This essay seeks to analyze recruitment and selection processes, such as job advertisement and interviewing at Apple, Inc. From its inception, great leaders, executives, and employees have been the backbone of Apple’s success. For this reason, it is especially compelling to understand how the corporation organizes its recruitment and selection processes to make sure that the recruited candidates fit their role and the company’s broader mission. The paper builds its central argument around Taylor’s theory of scientific management. Apart from that, it draws evidence from recent research reflecting job-seeking trends and changes in people’s attitudes toward work and their own professional identity. This essay concludes that through their job advertisements, Apple communicates its values such as equality, diversity, social responsibility, and personal growth of employees. The corporation expands its interviews beyond standardized structures and mundane questions and seeks to pinpoint candidates’ personalities and motivation.
Recruitment and Selection at Apple
Advertisement and Interviews
The most popular and recognizable smartphone company in the world, Apple barely needs an introduction. Since its launch in 2007, the corporation has sold over 1.3 billion iPhones. Between the years 2001 and 2018, the stock price of Apple had increased by an impressive 15,000%, which makes the company’s current worth at $1 trillion. Apple has a strong global presence: 18% of all smartphones bought worldwide are iPhones, and the corporation earns 87% of all smartphone profits (“12 Apple statistics marketers should know in 2018,” 2018). Haselton (2019) reports that for the fiscal third quarter of 2019, the company reported a revenue of $25.99 billion.
Apple is constantly pushing the envelope, raising the bar, and bringing disruptive innovation to the market. Over the last two decades, Apple has expanded its presence across the globe. The corporation is present on each of the five continents and operates offices in 25 countries worldwide (Statista, 2019). Apple’s products and services are available in more than 500 stores (Statista, 2019). It is safe to say that Apple has grown to be a powerhouse in the world of tech.
From late Steve Jobs to the current Apple CEO Tim Cook and other talented executives, people are what has made Apple the company that it is today. For this reason, like many other large corporations, Apple approaches the recruitment process with utmost seriousness. This paper seeks to understand the strategy behind job advertisement and the job interview process at Apple and their theoretical underpinning in a broader context. Throughout this paper, job advertisements are understood as job announcements in a variety of media that contain job descriptions, requirements, and benefits. Job interviews are formal meetings, be it in person or through a medium (Phone, Skype, or others), during which both the applicant and the company attempt to understand whether they make a good fit for each other.
Recruitment and Selection
The recruitment and selection process starts with personnel planning and job advertisement. Coming across and reading a job advertisement is likely to be the first encounter between a potential candidate and a hiring company. Ideally, at this stage, a job seeker should have at least a rough understanding of their future workflow, job functions, and job prospects in case they land this position. For this reason, job advertisements should be not only attractive but also exhaustively clear. The question arises as to how companies should advertise their open positions in a way that they not only reach their target audience but also capture their attention.
The creation of job advertisements can be conceptualized through Taylor’s scientific theory of management that revolves around four key principles (Su, 2017). Firstly, the principle of the norm of work prescribes companies to have a precise understanding of a potential worker’s workflow (Waring, 2016). Taylor developed this principle in the era when the emerging capitalists showed the lack of ability to gauge workers’ labor efficiency and either underestimated or overestimated it. Secondly, Taylor pointed out that a rigid system where a worker does not receive rewards for improving the quality of their work and optimizing processes was discouraging (Waring, 2016). Today, the second principle finds its use in internal reward and promotion systems, which are typically at least briefly mentioned in job advertisements.
Thirdly, Taylor believed that workers cannot and should not plan and coordinate their activities unless they have such duties and privileges. He was convinced that organizations, especially those with complex structures, need to have a separate “planning layer (Waring, 2016, p. 106).” This principle is reflected in how modern companies make a distinguishment between working and managing roles, though merging some of those remains a possibility.
Fast forward to the 21st century, job advertisement principles based on Taylor’s theory still find a general application but require significant adjustments. The new millennium was marked with paradigmatic shifts in how job seekers see employment and what goals they seek to achieve through their professional development. As of 2020, the ages of millennials in the workplace vary from 23 to 38 years old. This demographic cohort is now the largest in the U.S. workforce, and that segment will only grow as older generations retire. Fry (2018) projects that this year, millennials will make up more than one-third (35%) of the global workforce. Understanding the psychological and behavioral patterns of the new working generation is key to successful recruitment and selection.
Millennials are overwhelmingly digitally literate or even digitally native, meaning that they were growing up having smart devices available and did not have to learn how to use them later in life. The Society for Human Resource Management (2015) reports that since 2005, the online job searching rate has doubled. 54% of American job-seekers were looking for jobs online, and 45% were sending online applications. Americans with high educational levels are especially likely to access Internet resources in their job search.
Besides the fact that millennials are masters of digital communication, it is noteworthy that they also seem to be drawn to social justice causes and personal growth (Stewart et al., 2017; Espinoza & Ukleja, 2016). A recent research paper published in Harvard Business Review (HBR) has shown that millennials want to “make a positive impact in their organization (Pfau, 2016).” Among other desirable outcomes and characteristics of their professional development within a company were “[helping] solve social/ environmental challenges” and “[working] with a diverse group of people (Pfau, 2016).”
Millennials seem to have little patience with companies that do not match their personal aspirations. The 2019 Millennial Manager Workplace Survey suggests that young workers do not mind and even prefer “job hopping” – constantly changing jobs (Akumina, 2019). According to the survey, two-thirds of millennials believe that constantly changing jobs improved their career prospects (Akumina, 2019).
Since graduating high school or college, 40% of respondents reported that they had changed four or more jobs (Akumina, 2019). Based on this evidence, it is safe to assume that a job advertisement for the new working generation needs to outline promotion paths. It is also preferred that an advertisement presents a company in a way that showcases its mission beyond making a profit.
Apple advertises its jobs through a variety of media: in print, on specialized job search platforms, and on its own websites. Preliminary research has shown that Apple’s job advertisement strategy gravitates toward online, which is in line with the new generation’s job-seeking habits and patterns. The “Jobs at Apple” section of the company’s official website opens with a one-minute video titled “Join Us. Be You (“Jobs at Apple”, n.d.).”
From the get-go, Apple communicates its core values to potential candidates among site visitors: the title of the video suggests the company values individuality. The video is filled with colorful graphics, showing the transformations of the company’s logo to soothing piano music. A pleasant female voice is encouraging viewers to consider Apple for their future career endeavors and empowers them with phrases such as “You are more powerful than you think (“Jobs at Apple”, n.d.).” The empowerment part of the job advertisement strategy aligns with millennials’ aspirations to be part of something bigger and make a valuable contribution.
Below the video are four sections: “About Us,” “Teams,” “Machine Learning and A.I.,” and “Apple Retail Support Roles.” The visuals depict young people of both genders and different races and nationalities working together and interacting in a positive manner. From the visual language that Apple is using in its job advertisement, it becomes clear that the company promotes equality and diversity. It does not discriminate between candidates by gender, race, and other unchangeable characteristics.
It is noteworthy that the company puts the “About Us” section at the top so that potential candidates could make the right first impression before proceeding to actual job advertisements. The “About Us” section starts on an optimistic note: the company’s mission is described as “[bringing] amazing people together to make amazing things happen (“Jobs at Apple. About us”, n.d.).” Apple highlights that its employees are changing the world of tech by writing that if someone “[shares] an idea”, they will “watch it grow” and mature (“Jobs at Apple. About us”, n.d.). Lastly, the company makes a point about work-life balance, stating that employees are able to take advantage of its comprehensive health and wellness program
As for the actual job advertisements, Apple accompanies them with short videos about professionals who are already working in these positions. Job advertisements include a short summary, key qualifications, and a description. In alignment with Taylor’s principles, the description outlines the likely workflow as well as work/ managerial duties. For instance, for the position of a machine learning engineer, Apple’s human resources management team writes the following: “You will be a part of a team that’s responsible for a wide variety of speech-related research and development activities, including acoustic modeling, language modeling and tools development (“Siri – Machine Learning Engineer”, 2020).” As for support roles in retail, Apple capitalizes on the diverse learning experience on the job. The job advertisement highlights that employees working in retail will not only boost their people’s skills but also gain technical knowledge.
Recruitment and Selection
Talent attraction, retention, and management are the key responsibilities of the human resources department at any company (Sparrow, Brewster, and Chung, 2016). To say that managing professional talent is important would be a crude understatement (Hopkin, 2018). Because of the importance of proper talent acquisition, during the last few decades, many personnel models and approaches emerged that seek to simplify the process. For example, Schmidt (2016) describes over thirty such models and claims that a good part of them is able to predict work performance and a person’s trajectory in the company. Among these models are quantitative such as MCDM (Multi-Criteria Decision Making) based on SWARA (a Step-Wise Weight Assessment Ratio Analysis) (Schmidt, 2016). Apart from that, Schmidt (2016) mentions more qualitative approaches that seek to understand the applicant’s personality – a task which is arguably fuzzier than assessing hard skills.
As mentioned before, the theory that largely underpins the modern human resource development strategies is Taylor’s scientific management (Turan, 2015). Taylor stated that the right selection of personnel maximizes a company’s profits (Turan, 2015). At the same time, a right-fitting employee enjoys a better work-life balance as well as a sense of accomplishment. At present, one not only sees Taylor’s ideas in action: it is actually possible to find evidence confirming the relationship between personnel selection and a company’s profits.
Fatemi (2016) cites a report published by the U.S. Labor Department that shows that one poor hiring decision can cost a company as much as 30% of the individual’s earnings in the first year of employment. Shotwell (2016) writes that 69% of companies admit that they have been negatively impacted by a bad hiring decision in the last year. Moreover, 41% of the companies that participated in the survey said that malfunctioning hiring practices had cost them as much as $25,000 per year (Shotwell, 2016). Drawing on these facts, it is safe to say that hiring mistakes are extremely costly and can have long-standing consequences.
At the early stages of recruitment, probably the most common method of personnel selection is a job interview. A job interview is a formal meeting that allows the recruiter to evaluate the candidate on criteria beyond standardized tests and impersonal information in the job application (Collins, Wood, & Szamosi, 2018). Jobs interviews matter because they test a person’s soft skills: their ability to communicate, stay level-headed under stress, express themselves, and reflect on their previous experience and future plans.
Apple approaches the recruitment and selection of candidates with the utmost seriousness, which is consistent with Taylor’s conclusions about the cost and impact of recruitment. The job search and information platform Indeed that stores job seekers’ and former employees’ reviews refer to the interview process at Apple is called long and even “grueling (“Questions and Answers about Apple Hiring Process,” 2020).” The procedure itself is quite standardized, as per the reviews posted on the website. The users are unanimous in their experiences: firstly, applications are processed online. The initial approval of applications is followed by a phone screening or two with the hiring manager. The best candidates are then invited to an on-site interview that typically takes the entire day as a person is interviewed at different levels.
What makes the interview process at Apple different is what they ask their potential candidates. Surely, the company itself has and probably will never publish the list of questions that it uses in its interviews. However, Internet sources and information provided by those who had the experience of being interviewed for Apple can put together a more or less clear picture. Eadicicco (2015) and Indeed (2020) present a list of the trickiest questions asked by Apple’s hiring managers. Looking at prompts such as “Describe an interesting problem and how you solved it” and “Tell us about something you have done that you are proud of,” it becomes apparent that Apple values self-reflection. Not only that but also an honest and critical outlook on one’s personal history of victories and failures as some prompts refer to a candidate’s career lows and mistakes.
Apple needs little introduction: today, the US-based tech giant is the absolute leader in smartphone sales across the globe. The corporation earns the lion’s share of all smartphone profits in the world and operates in more than twenty countries. Apple is an attractive destination for many professionals, which is why it is compelling to know how the company approaches the recruitment process and how it fits into theoretical human resources management. The literature and case analysis presented in this paper has shown that Apple’s strategy fits the model put forward by Taylor, the father of scientific management.
From the commitment that Apple’s HRM teams show to the process, it becomes apparent that the corporation understands the power of people as well as the cost of hiring mistakes. Apple’s job advertisements convey the company’s message: the value of individuality and originality, equality of opportunity, and commitment to innovation. Apple’s interview process is step-wise and rigorous as its goal is to not only evaluate a person’s hard skills but also to gauge their personality.
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