What Bain & Co. Seeks In MBA Hires


Bain is booming.

That’s the message from Keith Bevans, a Bain & Company partner who leads the company’s global consulting recruiting efforts. In an exclusive interview with Poets&Quants, Bevans shares that Bain has been growing at 15 percent a year over the past two decades. And that means opportunity for gifted MBA prospects.

“Last year, we hired more consultants than we’ve ever hired in the 41-year history of Bain & Company,” Bevans notes. “This year, we’re going to hire more. We’ll hire north of 400 consultants this year…It’ll be our largest class to date.”

The chance to work for a firm like Bain is what inspires many applicants to enroll in business school. With 51 offices in 33 countries, Bain has something for everyone. Employees work in industries like tech, financial services, consumer goods, and alternative energy. And they partner with firms ranging from Fortune 500s to start-ups and non-profits. In fact, some analysts maintain that Bain touches 97% of the world’s GDP. And Bain’s alumni network – which includes eBay’s John Donahoe and American Express’ Ken Chenault – is second to none.

With such opportunities, Bain is naturally a magnet for the talented and ambitious. But the firm’s real draw is its culture. In Glassdoor’s 2014 Employee Choice rankings, Bain scored the #1 spot among firms with 1,000 or more employees. A year earlier, Consulting magazine ranked Bain #1 in its ‘Best Firms to Work For’ listing, with Vault survey respondents voting it #1 for undergraduate and MBA internships.

And that shouldn’t be a surprise when you hear from Bain employees. In November, current and former staffers posted on Glassdoor a number of insights on what makes Bain so unique. A London consultant lauded their personal development and training.  A New York City consultant cited the “amazing people” that were described as “incredibly supportive and inspiring.” Another New York employee gushed about constantly learning something new, pointing out that “In my first year and a half, I’ve gotten to work in over 4 different industries and across practice areas (strategy, merger integration and PE diligence).”

Even Bain’s management earned a thumbs up, with one Glassdoor respondent commending leadership for its “dedication to doing what was right for the client, and simultaneously trying to protect sustainable work-life balance and continuously cultivate a fun, connected office/firm culture.”

Keith Bevans heads up global consultant recruiting for Bain

Keith Bevans heads up global consultant recruiting for Bain

And that’s why Bevans encourages students to get to know Bain. A Harvard MBA (with distinction) who holds a master’s in engineering from MIT, Bevans carries an infectious enthusiasm that belies 18 years with the same firm. In his interview with Poets&Quants, one thing is clear: Bain is not the place for the buttoned-up or braggart set. Instead, it is a passionate, team-driven culture, where humility is prized, a global outlook is embedded, career development is highlighted, and a work-family balance is cherished.

That said, Bevans believes you need to experience Bain to see how really different it is. That’s one reason why Bevans stresses the importance of internships in Bain’s culture.

“It is one thing to read [about Bain] online and it’s one thing to hear it at a recruiting event, but when students come and spend ten weeks with us and work on a team, and become part of the office and have an impact on a client, they really get a sense of what we’re about and they’re tremendously attracted to it…We put [our interns] on real projects; we give them real problems; and they work with real clients. And we expect them to have a real impact.”

In the coming year, Bevans anticipates even more summer associate opportunities with Bain. “Our intern program is a really important on-ramp for the consultants that we hire,” Bevans points out. “We come into the summer associate cycle with an idea of how large we’d like the program. But every single year, every office that finds more people than they were hoping to will end up extending more offers than they were planning to. In other words, we will hire as many good interns as we can find. The number of interns is only constrained by the number of quality people we can find.”

And it works. According to Bevans, over 90% of summer associates who receive full-time offers accept them – a higher yield than the Harvard Business School. “When it comes to the intern program,” Bevans argues, “everyone we can find, frankly, is one less person we need to find in the second year recruiting cycle…We’ll hire as many good interns as we can find.”

Bain actively recruits MBAs at all the top business schools and in the past year has hired 39 out of INSEAD, 22 out of Northwestern’s Kellogg School, 21 out of Columbia Business School, 16 from Chicago Booth, 13 from London Business School, and eight each from both Virginia’s Darden School and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, among others.

So what does Bain look for in prospective employees? What strategies can students use to stand out to Bain recruiters? And what is expected of MBAs once they arrive at Bain? Check out this far-ranging interview with Bevans for the answers.

P&Q: What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

Bevans: When it comes to the resume, there are really three things that we look at that I think are pretty standard, And students should keep in mind all three areas. First, we do look for some of the quants, such as ‘are they smart?’ We look at their major and background and things like that from their education.

Then, we look for some type of professional experience. That doesn’t mean they were former consultants or formerly in professional services. What we do look for is some type of experience in an environment where they were around other professionals.

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