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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  • Cmon

    If you think Barry actually posted on this forum I lost a bit of respect for you.

  • JohnAByrne

    Very good point Barry. Thanks for making it for our readers. Really appreciate that insight.

  • Barry Salzburg

    Good point from the perspective of someone reading this forum. Deloitte’s S&O practice doesn’t have the same cachet as MBB, although I’d argue it’s much closer now than even a few years ago.

    From the perspective of an owner (that is, a partner), Deloitte doesn’t dilute itself, but rather amplifies itself through cross-functional offerings, both within consulting and across the different functions (tax, financial advisory, etc.). Clients appreciate that and it’s why you’re seeing strategy shops expand their operational offerings and accounting firms bolster their consulting practices.

    Sexy strategy projects get the best MBA hires but they don’t make the most money.

  • ddre

    booz was actually incredibly strong internationally, up there with MBB in europe and the middle east

  • Colleague

    Beans is black , was not smartest bulb but because of his color he is a partner

  • TY

    Thanks for keeping it real. Fact of the matter is that the majority of consultants, much less MBA applicants, aren’t at the level to truly see how firms are competing against one another.

    Also, as one of the few to have worked at two MBBs, the firms aren’t really that different. You’ll see a lot more “cultural” differences between offices than you will across the firms themselves. And even those are more likely a result of differences among office partners rather than institutional.

  • loll

    Well. I can’t say I’m an expert at either of these firms, their pipeline, connections, etc. but I think I can point out a few red flags.

    Monitor and Booz has never truly been successful internationally. Both of these firms were quite good in the states but elsewhere they were clearly weak.

    Red flags – before monitor fell apart, they did a project for gaddafi’s son. That’s pretty crazy. Why on earth would a healthy firm decide to do a project like this. Politically it’s just retarded. Even if gaddafi turned out to be great, it doesn’t matter. That move/project offends people. I personally think it’s a sign of desperation. Think don draper with his lucky strike editorial. A move of desperation.

    Booz I think just was never again to get a big enough pie to get big enough that some big accountant can’t just buy him up. BAH had all the government contracts – they own that area. Even McKinsey can’t get in. But Booz for corporate…just couldn’t get market share from MBB. In my opinion, strategy consulting is a small game. 3 contenders is already too much. Booz could get third…pwc had money and wanted a shot.

    Pwc and Deloitte did not buy for company culture. Part of it may be filling skill gaps but mainly it’s to buy contracts and relationships. That’s all that matters.

  • Dio

    yea? so explain booz or monitor?

  • loll

    The only way to judge the health of a strategy consulting firm is how many and how deep of a relationship it has with CEOs of F500s. That’s it. That then drives how much work they will have for the year, how many they want to hire, and pretty much the direction of a specific office.
    None of this other crap like type of social events put on for MBA students matter. Now one may argue, oh, people choose Deloitte over BCG because it’s a cooler place to work in so BCG is going to lose top talent. Just plain wrong. At the end of the day, unless consulting falls apart, BCG and the other firms hires a small percentage of the applicants. Like less than 0.5%! It truly doesnt matter if your best friend of your entire class decides they want to work for Deloitte over BCG. At the end of the day, they get 4k of people who apply and they choose a handful. They will have top talent regardless. Your friend and you don’t really matter.
    It’s all about which CEO you have a relationship with and if they call you back when they need help. And for anyone who has been in consulting before, you will know that CEOs generally have already selected a preference on who they choose. And everyone knows that Deloitte does not have as many and as deep CEO relationships as BCG.

  • Yidio

    Great discussion so far!

    At CBS, Deloitte is still >>> Booz, which I don’t think you could had said pre-acquisition. It’s a move upwards for Deloitte, though less of their own doing and more of a stroke of good luck. One clear sign of that, is the fact I have a friend who turned down a higher level sponsorship from Deloitte, to go to BCG.

    On the other hand, Deloitte has had almost 100% summer retention. They know people will re-recruit MBB full-time, so they throw in a full year’s tuition. That being said, I doubt that if BumbleF Consulting threw in a year’s tuition, that they would have such high yield. It’s definitely growing as a desired place to be. These rankings can change fast – I mean, I doubt 10 years ago that anyone would have thought of Booth as comparable to Wharton, or even Harvard or Stanford.

    One thing that does make people a little wary of BCG though is scale and specialization. Like JG kind of alluded it, it takes both to survive now, and I’m not sure if BCG has it. Both McK and Bain highlighted their implementation strengths, but BCG seems stubbornly against it since their consider themselves the “progenitor of strategy consulting”. Who knows… if they keep thinking that way, they could be the next Booz, or Monitor, or Marakon, or countless others.

  • almostchristmastime

    I disagree. No one at my school would choose and/or chose Deloitte over BCG, and a lot of the people that worked for Deloitte over the summer re-recruited this year to try and get a job with MBB. I think Deloitte is a great place, just not on the same level as BCG.
    I do agree that Bain has momentum on campus as they seem to have a great culture, people like each other, etc. Even people who aren’t recruiting for consulting have commented that they like Bain people the best. I think between MBB it comes down primarily to personal fit and if the particular office you are recruiting for has a strong practice in something that you’re interested in. For me, I think I would have chosen Bain over McK/BCG if I had cross offers due primarily to fit and what seems like good momentum/growth. Sadly, I didn’t have that choice to make, but I think that’s what I would have done.

  • MM

    To add to what you have mentioned.
    With Deloitte’s acquisition of Monitor sinking in over the last 3-4 years has opened many many doors for them and those new Deloitte- Client relationships are coming to form and expand into more business.

    (2) Deloitte has also acquired – 4-5 post venture/ (50-100 worker size) high tech/ forward leaning companies. I forget the name but I remember they had to deal with the workers in those companies bringing their pets etc to work and coming to work in pj’s cause they were used to the Silicon Valley Creativity Coding vibe.
    (3) Deloitte now has a perfect blend of Strategy based partners from Monitor , Operations and Implementation Driven Partners from their past and Data /Big Data Driven Consultants.

    ——- Recent UT McCombs Alum
    (Chose to work for a major tech company but have several friends who are joining Deloitte)

  • lel

    Steve Ballmers is structured?? Stop with the trolling bruh

  • RandomGuy

    What consulting companies are looking for, which is different to the rest of companies, is people who are very structured in their way of thinking. You could be the smartest, most creative person on earth, but if you are not structured in your thinking and communication they will not hire you.

    And it makes sense, they do consulting, not execution. It’s the Steve’s test: they are looking for Steve Ballmers, not Steve Jobs.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    By the way, if not for opinions, then what do you think the purpose of this message board is for? To talk about the weather?

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Just reflecting on the culture a bit more, I think it has to do a lot with their HR policies. It just seems like Bain has a younger culture – going into the office, there are just a ton of ACs and they also stay around. McK on the other hand seems to hire much fewer BAs, and instead focuses on getting MBAs. BCG also seems like they focus more on the MBA crowd. Deloitte seems to be a bit more balanced probably because they are bigger and have more needs. Thoughts from people who worked at the other firms?

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    It’s a good point – McKinsey Chicago for instance was a lot of fun and very social – but when I interviewed in NYC it was pretty impersonal. Even having lunch in their in-house cafeteria (Marvin’s?), everyone just seemed busy staring at their own laptops. Bain was pretty consistent between both offices and my friends who went for west coast offices had similar things to say as well. Only got to see the BCG Chicago office, and that was also quite impersonal.

  • theKomodo

    There may be differences of culture between companies, but keep in mind that there are different office-specific cultures within a company. Best to do your due diligence on the people that work at your target offices. Get as many data points as possible – Speak to your schools’ alumn at those target offices. At my school, I actually experienced the opposite of what was described by someone from Kellogg in this comment section between Bain and BCG.

  • Dio

    that’s why people prioritize bain a lot – they have lots of fun events, “social captains”, manager beers, etc just a much closer culture. i read somewhere it was like, if you’re trying to recruit for a new job, a mck/bcg alumni will take your call and chat – the bain alumni will invite you to the office and introduce you to the team.

  • Dio

    hey, culture’s important assuming you have the luxury to decide between a few offers

  • lolll

    lol – mba students saying how they choose a company based on what type of recruiting events they hold. I think I’ve finally heard it all.

  • Deloitteemployee

    The fact that not one person has liked ANY of your comments should also tell you something!

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    That could be part of it – its a sizeable chunk, but after taxes and what not I hear it pretty much gets cut in half. Nice – didn’t quite make it all the way down to HP, but was at SeedCon recently, which was pretty impressive.

  • gp1987

    Sloanie here – I agree with that being a big difference – you can almost tell the culture of the firms apart by their “social” events. BCG hardly did anything relative to the rest. McKinsey would have uptight wine and cheese events, but their consultants could barely wait to get home. Bain and Deloitte on the other hand, actually seem like they like one another — and us — and would come have hang out after their events. Unfortunately won’t be joining any of those firms, but I can see why people might not think as highly of BCG.

  • James

    “I’ve gotten to work in over 4 different industries.”

    lol over 4? So, like, 5?

  • devils0508

    I think the issue is that BCG is more a quant/nerdy place so the people didn’t have as strong of social skills as Bain (Bain actually partied with us at JT’s). I felt BCG was smart (and their office is nice), but just not necessarily people I want to hang out with – I feel the same way with McKinsey, but they have the prestige thing going atleast.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Completely agree. You are Class of 2015 s well? I know 4 people in our class who took Deloitte over BCG, either as interns, full-time, or interns who rerecruited for full-time (though certainly the 2nd year tuition helps). Also, BCG just didn’t seem like they tried that hard. The only guy I ever saw was Matt M, versus all the other firms who gave off a much more “successful” and prestigious vibe with their recruiting.

  • devils0508

    Kellogg has a strong preference of Bain over BCG (I’ve heard its the opposite at Booth)…I also attend Kellogg, and haven’t seen anyone choose Deloitte over BCG though (I have seen people choose Bain over McKinsey though). That said, most of the people who summer at Deloitte choose to sign there for FT, because of positive experiences and 2nd year tuition payment offer.

  • Matt

    Perhaps Kellogg classmates are choosing it for the 2nd year tuition repayment over the prestige of the firm? I’m down in Harper myself lmk if you make it to HP.

  • Matt

    I think pedigree is exactly what we are talking about, since the point argued is the perceived cachet of each firm. Lords of Strategy is a good read if you’re interested in the history of firms, but perceived pedigree is what Boards and CEOs look to when making selections from the outside (which consultants/partners typically come in as if not within corporate strategy).

  • Matt

    I feel Deloitte dilutes itself from its reliance on the audit and public sector arms. Though MBB also has public sector practices they are still centered around SES and appointed level advisement focused in traditional strategy engagements whereas Deloitte seems to have much lower standards (esp within their technology practice). Again just my own opinion but BCG still seems to provide more options to the C-suite down the road.

  • bwanamia

    Of course you are.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Let’s also not forget that Deloitte was founded in London by some British Lord considered one of the fathers of accounting, in 1845. McKinsey? Started by an accounting professor nearly 75 years later. So I don’t pedigree should be a fair comparison here.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    I think the problem with BCG is that they have not found their “niche”. McKinsey just has that cachet of being the top dog, Bain has cornered the PE consulting segment, and Deloitte provides both strategy and operations. In fact, the other firms are trying to be more like Deloitte, for instance McKinsey with its new Implementation group and its Business Technology Operations practice.

    BCG’s whole schtick has always been strategy but frankly, every firm says they do strategy now. And I don’t think clients perceive them as being better (or different) than McKinsey or Bain in that area.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    What happened to civil discourse? It’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it based on the firms that my cross-offerree classmates at Kellogg are choosing. I, myself, am going to Bain, so it’s not as if I’m just a Deloitte fanboy.

  • Louis

    Who cares about what you think? Get over yourself.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Well I mean, both companies start with B…

  • Matt

    BCG is a legacy firm that is still well above Deloiite IMO. Perhaps a better comparison would be M/B is to BCG what H/S are to W and then everyone else.

  • YeahRight

    The fact that you had to clarify should tell you something.

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    To clarify, MDB = McKinsey / Deloitte / Bain

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    It’s now MDB – honestly, I think BCG has been falling for ages and I would put them in the same breath as Strategy&, Accenture and ATKearney.

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  • theKomodo

    Great article! I met Keith at one of the on-campus events. He brings a lot of energy and passion.