sure to check out the resources listed below. These documents will help you better prepare for software developer and software engineer interviews.
Interview prep and job hunting are chaos and pain. We can help. Really.