Apple is both the oldest and most valuable FAANG company by market value, so it's no surprise that Apple's PM interviews are difficult.
The process is also notoriously secretive. Apple has successfully leveraged the element of surprise for decades, delighting customers with products they didn't even know they wanted. Steve Jobs' famous "one more thing..." launches would never have worked had the audience known what was coming.
Even employee stories featured on Apple's Careers page are wrapped in secrecy. JP, an Instructional Designer, acknowledges that his current role in the Technology Development Group "sounds kind of top secret. I can't tell you much, but I can tell you that we research and develop new technologies."
If you're prepping for an Apple interview, this secrecy can be scary, but we've pulled together some excellent resources to help you prepare. Read on to learn what to expect as well as gain insight from PMs who've recently gone through the loop.
There's no central corporate body standardizing Apple interviews. Each group hires differently, so the process can take anywhere from four weeks to four months, and the loop may vary depending on what team you interview for. Remember, each team has a different interview methodology, so don't be afraid to ask your recruiter if you have questions about expectations.
A shorter loop is possible if you've got competing offers. A recent interviewee we spoke to completed their entire interview in just three weeks!
First, you'll have a ~15-20 minute call from a technical recruiter who will ask you a few general behavioral questions and review your resume. Your recruiter is your best resource in preparing for the remainder of the loop, so be sure to form a relationship with them, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
A senior PM who recently interviewed with Apple told us that this was more of a "get to know you"-type call and that the recruiter spent a fair amount of time explaining that particular group's structure and trajectory. The next interview focused more on his experience.
Next comes a phone interview or a video call. Expect to have it over Facetime if you have an Apple device, although interviewees have reported using Skype if Facetime wasn't an option.
Our PM noted that a surprising number of domain-knowledge questions were asked at this stage. "It felt behavioral - but it was very domain-specific. Unlike other companies that want to assess product sense and how you approach a problem, there was a certain level of domain depth that was evaluated. I felt that this person was trying to gauge whether I should advance to the panel."
Next, you'll advance to the onsite round. This process also varies depending on which team you interview for. Interviewees have faced anywhere from four to eight rounds, and the onsite structure has ranged from one or two interviewers to a full panel.
Our interviewee faced five rounds split over two days. This is nonstandard, but Apple accommodated their schedule. The interviews were all fairly technical, with a heavy mix of behavioral questions and time management / project prioritization questions. The panel was quite cross-functional, including an engineering manager, project managers, and cross-functional higher-ups.
Next, we'll dive deeper into some study material and specific questions to prepare.
Apple's on-site varies depending on the team you're interviewing with but expect in-depth technical questions, both experiential and hypothetical behavioral questions, and questions meant to assess your customer-centricity and prioritization skills.
You won't have a single technical round at Apple. All your interviews will be technical. Prepare well for domain-specific questions and be sure that you know the ins and outs of the technologies you'll work with. Simply knowing how things work won't cut it at Apple. You have to understand the why as well.
For example, when interviewing with a group handling payments, you may be asked:
To best prepare, we recommend focusing on filling any gaps in your technical knowledge, then on approaching the problems methodically and stating all your assumptions. Even if you don't fully understand the technical problem you're handed, reasoning about it can still impress your interviewer.
You can expect to juggle competing priorities at Apple. Generally, execution questions focus on how you'll diagnose problems and handle crises, but execution / prioritization questions get at how you'll handle your day-to-day workload as well.
Depending on the group you interview with, you may get a more traditional execution question, in which you're given a scenario and you're asked to investigate what's going on, or you'll get a general -- almost behavioral -- execution question about how you handle conflicting priorities.
Our interviewer recalls that "one interviewer asked about my prioritization matrix - what kind of prioritization matrix I adopt, and if there are competing priorities, how I go about prioritizing, what has worked, what hasn't, have there been differences between the consumer vs. the enterprise world, etc."
The key to nailing execution questions is to focus on the approach and not the answer. Whether you're asked about prioritizing or you're asked to solve a specific challenge, be sure that you can speak confidently to your approach to assessing complex options, and that you can back that up with anecdotes from your past.
While you won't have dedicated product sense / design / strategy rounds, you'll be asked several questions that assess those skills. In general, product questions test your ability to design a new product or improve an existing one. Be user-focused. The key is to ensure you're organized with your thoughts and have a clear goal in mind that will solve the user's problem(s).
A recent Apple PM interviewee specifically recalls that many interviewers seemed to assess how they empathized with and understood customers. "There were also many questions assessing whether I was user-centric as I think about products."
One of the best frameworks to use is "Broad Then Deep". First, "go broad" by listing all the ideas and solutions that come to mind. Then, pick one to "go deep" on and explain why that is the solution you chose.
Another approach we see candidates have success with is The Triangle Method. This framework will help you articulate your thoughts in a memorable way. First, list three points. Then dive into each point. Finally, summarize your three points at the end.
A senior PM interviewee also faced a project retrospective, or "deep-dive" focusing on how they led innovation projects. They were asked questions like:
While project retrospectives are more common for engineering managers and senior employees in general, it's a great practice to outline, in detail, at least one major project in your recent work history.
A good project to deep-dive has high stakes, challenges, and features you as a leader in some capacity. Once you've outlined your story, be sure to include:
Behavioral interview questions are meant to test your ability to work in teams, tolerate ambiguity, and handle conflict as well as get to know you as a potential employee. Common questions include:
Answering such questions effectively is key to a successful interview for any role. The best way to prepare for behavioral interview questions is to review Apple's values and mission and reflect on your own experiences.
First, do some research on Apple's values and mission. Watch or read some of Steve Jobs' and Tim Cook's past presentations to get a sense of what Apple means to them, and how leadership articulates that vision. What about the company resonates with you? What compels you to work there? Then, research and use the product itself - what potential do you see for Apple? How might you contribute?
As for your own experiences, think about a few examples and experiences you can leverage that might be related or relevant to the interview, and that tie into Apple's values.
Of course, the best way to prepare is to practice behavioral interview questions.
Top tips from recent Apple PM interviewees include: