Keith Bevans heads up Bain & Company’s global consultant recruitment. What it takes to be a management consultant has changed dramatically since Keith, a Harvard MBA graduate, joined Bain in 1996.
When he started out, Keith says the biggest question companies had was whether they should have a website; cue a rollicking of laughter from the millennial class of 2020.
“The idea that you could have a business separate from the internet is crazy in retrospect, but at the time it was a real debate," he says.
“Maybe five years from now we’re going to look back and say: 'How did you think you could have a business and not understand advanced analytics, machine learning, or automation?' It’s just going to be part of how business works.”
BusinessBecause caught up with Keith to find out what it takes to be a management consultant in 2020:
Managing diversity encompasses much more than managing people from different countries, different genders, or sexual orientation. In the world of Bain case teams, it means managing people from an array of different professional backgrounds.
Keith says they are investing a lot into Vector, the firm’s digital delivery platform. That has changed the DNA of a Bain case team. Whereas a few years ago Keith would send out two MBAs, two undergrads, and a manager, today teams will be made up of an MBA, an undergrad, and then perhaps an app developer, design thinker, or user experience expert.
Though he explains that they’ll still hire as many MBAs as they can find, the percentage of hires from other advanced degrees will increase.
MBAs looking to get a job in consulting in 2020 will need to know how to manage teams with this level of diversity. Their choice of MBA program should therefore look at whether they will be exposed to teams in this way at business school.
Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business sits within the Tepper Quad, that brings together the school’s seven campus colleges. Students have the chance to work together with colleagues from the engineering, fine arts, or computer science schools, among others.
The Cornell Tech MBA at Cornell University runs its Product Studio—where students develop product ideas tackling the strategic business needs for real companies—in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design, exposing MBAs to cross-disciplinary project work.
It’s the way business education is moving, as companies require cross-disciplinarians to lead the digitization of their businesses.
The MBA consulting interview
Keith explains that the incoming full-time consultant class is approaching 600 this year, a large part of them MBAs. He adds that the company also has well over 200 interns globally, and on average 90% get a full-time offer after the summer.
Getting through the interview process can be like maneuvering white water rapids. Though Keith admits that the types of questions people are asked haven’t changed much. What has is what MBAs have to bring to the table.
“Information availability is higher than it’s ever been. I think that puts more responsibility on students to do their homework before they come, because they shouldn’t be asking me questions about things that they can answer themselves.
“When they’re at top program they probably have a fantastic CV and work experience, and I need to differentiate these people somehow and if I can because one did their homework, I think that can be a tie breaker in some cases.”
It’s also understandable that you’ll be nervous, but Keith explains that it should also be an enjoyable experience. If it’s not, then you should listen to that—maybe consulting isn’t for you.
“When you have to do one more case prep session and you think, this is going to be torture, that might be telling you that two years from now you’re going to be the person who can’t handle the stress.”
How to make your cv stand out
Three characteristics. That’s how Keith breaks down your CV. Are you smart? Were you an impact player? And can you make it happen?
Being smart means GMAT score, GPA, undergraduate institution—usually being a student of a top MBA program has that covered anyway, Keith adds.
For professional maturity, he explains that he’s not looking for consulting or professional service experience, he’s looking for a role that says you work in a professional environment and made an impact.
“What I want to know is, were you good at the things you did? It’s one thing to say you managed the production process for a $10 million facility, it’s another thing to say you were responsible but improved productivity by 5%.”
“I think what a lot of students miss is telling me they did something and giving evidence they were good at it. That tells me you’re thinking about the results and that’s what I need for my clients.”
Finally, can you make it happen? That’s where your leadership experience—so club leadership or extracurricular activities—come to the fore.
“There’s something about being in charge of a student conference where flights were delayed, and the keynote hasn’t arrived. When there are 500 people in room waiting for someone to take the microphone, how do you figure it out? Have you been responsible for something that says when it goes wrong, you’re accountable for figuring it out?”