I'm a 30-year-old multimedia professional and Apple "fan girl" who -- for the purposes of this article -- will go by the pseudonym "Lucy" (since I do not want my current employer to know that I have been interviewing for a new job).
I landed a job interview at Apple simply by submitting a cover letter and resume through the Apple website. I was invited to a "hiring event," where I was given a glimpse into the company culture and hiring process.
Having worked in retail in my teenage years, I was now unhappy working in multimedia at my current company, whose environment seems to be "do more with less." So I decided to see if I could get my foot in the door by landing a sales position at an Apple store.
A great leader program
Apple has a Store Leader Program that I thought would be interesting. You go through a 24-month immersion at a store to learn how to "secure a leadership position" at any store in the world. I guessed the starting pay would be low, but I could put up with that during two years of ladder climbing at a good company, provided it paid off at the end by giving me a managerial position.
In my application to Apple, I explained that I was a recent graduate of a top-tier university, which I attended online. An Apple HR person based in the San Francisco Bay area e-mailed me two weeks later to invite me to the hiring event. I was told in an e-mail that attire would be "business casual," so I wore black pants and pumps with a light blue button-down shirt. The outfit was fine because some of the interviewers were wearing jeans. A suit would have been too much, but jeans would have been too little.
Technically, I was a new college graduate in April of this year when I interviewed with Apple. I just happened to be about eight years older than the rest of the college grads who showed up at the hiring event held at a local hotel. I wasn't worried though because I felt I had something everyone else lacked -- experience.
A group experience
I didn't know what to expect of the interview itself, but was sure I wasn't facing a one-on-one interview since this was being called an "event" and I wasn't being given the name of any potential interviewer. I searched online through Google and even on Twitter to find out what the format of the interview would be, but there was little information. What I certainly didn't realize was that I was entering into a three-hour interactive group experience.
Everyone checked in at a table by turning in college transcripts and picking up name tags to wear. My group of 25 to 30 people made small talk outside until five Apple store leaders and a few HR representatives led us into a conference room. We entered to the sound of trendy rock music. The Apple team ushered us in by lining up on each side of the door to applaud and yell "Woohoo!" at us. From that very moment, it was evident that this was a very different kind of job interview. We were shown a video about Apple and were introduced to the group that would be evaluating us. Then it was our turn to introduce ourselves and explain why we chose Apple, as well as why we chose retail as a job path.
Most of the candidates seemed to have been picked up from the local state college at a recruiting event. Again, I was the only person there not in their 20s. I was aware that I clearly didn't fit in and made a joke about it when I introduced myself. I immediately made friends with a guy, whom I later ran into actually working at an Apple store when I went in to buy an iPhone. I was not at all surprised that he had gotten the job, because he was clean cut, approachable, friendly, professional and polite.
Trial by fire
Next we were divided into groups and asked to come up with ideas that we would then present to everyone. As we sat in our groups sharing our ideas to create our presentations, a store leader or two would come by and eavesdrop. Each group received a large piece of butcher paper and one marker, to create a poster to feature our ideas. Apple seemed to be interested in what ideas we would conjure up, but also seemed to be testing our ability to work with others. They were also reviewing our public-speaking ability, given how we each had to stand before the group to introduce ourselves and our group's ideas. I've been to group and panel interviews before, but never with that many people. I think Apple may have been gauging leadership ability through public speaking. One Apple employee did thank me for being there and another told me how inspiring she thought it was that I had completed my degree online.
We were told at the end of the event that we would receive e-mails to let us know if we were moving forward in the process. If we were moving forward, we'd be expected to attend another interview in the next two days. There would be a third interview after that, along with an assignment to create a short video. I received an e-mail within 48 hours that thanked me for my time and interest, but informed me that I wouldn't be moving on to the next round.
I'm sure I didn't get the job because of my age. I think Apple was after someone who was easy to mold -- which maybe they perceived me not to be, due to my age and experience level. I'm still curious as to what the starting pay in the Store Leader Program is, since that wasn't revealed to us.
It was a great experience to have attended the event, and it certainly gave me a glimpse at what life working within the Apple retail organization would be like.