Top 50 Consulting Firms To Work For In 2021

Once again, the top consulting firm according to the employees in the industry: Bain & Company. Bain photo

Bain & Company

Small and mighty…well, if you call 59 offices and 10,500 employees small. Yes, Bain & Company is the proverbial runt of the MBB litter. It is also the best according to the 2021 Vault Consulting 50 ranking.

Sometimes, the word “fratty” is tagged to Bain – an image that conveys rowdiness as much as community. While the allusion is flawed, it does get the community-centered mindset right. Bain consultants thrive when they are around each other. Naturally, ‘Bainees’ like to have fun too. That makes them friendly and open – the kind of consultants who delve into the people – to understand their “why” so they can guide them to “how.” Make no mistake: The Bain bar is very demanding according to Keith Bevans, a Bain partner and global head of consultant recruiting, in a 2020 interview with P&Q.

“We’re looking for people who have great problem-solving skills. Can they break a problem down into parts? Can they drive the analytics? Can they communicate complex ideas and concepts to people in a way that an eighth-grader could understand, not to denigrate any of my client’s intellect? But can they be a contributing member of a team and accept feedback and coaching, but also give feedback in a constructive way and coach the next generation of leaders for the business?”


Considering the criteria, Bainees excel in soft skills. The firm ranked #1 when it comes to consultants’ Relationships with Supervisors. In terms of Client Interactions, the firm’s consultants ranked 3rd overall (and above McKinsey and BCG). “We define our success based on our clients’ success,” explains one anonymous survey respondent.  “We ask teams every week to rate their progress at creating value for clients – and take appropriate action. There is a regular process for highlighting the teams that create the most value for their clients (the results challenge).”

Despite the seriousness of their work, Bainees also play hard – and they aren’t afraid to occasionally cut loose in the office. “The people at Bain set it apart,” adds another survey respondent. “I remember on the day of my interviews walking from the reception area to the interview room. There were colleagues high-fiving in the hall, smiling, and clearly working together in a team room. This was so different from one of the other top firms where it was like a library when I visited for interviews. The top-notch firm culture and inspiring colleagues are the top reasons I have stayed at Bain.”

As a whole, Bainees are thrilled with the firm. Most notably, Bain & Company ranked among the Top 3 in 14 of the 22 Quality of Life and Employment dimensions. Aside from Relationships with Supervisors (9.775) and Client Interactions (9.756), Bain scored highest in Selectivity (9.904), Informal Training (9.846), Exit Opportunities (9.822), Firm Leadership (9.800), and Formal Training (9.756).

“Simply put, there is no better place for mentorship, coaching, career development, and creation of career opportunities than Bain & Company,” writes one Vault Consulting 50 respondent in discussing Bain’s training. Everyone here genuinely wants to support each other and see everyone successful, within Bain and beyond.”

In other words, adds another survey participant, the firm works to minimize the politics that dog other firms. “Bain & Company strives to be a meritocracy. In other jobs, I had to worry about being in the right role in the right department in the right business unit to get the right promotion at the right time. At Bain, I am free to focus on doing the best job in my current role knowing that if I am successful in the role I have I will earn more responsibility as I learn and grow.”


Potential weaknesses? Like McKinsey and BCG, Bain scored lower than normal in Internal Mobility. Hours Worked also followed this pattern (though Bain scored the highest among the MBB in this dimension). That said, the firm did produce the lowest score among the MBB for diversity – an area that has become a point of emphasis according to one Bain survey respondent.

“I think my firm has made a very significant effort to hire and promote employees from a diverse set of backgrounds/experiences, which is something I really appreciate. The gender equity, in particular, is very impressive, as many of the leaders in the firm (~50%) are women, including a roughly even gender split in new incoming classes. My firm’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment is also inspiring, as the firm’s leadership has clearly delineated that as a top priority; it is very clear that making every member of Bain feel comfortable and included in the firm is a top priority of management.”

Diversity isn’t the only area that has become paramount to Bain management, chimes in another survey participant. “I consider my firm’s health and wellness efforts to be top-notch – the company’s leadership seems to have a real commitment to the health and wellness of employees, and have made a significant push to expand this conversation into mental health (e.g., meditation) in addition to physical health (e.g., fitness reimbursements, group fitness classes, fitness challenges).”

Looking for the surest sign of a consulting firm’s health? Bain ranked #2 for Firm Culture and Overall Satisfaction. At the same time, Bainees gave the 2nd-highest marks to Firm Leadership. Call it an acknowledgment in the team’s strategy and example…as well as a vote of confidence in what is soon to come.

“Our leadership team has blown me away over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic,” shares one anonymous Bainee. “A pandemic was new, but a downturn was not – they had robust playbooks to deploy which has been refined over decades of downturn experience. Ultimately, our swift and client-focused action allowed Bain to get the most out of an unprecedented period. Our business is now looking stronger than ever with a highly positive outlook on our ability to continue to take share based on our pace of innovation.”

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