I was pretty damn excited when a fellow Apple Campus Rep forwarded an e-mail from his University Careers Service saying that Apple would be delivering a Careers Presentation on campus. The Apple representatives - one from HR and one from Engineering - told us that if we had the right mix of passion, ability, and determination then we could be the correct fit for Apple. They were seeking applications for internships from continuing students and applications for permanent positions from graduating students. We were informed that this was the first time that they had been recruiting outside of the USA for nearly a decade. I think that we all felt quite special.
I prepared my resume over the course of about a month. I constantly tinkered with almost every aspect of the single side of paper that I was preparing to submit. The layout, the content, the style of the fonts, the size of the fonts, the wording of my key points. I tried to enlist the help of my university’s Careers Service but they were nowhere near prepared enough. I wanted my resume to stand out from the rest of the massive pile that would be arriving from students across the USA. I knew that I was competing against a high standard. I hoped that being from a European University and having experience with a well-respected Mac software developer would help me out.
I was offered a telephone interview for an internship position within Team A - I had made a mistake in the MM/DD/YY vs DD/MM/YY aspect of my expected graduation date and the recruiter thought I was going back to University after the summer. Almost simultaneously I was offered a telephone interview for a permanent position within Team B. I kindly declined the internship offer and accepted the permanent offer.
My first telephone interview lasted about 90 minutes. We designed - at a high level - a method for performing a commonly requested and used feature of the Team B product.
The person on the other end of the phone was impressed with what I had to say and two further technical interviews were arranged for early April. The first technical interview mainly involved analysing the depth to which I understood the principles of Cocoa development: model-view-controller paradigm, memory management, design principles. The second technical interview involved discussion of my undergraduate project - using network flow theory to determine the elimination status of teams for sports leagues - and my experience of working as part of a team.
Much to my delight I was offered an in-person interview in Cupertino, California in May. Apple paid for my flights, accomodation, and car rental hire. I managed to negotiate 2 extra days so I could take some time to see for myself what like might be like to live in Cupertino and the surrounding area. I flew from Edinburgh to San Francisco 2 days after I finished my final exams which I started to regret while I was flying over Greenland — why didn’t I leave myself any time to rest?!
The day after I arrived in California I enjoyed a breakfast burrito and then visited Google in Mountain View to deliver a presentation about my Summer of Code 2006 experience. I shared lunch with Leslie Hawthorn, Mike Pinkerton, and Stuart Morgan - each one of them had been an integral part of my SoC 2006 experience and it was great to meet them. I had to sign an NDA so I shall not say anything in particular about the Googleplex except that it was fantastic!
I interviewed at De Anza Three. My recruiter apologised before handing me the schedule for the day… they had arranged 13 interviews for me.
My interviews took place in Conference Room London and my recruiter performed the first interview of the day. They asked me what I thought my biggest strengths and weaknesses were and why I wanted to work for Apple in California on Team B.
My second interview was a telephone interview with an employee who worked remotely from Arizona. I thought it was a bit cheeky to fly me 6,000 miles to talk to somebody over the phone but I was up for it. The first question of the day was:
Imagine that a string is encoded as sequence of characters. A character can either be represented by 1 or 2 bytes. If the first bit of the first byte is a 0 then this signifies a 1 byte character; if the first bit of the first byte is a 1 then this signifies a 2 byte character. I’d like you to tell me how you can determine where the start of the next character is and where the start of the previous character is. You may assume that you are currently at the start of the current character and for the purpose of this question you may also assume that the string is infinitely long in each direction.
I was totally gob-smacked and I did think about putting down the phone and leaving. I was as prepared as I could be for this kind of question but having to communicate my thoughts over the telephone was a daunting task for the start of the day. I took a deep breath and we dived into the question.
During the rest of the morning I interviewed with the manager of Team C - another open position within the same division that my skills and experience had been matched to - and colleagues. The interviewers prodded at my technical knowledge, questioned my experience and education, and spoke with me about more personal topics too. One interviewer walked into the room and asked “Do you watch Lost?” which was pretty funny. Another interviewer had rescheduled their 30-minute block with me because they had a plumbing problem that morning. After explaining that to me they said that they had not had a chance to read me resume and would I mind telling them about myself. I took this opportunity to write out what I thought were the key points to my resume on the whiteboard. This provided them with a constant point of reference for our conversation and I like to think that my creative solution to the resume problem heightened their interest in me.
I had an interview lunch at Cafe Macs, Infinite Loop. We had burritos and a smoothie and it was fantastic. The sun was shining down and everybody around me seemed to be really excited about what they were doing. I only managed to catch snippets of conversations but it felt like a place that was charged with energy. I was asked what I thought were examples of good design in OS X and examples of bad design in OS X. We chatted about what I had been doing at University and what my interests were.
The first interview of the afternoon was a 45 minutes as opposed to a 30 minutes. The interviewer started by asking questions about my interests and I thought that this was going to be another personal interview until they asked me to design the services daemon for the product of Team B. I should have realised that they were trying to get me to relax before slamming a massive question on me.
During my final interview somebody popped in to inform me that I would have an additional interview. My as-appropriate interviewer introduced themselves as an upper-management employee who wanted to know more about my education, experience, and why I thought I was suitable for this position. We spoke about my Summer of Code project in 2006, a coursework project in which I designed a distributed file system, and my undergraduate project. I asked him what Apple were looking for in filling this position and his response was that the were looking for raw talent.
I was in De Anza Three from 0945 until 1745.
3 weeks later my recruiter called me to present 2 offers: one for the Team C and one for Team B. Each manager took the time to call me to tell me more about their team. I really appreciated this because we were in the week before WWDC so they must have had no spare time. I accepted the offer to work in the Team B and my contract was sent via Federal Express.
While trying to sort out a work visa it transpired that my recruiter had made a mistake by assuming that I was in possession of an F-1 visa which would have entitled me to an F1 OPT visa. 2 days after offering me the choice between two jobs, agreeing terms, and sending me a contract of employment, Apple withdrew their offer of employment. They were not able to employ somebody who would be working remotely for 16 months while the petitioned to sponsor me for a H-1B visa. I couldn’t even be guaranteed an H-1B visa because they were issued in a lottery this year due to the massive number of applications.
My advice to those who do not currently have the legal right to work in the USA is to think hard about attempting to gain employment in the USA. The interviewing experience is something that I would recommend but the simple fact of the matter is that any company will struggle to employ you in a timely manner. The state of issuing non-immigrant visas is a total disaster and it is not likely to work out well. The thought of attempting to gain an immigrant visa is even more daunting and appears to be practically impossible. One of my friends suggested that I speak with an attorney in California but I don’t want to sue Apple and I don’t want to leave my name with a dirty mark against it all over Silicon Valley. I intend to leave the door wide open for the future.
The sad footnote to this story is that I had started to tell all of my friends that I had the job; I had started to make a move on canceling all of the services that I was provided with in the UK; I had started looking for an apartment in the Cupertino area. I didn’t think for a second that Apple would default on me if they couldn’t get me out there straight away. I still love what Apple are doing as a company. Even though I knew the job offer had fallen through I still watched the WWDC Keynote updates and I am excited about what is coming in October.
I am currently considering my options.