An ex-Apple engineer shares the simple interview advice that 'really blew them away' and landed her a job at the tech giant (AAPL)


Fix The Mask founders 2

  • Former Apple engineer Sabrina Paseman says the key to getting hired at Apple is proving that you’re a problem solver.
  • That’s how she believes she landed her interview at the company, where she worked for more than five years as an engineer on the Mac team.
  • Paseman brought prototypes of a product she had previously tried to develop and walked through her mistakes during the interview.
  • She left Apple recently and founded Fix The Mask, a project that provides designs for creating a brace that can be used to make surgical masks more effective for protection against the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sabrina Paseman has simple advice for anyone hoping to land a job at Apple: prove that you’re a problem solver.

“People just want problem solvers in all aspects of all fields,” Paseman, who spent more than five years at Apple as a product design engineer on the Mac team, recently said to Business Insider. “So that would be my advice for anyone starting out in product design.”

Paseman recently started a project called Fix The Mask that teaches people how create a brace that makes surgical masks more effective for COVID-19 prevention. When she was interviewing at Apple years ago, Paseman says she was surprised to receive an offer. That’s because she majored in biological engineering during her undergraduate studies, not mechanical engineering which is what she was hired to do at Apple.

But there is one reason why Paseman believes her interview likely stood out from the rest: She provided concrete evidence of her ability to think through mistakes and address problems.

Instead of just referencing past experiences, Paseman brought prototypes of a medical device that she had been working on the previous summer and walked through what she would have done differently. It’s this choice that Paseman said she believes “blew them away” and landed her the job.

“I said, ‘These are the things that I did, and this is what I would do differently,'” Paseman said. “And I showed them my thought process [and] iterations. And I think the fact that I brought tangible things to them and I was able to elaborate on what was good and what was bad about them, that itself made them want to hire me.”

Paseman said she believes that principle could be valuable in all disciplines, not just engineering.

“Just showing that whenever you encounter a problem that you don’t necessarily know how to solve, you have a really open mindset of, ‘Okay, there’s something wrong here. Let’s try to dive down into details and figure out what’s wrong,'” Paseman said.

Apple employs 80,000 people, according to the company’s job creation website. According to the job search and reviews site Glassdoor, 65% of applicants have had a positive experience interviewing at the company. Apple also ranked 84th in Glassdoor’s current list of the 100 Best Places to Work.  

Apple doesn’t say much about its interview process publicly, but CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about how he views the next generation of Apple’s workforce and beyond.

When speaking during an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting last year, Cook advocated for more coding education in schools, saying that there’s a “mismatch” between the skills that are needed in the future and those coming out of colleges.

“So we’ve never really thought that a college degree was the thing that you had to do well,” said Cook. “We’ve always tried to expand our horizons.”

As for Paseman, she’s applying what she’s learned at Apple to her new Fix The Mask project, which she co-founded in March along with another former Apple employee Megan Duong. 

“I learned that good design comes from simple design,” Paseman said. “And simple design can only be achieved by really fully understanding the problem.” 

SEE ALSO: Major tech companies are letting their employees work from home. But Apple thinks different.

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