Got a job offer from Apple? Here's how to negotiate it!
by Josh Doody
The key question to ask about an Apple job offer is “How much flexibility do they have to negotiate my specific offer?” In my experience coaching software developers through Apple salary negotiations, the answer varies from “not much” to “a whole lot”.
Apple tends to make offers that they consider strong, which means a careful negotiation strategy is needed to get them to improve their offer. In-demand engineers with specialties in areas that are crucial to Apple’s business and skills that other firms need can often push harder than generalist engineers.
For example, Apple needs lots engineers with experience in embedded systems, machine learning, and AI, and the supply of experienced engineers in those areas of expertise is relatively tight among the big tech companies. So Apple will offer competitive salaries with some room to negotiate to get quality software engineers with that expertise to join their team.
By contrast, many junior generalist software engineers are eager to join Apple and there is an increasingly large supply of those engineers as more and more people shift into software. So Apple’s offers for more junior engineers are often pretty close to their best offer right out of the gate. That doesn’t mean there’s no room to negotiate, but their offers are tuned to a competitive baseline, so smaller improvements are more typical than larger ones.
The bottom line is that if you have a job offer from Apple in a technical role, you likely have room to negotiate, and may have substantial negotiation leverage depending on your specialty.
What a typical Apple job offer package looks like
Once you finally get through the Apple interview process, you may receive a job offer. Let’s look at an example to see what you can expect.
Apple’s offers are pretty standard:
- Base salary
- New-Hire Equity
They may also include other components, but these are typically the components with the most flexibility.
Here’s an example taken from a modified version of a real Apple job offer from one of my clients (all numbers are $1,000s). This client was a very experienced software developer with substantial background in embedded systems. This offer is for $210,000 base salary, $400,000 total equity (vesting over four years), and a $100,000 sign-on bonus:
|Component||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Total|
Let’s look a little closer at the main components of an Apple job offer.
Base salary is the most stable component of your job offer, and the one you can budget around for the coming year. My clients often focus here first because it’s the most predictable component, and because it impacts their bank account immediately and indefinitely.
Apple’s base salary offers tend to be pretty competitive with, and are often slightly higher than other big tech firms. If you’re wondering whether the salary you’re offered is competitive, paysa.com and levels.fyi are good places to start.
How flexible is Apple on Base Salary?
In my experience, Apple will move on base salary a moderate amount, meaning that they’re not totally rigid on base salary, but that they typically don’t make big moves on base salary. They’re generally more flexible when you have not disclosed salary history or expectations, or when you have a competing offer with a higher base salary (more on this below).
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more base salary, but it means that request may result a modest move in base salary coupled with other more aggressive moves in the other components of the offer.
New-Hire Equity (RSUs)
The equity component of an Apple job offer can range from “not very much” to “Whoa, I had no idea that was possible!” depending on the role and the candidate.
For Apple (and most of the other big public tech companies) I tend to model equity as more or less fungible with base salary since the value of that equity is public and the company fundamentals appear to be pretty strong.
The difference, of course, is that there’s a vesting schedule and you’re taking some level of market risk by counting on equity.
But for a company like Apple, the market risk for equity is very similar to the market risk for your base salary. (If things suddenly get very bad for Apple, their stock would probably drop, but the bigger problem could be that your job might be in jeopardy).
How flexible is Apple on New-Hire Equity (RSUs)?
Potentially extremely flexible. They will sometimes make very big moves with equity to attract the right candidate with the right skillset to a particular role. More generally, they’re moderately flexible on equity, often improving that component by half or more.
Some of my clients have more than doubled their equity through negotiation, which is a fantastic result, but not quite as big an improvement in equity as I’ve seen with some of the other big tech companies. This is most likely because Apple’s salaries tend to be slightly higher, which means they don’t have to be quite as aggressive with equity to offer similar Total Compensation to other big firms.
But equity is still a big lever that Apple will use to persuade well-aligned candidates to join their team.
Even if there’s not a sign-on bonus included with your initial offer, there may be one available through negotiation. Sign-on bonuses, like equity, can range from a low five figures into six figures.
I like to think of the sign-on bonus as a way to help bridge the gap between your first paycheck and your first RSU vesting date.
How flexible is Apple on Sign-on Bonus?
Moderately flexible. They will often use this as a sweetener to close the deal. Five-figure improvements in sign-on bonus are fairly common. I recommend focusing on base salary and equity before negotiating sign-on bonus, but asking for a sign-on bonus to finalize your negotiation will often be a nice later addition to your compensation.
How to approach your Apple salary negotiation
The salary negotiation with Apple will begin earlier than you might expect.
Before you get a job offer
Your Apple recruiter will ask for your salary history, or at least your current salary if it’s legal where they are. Do not tell them your current salary. If you do, the base salary component of your job offer will probably be slightly above your current salary and it will be challenging to negotiate a substantial increase once they make your job offer.
They will also usually ask for your salary expectations. That request will sound something like this:
So what were you hoping for in terms of compensation if you come aboard here at Apple?
Do not tell them your salary expectations because you will essentially be guessing what they might pay someone with your skillset and experience to do the job they need done.
While they might have a good idea of the value of that job to Apple’s business, you would only be guessing. You will practically always guess wrong and cost yourself money later on. So just don’t guess.
Apple will hold on tight to these numbers and it can be very, very challenging to get them to move once they know what they are aiming for. So avoid sharing that information if at all possible.
They may also ask you to tell them about any competing offers you have because they “need more data”. I generally recommend that my clients confirm that they have one or more competing offers while being vague about the details of those offers. It’s ok to mention that other big tech companies are interested, but sharing the specific companies or details of the offers could work against you in the early stages of the negotiation.
Once you receive your job offer from Apple
Although Apple is typically only moderately flexible on base salary, I prefer to begin by negotiating base salary to see how flexible they are in the other components. By pushing on base salary—even knowing they aren’t very flexible—you give them an opportunity to show where they are the most flexible.
They will often respond to a request for a higher base salary by moving moderately or not at all on base salary, while suggesting a significantly better equity or sign-on bonus component.
Once they reveal where they’re flexible and how flexible they are, you can use that information to focus the negotiation on the most flexible components to maximize your offer.
What to look out for when negotiating an Apple job offer package
- Apple will often ask for competing offers—sharing those offers may be beneficial in the later stages of your negotiation. Many companies ask for competing offers to gather data on competitors or to dissuade the “I have lots of offers” bluff that many candidates use. But when Apple is competing with companies like Google and Facebook for candidates, they will often match competing offers if they’re superior.
- Apple will often respond to a request for higher base salary by slightly improving base salary and significantly improving the equity component or sign-on bonus. This will give you good insight into where they are flexible so you can focus there during the later stages of your negotiation.
- Apple is often rigid with respect to the “level” offered. Because they use equity as a primary negotiating lever, they have lots of flexibility within pay bands and therefore rarely change pay bands—or levels—as part of the negotiation.
- For more junior engineers, Apple tends to make competitive offers with less room to negotiate. So many junior engineers want to work at Apple that they don’t need to negotiate very much to get good candidates at these levels. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate, just expect them to be pretty stubborn when you do.
My major concern was making sure I get the maximum compensation package that was available to me. Like other people, I want to feel that I am treated fairly. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t setting myself up for financial frustration and pity down the line.
Josh’s fees are on the high end of the spectrum. But my thought process going into our engagement was that learning the methodology was worth the fee, even more so than any increase in compensation I would get as a result.
Working with Josh, I successfully negotiated $100,000 more equity over the course of four years and feel like I achieved a very competitive level of compensation.
Most importantly for me, I learned how to communicate my financial asks and learned about the general process and methodology of salary negotiation. Things like not naming my price at all costs, going with a big counter offer afterwards, and negotiating the smaller details component by component at the end. I enjoyed Josh’s level of engagement manifested by his timely and detailed responses.
I’d recommend working with Josh. There is no reason to leave money on the table for the work one does.
Negotiating a job offer from Apple? I'll help!
I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps experienced Software Developers negotiate job offers from big tech companies. On average, Software Developers improve their job offers by $46,150.
Apply for a free 15-minute intro call to learn how I can help.