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Bain Named Best Place to Work for Consultants

Prestige MBA recruiter Bain & Co. took top honors as the most desired consulting firm to work for in a survey of the top 50 consultancies released today (August 24) by Vault.com. Bain was followed by long-time rivals Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co. Deloitte Consulting, another major MBA recruiter, came in sixth.

The results are from a survey of more than 4,500 consultants who were asked to assess the competitors with which they were familiar on a  scale of one to ten based on prestige, firm culture, compensation, work/like balance, and other factors. Respondents were unable to rate their own firm. They were also asked to rank their own firm’s quality of life.  A weighted formula was applied to the data to determine the Vault Consulting 50 Rankings for 2011. Roughly a quarter of the result is based on firm culture, another quarter on work/life balance, 20% on pay, and another 20% on prestige. The same survey was used by Vault to determine the business schools whose MBAs most dominate the consulting industry.

“We went out and asked consultants what mattered most to them in choosing an employer and prestige, while important, was not the biggest determining factor,” said Brian Dalton, managing editor at Vault.com, publisher of career information and data.  Consultants told Vault that firm culture was the most important factor in their choice of firm, with 42.9 percent citing culture versus just 13.7 percent naming practice strength as the second key factor, even ahead of prestige (11.4%). Vault ranked other major MBA employers PricewaterhouseCoopers 13th, Booz & Co. 16th, Monitor Group 25th, Accenture 32nd, and L.E.K. Consulting 35th.

The study painted a picture of the grind of consulting work. Typically, both single and married consultants average 56.6 hour work weeks, but about a quarter of single consultants routinely put in between 60 and 70 hours per week. About six percent of the responding consultants say they average between 70 and 80 hours a week.

  • Consultants who described themselves as single tend to be less satisfied with work hours and work/life balance than married consultants or those who are separated or divorced. Separated/divorced consultants tend to put in the fewest hours.
  • Male consultants tend to travel more and work longer hours than female consultants, 57.3 hours versus 55.1 hours per week, respectively.
  • Minorities differ in their satisfaction with their firms’ diversity efforts: Those of Middle Eastern origin were most satisfied and African Americans were least satisfied.

Respondents note that Bain “set the bar (with McKinsey) in terms of prestige” and noted that the firm was “great for management consulting.”

Quant’s results somewhat clash with an earlier survey published this year by Universum on the companies MBAs most want to work for (see table below). Some 5,732 responding MBAs said they would most want to work for McKinsey & Co., second only to Google. BCG came in as the second choice for MBAs in consulting, while Bain was third (with an overall ranking of sixth among all employers of MBAs).

In terms of quality of life, one strategy consultant at Bain said of the firm: “There is no other company I’ve seen in my 10 years of professional experience with a stronger, healthier culture.”  A Toronto staffer added, “It is a demanding career, but yes, I have been able to live a very rewarding personal life over my last 10-plus years at Bain.”

Boston Consulting Group also received high praise.  Said one health care consultant: “BCG is a fantastic place to work.  They go the extra mile to invest in their consultants.  The work is interesting, the people are brilliant, and the compensation and benefits are second to none.”

“Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group for that matter, historically dominates many of our quality of life categories, in addition to carrying a lofty reputation in the industry,” added Dalton.  “McKinsey, which is perennially the most prestigious firm, slips due to lower firm culture and work/life balance scores areas – where smaller firms tend to have the advantage.”

Other smaller, more niche firms that were recognized for their quality of life, include Analysis Group (#4), The Cambridge Group (#5), Triage Consulting Group (#9), Censeo Consulting Group (#10), and West Monroe Partners (#11).

As an example of why these smaller niche firms are succeeding, one senior consultant at The Cambridge Group said, “I feel very lucky to have found TCG.  I am constantly challenged and enjoy the work and the people.  As a testament to the great experience I have had, I’m the only one of my friends from business school who has not switched companies since leaving school.”

According to Dalton, more jobseekers are discovering the benefits of joining these niche consulting companies.  “These firms often get overlooked in the prestige rankings in favor of the more well-known firms,” he said, “but they shine in the quality of life areas that many consultants care most about.”

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Vault’s Top Ten Consulting Firms
1. Bain & Company
2. Boston Consulting Group
3. McKinsey & Co.
4. Analysis Group
5. The Cambridge Group
6. Deloitte Consulting
7. Oliver Wyman
8. A.T. Kearney
9. Triage Consulting Group
10. Censeo Consulting Group

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Consulting Firms MBAs Most Want to Work For*
1. McKinsey & Co. (2)
2. Boston Consulting Group (4)
3. Bain & Co. (6)
4. Deloitte Consulting (12)
5. Booz & Co. (31)
6. Accenture (41)
7. PricewaterhouseCoopers (44)
8. Ernst & Young (45)
9. Booz Allen Hamilton (67)
10. A.T. Kearney (74)
11. KPMG (75)
12. Monitor Group (77)

* From a survey of 6,207 MBA students by Universum. Numbers in parenthesis is overall ranking among all MBA employers.