Here Are 15 Brain Busting Interview Questions Apple Asks Potential Employees

Tim Cook Apple

Photo: Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

While Google likes to grill its future employees and engineers on technical questions, Apple takes a different approach.Apple will ask brain teasers, grill people on hardware specifications and is looking for a lot of creativity in all its potential employees.

That even includes sales and specialist roles.

We pulled some of the most interesting interview questions from GlassDoor — a site where people “review” companies they interview with on how the interview process went.

An old iPhone is on the table. What materials do you see?

Role: Product design engineer

A big part of working at Apple is managing the costs of supplies to keep the phone as cheap as possible.

Apple's phones are priced competitively, so you have to know how to work within bounds of certain costs. Having an expertise in materials and their properties can help you build products while keeping costs down.

Describe your usage of Apple products.

Role: Sales

If you're going to sell Apple's products, you better already be an Apple user.

Odds are Apple doesn't plan to hire a salesperson who has never owned an iPhone.

If there are 500 washers that have been rejected by the test lab, how would you go about determining the root cause and ways to correct it?

Role: Product quality engineer

If there's a glitch in the manufacturing, you might lose hundreds of iPhones -- which can amount to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in lost revenue.

If you're going to control quality, you have to make sure you can troubleshoot any problem that arises. Especially if it's at an early point in the supply chain.

How would you implement a threading model for handling network, file system, UI system, etc. as a user-space framework in a very limited resource environment?

Role: Software Engineer

It's easy to build code that can run a process, but it's hard to make it work efficiently.

That's especially when you're designing software for a phone. You have to rely on low-power chips to keep a long battery life.

How will you calculate the supply of apples from China?

Role: Materials program manager

They are literally talking about apples here. You know, the fruit.

But it's still a pretty fundamental supply question. If you're managing the supply chain, you need to know exactly what suppliers are out there and the kinds of materials they can provide.

A lot of Apple's edge is buying up all the best parts for a smartphone. If you're fully aware of the entire supply chain, you can keep costs down.

Design an LED driver using an operational amplifier.

Role: Hardware engineer

Often enough, your products aren't going to be in optimal conditions. They'll be too hot, or too cold, or even under water.

You have to make sure your hardware works in those non-optimal conditions.

How would you diagnose a buffer overflow?

Role: Software engineer

Often times, the best way to determine which engineers are the most talented is to ask them how they would solve a problem.

Buffer overflows can be disastrous when they happen -- so if you want to test how your engineer would behave with extreme problems, that's a good question to ask.

You have 100 numbered light bulbs, that are all turned on in the first pass. Then you switch every other light bulb, then every third light bulb. After 100 passes, how many light bulbs are on?

Role: Senior software engineer

Apple recruiters aren't actually the most original in the bunch -- they do take some brain teasers from Khan Academy, according to some people reporting their questions on the site.

But, this is still a very complex problem that involves some clever mathematics, so it's a good test of the problem-solving capabilities of an engineer.

How do you stay up to date with technology news?

Role: Mac genius

If you're going to be running point for Apple in its stores, you need to make sure you have a sense of how people feel about Apple in the news.

They'll want to know if you check sites like TechCrunch or, heck, Business Insider.

You start on the top left of a six-by-six grid, and can either move right or down. How many paths are there to the end point at the bottom right?

Role: Senior software engineer

This is called the path counting problem. It's one of those brain teaser fundamental problems that is designed more to test how you think, not whether you can get the answer right.

It's not surprising that Apple would ask some of its more senior engineers some crazy brain teasers. This is another Khan Academy teaser.

How did you verify surface curvature continuity?

Role: CAD Sculptor

Apple builds a ton of prototypes of its devices -- like prototype iPhones and iPads. Those all need to be tested, so you need to have someone who can build them quickly.

But they still need to be on par with Apple's other devices. So you'll want to make sure that even your sculptors and designers have a sense of perfection -- even when it comes to the shape of the glass.

Find the middle node of a linked list.

Role: 'Cocoa camp'

Apple is asking for a clever solution here for its software engineers.

For example, you could take two 'pointers' -- one that moves one step through the list and one that moves twice. When the second pointer that jumps twice reaches the end, the first pointer is halfway through the list.

If you could bring one piece of technology to a remote location, what would it be?

Role: Specialist

Trick question -- Apple is probably checking if you're an iPhone fan.

The best sales operatives on the floor of the store (that's what specialists are) have to be big Apple fans.

What are 5 ways to put a hole in a sheet of metal?

Role: Product design engineer

Apple wants to make sure its designers and hardware engineers are, at the very least, a creative bunch -- even if they have to be super technical.

So, even the simple process of punching a hole in a sheet of metal might have multiple approaches. Apple is testing your creativity.

What groups in high school do you think had it the best or easiest?

Role: Specialist

If you want to pick out specific people in the store that are more likely to buy Apple products, you're going to want to be able to divine what type of person they are.

Find your mark and figure out as quickly as possible whether they'll buy a product. Often times they'll fit into some kind of common trope.

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