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Bain & Company’s Chief MBA Recruiter Tells You How To Get Hired

Head of global consultant recruitment, Keith Bevans, says 2019 will be a record year for MBA hiring at Bain & Company

Mon Jan 21 2019

Keith Bevans recalls asking for the check in a restaurant recently. The waiter came over, dropped a tablet on the table, and walked away. On it, a menu of questions: did Keith enjoy his experience? What tip would he like to leave? Does he want to sign up to their mailing list?

This, Keith says, reminded him of the same problem consultants have been solving since he joined Bain & Company over 20 years ago: How do you ensure customers have a great experience? And how can you make sure employees are engaged in a productive way?

“That answer is dramatically different now,” he says. Digitization has changed the way companies operate and means they ask even more of consultants at firms like Bain.

Keith, an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, has led global consultant recruitment at Bain since 2013. He spends his time speaking with hundreds of MBA students on-campus each year.

He’s eager to find the best possible talent out there and bring them to Bain—a firm that was named the best place to work in 2019 by Glassdoor.

Last year, Bain hired over 500...

tants and 200 interns—the largest class to date with plans to expand further in 2019—actively recruiting from schools like INSEAD, Kellogg, London Business School, Harvard, and IE Business School. Overall, incoming MBAs came from over 60 business schools worldwide.

The MBA will continue to be the largest single source of grad school talent Bain hires, Keith says, but hiring has increased over the past five years to include PhDs and master of science and analytics graduates—part of a drive to grow Bain’s advanced analytics capability alongside their digital teams.

So, what does Keith want to see from MBA graduates in 2019? And how can they stand out during the recruitment process?

BusinessBecause caught up with Keith to find out.

Check out our podcast: The Business School Question

Episode 8: Why Do Consulting Firms Love MBAs

What do you look for in your MBA hires?

What we’re looking for and expect from students is intellectual curiosity; the analytical horsepower to look at a problem and find the path toward a solution; and a genuine enthusiasm for that process.

We’ve also found students who are supplementing those traits with capabilities in a lot of different areas—those who have taken a big data analytics course or gone to a different program at their school to learn about blockchain, machine learning, or digital design. I expect students to come in with core business skills, but also see that they’ve challenged themselves to learn some new things.

What do you look for that you didn’t five years ago?

The amount of data around is bigger than it has ever been before, and although that in and of itself isn’t a skill, it mandates that you learn the data analytics and data visualization tools.

The pace of change has also increased a lot. Whereas the pace of change ten years ago might have meant six months between changes, that’s become much quicker. You can’t just stay in tune with the market, but once you see the change you have to react and respond to it.

I think most students on top MBA programs are learning that skillset on their programs. Students are learning about companies that have gone through similar things.

But we’re looking for students that are excited by that change. By talking to them in case interviews and meeting them on campus, you get a sense of who is excited at the prospect of not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow.

What skill do MBA students underestimate the most?

Listening ability and the patience to uncover what’s making you think one way and your client think a different way.

It’s too easy to dismiss someone’s opinion as crazy or uninformed or out of touch with reality. You need to have the patience and humility to listen, and go through their logic with a critical eye.

Being able to listen, sympathize, and then create are skills I don’t think people give enough credit to. Be persuasive with the data, not your opinion.

What’s the biggest challenge MBAs face coming into Bain?

It’s the pace of change. Since our founding almost 46 years ago we’ve been the one who wants our clients not just to succeed, but to win and be the leaders in their industry.

We’re not trying to run with the pack we’re trying to lead the pack, and that mindset can be intimidating for some people.

The people that come into Bain & Company out of business school have to adapt to a very steep learning curve, that stretches them in ways they haven’t been stretched before.

How important is the summer associate internship?

You come in and work for us for 10 weeks, and it’s a great chance to see if you like consulting. It is one of the most important things you can do if you want to be a full-time consultant at Bain.

What I’m proud of is that 90% of the time we give interns full-time offers, and close to 100% of the time those offers are accepted.

Business school students who have the opportunity to join us for the summer should think long and hard about going someplace else. Even if they have the offer to join Bain for the summer, there’s no guarantee they’ll get another chance at the beginning of their second year.

What advice do you have for MBAs trying to land a role with Bain & Company in 2019?

Take advantage of opportunities to learn about the firm and about how it’s different to other firms.

A lot of MBA candidates are on campuses where people apply to consulting because they don’t know what they want to do, or because everybody else seems to be applying for consulting.

The candidates that stand out are the ones who’ve taken the time to understand how Bain’s model is different, how Bain’s approach to digital is different, to understand that working for a firm that’s grown like we’ve grown provides a different level of support.