What BCG Seeks In MBA Hires

BCG consultant conducting a presentation

BCG consultant conducting training

How is this for an American success story? Picture 1963 – and you hold a cushy executive gig at Westinghouse. Rather than wait around to run the show, you leave to start a management consulting firm. Sounds crazy, right? That’s probably what Bruce Henderson, the founder of The Boston Consulting Group, thought after producing a meager $500 in billings in his first month.

Fast forward 50 years and Henderson’s vision and tenacity sure paid off. Today, BCG has emerged as one of the “Big Three” consulting firms. Employing nearly 10,000 professionals with annual revenue nearing $4 billion dollars, BCG operates 81 offices in 45 countries. It partners with business leaders and its ranks have included General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even Bill Bain, who founded Bain & Company, got his start at BCG.

A DEEP COMMITMENT TO CLIENTS AND EMPLOYEES

It’s no surprise that BCG attracts many of the best-and-brightest. The firm has always been an innovator. As thought leaders, BCG pioneered frameworks like the experience curve, growth share matrix, and time-based competition. And they had a knack for divining the future, becoming among the first firms to break into the Southeast Asian market. But their most impressive accomplishment may be client loyalty. Over 85 percent of BCG’s clients continue to partner with them year-over-year (and over a third have worked with them for a decade or more).

In popular lore, BCG is considered the “brainiac” firm. While it may be more scholarship-driven, many don’t realize how community-oriented it is. In 2014, for example, the firm ranked third in “Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For®” list, which evaluates firms in areas like employee happiness, corporate culture, training, pay and benefits, and diversity. In fact, BCG has ranked in the top five on Fortune’s list for the last five years. BCG was also ranked number one in Consulting magazine’s “Best Firms to Work For” list, which measures firms according to culture and leadership, client engagement, career development, work-life balance, and pay and benefits. Not surprisingly, the firm also scored in the top two in Vault’s rankings of consulting firms’ benefits, compensation, and prestige.

BCG CEO Richard Lesser

BCG CEO Richard Lesser

So what’s behind these lofty rankings? BCG President and CEO Richard Lesser tells Consulting that it stems from a trickle down philosophy of putting employees first-and-foremost.  “Every year, our top priorities are to attract, develop, and retain the very best people and to create an environment where they can make a difference with our clients around the world. That long-term focus never changes.”

CONSULTING IS ALIVE AND WELL

Many MBAs enter consulting thinking of it as a springboard. You pay your dues, grow your rolodex, and move on to the c-suite. And that’s exactly how Lucy Brady, a Senior Partner who leads recruiting in North America at BCG once thought. But that was 17 years ago. An Arjay Miller Scholar who earned her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Brady has since grown to adore the work of consulting. In an exclusive Q&A with Poets&Quants, Brady hammers home that consulting is a destination, not a stopover. “I think that once people get in and understand the opportunities that they have,” she says, “it’s even better than they had expected coming in.” For Brady, BCG has become a place wher people start – “and end up staying.”

You won’t find a bigger advocate for BCG than Brady. And that’s because the firm walks the talk in her experience. Take BCG’s commitment to employee development. According to Brady, new consultants receive 18 days of training in their first 12 months at BCG, including live, in-person sessions, virtual training, self-directed online learning, and office training events. On average, BCG will spend $200K on training over the course of each consultant’s career.

BCG alum Clayton Christensen

BCG alum Clayton Christensen

This commitment is one reason why BCG has become a popular destination for MBAs. In 2011, Poets&Quants reported that the firm drew more than 30,000 applications per year and hired hundreds of MBAs each year, with the highest numbers coming from Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg (followed by Booth, Stanford, and Columbia). While Brady won’t release specific numbers for 2015, she notes that 2014 was one of BCG’s best years (and that’s coming from a firm that’s maintained double digit compound annual growth for the last 50 years). “As a result,” Brady tells Poets&Quants, “we need to continue hiring top talent to fuel that growth and MBAs are a core part of that. So we would expect our hiring in 2015 to increase to be able to support that growth.”

At the same time, BCG intends to beef up its 2015 summer internship program due to its high ROI. “Summer interns will always be a key part of our overall MBA hiring,” Brady observes, “because we believe it’s important for students to get exposure to BCG for the summer, to experience the culture…and to make the decision whether it is a good-fit (career-wise) for them. It’s a great way, given the importance of fit to your long-term growth and happiness, to experience it first-hand.”

It’s also a low risk proposition, adds Brady. “Far and away, the vast majority of people who do summer internships with us do receive offers from us and the vast majority ultimately decides to come back.”

So what are some ways to get on BCG’s radar? How are they different than other consulting firms? And what are their expectations for new hires? Check out our far-reaching interview with Brady for the answers.

  • Foreign Consultant

    “with the highest numbers coming from Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg (followed by Booth, Stanford, and Columbia).”

    As a comment in the original article says, that’s a very US-centric view. Worldwide, INSEAD has the highest number of admitted consultants at BCG (as well as at McKinsey and Bain).

  • Matt

    Perhaps it was centralized to the office you worked w/…I’d imagine the NYC/London offices are pretty cutthroat just based on the cultures of the cities vs others. Also the leadership of those offices may play an impact, just a thought.

  • Former employee

    Strathan, I worked for BCG for over 2 years (left in 2013) and had the exact opposite experience of the one you are describing. I had unprecedented mentorship, focus on my development, and understanding of my naiveté from both the firm and managers throughout my experience. I also left of my own volition (to pursue an industry I am passionate about).

    No company is perfect, but I am extremely happy I spent 2 years at BCG. It was by far the best organization I have worked for (currently on #3). I imagine your friend had a very unique experience (agree, it could potentially be office driven)

  • Strathan12

    I’ve worked closely with BCG as a client and know many BCG alums…most of them do not speak highly of the corporate culture. They have stated that BCG treats their employees like they are just machines that churn out analysis (which is really what they do). The more analyses you can churn out, the better you’ll do (and obviously, this means very long hours, little sleep, and stressful days). If you can’t keep up to the ever increasing expectations of your productivity, you’re out. They also spoke of a lack of career development, an intolerance for mistakes, and a competitive “step on each other to get ahead” culture.
    This could be isolated to one office (as all the people I know are from one office), but the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work survey results are certainly surprising…