For many Apple fans, there’s a hypnotic allure to the idea of working for their favorite tech company, even if it’s just a job manning the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. But what happens when you actually get called in for an interview? What’s it like to actually work at the Apple Store?
The truth is few applicants will ever know, as it’s almost impossible to get a job at an Apple Retail store at anything besides an entry-level, part-time sales position, no matter how qualified or educated you are. Once in, it’s almost impossible to move up the ladder, you will be poorly paid, you will probably never see a raise above basic inflation, you will be overworked and you will be abused day-in and day-out by customers. If you soldier through and rise up the ladder, the job can be rewarding, but more often than not, it’s not just retail hell… it’s worse than retail.
In a great thread over at Reddit, a recent applicant for a position at his local Apple Store as a Creative (an Apple Store’s higher-level training and one-on-one oriented employees) wanted to know what he should expect at the interview.
Here are some of the highlights about what to expect from the discussion that followed:
• Job advertisements posted by Apple have usually already been filled about 80% of the time by internal candidates before they even go up. Apple’s policy is to post all positions, even when they were filled or promised to someone months before. Consequently, you will never hear back from anyone about most Apple Store positions.
• Applying for a position as an Apple Store Creative can often be a bait-and-switch, in which qualified applicants are told that the job may be open to them if they fulfill certain training requirements. What then happens is that applicants get locked-into an “endless queue of approval and training,” doing some of the most difficult work while being paid the salary of a part-time specialist.
• It can take months to get called in for an interview in Apple Retail.
• Qualifications don’t really matter. Apple doesn’t care about your qualifications, they care about whether or not you can teach “their way.” 90% of Apple’s customer base will never go beyond basic classes, meaning it’s more important that you can teach someone to use a trackpad or set up a Gmail account than it is for you to be able to tech some Final Cut Pro.
• You have to sign an NDA just to walk into a room to interview for a position, even entry-level sales positions.
• The interview process involves watching a lot of presentations about how great Apple is, how successful the Apple Stores are, and even talking to a bunch of employees who will then soliloquize at length about how Apple is the greatest thing in their lives. No room for ambivalent people here.
• If you do want a job at an Apple Store, focus on talking about customer service skills over technical knowledge. Apple “actually prefers people who have little tech knowledge so that they are easily molded. Customer service and soft skills is everything to this position.” Another commenter agreed, saying that it’s easier for Apple to tech someone technical knowledge than to teach someone to be good with people.
• While nearly everyone hired at the Apple Store is hired in as a specialist, it is possible to be promoted to a full-time genius within the first month, if you work hard for it and complete your training. Outside factors may compound this, though, like whether or not Apple is opening another store in your area soon.
• Creatives make an average of $25.00 per hour. Specialists make much less than this. Raises are very, very minimal: a maximum of 5%, but no one ever gets above 3%, or about the rate of basic inflation
• Even if you are hired part-time, you will have to commit to the job almost full time. Your contract says that if there’s a lot of demand, you can have your hours jacked significantly. Similarly, during slow periods, you might find yourself with no hours.
• Anecdotally, if you want a position as a Creative, you need a teaching degree. Even then, the training is extremely intensive.
• Apple’s retail strategy, according to one commenter, is to look for highly educated young people whom they can mobilize through the prestige of the Apple brand to work a job filled with “significantly more mental stress and work” in exchange for standard (low) retail wages.
• Despite all of this, working at Apple Stores can be very rewarding. One Redditor wrote: “I was blown away by how much I learned about how people interact with their devices and the ways people typically get stuck. Thankfully, the majority of Apple products are remarkably well done, but good luck if you need to help someone’s grandma sign up for a Gmail account. You get students at all levels, from the 12yr old who wanted to learn HTML to the woman who had never used a mouse and spent an hour learning how to click/double click/right click/click and drag. It can try your patience, but it’s also extremely rewarding to see progress week-over-week and realize you’ve improved someone’s life.”
It’s a fascinating Reddit thread, and required reading for anyone thinking of getting a job in Apple retail. If you’ve worked for Apple’s retail arm, let us know what you think in the comments.