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Apple salary negotiation
Company Guide
April 22, 2021

Apple Salary Negotiation - How to Negotiate your Apple Job Offer

The goal of this guide is to equip you with the essential pieces of information you need for your upcoming Apple negotiation. Apple is the most valuable company in the world and a magnet for top engineering talent. However, it is also extremely secretive and your experience, both in the role and when negotiating, can vary dramatically based on which org/team you join. Apple is known for their confrontational recruiters who negotiate aggressively on everything from compensation to deadlines and they often use pressure tactics. If your situation is unique or you want 1:1 support to ensure you maximize your compensation, please sign up for a free consultation with our expert negotiators.

Negotiate Your Offer

Table of Contents

Apple Orgs & Teams

Relative to other FAANG companies, Apple roles are most heavily influenced by which org and team you join.

For example, here are 3 large orgs:

  • AI/ML:  includes Siri, has a good culture, and is one of the most attractive groups to join
  • IS&S - Internet Software & Services: includes iCloud and Apple Media Product group and is viewed quite positively
  • IS&T - Infrastructure Services & Technology: internal corp services group that historically has had a bad reputation

These groups have different cultures and work-life balance, which is normal for most tech companies. But they also have large discrepancies in pay and willingness to negotiate, more so than orgs within a company like Facebook. When evaluating an Apple offer, we recommend basing your counter offer on the range specific to the team you are joining rather than overall Apple averages, or you may be leaving money on the table.

Apple Offer Compensation Components

Before starting any negotiation, you need to fully understand the compensation components offered. A typical job offer for a tech role at Apple (e.g. Software Engineer) should contain the following monetary components:

This is what an example Apple ICT3 offer looks like over a 4-year period:

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Base Salary $155,000 $155,000 $155,000 $155,000
Signing Bonus $45,000
Apple RSUs $45,000 $45,000 $45,000 $45,000
Performance Bonus 10% 10% 10% 10%
Stock Refreshers Not specified Not specified Not specified Not specified
Total Compensation $260,500 $215,500 $215,500 $215,500

The high-level overview of compensation is important as recruiters often leave out components (e.g. signing bonus). But, there are also some key differences within these components at Apple vs. other big tech companies.

Apple Base Salary

Apple's base salary is in-line with Google and slightly below Facebook. It is similar to other big tech companies in the sense that there is a base salary band associated with each role/level/location, and the size of the band increases with seniority.

It is possible to negotiate this component, but the increase will typically be smaller than equity and signing bonus increases. Base salary at Apple is paid bi-weekly in the United States.

Apple Signing Bonus

Many Apple offer letters don't include a signing bonus by default. It's a common recruiter trick to leave it out of the initial job offer.

For most technical roles at Apple, it is possible to negotiate a higher signing bonus even if it's not in your initial offer. The two most helpful pieces of leverage are 1) competing offers 2) retention bonuses at your current company. As a reference point, Apple signing bonuses are one of the highest in the industry, though they are definitely still beat by Facebook.

Apple will pay your full signing bonus after your first month - unlike some other companies (e.g. Amazon) which are prorated. However, Apple does not specify in their offer letter whether they will clawback your entire signing bonus if you leave before the 1-year mark, or simply a prorated amount. At Google, Facebook, and Amazon, you only have to pay back a prorated amount. Below I've included the wording from an Apple offer we negotiated recently.

Apple Signing Bonus

"You will be eligible to receive a hire-on bonus of (US)$45,000 (less deductions required by law), subject to the following terms and conditions. In order to earn the bonus you must be actively employed by Apple for 12 months following your start date. Apple will advance you payment of the bonus in the next regular payroll cycle following your first 30 days of active employment. However, should you voluntarily terminate your employment with Apple within 12 months of your start date, and thus fail to meet the conditions to earn your bonus, you will be responsible for reimbursing all or part of the advance bonus payment at Apple’s sole discretion."

Apple Equity (RSUs)

Apple, like many big tech companies, vests equity evenly over 4 years. This means if you are granted $300K RSUs, you will receive the following:

  • Year 1: 25% ($75K)
  • Year 2: 25% ($75K)
  • Year 3: 25% ($75K)
  • Year 4: 25% ($75K)
Apple Equity Compensation

At Apple, equity vests every 6 months, which means you receive 12.5% of your total grant every 6 months. There used to be a 1-year cliff for vesting, but that is no longer the case for most roles. Apple's 6 month schedule is less convenient than Facebook which vests every 3 months and Google which can vest every month.

The actual number of shares you receive from Apple as part of your initial grant will be determined by dividing the grant total by the share price on the grant date. See below for the wording from an Apple offer letter.

Apple Stock Package

To get a rough estimate of how many share you will receive, look at the average share price over the past 30 days.

Apple RSU Price

Equity is the component where Apple has the most room to increase. In the negotiation tips section, we will cover a few strategies to maximize your equity when negotiating with Apple.

Apple Performance Bonus

Apple has a different approach to performance bonuses vs other FAANG companies. To start, they don't usually list the target bonus in the offer letter. We recommend asking your recruiter what the target number is, even though they may try to dodge the question. For reference, target bonus does depend partially on team, but for ICT3 with a "meets expectations" performance rating, the target is on average 10% and at the ICT5 level, it is on average 15%. Here is the unfortunately vague wording from an Apple offer we negotiated:

Apple Bonus Structure

"You may be eligible to receive a discretionary bonus based on your individual performance and Apple's overall performance. Whether a bonus is paid and the amount and timing of the bonus payment is at the sole discretion of Apple."

This component is not negotiable. However, if you have a competing offer from a company like Google or Facebook, you should factor their performance bonus target into the total compensation calculation and use that as a reason to push for a higher offer from Apple.

Apple Stock Refreshers

Apple is the industry leader when it comes to stock refreshers. For most teams, these are paid out 1x per year and are based on your performance rating (from 5-9). In order to be eligible for stock refreshers in a given year, you must have joined Apple before April 1st.

Note, stock refreshers are not perfectly correlated to rating as your manager has significant influence over the process. That said, here is a rough guide for ICT4 SWE in 2021:

  • Rating 5: $0
  • Rating 6: $60K
  • Rating 7: $95K
  • Rating 8: $130K
  • Rating 9: $170K

Stock refreshers, similar to the initial grant, vest over a 4 year period. As you can see from these numbers, stock refreshers can be up to 100% of your base salary. Unfortunately, it's tough to leverage this in cross offer negotiations as recruiters deem them too speculative since they are based on both your performance and your team. That said, it is clearly one reason to choose an Apple offer over a similar total compensation offer from a company like Amazon, which has basically no stock refreshers.

Industry Compensation Data

Moonchaser has helped negotiate a wide range of offers at Apple. Candidates of course need to know the latest role-specific salary information like the Apple data scientist salary or the Apple technical program manager salary. However, it can also be useful to understand these salary trends at the industry level. Hence, Moonchaser has complied that data for different roles setting the senior (L5) level as the benchmark.

Role (Senior – L5-equivalent level) Highest Offers in 2021
Software Engineer Salary $425K + $100K signing bonus
Product Manager Salary $370k + $75k signing bonus
Data Scientist Salary
$325k + $50k signing bonus
Technical Program Manager Salary $325k + $50k signing bonus
Product Designer Salary $315k + $40k signing bonus
Marketing Salary $260k + $40k signing bonus
User Experience Researcher Salary $255k + $40k signing bonus

Remember, the data points above are industry wide, not specific to Apple. There are many company specifics at play here. For example, an Apple hardware engineer salary tends to be above industry average. However, an Apple product manager salary is often below average and certainly lower than companies like Google.

Apple Negotiation Process

Candidates often find it helpful to have a high-level overview of the negotiation process. However, this does vary by candidate, with one key vector being seniority. We've included a quick overview of the Apple leveling system below.

Apple Levels

  • ICT2 - Junior Software Engineer (equivalent to L3 at Google)
  • ICT3 – Software Engineer (slightly more junior than L4 at Google)
  • ICT4 - Senior Software Engineer (slightly more junior than L5 at Google)
  • ICT5 - Staff Software Engineer (wide band usually equivalent to L6 at Google)
  • ICT6 - Principal Software Engineer (slightly more senior than L7 at Google)

If you have not yet received an offer from Apple there are a few critical mistakes to avoid:

  1. Do not share your current compensation. In many states (e.g. California) it is illegal for companies to ask this, so you are certainly within your rights to say "I do not feel comfortable sharing that information".
  2. Do not share your compensation expectations. Apple recruiters will sometimes frame this as "seeing if you are a fit for the role". However, it is in your best interest to deflect this question until Apple has extended an offer. One possible response is "right now I'm focused on the interview process and don't have a number in mind, but I'm confident we will be able to get to a number that works for both of us."

With that out of the way, let's discuss the process for Apple tech employees.

  1. After completing your onsite interview, you will often hear back from your recruiter within a week. If you don't hear back within two weeks, it doesn't mean that Apple will reject you, but it does often mean that they either want to complete interviews with another candidate first or have extended an offer to another candidate and are waiting for their response before extending you an offer. We've seen Apple take more than 45 days before extending an offer.
  2. The recruiter will typically send you an email asking to setup a call. They often use the call to push you to share compensation expectations. It is possible to deflect this (one tactic is to flip this back to the recruiter and ask for the range - referencing the California Pay Act) at which point the recruiter will either share the initial numbers, or tell you that they will follow up in the next few days with the offer details. Apple recruiters are notoriously pushy when it comes to asking you for compensation expectations.
  3. When they do share the offer details, they will ask how you feel about the offer and sometimes they start to push timelines (e.g. <1 week to sign). In extreme cases, we've seen Apple recruiters attempt to force you to sign on an offer call or within 24-48 hours. You should politely push back and set a realistic timeframe.
  4. We recommend you ask for some time to digest the initial offer and consider the best point of leverage for your counter offer discussion. If you know you will need 1-2 weeks to finish other processes, there are various time extension techniques you can use at this point.
  5. You will then setup your second call with the recruiter to discuss the offer. On that call you will disclose your counter offer. The recruiter will likely push back and at Moonchaser we build a tree diagram unique to your situation with the most likely objections and the optimal responses to those objections. The goal is to get the recruiter to take your counter-offer back to the team
  6. Typically you will hear back in within a a few days with their "final" offer. If it is an above band offer, they will need VP approval and that can often take ~1 week to secure.

There are two primary differences between junior and senior negotiations at Apple:

  1. Senior employees are likely to see fewer pressure tactics compared to junior employees. For example, requests for competing offers in writing can be more easily deflected. Generally speaking, recruiters working with these candidates provide more of a white glove service.
  2. Recruiters will push you more to give them an initial number, rather than providing an offer. Given the importance of senior leaders and the wide range of the salary bands, they are typically hesitant to risk losing a candidate. This means the first number you provide is hugely important for anchoring the negotiation.

Apple-Specific Negotiation Advice

Here are some important pieces of information to keep in mind when negotiating your Apple compensation.

Win over your hiring manager

At Apple, unlike Google and Facebook, your hiring manager will have a more direct impact on your negotiation. It is worth setting up time with them to learn more about the team and build rapport. Your goal for those calls should be to make the hiring manager excited to have you join their team.

Needs cross offer breakdown

Apple recruiters are often pushed to submit a breakdown for your competing offer, and as a result, they will ask for many specific details about your competing offers. Be prepared to deflect these if there are certain pieces of information that are not in your best interest to share.

Willing to match competing offers

Unlike some other companies (e.g. Microsoft), Apple is willing to match offers from other top paying tech companies (e.g. Facebook and Google) for certain orgs and teams and when you have clearly laid our your negotiation leverage. This is certainly not an automatic response from recruiters, but it's helpful to know that you will hear less "we are unable to match Facebook" when negotiating with Apple if you are in the ML/AI org or on a high profile team in IS&S.

Timeline extensions

Apple does push deadlines to get candidates to sign. That said, Apple negotiations are less standardized than other companies, so this can vary a lot on a case by case basis. We've seen Apple attempt to force candidates to make a decision on an offer call or apply very tight timelines (24-48 hours). However, with the right strategies you can often get Apple to extend by a week or more.

Negotiate Your Offer

1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

We've negotiated more than $20M in Apple offers in the last year. Our largest Apple increase was $415K.

Negotiation strategy

Step 1 is defining the strategy, which often starts by helping you create leverage for your negotiation (e.g. setting up conversations with FAANG recruiters).

Negotiation anchor number

Step 2 we decide on anchor numbers and target numbers with the goal of securing a top of band offer, based on our internal verified data sets.

Negotiation execution plan

Step 3 we create custom scripts for each of your calls, practice multiple 1:1 mock negotiations, and join your recruiter calls to guide you via chat.