Apple Engineering Manager Interview Guide

Interview Guide Apr 07

Detailed, specific guidance on the Apple Engineering Manager interview process - with a breakdown of different stages and interview questions asked at each stage

The role of an Apple Engineering Manager

Apple is actively hiring Engineer Managers who are passionate about contributing to the next-gen technologies shaping various Apple products. Apple's Engineering team is a thrilling opportunity where you get to play a key role in powering some of Apple's coolest services, from the App Store to FaceTime and Apple Music. The scale is massive, and you'll be part of a team delivering entertainment worldwide. You'd need a solid 10 years experience in tech under your belt, with at least three in a lead or management position.

It's a highly lucrative role, with an average total compensation of $378,130, broken down into a base salary of $218,030, stock grants of $135,100 per year, and a bonus of $25,000.

Apple Engineering Manager Interview Guide

The Apple Engineering Manager interview process comprises 3 primary rounds, namely:

  • Phone Screen with Recruiter
  • Technical Interview
  • Onsite

Let's discuss each of these in detail.

Relevant Guides

Apple EM - Phone Screen with Recruiter

Overview

During your first phone screen with the recruiter, they'll inquire about your professional journey—diving into your work history, skills, and other typical questions like “why do you wish to switch to Apple/the EM position?”

It's a 30-minute session primarily focused on sharing information rather than a rigorous assessment. Expect standard manager-related questions, some competency-based ones, and those classic "tell me about a time when..." prompts.

If your qualifications align with the role, they'll advance you to the next stage – the technical phone screen. 

Interview Questions

  • Tell me a bit about yourself.
  • Why Apple?
  • Can you describe your leadership style?
  • Tell us about a tough decision you had to make as a manager.
  • Apple values innovation. Can you provide an example of how you encouraged innovation within your team or implemented a creative solution to a problem?
  • How do you approach code reviews within your team? 
  • Share details about a project where you successfully led a team through a major technical change or upgrade.
  • Discuss a situation where you had to balance technical debt with feature development.
  • Explain how you would communicate a complex technical concept to a non-technical stakeholder.

Apple EM - Technical Interview

Overview

The technical screen is basically a coding skills test where they assess how well you approach coding problems and write clean code. The interview is remote, and you typically interact through an interviewing tool or a shared document. The person interviewing you is usually a hiring manager overseeing EM recruitment.

Technical questions may cover areas such as system design, architecture, and coding; make sure to showcase your analytical approach to coding problems and demonstrate your ability to write error-free code during the technical phone screen. 

EMs typically also have a second phone screen where the focus is on people management—essentially how you mentor/coach teams, lead, guide, acquire talent, deal with the challenges of navigating cross-functional teams, and so on. To prep for this segment, make sure you have a couple of compelling examples from your past ready to go—specifically those that demonstrate your people management skills.

If you do well in this round, you'll get an invite for an onsite interview at Apple.

Interview Questions

  • Write a function to find all duplicate lines in a large codebase.
  • Design a scalable and fault-tolerant system for a real-time chat application.
  • Outline the architecture for a distributed file storage system.
  • Write code to implement a basic algorithm, like binary search or a sorting algorithm.
  • Solve a coding problem related to data structures, such as designing a cache system.
  • Explain the differences between relational and NoSQL databases and when to use each.
  • Describe your experience with a specific technology/tool (as mentioned in the job requirement).
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Apple EM - Onsite Rounds

Overview

Here's the lowdown: The onsite comprises 7 rounds lasting around 45 minutes to an hour each. While there is a coding round (yes, it's mandatory for several teams, very similar to Meta's EM interview) during the onsite session, it's well-known that the system design and behavioural rounds carry significant weight in the evaluation process. 

Here's a breakdown of the various rounds you'll encounter:

  • Up to 2 Coding
  • Upto 3 Behavioural
  • Up to 2 System Design

Let's dive deeper into these:

  1. Coding Round:

While the primary focus for EM positions is often on leadership, communication, and managerial skills, EMs are expected to have a strong technical background to effectively lead and guide their engineering teams.

So, you will have up to 2 coding rounds where they'll toss a core data structures and algorithms problem your way. The emphasis of these rounds will extend beyond mere algorithmic proficiency—they want to assess your problem-solving skills, coding practices, and how effectively you can translate your ideas into clean and functional code.

Now, to get prepped:

  • Brush Up on Fundamentals:
  • Algorithms, data structures, and system design – make sure you're solid on the basics.
  • Cover Job Description Technologies:
  • Whatever they've listed in the job description, make sure you're up to speed. If it's in there, it's fair game.
  • Leverage Platforms for Practice:
  • Hit up LeetCode, HackerRank, or any similar platforms. Practice both algorithmic challenges and real-world scenarios. You want to be versatile, tackling problems from all angles.

Interview Questions:

  • You're given an array of integers. Write code to determine if there are three integers in the array whose sum equals a given value.
  • Write a program function to clone a given directed graph, ensuring that the cloned graph has the same edges and vertices.
  • You're given two sorted Linked Lists. Write code to merge the linked lists, ensuring that the resulting linked list is also sorted.
  • You're provided with the roots of two Binary Trees. Write code to determine if the two Binary Trees are identical or not 
  • Given the root node of a Binary Tree “B,” write code to swap the right and left children for each node of the tree.
  • Write code to reverse the order of words in a given sentence.
  • Write code to reverse the order of words in a given sentence.
  • You're given an array of size N. Write code to search for the second-largest element in the array.
  • You're given an array A of size N. Write a function to find the minimum index-based distance between two elements in the array.
  • You're given an array N of integers. Write a function to determine the inversion count of the array.
  • You're given a sorted array of size N. Write code to delete all duplicate elements in the array.
  • Design a course scheduler.
  • Design a method to find available meeting times.
  • System Design

As we mentioned before, system design rounds are crucial—this isn't unique to Apple; it's a staple in engineering manager interviews across big tech.

You'll be asked to design a scalable system to solve an arbitrary problem, always with an eye on scalability. Now, here are my 4 tips specifically for this section:

  • First— Understand the Problem Thoroughly:

Make sure you grasp the problem before jumping into solutions. Clarify, define the scope, articulate your goals, and explain your approach. This not only shows your problem-solving process but also lets the interviewer guide you in the right direction.

  • Second— Listen Carefully for Feedback:

Pay close attention to cues and feedback from your interviewer. They have a roadmap they want to cover, and you'll get hints like "assume xyz isn't a constraint" or specific questions about user access patterns. Use these cues to navigate through different themes and demonstrate your breadth of knowledge.

  • Third— Explore Multiple Ideas and Make Decisions:

It's expected that you'll come up with various ideas for the given constraints. Embrace that. Mention them briefly, explain the tradeoffs, and then intentionally choose and justify one. This showcases your critical thinking and decision-making skills.

  • Finally— Admit When You Don't Know:

It's okay to get stuck or not fully understand what the interviewer wants. Admit it. Offer to explore through guesswork if they prefer, but don't bluff your way through. 

Here are some common systems design interview questions for your Apple EM interview:

Interview Questions:

  • Design a voice assistant to provide weather services.
  • Design the backend processing layer for logging data from a web page.
  • How would you design a URL shortening service?
  • How would you design a file-sharing service like Dropbox?
  • How would you go about defining security features for your database?
  • What are some network protocols you must follow while building a scalable system?
  • How would you design a cab-hailing service like Uber?
  • How would you design a scalable music streaming service?
  • What are some crucial security requirements while designing an operating system like iOS?

  1. Behavioural Rounds

Behavioural rounds amount to 3 in total, and are crucial for senior roles like an Engineering Manager or Director of Engineering. These rounds dive deep into examining your leadership style, workplace conduct, and relationships with colleagues. Questions range from how you manage a team, approach challenges to handling tricky workplace situations. 

Within this spectrum, one standout is the People Management interview—where they'll basically digging into your soft skills and how you handle the “people” side of things. So, this typically means your your prowess in cross-functional collaboration, coaching/mentorship, team-building, and talent acquisition. 

Your interviewer will probe into experiences you find most interesting or challenging, how you deal with successes and failures, navigate the complexities of fostering team growth, etc. You can also expect situation-based questions where your cross-functional collaboration played a key role in maximizing team productivity, and so on. This interview type is much similar to the interviews you'd encounter at other top tech companies, for instance as reflected in the Google Engineering Manager interview guide or the Coinbase Engineering Manager interview guide, for instance.

Our best advice? Arm yourself with compelling stories that vividly showcase your ability to navigate the intricacies of growing, developing, and supporting your team or organization. 

Lots of candidates stumble in a behavioral interview because they're not quite well-prepared for it. Your interviewers want to see that you learned from these experiences, not just successfully dealt with them. Which is why a bit of professional help in this scenario can go a long way since these interviews have a habit of going down tangents you can't anticipate beforehand; and it's less the "content" part of the practice and more the "mindset" that practising with coaches can help you get into, that is the most valuable part of working with a coach. 

Prepfully has excellent Apple Engineering Managers who provide 1-1 interview coaching. Book a slot with them directly here.

Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a project you are proud of.
  • Discuss how you collaborate with product partners.
  • What are the most significant challenges you've faced while leading a team?
  • Describe a situation when you had a conflict at the workplace and how you handled it.
  • Tell us about a time when an employee in your team wasn't performing to their full potential and how you dealt with the situation.
  • Share details about the most challenging project you've worked on in the past.
  • Describe a situation when you had to make an important decision with limited available data.
  • How do you ensure everyone on your team is motivated to perform at their best potential?
  • What are your thoughts on mental health, and how do you ensure you're in the right frame of mind when you come to work every day?
  • Tell us about a time when you disagreed with your superior on the approach taken for an important project.
  • Share an experience when a coworker was uncooperative and how you dealt with the situation.
  • Discuss a situation when you collaborated with multiple teams on an important project.

Apple Engineering Manager Roles and Responsibilities

Following are the roles and responsibilities of a Apple Engineering Manager:

  • As an Engineering Manager overseeing a team, the role demands a self-motivated individual with a robust skill set encompassing technical prowess, effective communication, and adept project management capabilities.
  • You should be capable of taking charge of product features and creating comprehensive functional specifications.
  • You must show a proficiency in resource planning and meticulously craft development schedules to ensure timely and efficient project execution.
  • You should bw able to skillfully navigate the complexities of scoping and prioritizing both new features and bug fixes to align with overall project goals.
  • You should take on the responsibility of defining the team's composition and actively contribute to its growth, ensuring a diverse and world-class engineering talent pool.
  • You should provide valuable guidance on engineering best practices, fostering an environment that prioritizes quality in feature delivery.

Apple Engineering Manager Skills and Qualifications

Here are the skills and qualifications that a Apple Engineering Manager must have:

  • As an Engineering Manager at Apple, you need a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or an equivalent domain, complemented by a robust 5+ years of experience, with a specific emphasis on managing individual contributors for at least 3 years.
  • You should have a history of mentoring junior team members, cultivating a strong and diverse team, fostering a healthy team culture, driving process improvements, and actively supporting the career growth of team members. 
  • A proven track record in owning and leading project deliveries, providing subject matter expertise in a functional domain, and efficiently managing engineering processes is essential.
  • You should possess experience in building impactful partnerships with product owners, cross-functional partners, and business stakeholders.
  • Technical expertise is crucial, particularly in core networking concepts development, and a solid foundation in computer science fundamentals.

Frequently Asked Questions