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What Does Bain & Company Want From Its MBA Hires In 2018?

Keith Bevans, Bain’s global head of consulting recruitment, explains what MBA students can do to stand out

Tue Jan 2 2018

Speaking to BusinessBecause in January 2017, Keith Bevans, Bain & Company’s global head of consulting recruitment, laid down the marker for the year ahead.

He set out to hire a record number of consultants in 2017, eclipsing the 400 hired a year previously. He did just that.

This year, the plan is to hire around 500 MBAs into consulting positions at Bain. Bain will also hire a record number of MBA interns this summer—90% of interns get offers to join Bain full-time.

Working for Bain is not the same as working for McKinsey or BCG. Bain has 55 offices in 36 countries around the world. It’s worked with over 4,600 companies in every region of the world. It’s ranked in Glassdoor’s top-four companies to work for every year for the last ten years.

Keith, an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, has headed up global consulting recruitment at Bain since 2013. He speaks with hundreds of MBA students...

pus each year.

What does he look for in his MBA hires? What can MBA students do to stand out in 2018? BusinessBecause caught up with Keith to find out more.

What business schools do you recruit from?

We focus our efforts on the top-20 business schools—like Wharton, Harvard, INSEAD, LBS, IE Business School, Kellogg, Chicago Booth. I was at Tuck this year; Ross the other week. We’ve also had a ton of growth at programs like Yale, which continue to impress us with the engagement that their administrations give us and the energy their students have.

Overall, we hired MBAs from little over 60 schools last year. Even if you’re not at a top-20-ranked school, if you’re a strong candidate, not only do we want to hear from you, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get a job with us.

How important is the MBA internship?

On average, a third of our MBA hires would have done an internship with us. Still, less than half of the incoming class are former interns. We are the only one of the three management consulting firms that make a consistent, concerted effort to hire second-year MBAs.

How do you view graduates from Master’s in Management (MiM) programs in comparison?

It’s something we’ve talked about a lot. Bain is a true meritocracy. For us, it’s about finding the right mix of qualifications and experience for candidates to be successful in the firm.

In the US, we’ll mostly hire MiM grads as associate consultants—not at the same level as MBAs—because they typically don’t have the same experience as MBA students have. What we are yet to see—and what we would expect—is that they would accelerate differently to an undergraduate hire for example.

Certainly, in Europe, there are people on those programs who have been in the workforce for a long time, and we would look at them differently.

What can job applicants do to stand out?

When I started 20 years ago, I would go to campus and explain what consulting was all about. Now, students have that knowledge. The candidates that stand out are ones that understand the subtle differences between the different consulting firms.

Bain’s business model is very different to its two competitors. The fact that there’s a very practical, real-world application to our results; the fact that, at Bain, you don’t specialize early in your career because we want you to build that business understanding; the fact that our home office model means you’re actually part of a smaller family of people that’s personally invested in your success—that’s different.

At Bain, your offer would come from Bain Sydney, for example. It’s not a Bain & Co. offer, and that changes the way you work. The best students ask questions that show they understand those differences

What about big data analytics skills?

I trust that if you have a degree from a top institution, you’ve got the raw potential to be successful here. We can teach you the analytic tools and techniques you’ll need; having them is not a pre-requisite.

At the same time, we are seeing more MBA students taking classes in advanced analytics. I think that’s great—that’s where the market is going. What’s important is that MBA students understand the issues that are at the top of CEOs’ agendas right now, and take the courses to reflect that.

What makes a business school good to work with?

Industries like consulting are very popular on a lot of MBA campuses—it’s easy for students to follow the crowd.

The best b-schools encourage their students to be introspective; to understand what opportunities are out there, what they’re really good at, what they like, and where the best overlap of those things is for them to be successful in the next stage of their career. Those students look and sound different when they come and talk to us.

What is the biggest challenge MBAs will face working at Bain?

The biggest challenge is often the biggest draw and the biggest thrill; and that’s the learning curve. The learning curve will be one of the most challenging professional endeavors MBAs will experience, but also one of the best and most memorable.

We are looking for students that want to rise to the challenge, to solve the most difficult problems that companies are facing today.