[For example], I have two engineering degrees and I might look at a manufacturing problem differently than someone with an economics or finance degree, which is different than someone who might have been a teacher before business school. And together, we will get to a much better, a much more creative and robust answer…So the perception that we’re looking for one specific profile? It isn’t true. The reality is, we’re looking for a really diverse background.
And the third thing – and my wife and I talk about this a lot – is that you really can have a life outside work. I’ve talked about it a few times already, but the people who really thrive at Bain & Company are people who have a passion for results, who have a passion for being successful as a team. But they also have other passions outside of work.
It’s really funny to me that you might be having dinner with a group of recruiters and we’ll start talking about hobbies. It’s always fun to see the reactions as people around the table talk about the types of things they do outside of work. I’m thinking of our team in Chicago, for example. One person was a pilot. Another was a sculptor. One made quilts. One was a photographer. To see students realize that although they are world class experts in their field, they also have passions outside of work that keep them grounded as people. I think that surprises most people that at Bain we really do value people who have a passion not just for impact on the client but also for things outside work. It makes them better at connecting with clients and keeps their balance a lot better that way.
P&Q: What are your expectations for entry level MBAs? What are your most successful new hires doing to hit the ground running and quickly add value?
Bevans: When I meet students during recruiting, I’m keenly interested in not just getting them to say “yes” and come join me, but I’m supremely in interested in their success when they do start. There are a couple things that people who hit the ground running really do well.
First, I think they tend to be tremendously hard working. They tend to be reliable, so when they say they’ll do the analysis that you require, you know they’ll get it done.
They tend to be intellectually curious. [For example], I may ask you to profile a different set of companies, but one of those companies appears to have done differentially better than the others. So while what I asked for was the profile, the best consultants are curious enough to think one or two moves ahead. [They’re saying to themselves], ‘Well, if I’m going to share the profiles and one of the companies is an outlier, I’m going to go ahead and figure out why that one company is an outlier because that’s the next question that you’re going to ask me.’ So they have that natural intellectual curiosity to understand why, not just doing the task but figuring out why and what does it mean for my client…So being hard working and intellectually curious are traits that really help you hit the ground running for the first six months.
The other thing that I think really differentiates people is that we tend to hire people who have a certain level of humility that can be difficult to find. We tend to recruit people who were at the top of their class and very successful professionally before they chose to go back to school and get their MBA. The vast majority have been tremendously successful at business school. They’re leading organizations and they had pretty major projects and quite impressive resumes.
But Bain & Company is a really hard place to try and be smartest person in the room. What ends up happening is we have a culture where people want teams to be successful. It’s not about personal success…I’m just as happy as my team being successful am I am personally touting my own accomplishments. Despite the fact that we hire really talented and tremendous people, they tend to be extremely humble. They tend to be the type of people who really want the entire team to be successful; They’re not out for their own personal success at expense of everyone else. And the people who quickly figure that out tend to be very successful longer term at Bain.
So [being] hard-working, reliable, and intellectually curious wrapped in a spirit of humility that really allows them to both drive the long-term and really build the relationships that it takes to get the coaching and mentoring when they really need it. [That’s how they can stand out early].
P&Q: What excites you personally about working for Bain?
Bevans: I think about that a lot…I think being part of a team of supremely talented people who are literally shaping the world economy through their work that when you talk to them, they’re as down to earth and humble as anyone you’ll ever meet. It’s really exciting to be a part of a firm that nurtures those types of people that have that type of a culture where we can do really phenomenal things. We can work really, really hard and yet we can be approachable. And we can balance the things that we’re doing professionally with things that we’re doing personally. And we have a good time doing it.
I think about our Chicago office: We have people who have a band, Lake Effect, that does gigs around Chicago or have pretty major folks in the office start a wine club so folks have experience in things that they may not have experienced otherwise. Or, to see partners around here participating in the sports teams that we have, whether it’s flag football or volleyball…or even the photography club in the office. To be around a group of people who work hard and do some really great things, but also enjoy spending time together, that’s really rare. And that’s really special about working for Bain.
One more thing: I’ve had opportunity to travel and visit 20-25 of our offices over the years. And [the culture] is really consistent globally. You see that same set of characteristics and traits in every office.