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April 22, 2021

Apple Salary Negotiation

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. 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.

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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:

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:

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.

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.

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.

"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."

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:

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.

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

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 ICT4 level, it is on average 15%. Here is the unfortunately vague wording from an Apple offer we negotiated:

"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.

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).

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:

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.

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. It's helpful to split into junior (ICT2 and ICT3) and senior levels (ICT4, ICT5, ICT6). Here is a quick overview of Apple levels:

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 junior tech employees.

  1. After completing your onsite interview, you will often hear back from your recruiter within a week.
  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 it 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.
  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).
  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: Unlink some other companies (e.g. Microsoft), Apple is willing to match or even outbid offers from other top paying tech companies (e.g. Facebook and Google). 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.

Deadlines: Apple does push deadlines to get candidates to sign, but to a lesser extent than companies like Amazon and Microsoft. You can often get Apple to extend by a week or two if you play your cards right.

Want to learn more from expert negotiators who have negotiated dozens of Apple offers?

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