P&Q: Consulting has seemingly overtaken finance as the destination of choice for MBA grads. Do you anticipate finance giving you more competition in the coming year (and has the appeal of tech peaked)?
Bevans: What I believe to be true is that the students graduating from top MBA programs today want a couple of things from that career. They’ve made a big investment of their time. And they’ve made a big financial investment in their own development. And they’re looking for a couple of things. One, they’re looking for a place where they’re going to be challenged. They’re looking to work someplace on problems that are not easy. Second, they’re looking to work on things that have an impact on the world around them. They don’t want to toil around in ambiguity. They want to change something in the business world that they can then read about or they see a difference when they go to that store the next time, or when they order something or drive passed something. They want to work on something challenging. They want to have an impact. And they want to be supported. Finally, they want to know that their own efforts will be magnified by the culture and the support network that they become a part of when they join a company.
When I put those three things together, I believe that Bain & Company…will rise to the top of their priority list. Other companies and industries will continue to develop their own value propositions. But we’ve grown and been tremendously successful because we have a formula that works. The people who take the time to get to know us through recruiting see that and are, by-and-large, very attracted to come join Bain & Company.
I’m sure there will be competition, but I feel like we’re prepared for it.
P&Q: What are your favorite business schools doing differently (or better) to better prepare students?
Bevans: I think those are the schools that really encourage students to be thoughtful about pursuing consulting – and that can [happen] in a bunch of different ways. They host educational events, reach out to us about the needs of their students; They might call and say, ‘A lot of students are asking about Bain or a certain topic. It would be really great if at some point during the recruiting season that you could include a down-to-earth discussion on these particular topics.’
It’s as much about preparing their students directly as it is about helping us prepare their students to make the right decisions for them. Schools that do that well…we have a really relationship [with them]. They will call us and say, ‘This just came up’ or ‘One of the things we’re thinking about for next year is XYZ – What do you think about that?’ It feels more like a partnership…to get their students the best possible jobs upon graduation. That is a very different relationship than, say, being gatekeepers, where they’re trying to protect the balance of their students academics and career activities. When it works well, we really feel like we’re partners with schools. By and large, that happens at most of the schools where we recruit at. In fact, it’s been great to partner with them.
P&Q: Give me an example of a student who really impressed you in the process. (i.e. What is the most creative or memorable thing someone has done to stand out and impress you?)
Bevans: It is a little bit like what we talked about earlier, where I think that there are certain students who ask good questions. In other words, they’re thinking about, ‘what would it really be like to work at Bain?’ They want to know what the office is like or they’ll say, ‘Tell me about the project you’re working on?’ ‘Tell me about your role?’ ‘Tell me about how doing that type of work will change between being a first consultant and a third year consultant?’ ‘One of the things I’d like to do is work internationally, can you connect me with someone who has that type of experience?’ ‘I’d like to talk about how can I make that happen and how I can think about getting that into my timeline.’ They ask very thoughtful questions beyond questions they could generally find on the website.
And they follow through on things. I met several students over the summer who are committed to doing internship. I’d say, “Well, let me know how your summer goes and follow up with me at the end of the summer. We should actually talk about joining us full-time.”And a lot of students do follow through. And it’s great that they’re coming to us to maintain that commitments and keep that relationship growing. It really helps them stand out because it tells me that they’re genuinely interested in Bain & Company. And they’re genuinely interested in pursuing a career [in consulting] as opposed to putting a lot of lines in water and not really thinking about what they want to do post business school.
P&Q: You hold an MBA from the Harvard Business School. How has that experience informed how you evaluate and recruit MBAs?
Bevans: I think that from having an MBA myself – and watching my peers go through the business school process – it gives our entire team a good sense about [this question]: “How can I tell who’s really interested in consulting versus who’s not sure what they want to do but they heard [consulting] might offer variety?’ In some sense, students see that there is generally a lot of interest and activity in the consulting presentation and they feel compelled to apply even though they really haven’t taken the time to get to know Bain or what consultants do. ‘Why is doing strategy in a consulting firm like Bain different than doing strategy in a company?’ Thinking about process improvement, ‘how is looking at the supply chain at Bain different than working in the supply chain organization of a company?’
Seeing my peers navigate that process – and seeing them be successful or not successful or being disappointed or not disappointed in the outcomes – gives me a good sense of, ‘how can I tell which candidates are genuinely interested in Bain?’
P&Q: What question(s) didn’t I ask that you’d love to answer?
Bevans: You kind of asked it and I probably would’ve added to an earlier answer I gave around some of the things that have been really great about working at Bain for so long. The impact that we have isn’t just the impact on the corporate community. We do a lot of social impact work at Bain & Company as well. I’ve personally worked on several projects through our Chicago office. We helped found a charter school several years ago at Rowe Elementary School in Chicago, [helping] with different parts of their operation and their strategy.
If you travel around the system, you’ll find that every office at Bain is doing something to the benefit of the community where it’s in. Again, it’s one of those things where people aren’t just passionate about the goals of their clients and their own personal hobbies, but they’re also passionate about their communities. And you see that type of value system across all of our offices. And that’s been really fulfilling for me and a lot of other people, being part of those projects and activities over the course of a year. It’s just one more thing that I think people at Bain feel real good about. They don’t feel work comes at the expense of having a positive impact on the community. We’re building the skill set of the private and public sector, but we also apply it to the social sector.
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