What It’s Really Like To Try To Get A Job At The Apple Store

What It’s Really Like To Try To Get A Job At The Apple Store

These guys might look more prestigious than your usual retail employee, but they're often far worse suffering.


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.

Related
  • Johan Rolwen

    BS.

    I’ve met people who work in a lot of Apple Retail Stores and they get good wages, and they’re very flexible in terms of health and education. 
  • jamesbond

    This is rubbish, where did you get your facts from! 

  • cedunn21

    I’m going to call BS on this one as well! Not from my experiences…

  • AaronGuthrie

    Can’t help but think this article is quite, very much biased..

  • apple_lvr31

    Speaking as a Creative in an Apple Store, I can tell you that no teaching degree is required for the position. Also the pay is nowhere close to $25/hour.

  • exploited_apple

    As an apple retail employee, I can testify that most of this article is ABSOLUTELY correct (other than the required teaching cert and ridiculously high estimate of creative wages). It is (no matter what anyone says) a glorified retail position, that gets more disappointing over time as the realization sinks in that your passion and love for Apple technology is being exploited (in the form of low wages and little acknowledgement) and the only thing that matters is bringing in numbers for the company. 

    It’s not about the “people” (customers and employees) that the Apple credo celebrates, nor the “square pegs” and rebels, but only the bottom line for the company. It’s really getting worse since Ron Johnson left and some bean-counter dude took over the retail operation. Recent management focus is all about micromanagement and an obsession with meeting financials.
  • Jimmy Fisher
  • Dolly Charles

    Coincidentally, I just today came upon the newspaper article I filed when I was sent to cover the Apple annual meeting in 1984, when Steve intro’ed the Mac.  It reminded me that Steve mentioned IBM often and derisively during the show, and each time the Apple faithful booed and hissed.  IBM, as Steve reminded us, was the evil empire, where sameness ruled the day.  Seeing the photo of the Apple bees in their blue t-shirts, I have to ask: Who’s Big Blue now?

  • wrkd_at_apple

    I worked for apple for over 3.5 years and trained over 400 employees while i wasthere. I have worked as a Part Time Specialist, Full Time Specialist, Expert,
    Creative, & Genius. I can say that the sentiments shared are mostly true.
    Creatives don’t make the type of money you are talking about. I only new one
    person in that position making that type of money and he had been a
    creative/trainer for 7 years.

    Its interesting that it was said
    that apple doesn’t care about your technical background. I mostly agree as i
    participate as an interviewer in many hiring events. We looked for intrinsic
    characteristics of excellent people rather than technical knowledge. What I can
    tell you is once you are to looking to move into management, in my region at
    least (40+ stores), your experience and leadership in the store meant nothing
    unless you had a huge resume to back it up. The positive things i can say is
    the training is second to none and you work with the coolest people in the
    world.

    The biggest problem though is once
    you have succeed on a high level there is no where to go. Even if you prove
    yourself there isn’t a career path for the majority of full time employees.
    Apple would rather bring in a person who has run a few davids bridals rather
    then internally promote someone who has been in the trenches training the
    staff, delivering exceedingly great customer experiences, producing results,
    and constantly focusing on better themselves and those around them every time
    they put on that blue shirt.

    The people who provide the tangible,
    customer facing, foundation to “the most admired brand in the world,”
    deserve more.

  • theobserving

    While Apple makes great products, the Retail division is one of the worst things ever to come out of Apple.


     They want blind followers who will donate their time and energy in full for lousy pay, all the while telling you “it’s not just retail.” However, if you complain about how you’re treated, compensated, etc., the response is “well, it’s just a retail job… what do you expect?” Managers play favorites, lie and, as I personally saw, even would be motivated by race or personal bias based on their beliefs. Working for Apple Retail is a shell game, to put it nicely. Furthermore, as hinted at in the piece, they prefer people with little technical knowledge. This is true, but what makes it worse is that anyone who actually -has- more in-depth knowledge will be even more overworked, having to run around and put out fires for the people with no knowledge who can’t answer a question, make things up or simply refuse to put 2+2 together. What’s more, people with little or no knowledge of these things are easier to indoctrinate and sheep around.

    At least where I worked, the morale was exceptionally low, because management was motivated purely by numbers and money. The “greater good” that Apple hocks to it’s employees and customers was trotted out occasionally, but was never put into practice. It sounded nice and looked good on paper, but was never implemented. 

    I would NEVER recommend anyone to work there, and I’d strongly suggest, if at all possible, you buy your Apple products online, rather than in-store. Save the few sane, knowledgable people they hire the stress.

  • sheriff2012

    I currently work for Apple and I could not disagree more with this article.  I work for a great leadership team who does a great job coaching, supporting and keeping the machine running smoothly.  I am a retired police officer that worked in one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country.  I can tell you that I could only wish that the leadership gave as much support and were as motivated and happy as my leadership team.  I came from being a manager for over 10 years so I do have the training to see what is being done correctly for the team and I must tell you they should bottle it!   I love the store, the customers and most of all the diversity of the team that I am honored to work with every day.  

    Yes, we work hard, and okay the pay could be better (couldn’t it always) but I would much rather work with the group of hard working individuals and love going to work than get paid all the money in the world and hate walking through the door.  We are not treated like cattle, and maybe the information that you received to write this article is from those who just didn’t get the job!
  • Francisco Xavier

    The guy that said he’s a retired cop now working @ a Apple store is such a loser!

  • bigpoppa206

    The guy that said he’s a retired cop now working @ a Apple store is such a loser!

    And your proof of that is….?  He posted reasons he disagrees with the article from firs hand experience.  All you did was a cheap drive-by.

  • graphicguy

    When you interview with Apple in San Francisco on market street you have 3 job interviews. I only made it past the first two. The 3rd interview was with the store manager. They called me 30 minutes after my first interview for a second then 2 hours after my second interview for a third interview. Had to jump through their hoops, they left me hanging after the store manager didn’t like me or something. Guess I was not the brain washing type, they seemed way too happy even though im such an apple geek and would have loved to have worked there. I live and breath apple. I could not tell if the woman Rosemary the HR manager was fake or what. Left you hanging after getting back to me within minutes after my interview. I love apple products but as a corporation they are just as heartless as the next. 

  • _w4lly
    Everything is pretty much true, but I think that:


     You have to sign an NDA just to walk into a room to interview for a position, even entry-level sales positions. 


    is false, unless they’ve changed since I left the company a year ago. 

    And while everything else is true and I agree with, I did walk away with very very good people skills from that job.

  • _w4lly

    Oh, and as for some of the stuff listed below in the comments:

    No, you don’t need a degree to be a creative..you just need to bend all the way over and become so subservient to the management staff that they feel they can touch your insides with their tip. While some will say the process was easy, I watched way too many talanted and overqualified people not get promoted or eleveated to jobs from specialist. A lot of the time, they take advantage of specialist and make them do Creative or Genius work with the line of, “it will help towards getting you there!” and then when they finally post an opening, they give it to some random out-of-company-hire and ignore their own talent base.

    There are some seedy things that go on, but it’s all overlooked by the fact that yes, a.) it’s a great company, b.) you’re paid well c.) it’s not brain surgery

    But it is still highly stressful, they contradict their own mantra’s by saying you’re not supposed to be a “Salesperson” but then come down on you for not selling enough Mobile Me’s (which no one needed 90% of the time)

    So, it’s not bias, and it’s not Apple-bashing. There are a lot of issues that you face when working for the company, I worked in retail in NYC for 3 years of my life, so I’m not making anything up, this is all what I saw happen before my eyes.

    Open your eyes, Apple is just like EVERY other mega-corporation. They care about money, and that’s it. It sucks because it wasn’t like that before the iPhone came out..
  • AmercianLandmark

    While some of this holds true, though nothing shocking, most of this is way off.

  • Bob Kueppers

    I was a Creative for 4.5 out of the 5yrs I was with Apple. I was lucky enough to be one of the first Creatives that got to experence 3 weeks of training at corporate, when Apple actually caried about their employees. When I was hired, it was a one on one interview with the store manager and none of this “group hireing events.” Back then, they really took the time to get to know you before deciding to offer you the position. As the years went on, and Apples hireing methods changed, the new hires were worthless and I felt like when I wasn’t traing customers, I was training the employees on how to use the products/programs. I ended up leaving the company and working for one of my one-to-one customers and I’m now the Chief of Technology for a law firm that uses all Macs. All and all the time spent with Apple was one of the best times of my life, but I got out at a good time just when they were starting to get really big. As for the pay, yeah maybe in CA they’re getting $25 an hour, but I maxed out at $18.50 in the Creative position at an Ohio store. However, amazing benefits, (sometimes) free products, 401K & stock options should be worth the grulling hireing process. 

  • technochick

    I call BS on a lot of this. It is likely from ‘one bad egg’ type experiences that folks are hyping as the standard. 


    Also about this

    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.”


    That is definitely BS in the USA. If you are scheduled to work full time (which is generally over 29 hours at most retail companies) for an extended period (which can be as little as a month straight in some companies) you have to be promoted to full time. that way the company can’t abuse you by working you full time but denying you health care etc that they give full time but costs them additional money. 
    As for the no hours, that is also standard. There is no contract guaranteeing you hours at any retail job. And they legally aren’t required to give you one or any minimum hours a week. 

    Plus I suspect most of your requirements etc is also bunk. 

  • userx

    I work at Apple. All of this is true, it is extremely hard to move up. I’ve been working here for about 8 months, and I have no intention of staying past September. The best people (the ones with the most knowledge and customer know-how) are at the bottom, working as Specialists. I already know how to do literally everything to be a Genius, yet I am a part-time Specialist. I was told at the time of entry that I would be easily able to work my way up to Genius within 6 months, but that has turned out to be bullshit. I’ve addressed that with managers and they all just turn a deaf ear and suggest that I misheard what I was told. I assure that I was not.

    The health benefits and commuter benefits are very good, but we get paid peanuts in one of the most expensive communities in the country to basically be customer punching bags. You can be a very talented technician or instructor, and they’ll find a way to pay you the base rate to make you work outside of your job requirement as a Specialist. Be careful.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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