Apple might refer to some of its staff as “geniuses,” but a super high IQ isn’t a prerequisite to land a job at the company.
For its CEO at least, there are more important qualities to look for in candidates seeking to join the team.
Tim Cook sat down with artist Dua Lipa for a wide-ranging interview released at the weekend, during which he revealed the sort of people Apple tries to hire.
On the ‘At Your Service’ podcast Cook, who took over the top job in 2011, outlined one of his favorite aspects of his role is the people he works with.
As such, hiring the right people is key, and they can come from “all walks of life”, according to the boss.
Those include “people who have college degrees, people who don’t, people who code, people who don’t.”
However, he encouraged jobseekers across the board to try and learn some coding, explaining: “It’s a form of expressing yourself. It’s a global language, it’s the only global language we all share. So I recommend it, but we hire people that don’t know how to code.
“We hire a lot of people that don’t code on a daily basis that do other things.”
However, a trait that can’t be compromised on is collaboration, Cook said.
“Can [the candidate] really collaborate? Do they deeply believe that one plus one equals three?” he continued, referring to a team-building idea that the results of individuals are larger than the sum of their parts.
Earlier in the conversation, Cook had said collaboration also formed a key aspect of his own leadership and was a trait he was keen to promote across the company: “I do deeply believe that bouncing ideas off one another creates a bigger idea than either one of us generates on our own.”
Curiosity is also a trait that Cook—who was paid $49 million for his work in 2023—”loves” to see on his team.
“People that ask questions, that are curious about how things work, how people think,” Cook continued. “All of the ‘Why’s?’ and ‘How’s?’ questions.”
Also on the list is creativity, said Cook, both in terms of problem-solving and a wider approach to work.
“We’re looking for people that can see around the corner,” said the CEO. “Ultimately we want to create products that people can’t live without, but that they didn’t know they needed.
“All of these traits go into making a great team player.”
Big-name bosses say degrees aren’t essential
An Auburn University alumni, Cook said he massively enjoyed his college experience.
However, he’s not alone in his opinion that a college degree isn’t the be-all and end-all for an applicant trying to join the world’s first company to break the $3 trillion valuation ceiling.
Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and founder of global conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, has also previously said he doesn’t care where people go to college—in fact he told the Wall Street Journal he’d wanted to drop out himself.
Speaking to students at Western University in 2012, he added: “I don’t think college is for everyone. The best education you can get is investing in yourself. But this doesn’t always mean college or university.”
A number of tech titans have also famously dropped out of college. Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard’s computer science program in 2005 to focus on a then-fledgling Meta.
He was following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, who similarly dropped out of Harvard University after three semesters in 1975 to work fully on Microsoft. Likewise, Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College in the 1970s after just six months at the school.
“I ran out of money,” he later explained.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn’t sold on college degrees from premium universities.
In May 2019 he wrote on X: “There isn’t a lot of value add from big name schools for freshman or sophomore classes, particularly when a motivated student can augment their studies with free online courses from the big names.”