Apple Hiring Story – 2009

This account was written by a former Genius in 2009:

I worked for several years at 7 different Apple stores and in a variety of roles. I had desired to work in Apple retail for since they started opening stores. I have always been an Apple supporter. I had participated in the New Mac Roadshow, Apple’s first retail experiment. That is where I first got the bug.

It wasn’t easy getting a job in the stores. I started by walking into my local store and asking someone. I got bad advice, she told me to submit on the Apple jobs site. This proved to be the wrong approach, person, or time. As I found out later, there isn’t a good way to get considered. Because I was already employed and making more money than I could possibly make in retail, I wasn’t that persistent.

A few years later I was in a different situation. A friend had been recruited for a new store from a posting on Monster and this rekindled my interest. I tried applying again but no response. I had some inside info about the opening of another store in my area from my area but couldn’t get considered. FInally, with the recommendation of my friend, I got interviewed for a part time specialist position.

The interview was a nightmare. They call it “Fruit Basket.” I was in a room with the store manager, two assistant managers and a dozen other candidates. A question would be asked and we would take turns answering it in an open forum. The end was an exercise where we were handed a stuffed animal and asked to make a presentation to sell this item to the managers. I was with a group of technocrats that thought we should make up things about the bear to make it more “techie.” I kept insisting that the exercise was about selling the BEAR and not about re-engineering the bear. I was the only one hired from that group and the last employee hired for this store opening.

The next step was something they call CORE. All of the employees for this store, both new hires and transfers met in a hotel for six days broken into two weekends. The trainer for the first weekend sessions was a disaster. She was horrible at motivating and inspiring people. They brought in someone else. He was much better.

They were impressed with my background. I had a very good knowledge of most professional and enterprise products made by Apple. I was trying to get hired as a genius as I had a background in technical support. They thought of me as a creative, but hired me as a part time specialist.

The Work

I was tapped to do some of the scripted classes and an occasional One-To-One but the majority of my job was selling Macs. I had never been much of a sales person. I had never even liked dealing with sales people before. I found that I could be really good at it. The trick for me was taking all the things that they had taught me and making it my own. In those days it wasn’t all about selling, it was about connections. They told us that the average person would visit the store at least three times before making a purchase. I wasn’t their ideal specialist. I wasn’t bright and bubbly but I found ways to make connections with my customers and had really good feedback for them.

They tend to limit the hours that part time people can work. If they keep you under 6 hours in a day they don’t have to give you a lunch, just a 15 minute break. They hire more people then they can possible use because they expect to loose some and fire others so the number of hours that you can actually get are never enough to live on. You have to really want this job and you will need another way to make money.

After a few months an opportunity to move into a Genius role came up at another new store. In my pursuit of a better position, I had been told that “My career at Apple was all up to me.” This is their standard line and is very misleading. I applied through the internal website. What I was supposed to do was ask my manager to recommend me. My first manager was the forgiving and caring sort so this transgression was overlooked. As I found out later, she was very unusual.

Having taken the job requirements literally, I had already taken and passed my hardware and software certification exams on my own. There were four of them and they cost me $150 each. This was ruffly equivalent to my entire pay for the duration of my employment at Apple. I followed this up with taking and passing the server exam. This being far and above the requirements for genius.

I was hired and my full time employment began. This is a big deal for retail. There is a sort of “caste” system at Apple. To the corporate folks, retail are not real Apple people. To the managers at Apple the hourly employees and not career people and at the bottom caste is the part time people. They are a bit like cannon fodder. The best way to describe them is “Disposable.” I do not believe that this has always been the case but it has become the way of Apple Retail.

As A Genius

Now I was a Genius. I approached this with a renewed vigor. I loved the work and I was rewarded by my customers. I soon found out that my colleagues on the Genius team were not the people I thought they would be. I expected dedicated, professional, experienced support people. Some of my fellow geniuses came to this after jobs like being a server at Starbucks. They were brought through the training without any previous experience or certifications. Last month they were serving coffee today that are repairing you computer.

Undaunted, I worked hard. As I said I loved the work and the customers. In this I was alone as well. Most of my coworkers loved the prestige of working for Apple, some love the people that they worked for. Most would be in back rooms bad mouthing the customer that they were smiling at a few minutes before.

When you are hired you are lead to believe that there are many possibilities and opportunities that await you in a career at Apple. This is usually far from the truth. As a genius I found that the only opportunity for me was Lead Genius. This is a sort of management position for the Genius team. There is only one Lead per store unless the team is smaller than 5 then there is no lead.

I was told that the lead would be selected from the team and would be the person that best demonstrates the ability to lead the team. The first month after we opened this new store there was a call for people that would like to be considered for lead. I debated about applying but two of the Assistant Managers asked me to apply. They were impressed with my performance in my second go around of core and the in store training that I had done. I applied.

Months went by and then came a change. Sometimes they rotate the assignments of the ASMs. The one that was assigned to the Genius team was exchanged for another. Once again there came a call for submissions for lead and again I was asked to apply. This time it must be for real. There were three candidates including myself. We were told that we would be given opportunities to prove ourselves in the Lead role. One of the trio was an arrogant person who had concluded that he would be the lead and started acting like it.

In the next few months there were opportunities for the other two, I was still waiting. Then one of us took a job outside the store, and we were two. The other had an opportunity to take an internship at corporate.

At this time they had a program called ARC. Selected candidates could work an internship level job up at corporate for the summer. At the end one of each group would be hired for the position. If you weren’t hired for the corporate position, you would be guarantied a job where you came form just not the job you left. In other words your position could not held.

Now there was only me. At this point I was informed that the search for a lead had ended and they would not be selecting a lead. I asked for a meeting with the store manager to discuss this. In this meeting I was told that there had never been a “search” for a lead. That they were looking for a lead but not looking for a lead. I ask for some clarification but he told me he couldn’t explain it to me. I asked if he thought I was qualified for the lead role, he responded “No.” When I asked if he could tell me what areas I needed to improve to be qualified he responded “No.”

At this point I disheartened. I had no way to understand what would be required of me or what I could do to improve myself. I asked to be removed from consideration as lead. We had another meeting this time with another manager present. At this meeting I was told that I needed to “prove” myself. I was asked to prepare an agenda for next months genius meeting. I prepared this and sent it to the store manager for approval as asked. Weeks passed and I heard nothing back from him. At the next meeting my agenda was presented by one of the ASMs without crediting me for any of the content. When I asked the store manager about this he asked for another meeting agenda for next month. I did as asked and again this was presented by someone else. This time I was given credit as a contributor.

At this point the people that were promoted to genius from various other roles in the store had completed training. Both of these I had been asked to train. One of them asked to be considered for lead. He was asked to produce the agenda and present it the same month.

This was obvious sexist behavior and something that I had experienced before. I asked for an explanation and eventually filed a complaint with HR. I was told simply that I could have been discriminated against because that didn’t happen at Apple. Eventually this morphed into “You couldn’t have been discriminated against because there was no open position.

Moving On

I left this store and started again at another. Still as a genius and still horribly over qualified. I worked hard and gained the respect of the other employees and managers of my new store. I applied for a multitude of lead positions. Sometimes I was actually interviewed sometimes they wouldn’t even talk to me. There was another new store opening a few hours away from where I lived. I tried to get considered for this but was told that they would be hiring a lead. A week later they hired someone that I knew from another store.

My frustration level was pretty high during all this. I tried to maintain a professional attitude and demeanor. During this time a friend and co-Apple employee told me in confidence that the reason for all this abuse was that the upper positions at the stores are filled by people that the managers are “Friends” with. They have to feel that you are one of them before they trust you. They don’t really care if you have that education, experience, and skills to do the job, they want another club member, I had been blackballed because I complained, because I had dared to stand up to them and point out that the yoda-esk rhetoric is not wisdom but BS.

The stores have changed a lot in my time. In the early days we were most concerned with making connections and letting the products attract the sales. We were about providing solutions to customer’s problems, making promoters, creating an environment of community in the stores. As geniuses we could do many things for our customers with out having to charge them a dime. We wanted to make unhappy people happy with their Mac, iPod or iPhone and return to buy another when the time came. Out vision was 5% down and 95% to go. This was from the days when Apple was said to have a 5% market share. We were out to change the world.

Now they are focused on sales numbers, making attachments like AppleCare and MobileMe to sales. Increasing revenue by selling certain high margin items. The geniuses are pressed to get people in and out in 15 minutes or less and not on a total solution. They look for ways to not fix your computer for free. They want you to fill out that survey you will be sent and say that you got good service and would recommend it but they don’t really care. They have gone from David to Goliath.

I do not recommend selecting Apple retail as a career choice. It is not a path to corporate, the pay is lousy and it is fraught with all manner of abuse. It is a great place to work but only for those not looking for anything more than something to fill the time before you get a real job. The environment is a lot of fun but the management is the worst on the planet.

Former Apple Genius