Apple's secretive, aesthetic approach to innovation draws attention even among tech's elite. The oldest FAANG company, Apple has quietly (and not so quietly) dominated hardware and software since the 70s.
Apple is carefully structured to foster innovation. SWE interviewees report that although the work is difficult, competition between peers is low and there's lots of opportunity to pursue interesting ideas no matter where they come from. Apple's About page cites examples including a humble pizza served at the company cafeteria - served in an environmentally-friendly pizza box patented by an Apple chef as an example of this total committment to innovation.
Software Engineers at Apple are held to high standards, but they're extremely well-equipped and rewarded for good work. If you're interested in snagging an SWE role at Apple, you should be prepared for a slightly different interview experience to others in tech.
"In general, their interview process is a bit of a free-for-all based on the people on the panel and the team" reported a recent interviewee. Because Apple's interviews are team-based, each team has a slightly different methodology. You won't know exactly what to expect, but we've pulled together some excellent resources to help you prepare - along with feedback some several SWEs who've recently gone through the loop. Read on to learn more.
Overall, the process can take anywhere from 4-5 weeks to 4 months. Remember, each team has a different interview methodology, so don't be afraid to ask your recruiter if you have questions about expectations.
First you'll get a call from a technical recruiter who will ask you a few general behavioral questions and review your resume. Apple recruiters are matched with teams, so your recruiter will be familiar with the interview style preferred by the team you'll interview with. They're your best resource in preparing for the coding and onsite rounds, so if you advance, be sure to form a relationship with them and don't be afraid to ask questions.
Coding interview experiences varied across the interviewees we spoke to. Most went through a single 1-hour coding challenge on a platform like Coderpad, solving mostly basic (though rigorous) questions. Another interviewee went through four different coding rounds over Facetime. Questions were a mix of algorithmic questions and systems design / CS fundamentals.
Next you'll advance to the onsite round. This process also varies depending on which team you interview for. Some interviewees faced as few as 4 rounds with the same team members from the coding rounds, while another respondent faced 8 rounds. One respondant gave a presentation on a past work project, while others mainly faced coding questions and spent the entire day whiteboarding. All interviewees noted that the coding challenge and onsite tended to be fairly redundant. Much of the same content was covered a few times, and team members seemed to ask similar questions. "Be prepared for a relatively long and uncertain interview process" as an interviewee eloquently put it.
The questions you'll run into onsite will vary, but be sure to study CS fundamentals and systems design.
Next, we'll dive deeper into some study material and specific questions to prepare.
Apple's SWE interview loop consists mainly of technical and behavioral questions, as well as systems design and algorithmic / coding questions.
We hate to be redundant, but technical questions at Apple will be a mixed bag because interviews are so team-specific. Topics that kept coming up were:
Specifically reported questions were:
Overall, Apple emphasizes knowledge of CS fundamentals. They're looking less for correct answers on specific questions (though they do expect you to understand underlying concepts), than they're looking for problem-solving skills, quick thinking, and the ability to separate important information from noise, so the best preparation you can do is to review basics, and work on problem-solving frameworks that will help you break down big problems into smaller chunks.
Check out some of the review above, and be sure to check out sample technical questions from our technical interview question database.
Apple's looking for quick-thinkers who can tease out important info and work logically through problems. Remember your fundamentals, and review concepts like hash tables and linked lists before your interview.
An easy way to stand out in these types of interviews is to mention and consider edge cases. Is there a particularly tough "worst-case" scenario for one of the data structure's implementations? How might a certain data structure outperform another if we expect the input data to already be sorted? Considering questions like these and "zooming out" to think about the broader implications of certain data structure selections will elevate your interview answer.
To prepare for these interviews, we recommend reviewing our data structures and algorithms modules in our software engineering course and practicing data structures questions in our interview question database.
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. 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 the 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 resonates about the company to 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.
You'll run into systems design questions throughout the interview loop, so be prepared to shift into this mindset quickly. You may get some quetions about systems structure during coding questions, but you'll likely be asked to to design a system using a whiteboard or other drawing tool. This will involve designing a way for your systems to communicate, proposing an API, and modeling database tables.
Be sure to understand the different types of storage systems (e.g. NoSQL vs. SQL) in a distributed setting. Check out our discussion of this in our YouTube system design lesson.
Some general components of a strong answer include:
The best way to prepare for system design interviews is to watch our practice system design interviews like this one on Facebook's news feed, and try your hand at some practice system design questions in our interview question database..