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BAIN &

COMPANY
>CH>9:G<J>9:
★ COMPANY CULTURE AND CAREER PATHS
★ BAIN’S COMPETITIVE STRATEGY, CLIENTS,
★ AND PROJECTS
★ TRAVEL, COMPENSATION, AND PERKS
' % % . : 9 > I > D C ★ RECRUITER ADVICE AND INTERVIEWING TIPS

★ INSIDER SCOOP: FRONT-LINE REPORTS ★


Insider
Guide
Bain &
Company 2009 EDITION
Bain & Company

WetFeeT

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Bain & company

2009 Edition
ISBN: 978-1-58207-884-7

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All illustrations by mckibillo


Bain & Company

CHAPTER 1 2
1 Bain & Company
at a Glance
5 The Firm

6 Overview

7 The Bottom Line

8 Competitive
Strategy

8 Industry Position

10 A Quick History
Lesson

11 Organization of

Bain &
the Firm

14 Case Models

Company 14 Recent Client List

15 Typical Projects

conte
2009 EDITION 16 What’s Hot
3456
19 On the Job 25 The Workplace 43 Getting Hired 51 For Your
Reference
20 Associate 26 Lifestyle and Hours 44 The Recruiting
Consultant Process 52 Consulting-Speak
27 Culture
22 Consultant 45 On-the-Record 54 Recommended
29 Workplace Diversity Recruiter Interview Reading

30 Civic Involvement 47 The Interviewer’s 56 For Further Study


Checklist
31 Compensation 56 Key Numbers
and Vacation 47 Interviewing Tips and People

32 Perks 48 Grilling Your


Interviewer
33 Travel

34 Career Path

37 Training

38 The Inside Scoop

nts
Bain &
Company

1
at a Glance
At a glance
Bain & Company

Bain &
Company at
a Glance
The Firm

Headquarters
131 Dartmouth Street
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-572-2000
Fax: 617-572-2427
www.bain.com
On the Job

Primary Competitors “It’s very important to be yourself, have fun, and relax.
The Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & While this is obviously easier said than done, we’re
Company, Booz Allen Hamilton looking for people who can enjoy the [recruiting and
interviewing] process.”
Key Differentiating Factors
• Strong, enthusiastic culture “We’re looking for the new breed of business leaders,
The Work place

the candidates committed to creating business value.”


• In two U.S. offices (Boston and New York),
consultants and associate consultants (ACs) are “What we tell recruits is that it’s pretty powerful to
staffed on two projects at once. learn how to make companies more valuable. They’ll
get experience because they’ll face a new problem
• Equal number of consultants and associates with each client, develop a skillset to answer tough
questions, and learn to act decisively.”
• Heavy emphasis on data analysis and a results-
driven outcome In the Interview
Getting Hired

• Bain uses case interviews to evaluate your


• Results are measured by clients’ success. (Clients analytical skills and see whether you enjoy
typically outperform the stock market by 4:1.) thinking in such a format.

• Training of new recruits is done by top managers • Insiders say that although interviews are very
and partners, not outsourced to non-Bain personnel. structured in general, the interviewers are usually
friendly and interviews often take the form of a
In the Recruiter’s Words conversation about business issues.
“There’s no silver bullet. We look for people who
are clearly smart and driven and are going to be well • Interviewers want to see passion. What are you
REFERENCE

aligned with our operating values.” passionate about and why?


FOR YOUR

 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
What Insiders Say The Career Ladder
“When people here start on a project, they don’t use • Undergraduates enter as associate consultants.
the words Bain or I. They say we, meaning Bain and
the client.” • Third-year associate consultants are usually
promoted to senior associate consultants.
“If you do good work, you will absolutely be given

The Firm
tasks that max you out intellectually. When the case • The next step for consultants is often caseteam
allows it and you’ve demonstrated that you can take it, leader.
you’ll get maxed out.”
• The next step for associate consultants and
“It’s not as though you have to be a rocket scientist caseteam leaders is to become managers. Some
or a math major, but you do have to have a comfort outside experienced professionals come in as
with data and numbers, because it’s a big part of managers.
what we do.”

On the Job
• MBAs enter as consultants.
“Fun is an operating principle at Bain—we enjoy what
we do and we laugh a lot.” • The schedule of promotions is somewhat flexible
but generally based on entering classes. Merit, of
course, is an important part of the equation.

The Work place


Personnel Highlights, 2007 to 2008, Worldwide
Estimated number of employees 4,100 (3,100 consultants and 1,000 non-consultants)

Estimated number of new undergrad hires 400–500

Estimated number of new MBA hires 400–500

Estimated number of new summer hires 150–250

Getting Hired
Estimated number of industry hires 75–100

Source: WetFeet estimates (Bain does not release this information).

Bain & Company’s Salary Scale


Hire Starting Salary Signing Bonus

Undergrad $65,000–$75,000 $5,000


REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

MBA $110,000–$115,000 $10,000–$20,000

Summer intern $2,700/week n/a

Source: WetFeet estimates (Bain does not release this information).

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 


The Firm

2
Overview....................................... 6
The Bottom Line............................7
Competitive Strategy.................... 8
Industry Position.......................... 8
A Quick History Lesson.............. 10
Organization of the Firm.............11
Case Models................................ 14
Recent Client List....................... 14
Typical Projects........................... 15
What’s Hot................................. 16
At a glance
Bain & Company

Overview a company put its suggestions into practice—in


addition to the high-level strategy and diagnostic
cases that are still its bread and butter. “We try not
Although smaller than McKinsey & Company to stop at the strategic diagnosis,” says one insider,
and younger than many of its competitors, blue- who says it’s now typical to have a high-level strategy
chip strategy house Bain & Company is comfortably piece roll into something more “implementation-
The Firm

settled within the top tier of the consulting crème de oriented.” This focus also helps give employees a
la crème. Typical projects at Bain include many of the sense of a longer trajectory: “It gives us a chance to
top-level issues that strategy firms tend to be called in actually spend some time with the clients outside of
to address: strategic analysis and corporate redirection, the formal updates where you’re just talking about
operations streamlining (reengineering), growth strategy. Instead, you can actually work side by side
strategy, and acquisition and strategic partnership and develop something tangible.”
studies. The firm takes a data-driven approach to help Implementation cases also give Bain another
engineer turnarounds at some of the world’s largest chance to “put skin in the game.” With an up-and-
On the Job

companies—an emphasis on results permeates the down economy, longer-term relationships and
company’s way of doing business. timely collection of fees on both sides of the process
Bain has been a steadfast subscriber to the notion of makes sense.
maintaining long-term relationships with clients—after
all, it came up with the idea in the first place, back INSIDER SCOOP
when other firms were practicing a “go in, check it out, “We used to do all the hard work on the strategy
The Work place

write up a report, get out of there” kind of consulting. and someone else would come in and help the
Bain has been working with many of its key clients client implement it. From a financial perspec-
in various capacities for years, and it was one of the tive, it makes more sense for us to do the full
first strategy consulting firms to accept equity instead project—and the clients are demanding it.”
of fees from clients. Traditional billing is still more
common at Bain, but the firm will not take on a “Bainies” (a term used affectionately by Bainies
project unless it thinks the client can see a significant themselves) are notorious for being data-driven:
return over the consulting fees. They are more likely to create a powerful, hard-
hitting analysis based on cold hard facts than to
INSIDER SCOOP
Getting Hired

develop theoretical new frameworks and author


“Bain puts a priority on maintaining a work-life academic papers. Insiders distinguish Bain from
balance. There’s no face time, so you can leave the competition by emphasizing its results-oriented
when you get the work done. But the market is approach to consulting. The value Bain provides
so good that there’s a lot of work—there aren’t a isn’t in a spreadsheet, but “in using the data-driven
lot of people sitting on the beach.” approach to come up with answers that are based on a
solid foundation.” And Bain takes a team approach to
Bain’s strength is said to rest on the type of cementing ideas: “It’s 30 percent whiteboarding and
people it hires (“less academic but more well- 70 percent research and analysis.” So everyone has a
rounded,” and able to form strong relationships hand in the final outcome.
REFERENCE

with clients) and on the firm’s insistence on using Bainies speak positively about their firm’s young,
FOR YOUR

data and analysis to get results. social, energetic culture, and seem to enjoy getting
Recently, Bain has been increasing its focus on together with their colleagues outside of work. The
implementation cases—sticking around to help word fun comes up in every conversation with them.

 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
If you want to keep your social life separate INSIDER SCOOP
from your work life, Bain may not be the place for “I feel like I’m going to spend a lot of time with
you, especially if you’re an associate consultant. The [my coworkers] any way you cut it. I’m traveling
firm actively cultivates its strong culture, and loyal with them, I’m working with them, so I’ve got to
employees get red-carpet treatment. “When you’re be able to connect and have a beer with them, or
new,” says one Bainie, “you feel like you should go to there’s a fit issue.”

The Firm
all the events, and before you know it, all your friends
are Bain people. You have to make an active effort Bainies also enjoy the status associated with a
to socialize outside of Bain.” Bainies enjoy a slew of top-tier, name-brand consultancy. “Bain is a name
informal lunches, dinners, and drinks; they participate that people admire,” says one associate consultant.
in Bain athletic events, book clubs, and talent shows, “When people hear that you work here, you get
not to mention all-expenses-paid museum outings, instant respect and recognition. It has opened a
fancy dinners, ski trips, Hawaiian getaways, soccer lot of doors for me. It’s pretty amazing.” And
tournaments, and the infamous Bain Band. Most of the company understands that one of the major

On the Job
the Bainies who participate in these activities are in reasons people work at Bain is to gain experience
their twenties—people who are young and who don’t for future opportunities.
have families at home.

INSIDER SCOOP
“We’re not going to do work if we feel we can’t The Bottom

The Work place


get results, and we’re willing to put our money
where our mouth is.” Line
A solid reputation, a top-notch client pool,
π THE WORLD OVER and an enthusiastic culture make Bain one of the
most respected strategy consulting houses in the
Insiders at Bain confirm that I want to world. Bain’s approach includes focusing on data
appreciate the firm’s end up in nonprofit,”
international and she says. “I got to learn
that supports a concrete proposal, implementing that
externship opportunities. about philanthropy in proposal, and coming up with measurable results—

Getting Hired
“The company is foundations, school you’ll develop great spreadsheet skills here. Insiders
committed to making district reform, and say the firm cultivates a social workplace environment
sure you’re happy within traditional nonprofits.
your surroundings,” I’m going to business and talk overwhelmingly about how much they enjoy
says one. “I’ve already school in the fall, and the people they work with. As one of the Big Three
worked in four different I’ll probably come strategy consulting firms, Bain is a terrific place to
offices, and Bain’s back to Bain. But at start or continue your consulting career.
supported me all the whatever point I leave
way. I don’t know where Bain it will definitely
else I could do that.” be for the nonprofit INSIDER SCOOP
Another insider talks sector; spending time “A lot of people who leave Bain get to do some
enthusiastically about at Bridgespan really
really cool stuff, like start businesses and go into
REFERENCE

a six-month externship helped me figure that


private equity. We have an excellent acceptance
FOR YOUR

at The Bridgespan out. It would have taken


Group, a nonprofit me a lot longer to learn rate into business schools, and a very strong
consultancy set up by all that on my own.” alumni network. Consulting is always something
Bain. “It helped me
you can use to go somewhere else.”

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 


aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

CompetItIve > tIp


Potential “Bainies” should get

strateGy comfortable with the company’s


results-oriented approach before
their interviews.
When.asked.what.makes Bain different from
ThE FIrm

other firms, all the insiders we interviewed offered


the same response: results. “Everybody today talks
about results, but we’ve been doing it right from the
beginning,” says one. “You won’t find people here
who are all jazzed up to write articles for business nonprofits (The Bridgespan Group) and the first to
magazines. You will find people who are jazzed up partner with a major venture capital firm to form
because the client has increased its revenues by $500 a joint venture (eVolution Venture Partners). That
million because of recommendations we made.” A same year, the firm launched BainNet, a technology
ON ThE JOB

manager says, “I’m not interested in my teams just consulting alliance that includes companies such as i2
doing fancy reports. I want to make sure we’re working Technologies, Oracle, and Fort Point Partners.
with the clients on what’s really important to them— In 2003, Bain rolled out a new brand based on
what keeps them up at night—and that we’re really the concept of helping companies become more
helping them solve the problem.” valuable—and changed its logo colors from blue to
Bain proposals are supposed to go beyond simply red, which symbolizes passion, says a recruiter—in a
ThE WOrk placE

making an idea seem workable in theory; they’re further effort to distinguish itself from its competitors.
expected to be supported by data and driven by logic, Some of the company’s more recent initiatives are GEN
and to bring about actual results that can be measured (Global Expert Network), which offers Bain’s case
in terms of improved profitability. This is what Bain teams IT expertise via a subcontracting model, and the
calls its “outside-in” method, which is fact-based and Bain Corporate Renewal Group (CRG), which helps
objective. “I came from an academic background,” says distressed companies achieve success and results.
one insider. “The rigor with which you do analysis and
the interest in your answer are the same [at Bain as they
are in academia], but while you’d get points in school
Industry
gETTINg hIrED

for saying, ‘This is a question we can’t answer because of


X, Y, and Z,’ that’s totally inappropriate here.”
Bain is not afraid to be innovative, and is thought
of as “much more entrepreneurial than the other
posItIon
firms,” one insider says. “We’re known for changing Th
. ough.smaller.and.younger than McKinsey,
boundaries,” says another insider. Bain was the first Bain is recognized as one of the world’s leading strategy
consulting firm to start a venture capital firm (Bain consulting firms. It has been growing faster than many
Capital). It was also the first major firm to accept equity of its competitors over the past few years, and added an
instead of cash fees, the first to share equity with the estimated 400 new employees in 2008. Bain considers
consulting staff, and the first to open an incubator itself among the top three firms, along with McKinsey
rEFErENcE

(Bainlab). Orit Gadiesh, Bain’s chairwoman since 1993, and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), with whom
FOr yOur

is the first woman to have headed a major management it often competes for work. It has set itself apart by
consulting firm. In 1999, Bain became the first major emphasizing private equity (PE), which now accounts
consulting firm to start a practice focused only on for an estimated 40 percent of its business. Although

8 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
the private-equity group is not a separate division of Where MBAs Want to Work
Bain, some partners specialize in it, and lower-level staff When Universum ranks the 100 most desirable
members may do six-month rotations through PE as part MBA employers every year, Bain consistently makes
of their professional development. a strong showing. In the 2008 survey, Bain ranked
Bain might not be one of the largest firms out as the sixth most ideal employer, dropping two spots
there—it has approximately 4,000 employees—but and falling behind Boston Consulting Group, which

The Firm
it could be the most efficient. It is one of the most was fifth for the second consecutive year. McKinsey
prominent consulting firms, bringing in an estimated retained the No. 2 spot behind only Google in the
$1.3 billon in revenue in 2006, a 15 percent increase rankings. Bain’s strong showing further validates
from the previous year. its claim to be one of the best and most desirable
The firm’s financial success is part of the reason Bain consulting firms in the world. It ranked ahead of
made Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work such stalwart competitors as Deloitte (9), Booz
For 2007.” Bain came in at No. 45. BCG—which Allen Hamilton (25), and Accenture (38) in the
ranked eighth—was the only major consulting firm Universum survey.

On the Job
ranked higher. McKinsey did not place in the rankings.

10 Most Desirable MBA Employers


Bain and Top Competitors by
Rank
Revenue ($M)
Company 2008 2007
Company Revenue

The Work place


Google 1 1
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu $23,100*
McKinsey & Company 2 2
Accenture $21,452*
Goldman Sachs 3 3
Capgemini $10,158
Apple Computer 4 6
McKinsey & Company $4,370
The Boston Consulting Group 5 5
Booz Allen Hamilton $4,100*
Bain & Company 6 4
BearingPoint $3,455*
The Walt Disney Company 7 20

Getting Hired
The Boston Consulting Group $1,800
Nike 8 9
Bain & Company $1,310
Deloitte 9 18
A.T. Kearney $798
J.P. Morgan 10 n/a*
Unless noted, revenue numbers are from 2006.
* Revenue for 2007 Source: Universum’s 2008 IDEAL Employer Survey – American MBA Edition
Source: Hoovers *In 2007 J.P. Morgan was ranked seperately as J.P. Morgan Investment
Bank (21) and JPMorgan Chase (45).
REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 


At a glance
Bain & Company

Employers Rock
What keeps consultants happy in their jobs—and A Quick
gives them longevity in this demanding business—is
their employers, according to the 2006 issue of History
Consulting magazine, which for the past seven
years has done a survey of “The Best Firms To Lesson
The Firm

Work For.” Employees rate their companies in six


equally weighted categories: career development, Bain was founded in 1973 by former Boston
compensation and benefits, culture, leadership, on Consulting Group VP Bill Bain and several others.
the job, and work/life. The 2007 Top ten includes The firm quickly gained a presence in the consulting
Bain, BCG, McKinsey & Company, North world by virtue of its results-driven analysis, rapid
Highland, PRTM, Booz Allen Hamilton, Kurt growth, and young, enthusiastic culture. (Stories still
Salmon Associates, Oliver Wyman, West Monroe abound of sharing home-baked banana bread over
Partners, and Slalom Consulting. slide rules and acetates in the original Bain office in
On the Job

Bainies gave their employer excellent marks downtown Boston.) In the early years, the firm took
in all six categories in 2007, landing the company the unusual step of forging long-term relationships
atop the list once again. In fact, Bain swept all six with clients by agreeing not to work with the clients’
major categories that the survey measures. What’s competitors in exchange for reciprocal fidelity. By
even more surprising is that Bain was No. 1 despite the early ’80s Bain was already firmly established
finishing third in compensation. Clearly, there is a as a major draw during the recruiting season at
The Work place

lot more to job satisfaction at Bain than money. top undergraduate and business schools. In 1984,
Bain partners Mitt Romney (the former governor
of Massachusetts), T. Coleman Andrews, and Eric
The Best Consulting Firms to Work Kriss founded the highly successful private equity
For (2007) investment firm Bain Capital, a separate entity that
has invested in more than 200 companies and that
Rank Firm
now manages roughly $40 billion.
1 Bain & Company
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the firm hit its
2 The Boston Consulting Group Dark Ages. From 1988 to 1990, a drop in business
Getting Hired

3 McKinsey & Company volume caused serious cash-flow problems, which


4 North Highland were compounded by internal problems. The original
5 PRTM management team got out of the business, the new
6 Booz Allen Hamilton
management team took on debt to purchase the firm,
and revenues, which normally increased by 15 to 20
7 Kurt Salmon Associates
percent annually, went south. Bain responded by laying
8 Oliver Wyman
off a lot of people. The firm’s prospects looked bleak.
9 West Monroe Partners With the situation truly desperate, Orit Gadiesh,
10 Slalom Consulting Mitt Romney, and others came in and orchestrated
a turnaround, putting the firm on stable ground.
REFERENCE

Sources: Consulting magazine, 2008


Specifically, Romney helped work out a deal to allow
FOR YOUR

Bain management to buy the firm from its founding


partners. The partners, including Bill Bain, returned
about $100 million worth of cash and forgiven debt to

10 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
the firm, as well as all outstanding Bain stock. Around View from the Middle
that time, Gadiesh (whose profile within the company Unlike some of its competitors, Bain doesn’t
had been growing) became Bain’s chairman of the require its consulting staff to specialize in particular
board, a position that involves a lot of client work practice areas. Bain serves a broadly diversified set of
as well as executive duties. Bain rang up a string of clients—Fortune 500 firms, small- to medium-size
double-digit annual growth rates from 1993 through companies, private equity clients, and startups—and

The Firm
2000. Although revenues were flat or slightly down for this mix provides consultants with broad exposure to
a few years after that—not surprising in light of the and experience with a variety of client types. We’re
then-busting economy—insiders say things seem to told that the company starts ACs out as generalists
be looking up again. Bain continues to rank in the top because it believes that’s the best way to develop
tier of strategy consulting firms. business leaders, but consultants and managers
become more specialized later on. “We believe that
INSIDER SCOOP the best way to learn about business is through
“In measuring our success, we look at our rev- pattern recognition, and the best way to develop that

On the Job
enue, and we’ve continued to grow by more than is across industries,” one manager says. “Whether
15 percent annually over the past 10 or 15 years.” you’re working in grocery or industrial products,
you’ll start to develop a sense of strategic options.
The fundamentals are the same.”

Organization “Bain doesn’t organize work into industry groups,”


says an associate consultant. “I’ve worked with a

The Work place


of the Firm wide range of clients: wireless providers, an insurance
company, even a paper box manufacturer.” One insider
says that a project for a private equity company has
View from the Top required her to become an expert on 16 different
Bain is run as a classic management consulting firm, with industries in less than a year.
partners at the top of the ladder and associate consultants So Bain has now made the process more official.
at the bottom. The firm, which has a network of 38 “We’re still very much a generalist firm, but we do have
offices in 25 countries across six continents, reports its areas of focus,” a recruiter says. “Later in your career,
revenues and profits to its management committee. One probably after five or six years, you start to associate

Getting Hired
thing that sets Bain apart is its loose affiliation with the yourself with a certain industry or [practice]—M&A
highly successful leveraged buyout, venture capital, and as opposed to strategy or reorganization. This is new
turnaround firm Bain Capital, which was started by to us. We’re somewhat formalizing the process. Our
former Bain employees. Higher-ups get to invest some of clients are demanding a certain level of expertise,
their earnings with Bain Capital. and we have it. It’s all about making sure we can
While it takes only two and a half to three years to be communicate that effectively with our clients.”
promoted from consultant to manager, it typically takes One of the practical implications of increasing
three to seven years for managers to become partners, the company’s organization by industry is that it is
depending on their performance. improving its practice of knowledge capture, says an
In the past, partners had become specialists almost insider. “Each practice area has knowledge brokers who
REFERENCE

by default. “By the time you become partner, you’ve document what we’re learning about an industry—for
FOR YOUR

developed likes and dislikes, and you focus on a example, aerospace—at any time.”
particular area,” one insider says. “As you get more It’s a necessary progression if Bain is to continue
senior, you become an expert on something.” to build relationships with its clients. “We know that

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 11


At a glance
Bain & Company

expertise does matter, and we want to have long- In some locations, you’ll be more likely to get
standing relationships with our clients,” a manager projects in certain areas than in others (for example,
says. “Being devoted to their industry is one way more technology clients in San Francisco or more
to do that.” industrial manufacturing projects in Chicago). Bain’s
Incoming consultants and associate consultants current industry and functional specialties include the
will almost certainly be required to work on a variety following practice areas:
The Firm

of client projects in various industries. “It runs the • Automotive


gamut,” says one insider of the variety of projects
he works on. That said, several insiders say that if • Consumer products
there’s a case available in their favorite sector (e.g.,
retail or technology), they can usually get staffed on • Energy and utilities
it. Another says that people typically choose a project
because of who is working on it, not because of the • Financial services
area of practice, adding that how much choice you’ll
On the Job

have depends on the business environment and the • Healthcare


size of the office. “For example, in Boston there
might be 20 people up for staffing in four different • Industrial machinery
cases, and they ask if people have a preference for
one case or another. We usually try to honor those • Media
preferences. In Stockholm, typically four people
The Work place

are up for staffing and there’s one case, so you can • Mining
figure out how that would go down. Our hope is to
give people the opportunity to pick cases whenever • Nonprofit and public sector
possible.” At approximately the two-year point,
consultants that stay on will begin to manage teams, • Retail
according to the Bain website.
In Boston and New York you might be asked to • Services
work on two cases at a time. “In general, on cases
like reengineering and cost-cutting, you’ll work on • Technology
Getting Hired

one case; on strategy cases, you’ll work on two,” says


a recruiter, who adds that it ultimately depends on • Telecommunications
the client. “We’re all about doing what it takes to
help the client.” • Transportation services
REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

12 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
As a top-notch strategy consulting firm, Bain serves View from the Bottom
clients in a variety of capacities. Your mentor and your Bottom-rung Bainies include senior associate
office’s staffing officer will make sure you don’t take consultants (third-year associate consultants, often
on too many similar projects too early in your career, called SACs) and ACs. Unlike many consulting
so you can expect a lot of variety. The majority of companies, Bain employs about as many ACs as it
Bain’s consulting work falls into one of the following does consultants (who generally have MBAs but

The Firm
capabilities: may be promoted straight through to SAC).
• Change management “Bain tends to hire a lot more associates than other
firms do because our approach relies more on data
• Corporate renewal analysis,” one consultant says. “That makes the
associate position more important. The approach
• Corporate strategy tends to skew toward fact-based analysis, and we
tend to hire people who like to get down and dirty
• Cost and supply chain management with the data but who ultimately always have an

On the Job
eye to how it’s going to be used practically.” Other
• Customer strategy and marketing insiders agree that associates at Bain are truly
integral to their case teams. “A lot of people don’t
• Growth strategy realize that you’re in a very good position to find
the answer yourself and link the data to the big
• Information technology solution. That’s the fun part to me: doing the

The Work place


analysis and coming up with an answer to my
• Mergers and acquisitions hypothesis,” one AC says.
A Bain project team usually includes four to eight
• Organization people from different levels, including a partner,
manager, consultant, and associate consultant.
• Performance improvement Within the team, you’ll typically work with people
who are one or two positions above you—associate
• Private equity consultants work with consultants and managers, for
example. The other members of your project team

Getting Hired
will give you advice and check on your progress.
Senior associate consultants and consultants typically
develop their own work streams to crack the case, in
that they can assign certain portions of the work to
certain people or teams. According to one AC, “You
work with a consultant to develop the answer to
the puzzle, and then the consultant works with the
manager to fit it into the larger scheme of things.” A
manager says, “I will provide direction: ‘Here’s the
question we’re going to answer; here’s an approach
REFERENCE

I would suggest; here are some of the things I want


FOR YOUR

out of it.’ They’ll go figure out how to do it and we’ll


check in as needed. We’re about giving people space;
it’s part of the culture.”

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 13


At a glance
Bain & Company

Case Models more of the one-case model now. “Almost all offices
are 100 percent staffing models. It’s really Boston and
New York that do [the two-case model]. There may be
In most offices a one-case model predominates, opportunity depending on the office you’re in and on
depending on the type of client work in that office. the case needs.”
At some U.S. offices (Boston and New York) you
The Firm

might find yourself working on two client projects


at the same time. Insiders say that working two cases
at once gives them exposure to more industries and Recent
business issues in a shorter period, as well as the
chance to be coached by more people (with different
strengths and styles) within the firm. As one AC
Client List
says, “I like the two-case model a lot. Right now Consulting firms are notoriously tight-lipped
my objective is learning, and I want to be exposed about the names of their clients, and Bain has a
On the Job

to as many intellectual problems as possible in a reputation for being even more closemouthed than its
short time.” peers. By doing a little detective work, however, we’ve
At the associate consultant level, double staffing uncovered the following (incomplete) list of
has another reward: Neither project can monopolize Bain clients:
your time. “Think about college,” a manager says. • Baxter International
“Professors don’t assign you work as though you had
The Work place

only one class, and here you don’t work on each case • Burger King
as if it were your only one.” Another insider says: “I’m
a big fan of it. When you have two cases, you have to • Charles Schwab
take a lot of responsibility for communicating with
managers and making sure what you have is doable.” • Chick-fil-A
Working on two cases is especially attractive for
junior employees: Nobody owns you. “If you’re • Continental Airlines
not at your desk when a manager walks by, their
assumption is not that you’re slacking off, because • De Beers
Getting Hired

you have another case,” a manager says. “No one has


the expectation that they can call you on a moment’s • Dell
notice. It means managers have to be better planners,
and I think that’s good for everyone. The downsides • Del Monte Foods
are pretty obvious—sometimes you have final
presentations on the same day, and that makes for a • Fiat
really long week.”
But a big advantage of the two-case model is that it • Ford Motor Company
gives Bainies the option to work part-time. However,
an insider in the Chicago office says that the two­-case • Government of South Korea
REFERENCE

model is becoming increasingly rare.


FOR YOUR

“Most of our offices do 100 percent staffing now,” • Inditex Group


says an insider, who says that even the Boston office,
where most of the part-time staffing occurs, is using • Microsoft

14 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
• Motorola After synthesizing these interviews and analyzing
the consumer data, Bain separated the client’s
• Nike customer base into seven different segments and
evaluated the profitability of each. Finally, Bain made
• Texas Instruments recommendations to the client about how it should
target business to its top three consumer segments.

The Firm
• Texas Pacific Group
Product Strategy
• Toronto Symphony Orchestra A manufacturing company hired Bain to help it
develop a new product. Bain spent a few months doing
• UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center a diagnostic study of product trends in the industry,
focusing on market development, interviewing
customers, profiling competitors, and studying the

Typical historical performance of the client company. Bain

On the Job
worked with the client’s engineers and product

Projects development team to choose an ideal product design


based on customer preferences and attributes, and the
client successfully launched the new product.
Equity Studies
Bain conducted research for a private equity firm, Strategy and Operations

The Work place


evaluating various companies in which the firm had Bain worked with a door manufacturer to help it
considered investing. Bain first needed to become an improve its market position. After studying the
expert in a number of industry segments and then industry and identifying the firm’s position in it, Bain
analyze each company’s prospects within its industry. recommended that it divest itself of several weaker
Ultimately, Bain provided a recommendation to the divisions. Next, Bain’s team carried out a study of
equity firm regarding which companies looked to be projected future trends in the industry and targeted
promising investments. several of the firm’s products for cost reductions. To do
this, Bainies put on hard hats and wandered around
Financial Services the factory interviewing engineers, designers, and line

Getting Hired
A bank hired Bain to help it retain retail customers, workers to determine whether less expensive materials
improve its image, and increase the business it got and processes could be used without affecting product
from customers who used more than one bank. quality. Finally, Bain conducted a freight analysis to
Bain assessed the bank’s customer relationships and minimize shipping costs.
designed and implemented a customer loyalty program
that offered a system of rewards. More than 700,000
people signed up, and the bank beat all its local
competitors to market.

Retail Consumer Profitability


REFERENCE

A retail food and beverage company wanted to


FOR YOUR

find ways to maximize customer profitability. Bain


studied the client’s consumer base, overseeing an
extensive survey of 2,500 of the company’s customers.

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 15


At a glance
Bain & Company

What’s Hot The ultimate measure of customer satisfaction—and


the “ultimate question” of the title—is: “Would you
recommend this business to a friend?”
On the Move and Spiffing Up
In 2004, Bain moved its Boston headquarters from Recruitment Goes High-Tech
Copley Place, where it had been for 20 years, to Recruitment efforts for the New Delhi office
The Firm

swanky new digs on Dartmouth Street. The new included a first-ever podcast at the Indian Institute
office is “very open, very bright, and it’s structured of Management. In it, Bain partners offered a
in a way that allows you to run into people more description of the company and its plans in India.
often.” That move heralded a wave of renovation It was successful enough that future podcasts are
and relocation of Bain offices worldwide: “We rolled planned for recruitment at universities in other
out our new brand in 2003,” says an insider, “so it’s countries. In the spring of 2007, Bain also made news
consistent with that—making our space consistent when it conducted “virtual” interviews in Second
with our brand.” Life, the computer-generated, 3D world in which
On the Job

Offices in Europe are getting face-lifts, too. The people interact through alter egos known as avatars.
London office, near Covent Garden in the heart of Basically, by using of Second Life, you can go through
the city, underwent renovation; it reportedly offers the recruiting process without ever leaving your
discounted in-house massages and has a beautician apartment.
and hairdresser on the premises. The Paris office
moved to new digs on Avenue Montaigne, near the
The Work place

Champs-Elysées, and the Amsterdam office was also


renovated. Bain also opened new offices in Helsinki,
Finland, in 2006 and Dubai in 2008.

New Offices in Asia


Bain gained a foothold in China in 1993 with its
Beijing office, and in 2004 it opened a second one
in Shanghai. Summer 2006 saw the opening of yet
another Bain office, this time in India. “For the last
Getting Hired

decade we’ve been advising [in India] out of the


Singapore office, but [we now opened] a New Delhi
office,” says a recruiter.

The Ultimate Question


Fred Reichheld’s book, The Ultimate Question:
Driving Good Profits and True Growth, published in
March 2006, takes the idea of customer satisfaction Community Involvement
to the extreme. According to the author, a Bain Bain and its staff have long emphasized the
partner and the founder of the company’s loyalty importance of community involvement and volunteer
REFERENCE

practice, keeping customers happy is more important work, and this emphasis seems to be strengthening.
FOR YOUR

to a business than anything except profits—good “We’ve been active about trying to centralize and
profits, that is, not short-term profits that result disseminate information about different community
from business practices that don’t serve the client. service activities in the office,” says a recruiter in

16 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
the Boston office. Boston insiders rave about the
company’s longstanding and ever-growing involvement
with City Year, a full-time leadership and community
service program for 17- to 24-year-olds. Bain is a
founding corporate sponsor of the Boston branch of
the organization.

The Firm
Bain is also committed to providing pro bono
work for nonprofits. The Atlanta office, for example,
has worked with Boys & Girls Clubs of America,
and Bain L.A. worked on a project with United Way
of Greater Los Angeles. And Bain has begun a new
initiative to get more consulting staff involved in
nonprofit activities. Employees are encouraged to
seek funding for various volunteer efforts that the

On the Job
firm will sponsor.

INSIDER SCOOP
“There’s a recognized forum for consultants to
organize events that involve the whole company.”

The Work place


Bain is also closely affiliated with The Bridgespan
Group, a nonprofit firm that provides strategy
consulting to nonprofits, charging only enough
to cover its expenses. Bain consultants can take
six-month externships at Bridgespan. Says one, “It’s
meant to take the most sophisticated thinking that
has helped us make results and apply that thinking
to nonprofit arenas.”

Getting Hired
REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 17


On the Job

3
Associate Consultant................... 20
Consultant.................................. 22
aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

assoCIate percolate back up. It means that there are important


tasks accomplished at the lower level as opposed to

Consultant having all the interesting work pulled off at the top.”
One insider says he was impressed with the amount
of responsibility given to him in his first weeks as a
Undergrads.come.on.board as associate consultant. “I don’t know if it’s typical, but I’d only
ThE FIrm

consultants (ACs). You will begin working with a huge been there four weeks when I was presenting results
variety of industries. “At the AC and consultant level, to the [client’s] CEO. I appreciated the fact that Bain
you’re definitely a generalist,” says one insider. You’ll put that much trust in me. They give you as much
be given a variety of research projects early on, such as responsibility as you can handle and want to take.”
basic analysis, market reports, and literature reviews. He adds that his role has evolved quickly; in less
But Bain’s use of interactive staffing means that you than a year, he has moved beyond owning one piece
will have some choice in assignments, whether it’s of the work stream. “In my current work I have two
the type of industry or a preference for more or less associates working for me. This role is more of a mix of
ON ThE JOB

travel. We’re told that Bain staffing managers try to supervising them and doing some of the detail work.
assign cases to consultants that mesh with their own I’m setting their direction, keeping them focused on
professional interests and career path. the right areas, and helping them be successful. From
There are other staffing options as well; for example, my perspective it’s a lot of fun.”
if you enjoy working with a particular manager, Another Bainie emphasizes the flat, rather than
you can request to be assigned to his or her cases. hierarchical, structure of the team. “There’s a specific
ThE WOrk placE

Realistically, though, everyone has to handle some role for everyone on the team. Even the most junior
cases that they’d prefer not to do. “Every case has to be person on the team has a responsibility for some
staffed, so somebody’s going to have to do a case that critical piece of the analysis. It’s having the results of
[they] don’t find as attractive,” says another insider. that analysis that gives you your say-so in the meeting.
As an AC you’ll be the first line of support for Everyone is expected to contribute; everyone has work
the project team, but as you demonstrate ability that’s important to the case. What the AC can tell you
and initiative you’ll have opportunities to take on about their specific work stream is as important as
increased responsibility. what the partner can tell you about what’s happened
“I’d say the job is split into three large buckets: over the past five years. In meetings, the junior people
gETTINg hIrED

research, analytics, and hands-on, client-focused speak more than the senior people, and would be
contact,” says an insider. “On the research side, expected to. They’re expected to drive the answer.”
there’s some grunt-type work, more in the first year New recruits may be doing important work, but
than in the second. There’s also a lot of moderately know-it-alls don’t sit well with Bain, and are advised to
heavy analytics, in terms of modeling—more market
niche modeling than financial modeling. The third
bucket, I’d say—and this is one where Bain will > tIp
provide more opportunity than other jobs out of When you’re assigned to a case, get
up to speed quickly. Once you prove
college—is on the client side. There’s quite a bit of you can handle specific questions,
opportunity to meet one-on-one with clients and you’ll be given leeway to decide how
rEFErENcE

develop meaningful relationships.” to address broader concerns.


FOr yOur

Bainies also speak highly of the company philosophy


of “pushing the large tasks down all the way to the
bottom until someone can’t do them, and then they

20 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
lighten up. Bainies prefer that you don’t take yourself 8:15 a.m. Arrive at office (15-minute drive from
too seriously—they’re a self-critical firm, and Bainies try home). Grab oatmeal before heading
to find entertaining ways to make fun of themselves. to desk.

Typical Responsibilities 8:30 a.m. Check email and voicemail. Respond to


Insiders say that typical assignments include: any urgent issues.

The Firm
• Performing financial analysis
8:45 a.m. Continue work on market-demand model.
• Interviewing clients and customers
12:00 p.m. Finish updates to model. Head to food court
• Researching competitors for lunch with three other ACs.

• Working with client staff to identify and 1:00 p.m. Head back to the office. Meet with manager
generate data about model.

On the Job
• Analyzing data and presenting findings to the 2:00 p.m. Conduct interviews with experts in
project team the industry.

• Traveling to field sites and observing client 3:30 p.m. Swing by a friend’s desk to discuss
operations evening plans.

The Work place


• Conducting secondary source research 4:00 p.m. Attend recruiting meeting to discuss
upcoming events at alma mater.
“We build a lot of models—for market forecasts,
cost savings, optimization,” says an insider. Although 5:00 p.m. Back at my desk. Put customer insights
responsibilities vary by case, gathering information into slides.
is always part of the picture. Interview work involves
talking to experts and customers to gain expertise 7:00 p.m. Finish work for the day and send out
and to bring back third-party perspectives that may customer insight slides. Respond to any

Getting Hired
be useful to the clients. And survey work, which may remaining emails. Get ready to head out.
happen less often, is to “gauge a wider but less expert
audience on a specific idea.” 7:30 p.m. Arrive at bar downstairs for a few drinks and
dinner with friends and colleagues.
A Day in the Life of an Associate
Consultant 9:30 p.m. Head home.
6:15 a.m. Alarm goes off.
11:00 p.m. Go to bed after watching this week’s Grey’s
6:30 a.m. Roll out of bed after snoozing for Anatomy or American Idol.
15 minutes.
REFERENCE

INSIDER SCOOP
FOR YOUR

6:45 a.m. Head out for a quick run to kick “If you’re the owner of an idea or a valuable con-
the day off! tributor to meetings, people will want you there,
even if you’re a first-year AC.”

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 21


At a glance
Bain & Company

Consultant A Day in the Life of a Consultant


6:15 a.m. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze at least once
and then head to the shower. Grab a quick
Freshly minted MBAs and experienced industry breakfast with my wife while we discuss
hires, as well as most PhD and advanced-degree plans for the weekend.
candidates with relevant business and analytical
The Firm

experience, join Bain as consultants. “There’s 7:15 a.m. Start my 30-minute drive into the city
certainly a steep learning curve,” says a consultant. (living in the ’burbs). Mentally review my
“We’re working on hard, complex problems. The schedule for the day and brainstorm some
excellence demanded by the work depends on people’s new growth options for the client. Leave
backgrounds.” More so than ACs, consultants are voicemail responding to my AC’s request
responsible for making sure the team is working for advice on determining the client’s
effectively and communicating findings to the client. projected market share.
On the Job

Typical Responsibilities 8:00 a.m. Arrive at work. Office is still fairly quiet.
Typical tasks for a new consultant include: Grab some coffee and review the deck
• Planning a strategy for collecting customer we’ll be presenting to the client this
intelligence and competitor intelligence afternoon. Decide that I’d like to get one
more perspective on price trends in the
• Conducting phone interviews with client industry before an 11:00 a.m. meeting
The Work place

employees and competitors with the manager.

• Building management consensus around 9:00 a.m. The AC working for me arrives. We head
recommended actions down to the café for coffee and discuss
our approach for the base case revenue
• Overseeing ACs’ analytical work projection. Am feeling good that we have
most of the data required to complete a
• Leading case-team meetings (brainstorming consumer penetration model, and AC has
sessions) great ideas on where to get the rest.
Getting Hired

• Presenting findings from research and analysis 10:00 a.m. Call an industry executive to discuss recent
to clients pricing trends. Great discussion but no
big surprises.
• Designing slides containing research findings and
strategic recommendations 11:00 a.m. Team meeting with the manager to make
final preparations for the client meeting.
• Leading client task-force meetings We review the game plan and make a few
refinements to the deck to improve the
clarity of our findings. I’ll be presenting a
REFERENCE

short section focused on market trends and


FOR YOUR

competitive dynamics.

22 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
12:00 p.m. Lunch with a partner I worked with on a INSIDER SCOOP
previous case. She has been a great mentor “I’ve had a lot of high-level exposure to busi-
for me and I use the opportunity to get ness problems from day one. It’s a great feel-
advice on my professional development goals ing, sitting in on a meeting with senior VPs of
for the next few months. Fortune 500 companies and having them look
at your work. You start to understand where

The Firm
1:30 p.m. Return phone call to a future summer your piece of work fits into the overall picture.”
associate who wanted to discuss some of the
upcoming summer’s activities. We became Once you hit the managerial level, the amount of
friends through the recruiting process and supervisory work you do increases. One manager says
I’m looking forward to him being here in a she is responsible for “structuring the work—making
few weeks. sure people are being stretched from a professional
development perspective, really starting to craft some
2:00 p.m. Team leaves for presentation at client of their own answers and story lines, and following

On the Job
headquarters. up on the next step themselves.” She adds that Bain
hires not just smart people, but people who enjoy
3:00 p.m. Greet the client CEO and five other thinking through problems and taking ownership of
executives. The partner starts the their projects. “I do my best to see that people are
presentation with a summary of our findings. getting a good balance of ownership and direction,”
CEO has a few questions about the current she says.

The Work place


market growth outlook, so I jump in with Still, managers do a hefty portion of hands-
some additional color on the topic. We have on work, too, “everything from working with
a healthy debate on a few key issues and the client’s structure of the initial problem to
wrap up with next steps. supporting the partner in their selling efforts,”
says an insider. The manager also staffs the team
5:00 p.m. Arrive back at the office. Catch up on emails and starts thinking about the client’s problem and
and plan next steps. formulating a preliminary answer. “I work directly
with the client—usually with the ceo, unless it’s a
6:00 p.m. Meet with my AC for an update. She is very large corporation and we’re doing a divisional

Getting Hired
making great progress on the penetration strategy; then I might work with their coo and
modeling. Talk about key actions coming their divisional president—to make sure that we
out of the client meeting and discuss game understand the question and that we are going to
plan for tomorrow. come up with an answer that’s going to be useful and
actually implementable.” The manager will spend
7:00 p.m. Head home. Use the driving time to call a lot of time doing internal interviews with the
my sister in college and see how studying is company’s executives, and will probably bring along
going for final exams. some team members as well. “If a client has just a
couple of key customers, I’d want to be involved
8:30 p.m. Dinner with my wife. It’s a nice night, in that. If there are a ton of interviews, like 2,000
REFERENCE

so I grill some burgers, and we continue or 5,000, we might outsource them to a research
FOR YOUR

discussing our plans for a weekend getaway. company,’ says one manager.”

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 23


The
Workplace

4
Lifestyle and Hours..................... 26
Culture........................................ 27
Workplace Diversity.................... 29
Civic Involvement....................... 30
Compensation and Vacation........ 31
Perks........................................... 32
Travel.......................................... 33
Career Path................................. 34
Training...................................... 37
The Inside Scoop......................... 38
aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

lIfestyle Like all client service professionals, Bain


consultants say there is no typical workweek. Crunch

and hours weeks can burn a consultant to a crisp with 65 to 70


hours of intense heat. Weekends aren’t always off-
limits, either. “I really try not to work on weekends,”
Life.at.any.top-tier consulting firm is fast-paced says one insider. “But I might have to put in a couple
ThE FIrm

and demanding, and Bain is no exception. Bainies hours every other Sunday.” Another, at the managerial
pride themselves on delivering value and results to level, says a 50-hour workweek is typical. “Often I’ll
their clients, and that means spending long hours at spend an hour on Sunday preparing for Monday.
their desks, in conference rooms, or perfecting their ACs work closer to 60 hours.” The Los Angeles office
PowerPoint skills. The learning curve can be steep. has a target average of 55 hours per week for ACs,
Case teams deal with difficult and stimulating issues, consultants, and managers. “Of course, that’s an
often under strict deadlines, and each member of the average, so there are plenty of spikes and some lulls,”
Bain case team is expected to contribute significantly. says an insider there.
ON ThE JOB

“If you’re right out of college, it can be hard to get


used to,” says one AC. “In school, it was my choice INSIDER SCOOP
to pull an all-nighter or skip a class. It’s not like I can “For a full-time person, a crunch week might be
skip an 8 a.m. case-team meeting.” The mood can be 70 hours.”
tense and stressful, especially on the evening before a
client presentation (or “preez”). If that sounds like a At the other extreme, during a slow week you
ThE WOrk placE

great adrenaline rush to you, with frequent-flier miles might find a Bain consultant getting a haircut, hitting
and free meals to boot, then a career in consulting the gym, or doing some shopping in the middle of the
might be right up your alley. But if you’re allergic to day. The firm keeps track of the average number of
pressure, you won’t be happy here or at any of the top hours worked at each of its offices. Bainies claim that
consulting firms. Look long and hard before you leap. management doesn’t want anyone getting too burned
That said, Bainies appreciate their firm’s “no face out. “They’ll call you and be like, ‘Hey, your long-term
time” policy: Once your work is done, you’re free to average is pretty high. What’s going on?’” an insider at
leave. This doesn’t mean you can consistently ditch the San Francisco office says. Bainies add that the firm
work early, but it does mean that Bain wants the hours will even hold small workshops on managing your
gETTINg hIrED

in which you toil to be useful in getting results. “You work/life balance. “They keep tabs on you to make
absolutely don’t come in if you don’t have to,” one sure no one gets out of control,” says one.
insider says. “But the thing is, it goes to each side of
the spectrum.” Insiders also say that work hours are
fairly flexible. “There are people on my team who are > tIp
much happier working from 10:30 in the morning If you’re allergic to pressure, you
won’t be happy at Bain or at any
to slightly later in the evening. You have to show
other top consulting firms. Look long
up to appointments and get your work done, but and hard before you leap.
everything else depends on your own time-management
philosophy,” one case-team leader says. Bainies also travel
rEFErENcE

much less than their McKinsey and BCG counterparts.


FOr yOur

“I travel three to four days a month, tops,” says one AC.


“Bain wants you to be sitting with the people you work
with, not on a plane or in a hotel room.”

26 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
Culture π R-E-S-P-E-C-T

If you’re a Bainie, expect cultural indoctrination When asked what haven’t been solved.”
from day one. “We proactively try to create a Bain differentiates Bain “It’s more about
from other strategy experience than
culture,” says a senior AC who’s worked as an AC consulting firms, one intelligence,” he adds.

The Firm
orientation coordinator. “We spend a lot of time manager says, “We’re “What we bring to the
learning and thinking about bringing people in and unlikely to show up on table isn’t just that we’re
making them feel included.” Another insider says, the client’s site with smart; it’s that we’ve
the sense that we’re done it before—we’ve
“Making sure that [the culture] works—making sure smarter so we can merged two companies
that it’s pleasant and that it makes what are generally radically improve some together, for example—
tremendously long hours actually fun—is one of your easy mistakes they’re so we have some idea
primary concerns as you become a manager.” Bain making. We respect the what works in terms of
fact that the client has process, we have a way
takes pride in maintaining company cohesiveness,

On the Job
very difficult business to think about doing
dedicating considerable time and resources to issues and it’s not analysis. Our intent is to
creating a strong sense of camaraderie and team spirit, because of a lack of collaborate.”
especially among associates. The strong culture comes intelligence that they
in part from the fact that these people work together
all the time. Unlike some firms that put their teams
together from various offices, Bain handles most cases A consultant says, “I think for people out of B-

The Work place


within a particular office. “You’ll work with your VP school, [the social environment is] a little different,”
and run into the same group of people quite a bit,” adding that consultants have circles of friends from
says a recruiter. business school and previous jobs, so their situation
Insiders rave about their smart, energetic differs from that of ACs, who often move across the
colleagues and the close-knit, supportive atmosphere country and don’t know many people (and have little
of the firm. “This [place] is just the best people- chance to get to know people) outside of work. The
collector I’ve ever found,” says one. Another says office culture is weighted toward the young side,
that a cohesive culture is not the same thing as a even factoring in older ages for Bain lifers. We’re told
homogenous one: “Bain has one of the most open that consultants typically are in their late twenties,

Getting Hired
cultures in the client-services sector. You don’t have to managers are in their early 30s, and partners are in
fit into a preset mold to do a good job.” their mid-30s to mid-40s.
Although the Bain lifestyle and social environment Having fun is a huge part of working at Bain. “It’s a
vary among the firm’s 38 offices, insiders say that very laid-back place to work. It’s very informal and not
most Bainies, especially ACs, like mixing business very hierarchical,” says an AC.
with pleasure. “I think it’s a very open and social
culture,” says one AC. “Working here is really INSIDER SCOOP
integrated with my social life. It’s not just going in “People work intensely here, but when they’re
and doing a job, and I like that a lot.” Some bring not working they have a lot of fun.”
their outside interests into the company’s awareness;
REFERENCE

for example, the L.A. office counts several dancers A manager says, “Fun is a big part of it. It sounds
FOR YOUR

(hip-hop and Indian) and actors among its staff, like a cliché—it certainly would to anyone who’s not
and fellow Bainies support them by attending familiar with the firm—but in many ways it’s become
their performances. institutional.” Bain offices sponsor a variety of optional

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 27


At a glance
Bain & Company

social events, including upscale dinners, museum were working on that, too, so sometimes we’d have
outings, ski trips, golf tournaments, book clubs, and recycling meetings in the course of a day.”
a bimonthly “pints night.” Every year, there’s a Bain Bain works hard to create its high-energy, ambitious
World Cup, in which the company’s offices (mostly culture. The firm doesn’t recruit a lot of superstar
the younger set) compete with each other in soccer. senior-level staff, but prefers to hire mostly at the entry
However, insiders say that most socializing is less levels, then promote from within and train its employees
The Firm

structured. Many offices have informal basketball, intensively. As one insider says, this results in a drive to
soccer, tennis, and squash teams, and people often improve and take on many tasks. “Everyone spends a lot
head to the gym together or have a drink after work. of time thinking about how to do things better,” she says.
Many Bainies are enthusiastic about the Bain Band, This has a downside, though: “Sometimes the culture of
a large ensemble of musically inclined Bainies that evaluation goes further than people would like. You will
performed at off-site retreats, changing the lyrics of absolutely never, ever get a review at Bain that’s less than
popular tunes to create Bain-centric songs. Some 30 percent constructive criticism. I think that’s pretty
Bainies also report finding the time to get together and healthy, but it can also be frustrating.” Another insider
On the Job

perform volunteer work on a regular basis. talks about the firm’s emphasis on results and how it
But new recruits shouldn’t conclude that Bain’s affects hiring: “We prioritize the ability to interact with
fun-loving atmosphere means that Bainies aren’t people; we prioritize getting clients to change. When you
working hard. “The people here are all dedicated prioritize results, you get people who are more well-
and strong-willed,” one AC says. “Everyone’s rounded, more dynamic. It’s definitely a different feel.”
always thinking, and you have to be on your toes.
The Work place

You might be in a meeting and trying to explain


things and they’ll jump right in and start asking
questions because they’re already one step ahead of π Location, Location, Location
you.” Another insider says, “ACs here are especially
Some Bainies say you’re at work, and
intellectual. I mean, they’re people who got 3.9s at
office cultures vary leave work at work.’”
Harvard and Stanford.” Like their counterparts at by location, and that However, others feel
other consulting firms, Bain employees are intelligent new recruits should that offices are more
people who get a thrill out of thinking through choose carefully. alike than different.
“Regional industries and “My impression is that
problems. According to this insider, their thorough workplace dynamics Boston and New York
Getting Hired

intellectualism doesn’t stop at work either: “People are extraordinarily are quite similar,” a
here are of the type that if they get interested in a different among Boston insider says.
project, they’ll do it well. If someone’s going to switch different cities,” one AC “Based on people I’ve
says. “In bigger offices, met from other North
long-distance providers, they’ll research the hell out there’s more socializing. American offices,
of it first, almost like they did a case on it.” In Boston, if you’re I think that North
Despite a formidable workload, Bainies seem working on a big project American offices
happy to take on more responsibility. “There are and you’re going to be have a pretty similar
there late, you’ll all culture—very informal,
things called ‘extra 10 percent’ at Bain—things you order dinner together very collegial. The
help with, like recruiting, training, community or go out for a beer at environment tends to
impact, and social things,” says an insider. “One the end of the night. be pretty social. The
REFERENCE

of the things I worked on this year was a recycling There’s some of that general feel of the
FOR YOUR

here in San Francisco, offices is the same.


initiative—our office has free bottled water and sodas, too, but we tend to see Internationally, you get
and for a really long time we didn’t have recycling. So it as ‘work hard while more variation.”
we now have it! Another AC and another consultant

28 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
aT a glaNcE
says. In a 2007 Universum survey of more than 16,000
> tIp minority students at 137 universities, Bain was ranked
Bain doesn’t recruit a lot of 21st among the top 100 diversity employers, moving
superstar senior-level staff; it hires up one spot from 22nd in 2006.
mostly at the entry level, then
promotes from within and trains its
Diversity is one of Bain’s top five worldwide
employees intensively. initiatives; the firm employs a full-time director of

ThE FIrm
diversity recruiting and a diversity coordinator. Says
one insider: “We try to get to campuses early and do
workshops to get to people who wouldn’t necessarily
think about applying otherwise. We talk to presidents
Bainies say they spend a lot more time at their of clubs and captains of sports teams. From that, we’ve
desks than traveling, making the company a more gotten some really strong applicants who never would
office-based firm than some of its more client-based have thought of doing consulting before. It’s an active
competitors. In contrast to their seldom-seen “hoteling” focus and we’re pushing at it in a couple of different

ON ThE JOB
counterparts at other firms, Bain employees are each ways.” Insiders say Bain sponsors several groups—
assigned a specific desk located in an area called a ‘bay’ Blacks at Bain, for one—that focus on recruiting and
where they are joined by other colleagues as a means retaining people of color and recruit at historically
of encouraging the development of a strong internal black colleges. Bain sponsors diversity-interviewing
culture. Several Bain insiders say that many of the firm’s workshops and panel discussions during recruiting
employees share a strong entrepreneurial drive, which season, and participates in a number of school-specific

ThE WOrk placE


makes them like-minded in their client work (“thinking and nationwide minority career conferences. The firm
like owners”.) makes a special effort to encourage minority applicants
to accept its offers. It supports connectedness among
minorities within the firm through informal local events,

workplaCe and holds an annual nationwide conference focused on


professional development and skill building.

dIversIty Bain also offers health insurance to both same-sex and


opposite-sex domestic partners, and several offices have
a BGLAD at Bain group, which promotes bisexual, gay,
Ethnic.and.racial.diversity are not among the

gETTINg hIrED
and lesbian diversity awareness. The group coordinates
consulting industry’s strong points, though as a Bain’s ongoing sponsorship of “Reaching Out MBA,” an
firm, Bain is on par with most of its competitors. annual conference of bisexual, gay, and lesbian business
“I think it’s just a challenge across the business in students. Latinos@Bain also recently became an official
general. I know we’re making an effort to recruit more group. In the past, it had been an informal group within
minorities and I think we have had some success. It the company. Now Latinos@Bain formally recruits,
just varies, and some years are better than others,” says mentors and helps to retain Latinos at the firm.
one insider. Another adds, “We look like corporate
America. There’s a lot of energy being spent right now OppOrTuNITIEs FOr WOmEN
to try to make that better, but I think we’re running Bain chairman Orit Gadiesh is a woman (who served
rEFErENcE

into the same problems that everyone does.” in the Israeli army and once dyed her hair purple),
FOr yOur

Bainies are very open about the fact that the which is a big deal for a top-tier strategy consulting
company could do better in this area, but “I couldn’t firm. Bain is the only global consulting firm with a
exaggerate how hard people are working on this,” one woman at the helm. It wouldn’t be unusual to hear

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 29


At a glance
Bain & Company

the argument in some quarters—not at Bain—that


top management has to be male because of the
crusty clients with whom consultants work. But Bain’s increased attentiveness
Gadiesh enjoys the full confidence and support of
the organization. At the Global Women’s Summit,
to women may be paying off:
the firm hosts panels and discussion groups on issues In a survey by the research
The Firm

such as getting an MBA and balancing firm Universum, Bain ranked


work and family.
as the sixth most desired MBA
INSIDER SCOOP employer among female
“All my supervisors [at Bain] have been women.
There’s no difference at all in terms of the way
business-school students.
projects are allocated to women and to men.”
On the Job

Still, Bain suffers from the same problems that benefit.” Another says, “It may lengthen the time to
affect the entire industry: a low proportion of female promotion because you’re accumulating experience at
applicants and high attrition of subpartner women. a slower rate, but judging by the number of women
Insiders say that the ratio of men to women is fairly managers and partners who have been part-time, I
even at the AC, consultant, and manager levels, but wouldn’t say that it hurts you or that the firm looks
that partners are primarily male. An insider in Chicago down on it in any way.”
The Work place

estimates that the staff is 30 to 40 percent female; one


from New York makes a similar estimate. “Right out
of undergrad, it’s fifty-fifty,” says an insider. “Out of
business school, it’s not, and I think that’s in large part Civic
because business school is not [fifty-fifty], so it would
be a mistake to try to hire fifty-fifty out of business
school.”
Involvement
Bain is working on its retention of women at Over the years, Bain has taken on a number of pro
all levels. For years, the head of Bain’s largest office, bono projects for nonprofit organizations such as The
Getting Hired

Boston, was a woman, and in the Korea office a Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Shedd
woman has recently been promoted to partner. Efforts Aquarium, Literacy Volunteers of America, Boys &
to retain women include increasing communication Girls Clubs of America, and United Way. “Bain has
(internal workshops on women’s issues, monthly a major focus on pro bono work—it’s basically our
women’s lunches and cocktails) and family-friendly responsibility to find some, whether on our own or as
policies (part-time consulting, 12 weeks of maternity a case team,” says one insider. Pro bono work covers
leave with full pay, longer unpaid leaves of absence). diverse activities, including direct community service,
A number of female managers are taking advantage client consulting, and advisory work for museums,
of the opportunity to be staffed 50 percent (working foundations, and other nonprofits. “We’re always
on one case, 35 to 40 hours a week, at 60 percent pay) working on at least one pro bono case,” says another
REFERENCE

and remain eligible for promotion. “It’s amazing what insider.


FOR YOUR

you can do here that you can’t do at other firms,” says The Boston office has an ongoing relationship
an insider. “To see that you can raise a family, work with inner-city Charlestown High School, working to
part-time, and still be on the partner track is a huge improve students’ quality of life through mentoring

30 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
and tutoring programs and strategy work with the INSIDER SCOOP
school’s headmaster. It’s a case assignment for associate “We tend to hire people who are involved in a lot
consultants; every six months a new AC is assigned to of things on campus, and they don’t give that
the project. One insider did an analysis of the school’s up when they come here. People’s pet projects
high-school exit exam: “I looked at the exams, at how become office projects.”
the questions had changed over time and what the

The Firm
trends were, and how the students performed—areas
where they were relatively strong and where they
were relatively weak. I tried to figure out what tricks Compensation
the test-makers use to trap some students and how
teachers could teach students to avoid them.” She
organized a book drive as a one-off project, soliciting
and Vacation
her officemates to donate or provide funds for more Bain considers its compensation ranges
than 2,000 volumes to stock classroom libraries. proprietary information.

On the Job
ACs in cities such as Boston and Chicago also According to a recent Kennedy Information report,
team up to consult with nonprofits, working at “Compensation & Benefits in Consulting 2006:
higher-level roles than they would at Bain, through a Benchmarks, Trends, and Forecasts of the Profession,”
program called Inspire. Founded in 1998 by Bain and salaries in strategy and operations management firms
Monitor Associate Consultants, Inspire is a national were rising, as one would have expected in the wake
volunteer organization providing management of increased demand from clients. Now, with a much

The Work place


consulting advice to nonprofit organizations with a tougher market, salaries are believed to be holding steady.
youth-oriented, educational focus. In 2005 more than It’s estimated that new full-time MBAs at Bain
40 volunteer Bainies participated, and the program earned approximately $110,000 to $115,000, plus a
has been so successful that instead of having to drum signing bonus of $10,000 to $20,000. ACs naturally
up clients, it now has a waiting list. In addition to make less. Estimation for ACs is $65,000 to $75,000 for
expanding its offices in Boston, offices have opened base salary plus a $5,000 signing bonus. On top of that
in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Each year there’s an annual performance bonus (about $25,000
the San Francisco office takes off a day to participate for MBAs). Others say top performers can receive much
in Community Impact Day, which starts with an more. Industrywide, though, you shouldn’t expect

Getting Hired
officewide meeting, after which three or four groups salaries to skyrocket in the near future. According to
are formed to work at various charities in the area. an article in the March 2006 issue of Consultants News,
Bainies have worked with several other nonprofits, “Gap Widens Between Actual and Expected MBA
including the San Francisco Opera, City Year, and a Comp,” the rise in competition among MBAs hasn’t led
startup in East Palo Alto, California, that provides to as much of an increase in base salaries and bonuses as
business support to low-income entrepreneurs. In the some prospective hires had expected—they were up only
past, several offices have taken advantage of changes 2 percent from the previous year.
at Bain—the opening of the New York office, the Bain consultants start with three weeks of vacation
move in Boston, the rebranding—to recommit to per year; after two years with the firm, they receive
community and civic involvement. four weeks. In addition, employees have a great deal of
REFERENCE

Bain’s community-service efforts don’t necessarily flexibility in scheduling personal days—provided they
FOR YOUR

start at the top, though; many projects evolve from the don’t abuse the privilege—and when there is downtime
interests of its employees. All Bain offices get involved between assignments or when crunch time is over, there
in “tons of grassroots projects,” says a Boston insider. is, Bainies say, room to take time off without penalty.

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 31


At a glance
Bain & Company

Perks changed the lyrics to to make them about Bain.”


Other activities include Friday parties, company
picnics, catered happy hours, private tours of museum
Like many of its competitors, Bain offers collections, ski trips, “manager beers,” and more. Every
candidates a tasty benefits package, complete with fall, the firm flies its best soccer teams to compete in
medical, dental, and a 401(k). You also get to call the Bain World Cup, which was in Milan in 2005,
The Firm

yourself a Bainie, which has to feel good. But Bain Brussels in 2006, and Madrid in 2007. Maybe due to
knows it’s the little things that count, and as one the familiarity with their surroundings, the Madrid
insider says, “They spare very little expense when it office won the 2007 Bain World Cup.
comes to recruiting and retaining employees.” Perks Bain ACs get lots of help with the business
vary with the office but typically include all of the school application process. Some offices provide
free soda you can drink, Starbucks coffee, and the panel discussions with admissions officers from top
infamous Bain oatmeal for those who missed breakfast schools in the area and brown-bag lunches with
at home. Consultants are also provided with a full set colleagues who are recent alumni (not to mention
On the Job

of tools—such as laptop computers, cell phones, and all the free laser printing and photocopying you
BlackBerrys. We’re told that each employee now gets could want). Applicants can take advantage of
a “tech budget,” money to spend on cell phone, home company-offered Princeton Review–type classes
Internet, and BlackBerry service, according to one and written recommendations; those who have
insider. In addition to that, “you get a generous budget completed their first year of business school are
for dinners, taxis, or parking money if you drive to given summer internships.
The Work place

work,” says an insider. “If you’re working on a tough When consultants wish to change offices, Bain
case, you can have all your food paid for through an makes every effort to accommodate them, since it
entire week.” Bainies also enjoy a case-team budget, realizes that people are more productive when they
determined by the number of people on the case. “The feel good about where they’re working and the job
team can use the fund however they want,” says one they’re doing. Office transplants and their families
AC. “People go out for nice dinners, skiing, deep-sea get accommodations and generous allowances while
fishing, a cruise—the idea is that you use the money looking for a new place to live. One Bainie who
with your team.” made a cross-country move says, “It was purely
At many Bain offices it’s okay to write on the walls, for personal reasons—my fiancé was here. One of
Getting Hired

which are covered in whiteboards for scribbling down the great things about a company having so many
notes and ideas. There are other extras as well. The offices is being able to make a move for whatever
L.A. office has a playroom with foosball tables. The the reason might be.”
San Francisco office owns a ski house in Tahoe that Another favorite Bain perk is the firm’s transfer
consulting staff use on a first-come, first-served basis. program. Third-year ACs and consultants who
In some offices Bainies can also bring their significant perform well may transfer to another Bain office
others to regional meetings, free of charge. Last year’s (with free housing) for six months. Around 35
West Coast regional meeting, held in the summer, was percent of ACs take advantage of the opportunity.
at Colorado’s Copper Mountain Resort. “The summer “The company is committed to making sure you’re
meeting is so much fun—I love it!” says an insider. happy within your surroundings,” says one insider.
REFERENCE

“They report out on the business to the entire West “People in my class have transferred to Australia,
FOR YOUR

Coast, but then they also have the Bain Band, which is South Africa, London, and Madrid.” Another
very impressive. We make fun of ourselves relentlessly, option for senior ACs and consultants is the firm’s
so they play hours and hours of songs that they’ve six-month externship program, in which Bain

32 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
aT a glaNcE
> tIp have been occasions when I’ve really liked it. I traveled
Bain sponsors business school
regularly from Stockholm to Bologna, and that’s not a
tuition and expenses for associate hardship. I’ve also had to go to Akron, and that is.”
consultants who do well at the More than at other firms, consultants here are
company and make a commitment discouraged from spending unnecessary face time at
to return to the firm for two years
after receiving their MBAs.
the client site. Insiders say, however, that this seems to

ThE FIrm
be changing as the firm picks up more implementation
cases. “What I’m realizing is that in today’s world,
given how global it is—the customers are global, the
consultants take a sanctioned leave of absence from supplies are global—you’re going to have to travel,”
the firm and are officially employed by a client one says. “Teleconference, videoconference, that’s
company (complete with new salary). Bainies may BS. At the end of the day, when you want to form
take time off to learn Chinese, travel the world, get relationships, you have to see people face to face.”
a startup company on its feet, or anything else that Another adds: “Our travel has increased dramatically

ON ThE JOB
might elevate the quality of their consulting or their since I started. I think the business model is changing
lives. Insiders believe this kind of flexibility shows there. But I think they’re closer now to a model that
Bain’s interest in an individual’s “full potential” works and makes people happy.”
(a Bain buzz-phrase), enhancing morale and How much you travel greatly depends on the kind
commitment to the firm. It’s a win-win, as they of work you do. “I don’t think it’s changed a lot,” says
love to say. another insider. “We’re doing a lot of private equity

ThE WOrk placE


And if you’re ready to leave Bain, insiders say the work, and that’s very low-travel. I think we’re getting
firm gives its dearly departing a generous transition better at serving clients both offsite and onsite.” Several
package with lots of help for the ensuing job search, insiders insist that one to three days of travel per week
including access to Bain alumni out in the real world. is becoming the norm at Bain.
The company maintains a job board, has ongoing
relationships with industry recruiters, and offers career INSIDER SCOOP
counseling to those who seek change. Bain figures that “It’s not like we do the Monday-through-Thurs-
if you leave happy, you’ll know where to turn when day travel routine and then you’re back in the
your next company needs help. office on Fridays—that’s rare. That was a big

gETTINg hIrED
selling point for me on why I’m here versus
other consulting firms.”

travel According to the January/February 2006 issue of


Consulting magazine, 18.3 percent of Bainies rack up
Bain.has.an.unwritten policy against unnecessary air miles three to four days a week, while 81.7 percent
travel. Our insiders say that most Bain consultants are away from home only two days a week or less. At
average one or two travel days per week, much less Bain’s competition, however, it’s another story: 65
than their counterparts at other strategy consulting percent of McKinsey’s employees and 39 percent of
firms. One Bain insider says there’s a lot of variability BCG’s ranks can expect to travel three to four days
rEFErENcE

“depending on whether you’re on a local case or a a week. An unlucky (or lucky, if you hate staying
FOr yOur

strategy case—which tend to have fewer touch points home) 20 percent of McKinseyites travel five or more
with a client—versus an operations or implementation days per week.
case.” Another says: “It doesn’t bother me, and there We’re told that Bain is very good about honoring

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 33


At a glance
Bain & Company

people’s preferences about travel, whether they want expecting to move on in two or three years, but I love
to attain gold status in every frequent-flier program it so much I intend to stay much longer.” Another
or stay close to home. In fact, a staffing officer agrees: “It’s a little bit like a golden handcuff, actually.”
speaks to everyone about their staffing wants and The Bain welcome wagon provides all new recruits
needs—generally in terms of travel requirements and with “tons of mentors,” says a manager. “Formally,
industry focus—to find something workable for each they’ll have a colleague, a mentor, and a consensus
The Firm

individual. “I’ve been traveling three days a week for reviewer, [who’s] responsible for gathering feedback
the past three months,” says one AC. “But I chose the and input on cases and putting it into a comprehensive
case—the client site is in my hometown, and it’s been review. But people tend to find many, many more
great seeing my family.” Another insider, who tells relationships. They’ll quickly develop a council of
us he’s averaged one trip per month, including trips [mentors] at all levels.” Your colleague, who typically
for training and recruiting purposes, says, “I enjoy has an additional year or two of experience, “looks out
travel, so I don’t mind when I have to do it. People on for you and helps you acclimate to Bain,” says another
travel cases usually request it. Your travel preference is insider, while “your [mentor, usually a manager or
On the Job

totally taken into account.” Still, Bain employees must VP], is responsible for your career development. [He
sometimes travel to suit the client’s needs. or she] reviews your progress and acts as a professional
resource.” You’ll also have a class adviser, with whom
you’ll meet every six months or so.

Career Path “The professional development at Bain is pretty


unique,” says another insider. “There’s a lot of informal
The Work place

. coaching and mentoring. People go out of their way


Insiders say there are two kinds of Bainies: those to help each other in ways I wouldn’t necessarily have
who are lifers and those who aren’t. Many lifers come expected. I remember one night in my first year I
to Bain after undergrad or business school, put their was working late on a model, and a senior associate
noses to the grindstone, and make partner after a few consultant took a good few hours out of her day to
years of blood, sweat, and tears. These are the few, the help me figure out some next steps. That really stuck
proud, the driven. Then there’s everyone else: those with me, and now I’m eager to help first-year ACs out
who spend two or three years at Bain learning great when I can.”
organizational, managerial, and analytical skills, and Reviews are conducted every six months,
Getting Hired

then take all that transferable knowledge to a smaller, and insiders say they are extremely helpful in
more entrepreneurial venture or to a line position in providing useful feedback. “They’re extraordinarily
a “real” company. Warning: Working at Bain can be comprehensive and constructive—I’ve gotten the most
habit-forming. Says a converted lifer, “I came here profound feedback in life at Bain,” says one insider.
“Everyone puts a tremendous amount of time into
reviews. They spend a lot of time trying to understand
what other people think, trying to understand the root
causes of performance and behavior.” Another points
out that they are given tangible examples of what they
could have done better, along with clear expectations
REFERENCE

for the next six months. The firm is careful to manage


FOR YOUR

your experiences. For example, says an insider, “If you


didn’t get a lot of client contact during a given time
period, they will make sure that you do during the

34 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
next period.” And true to the firm’s results-oriented assignments in their last year or so before B-school.
philosophy, your career is evaluated on specifics. “You Associates may be offered reimbursement for business-
are evaluated on the basis of how your work directly school tuition, provided they make a two-year
impacts a project,” says another insider. commitment to Bain when they graduate.
At Bain, evaluation is a two-way street. Insiders As with many consultancies, advancement is based
mention the firm’s commitment to the giving and on your time commitment and performance at the

The Firm
receiving of feedback without fear or favor. One way firm. “If you’re doing a good job, you’ll get promoted,
people get to say their piece is through a case-team survey, but no one gets tenure [unless he or she has] shown
conducted every six months or on request. Questions some performance,” says one AC. “No one ever really
cover communication, teamwork, and performance, and gets fired, but it’s really clear to people when you’re
everyone can see how he or she compares to his or her not progressing.” According to one manager, it’s not
peers. Insiders say this keeps communication open and just about climbing the ladder: “ACs don’t obsess
ensures accountability at all levels. over promotion. It’s pass or fail, and 95 percent of
ACs pass. There’s also no formal policy on getting an

On the Job
INSIDER SCOOP MBA. One recently promoted VP never got one.”
“There’s really a culture of internal coaching and However, the same manager admits that about 90
mentoring from other ACs and the more senior percent of consultants do have MBAs. In terms of
levels, like managers.” career progression, Bain has a very formal performance
planning process to ensure that everyone gets regular
Bain has instituted mechanisms for exiting the firm feedback on the skills they need to work on.

The Work place


painlessly, to accommodate nonlifer consultants as
well as others who would like to move on. The Bain
alumni network is broad and well positioned to help,
and the Bain stamp on a resume is regarded highly π Partner Potential
by potential employers. One insider says, “Bain sees
you as still being part of the company after you leave. Bain tends to hire comfortable managing
people it believes a project, but feel that
The partner/manager group says it’s fine if you decide
have the right stuff managing a client is not
consulting’s not for you, but they don’t want to have to become partners really their thing,” says
any unaffiliated turnover. They make every effort to in the firm. However, one insider.

Getting Hired
place you in an affiliated company.” Such companies unlike a prominent If it becomes clear
competitor with a strict that an individual is not
include Bain clients, The Bridgespan Group, and Bain “up or out” policy, Bain likely to rise above a
Capital portfolio companies. is flexible. Associate certain level, he or she
consultants are not will certainly be made
Opportunities for expected to leave aware, but that doesn’t
automatically after mean it’s time to start
Undergraduates two years, and many packing—there’s not
Newly minted grads from undergraduate programs stay for a third year. usually any immediacy.
enter Bain as associate consultants. They typically stay Likewise, promotion Nonetheless, Bain
for two or three years before returning to business schedules are not recruiters say they don’t
engraved in stone, and let people “stagnate,”
school or moving on to other types of graduate
REFERENCE

some people who are instead working with


schools or other industries. Many ACs are promoted
FOR YOUR

offered promotions them to explore careers


to senior associate after one and a half to two years; it refuse them, at least that may suit them
temporarily. “Some better.
takes two and a half to three years to move from AC
people may feel entirely
to consultant. And many take on cool international

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 35


aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

OppOrTuNITIEs FOr mBas its ranks, a departure from previous practice. Bain
MBAs join as consultants. Bain recruits for consultant doesn’t require midcareer hires to have worked in the
positions from the top ten business schools, often consulting industry, but most do have an MBA. Non-
filling jobs in its global offices from their rosters of MBA hires sometimes come from strong law schools
international students. Typically, if all goes well, MBAs or PhD programs and, depending on work experience,
become case-team leaders (an informal promotion may enter Bain as either senior ACs or consultants.
ThE FIrm

offered in some offices but not all; expect more work Demonstrable business and analytical work experience
but no raise) after two years and managers the following is necessary for non-MBA hires. A practicing lawyer in
year. After three to seven more years, managers can his pre-Bain life says, “They don’t single industry hires
expect to be promoted to partner. This progression is out. You’re given the same respect as an MBA.”
a year or two faster than the track at some other firms, It’s not just growth that has sent Bain to industry
and Bainies say that the flatter organization is a good for a larger percentage of its recruits; it’s the demand
thing. Consultants who leave Bain typically do so after for expertise. “In certain industries clients really want
the two-year mark, or sometimes after three years if some experience—in health care, for example, or
ON ThE JOB

they feel they’ve missed a promotion cycle. IT,” says one Bainie. “We tap into the industry pool
for more numbers and sometimes their expertise
OppOrTuNITIEs FOr summEr really does help out. You can’t use your generalists to
INTErNs approach 100 percent [of the companies].”
Bain hires a cadre of students between their first and
second years of business school to work as summer INTErNaTIONal OppOrTuNITIEs
ThE WOrk placE

associates. These temporary employees can expect to get Bain expanded its international operations rapidly
a good taste of the consulting lifestyle and work; to start following the establishment of its first and largest
off many have training in Cape Cod. Most important, office abroad, in London, in 1979. Its 28 offices
though, they have a chance to check out what it’s like abroad greatly outnumber the eight in the U.S., and
to work at Bain. Undergrads between their junior and Bain’s presence on the international scene continues to
senior years can come in as associate consultant interns. grow. Although some international offices are small,
employing 75 to 100 professionals each, those in
OppOrTuNITIEs FOr mIDcarEEr London, Singapore, and Madrid rival the largest U.S.
caNDIDaTEs aND NON-mBas offices (Boston and New York) in size. And although
gETTINg hIrED

To keep up with its rapid growth over the last few years, the overseas revenue is normally on a par with that of
Bain has hired people outside the consulting industry North America, in 2005 it inched ahead.
to fill some of its midlevel needs—typically managers If you want to work in Europe, you could do
and VPs. Since 2002 it has hired partners from outside worse than Bain: In 2007, the Great Place to Work®
Institute ranked Bain’s Paris office the best workplace
in France, while the Financial Times named Bain
> tIp London and Brussels among the top ten workplaces
Interning at Bain is a great way in the European Union. (See the complete list in the
to land a staff job there. Up to
80 percent of the firm’s summer
May 2, 2007 issue of Financial Times.) In 2006, Bain
interns receive offers of full-time ranked 19th on Great Place to Work®’s list of the 50
rEFErENcE

employment from the company, best German workplaces. After one to three years with
FOr yOur

according to recruiters. the firm, an AC or consultant based in the U.S. has a


pretty good chance of working on an overseas project
or being assigned to a foreign office. According to one

36 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
recruiter, the philosophy at Bain is that “plants grow For most ACs, the training is not only helpful, but
best when they are replanted. Once you’ve joined Bain, also fun. “They try to bring people together from all over
the transfer process is easy.” the world—that’s a common theme,” an insider says.
“Then you break into five- or six-person teams, with a
trainer who’s not from your office. You learn concepts
and analysis tools, and then you have to apply them to

The Firm
Thirty-five percent of associate a client situation. You work really late each night, and
then everyone goes out and parties until 3 a.m.”
consultants take advantage of At the MBA level, the training programs are
Bain’s six-month transfer op- intense but don’t last as long, and the emphasis is
on leadership. New consultants and managers get
portunity to work in London, one week of training in their home offices, and
Singapore, Sydney, and other then a second week of global training in places such
major cities. as Vietnam, Scotland, Canada, Paris, Barcelona,

On the Job
Cancún, and San Francisco. “The training programs
are incredible—you get to meet people from all over
the world,” one consultant says. “I just got back from
a week of consultant training in Prague, so I’m still

Training on a little high.”


The training period is also an opportunity to

The Work place


. establish networks and relationships. One insider
Bain takes pride in its training programs. “Our says, “It’s pretty intense on both fronts—working and
training programs are global, small, team-based—not socializing, too. You pack a lot in.” Another says, “It
sitting in a classroom—and we don’t outsource any of was two of the most intense weeks of my life. I’m still
our training,” says a recruiter. benefiting from the network I developed there.”
AC orientation lasts about three weeks—two and a Although training is said to be very comprehensive,
half weeks on general business concepts and financial “there’s no expectation that you know everything”
math, and a few days working on a research module after completing it, one insider says. Bain offers
for a particular industry. Then, after working for a few workshops on a regular basis in everything marketing

Getting Hired
weeks, all members of a class (people at the same level, to valuing companies to spreadsheet skills. Insiders also
recruited at the same time, regardless of location) attend say the staffing officer (SO)—the person responsible
a rigorous ten-day training course on Cape Cod taught for assigning consultants and ACs to cases—has an
by the “best of the best” senior consultants. important, mentorlike function. The SO works with
New hires from all over the world get in-depth ACs to ensure they’re getting a variety of experiences
management consulting training and work on a from the projects they work on. Bainies are also
different case each night for homework. The emphasis, encouraged to devise and suggest their own training
says one Bainie, is on how to crack a case. The new ideas. One insider says, “You just have to justify why
associates are placed in teams composed of people from you want it, and you can get it done.” Several insiders
different Bain offices. “In my group, I had people from note that the most effective and important training is
REFERENCE

that which occurs after the formal training program,


FOR YOUR

Hong Kong, Atlanta, London, Boston, and Australia,”


one AC says. “You’re all a part of Bain. I’m still in touch when you’re on the job. “You learn the most from the
with some of them.” person sitting next to you or the manager working on
your case,” one says.

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 37


aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

Bain also has an online interactive training one Bainie. “Any job, to me, is a social experience
program called Bain Virtual University, which all of every day. What you’re doing at work is interacting
its employees can access from their desktops. It has all with people. I really click with the types of people
the information from a training course (more than 130 who work at Bain and with the attitudes that people
interactive training modules) and access to important here have.” And it’s not just that Bainies are fun to
videos, linked spreadsheets, and contact information for be around; they’re also very reliable. As one manager
ThE FIrm

Bainies with a particular expertise or project experience. says, “I look at my clients, for example, and look at my
The program features parallel navigation pages, each counterparts there, and I compare the people I have
customized for people at a different level in the firm reporting to me to the people they have reporting to
and linked to sections of interest to those people. If them, and there’s a huge difference. I know that if I
you can’t remember how to carry out a certain type tell my team I need something done, it’s going to get
of analysis, or never really learned it in the first place, done, or they’re going to give it their best shot. That
search the Virtual University. “It’s a refresher course and isn’t always true at a lot of other companies.”
a supplemental training piece,” says one Bainie. The The reason one insider is at Bain—and has stayed
ON ThE JOB

firm also maintains GXC (Global Experience Center), for seven years—is “very simple and very hokey—it’s
which one insider describes as a “reference desk for the people I work with,” she says. “I’m not here
consultants.” Bainies can use the desktop-accessible because I have a great interest in business or because I
network to figure out new strategies, do industry think I can change the world. [Bain is] the best people-
research, and learn about the firm’s work on past cases. collector I’ve ever encountered. And I get to spend my
day solving interesting problems.”
ThE WOrk placE

the InsIde INSIDER SCOOP


“It’s all about the diversity of experience. You

sCoop get to see all sorts of stuff. We have people who,


after two years here, have gone into all advertis-
ing, marketing, finance, equity… While you’re
WhaT EmplOyEEs rEally lIkE here, you do a lot of different things.”
Up with People
Every insider we talk to at Bain says his or her favorite Are You Experienced?
gETTINg hIrED

thing about working at Bain is the people. “The One of everyone’s favorite things about Bain is the
biggest thing, unquestionably, is the people,” says plethora of opportunities that open up when you
leave the place. Part of that is due to the intense,
comprehensive training all Bainies receive and the
subsequent on-the-job experience, which one recruiter
says is “as much as you can handle.” As one insider
says, “It’s a culture that encourages learning. I’ve
learned a ton. You acquire this general-manager tool
kit that allows you to go off and do other things if you
want to.” Part of getting experienced at Bain is the
rEFErENcE

opportunity to travel, and insiders especially love Bain’s


FOr yOur

transfer policy, which allows consultants and senior


ACs the opportunity to spend six months to a year at a
different Bain office, with housing and expenses paid.

38 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
One insider says, “You can go to any office you want as do. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of, but I think
long as they need you there. And they want you to be we’re privileged to be able to work on this quality
proficient in the language.” We hear that the majority of problems. They’re very important issues for the
of ACs take advantage of the transfer opportunities. companies that we work with.” Another says, “I don’t
see how there’s a better job for someone coming out
What Face Time? of school in terms of the questions you get to deal

The Firm
Bainies tell us they appreciate the firm’s unwritten policy with and the size of the problem that’s yours.” We’re
against face time, both in the office and on the client told that Bain’s policy is to push as much of the good
site. “If you’re on the beach, you don’t need to come work as possible down to the AC level. A manager
in,” says one AC, referring to the consulting term for says: “I started out as an AC and I really appreciated it.
not working on a project. “I was talking to a friend at It gave me a lot more exposure and opportunity and
McKinsey the other day, and she told me she was just responsibility than a lot of my contemporaries at other
sitting around the office, doing nothing, because she companies would have gotten.”
wasn’t staffed on a case. I asked her, ‘Then why don’t you

On the Job
just go home?’ And she said, ‘Well, I have to be here.’ At Watch Out!
Bain, we don’t work that way.” A consultant confirms Rah! Rah! Bain
this: “If you’re getting your work done and doing your While many insiders appreciate Bain’s emphasis on
job, nobody’s checking up on you. It’s a climate of trust.” fun and camaraderie, some struggle to keep their life
and work separate. The culture is “very much focused
It’s All About Results on everyone becoming fast friends,” says one Bainie.

The Work place


“Bain’s really committed to giving something positive New recruits need to think about whether they want
to its clients,” says one insider. Bainies say their firm’s their social life to revolve around the company. “I
results-oriented approach means coming up with think that some people really struggle with the fact
concrete, feasible answers for their customers. “I that Bain integrates really closely with the rest of your
feel like the people here are very impact-oriented— life,” says another AC. “A lot of people feel pressure to
everything centers around how we can help the client,” attend all these events, but I feel that you can be just as
a consultant says. “We might come up with the best successful without going to them.” Achieving the right
solution, but then we have to ask if it’s realistic for the balance is something all Bainies have to figure out for
client. If the answer’s no, then we need to come up themselves. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” another one says.

Getting Hired
with another option.” “You really have to be good at managing your work life
and your personal life, and if you’re not careful, you
INSIDER SCOOP can kind of fall out of balance with that. You can’t sit
“ACs have to become integral players on the back and let things happen.”
team. It’s not like some other firms, where the
bulk of the rank and file is business school guys Steep Curve Ahead
with a small pool of analysts who get farmed- Bain prides itself on having a “one-firm culture,”
out work, and the B-school guy tells the analyst, and there is a distinctly Bain way of doing things—a
‘I want you to run these numbers.’” Bain way of research, a Bain way of creating slides,
a Bain way of approaching a problem. In order to
REFERENCE

My Work Matters understand the “Bain way,” staff members must face
FOR YOUR

Bainies are passionate about their work. Asked to the learning curve: “There’s certainly a steep learning
name one of his favorite things about Bain, one curve in consulting. We’re working on hard, complex
insider says it’s “the quality of the work we get to problems,” says an insider. In offices that use the two-

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 39


At a glance
Bain & Company

case model, the curve might be even steeper. Says one and often extremely urgent. It’s short deadlines, big
insider: “There’s a definite learning curve to balancing stakes, so that brings a lot of pressure and the pressure
two cases. It probably took me a year to really get does increase over time.” Personal lives sometimes get
used to it.” put on hold, which may be especially burdensome for
consultants with young children or those who want to
Sharpen Those Spreadsheets develop a social life outside of work. Since schedules
The Firm

Bain’s approach to consulting relies heavily on data- can be unpredictable, for some Bainies it’s difficult to
intensive models and analytical research. There’s no commit to activities outside the office.
con game here: New recruits might think Bainies
simply whiteboard strategies and then sell those to INSIDER SCOOP
clients, but they would be wrong. “This job is too tough not to love. It expects a lot
from you, and some level of emotional engage-
INSIDER SCOOP ment as well. If you didn’t love it, it would be
“We create a lot of primary research, and we’re tremendously unpleasant.”
On the Job

quite rigorous—more rigorous than our clients


would demand—in terms of methodologies.”

Learning how to apply Bain’s results-oriented ethos


can be tricky. Bain’s data-driven approach doesn’t
always mesh with the approach the client takes. “It’s
The Work place

really surprising to see how these multibillion dollar


companies operate—a lot of top managers make
decisions on the basis of gut instinct, not data,” says
one AC. “A big part of our job is satisfying the client,
so the data can’t be the end-all answer; we have to find
the answer somewhere between Bain’s data analysis and
the client’s gut feeling.”
So if you see yourself using more shoot-from-the-
hip tactics, you might prefer another firm. Likewise,
Getting Hired

if you prefer the consultant-as-coach role to the


consultant-as-business-wizard role, you’ll probably
get more of that type of work at one of the hard-core
reengineering or operations firms.

Work = Life
Although there are more time-intensive careers
(investment banking, anyone?), the consulting lifestyle
is arduous. “Working 11 hours a day is a long time,”
says one insider. “It sounds low, especially compared
REFERENCE

to banking jobs, but it’s harder than you think. You’re


FOR YOUR

working 8 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m., every single day. It’s


tough.” Another insider says, “Typically, clients are
engaging you for things that are extremely important

40 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
FOR YOUR
At a glance The Firm On the Job The Work place Getting Hired REFERENCE

41
WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE
Getting Hired

5
The Recruiting Process................ 44
On-the-Record Recruiter .
Interview..................................... 45
The Interviewer’s Checklist......... 47
Interviewing Tips........................ 47
Grilling Your Interviewer............ 48
At a glance
Bain & Company

The whether they can do the analytical part. On the client


or team side, we look for people who are articulate,

Recruiting driven, natural leaders, team players, and have a strong


interest in Bain.”

Process One associate consultant (AC) offers this good


advice for those interviewing with Bain: “People should
The Firm

ask about the paths and backgrounds of the people


Applicants to Bain must apply online at www. they’re interviewing with.” In some cases this may help,
bain.com. If you’re an undergrad or grad student especially if you want to work with people who are
at one of the U.S. schools where Bain recruits— involved in different things. “I would try to get a feel
California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, for what people do outside of work. A job is 50 percent
and Texas are common hiring locations—check the about a job and 50 percent about your life.” (Of course,
firm’s site for information on Bain’s recruiting process that breakdown will differ for every applicant.)
at your campus and how to apply for an interview
On the Job

when Bain recruiters come to town. If your school is Undergraduates


not among those listed on the Bain site, you can still Bain goes fishing for a large number of ACs at the top
apply by completing the online application. undergraduate schools around the country, especially
Although the interview process does vary by office, those located near a domestic office. The best way to
generally Bain runs prospective employees through the get an offer is to go through the standard on-campus
standard consulting gauntlet. Here’s what you can expect: interview. Go to Bain’s website, www.bain.com, and
First round: Two case interviews, usually click on “Join Bain.” From there you’ll be able to find
The Wor place

conducted by one or two managers or VPs. important recruiting information that’s specific to your
Second round: Held on or off campus (perhaps school. Contact your career center or the closest Bain
at the office where the candidate wants to work), this office to find out if and when Bain will be coming. If
round is longer than the first. It also includes two Bain doesn’t recruit at your school, or if you decide to
case interviews, along with an experience/behavioral/ sign up too late in the game, there’s still a chance you
resume interview. could be hired off-season due to a sudden need for
Third round: In some cases (most often for offices people. Each summer Bain also hires students who are
outside the U.S.), candidates may be asked to sit between their junior and senior years in college for an
Getting Hired

through a third round of interviews. associate-consultant internship.


Bain’s recruiting process is rumored to be more
demanding and time-consuming than at other firms; MBAs and Other Grad Students
one recruiter, however, claims there is no difference. Each year Bain hires a new class of consultants from
Still, it’s best to bone up on those all-important top grad schools around the country. This includes
cases, and remember that your sensitivity to group a smaller number of PhD and advanced-degree
dynamics is being evaluated along with your comfort candidates who have demonstrable analytical work
with numbers and razor-sharp analytical skills. experience. The precise number of new hires varies
“We look for a mix,” says one recruiter. “You have depending on need and available candidates, but
to have the analytic [ability] so you can crack the it’s usually in the hundreds. Although Bain extends
REFERENCE

case and communication skills so that we can work offers to many of its former employees and summer
FOR YOUR

collaboratively with our clients. We also look for associates, quite a few slots remain for unfamiliar faces.
people who are passionate and down-to-earth. So To increase your chances, some insiders recommend
we emphasize both of those, but the first hurdle is getting a post-MBA job at Bain by going through the

44 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
aT a glaNcE
summer recruiting process. Even if you don’t get an
immediate offer (though there’s a great chance that on-the-reCord
you will), you’ll be known when you apply for a job
the following year. First-year MBAs from top business reCruIter
schools face stiff competition and a tough interview
process before being chosen for the ten-week summer IntervIew

ThE FIrm
associate program.
We.designed.the.on-the-record recruiter interview
to get you inside the recruiter’s head to reveal the
questions you need answered to ace your interviews.

What do you look for in candidates’


resumes?
We’re looking for work experience that demonstrates

ON ThE JOB
problem-solving skills and a bias for driving results.
It’s important to quantify what you did in a particular
role to show a focus on results. Experience with well-
known companies is much less important than what
the candidate has accomplished. For example, we
interview a large number of candidates who have been

ThE WOrk placE


in the startup world. We look for team experience and
academic achievement as other indicators of problem-
solving skills. We’re also looking for demonstrable
leadership experience, whether at work or through
extracurricular activities.

What are immediate turnoffs on a resume?


mIDcarEEr caNDIDaTEs There are very few immediate turnoffs. However,
Bain has been making an increasing number of I do prefer crisp, clear descriptions of prior work

gETTINg hIrED
midcareer (industry-specific) hires. Most of this experience—some resumes could be much more
hiring is need-based. You’ll likely have better luck to the point.
with your application if the firm has recently booked
a couple of projects in your industry, so keep your Which interviewing methods does your
ear to the ground and act fast if you hear that Bain firm use?
is hot on a project. We use a combination of case interviews (one based
Demonstrable analytical work experience is on actual Bain projects and a mini-case based on the
necessary. As with entry-level candidates, the firm interviewee’s experience) and experience interviews.
is looking primarily to see whether you have the We’ve found that the case interviews are a good test for
intellectual horsepower to handle consulting work whether someone will enjoy and do well in the Bain
rEFErENcE

and whether you fit with the organization. Bain environment—it’s an opportunity to engage in a real
FOr yOur

prefers that industry candidates send their resumes business situation. If a candidate truly enjoys this type
to the office where they want to work, not to the of discussion, he or she is much more likely to thrive
nearest office. in our environment.

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 45


aT a glaNcE
Bain & Company

How do you decide which candidates What’s the most effective way for a candi-
advance in the interviewing process? date to follow up after an interview?
It’s always a difficult decision, because we speak with so We try very hard to get back to candidates quickly
many very qualified candidates. However, we’re looking (in a few days), so there is seldom time or need for
for the new breed of business leaders, the candidates follow-up.
committed to creating business value. We make the
ThE FIrm

decision based on our read of the candidate’s desire and What are the qualities necessary for suc-
ability to contribute to client value addition and our cess at your firm?
team culture. The case discussions are a critical input Problem-solving skills, a nose for value, commitment
to this—we’re looking for someone who can logically to driving that value, creativity and skill in overcoming
structure a business problem, develop a hypothesis, roadblocks to value creation, and a desire to build a
and articulate how he or she would find an answer for fun, successful Bain team and business. A tall order,
the client. In addition to getting to an answer, some but over the years we’ve hired outstanding people who
assessment of how practical that answer is, or how are driving Bain’s tremendous success and growth in
ON ThE JOB

difficult it will be to implement, is important, because the consulting market.


it shows a practical business sense that drives value
creation and sustained business successes.

What’s the biggest mistake a candidate can


make in an interview?
Again, there are very few outright mistakes. It’s very
ThE WOr placE

important to be yourself, have fun, and relax. While


this is obviously easier said than done, we’re looking for
people who can enjoy the process. The other common
mistakes are the blind application of a framework
to the case without thinking through what the key
issues are in this situation, and spending too much
time asking questions and developing hypotheses
versus driving to recommendations for the client.
gETTINg hIrED

Although it’s expected that the candidate will present


a few hypotheses early in the interview, the candidate’s
approach should help to develop the required facts
quickly to disqualify hypotheses along the way. In the
end, you must get to a solution that’s implementable.

What’s the best way to break into the inter-


view cycle if you’re not on campus?
We’re always interested in great candidates and would
encourage those not on campus to apply online at
rEFErENcE

www.bain.com.
FOr yOur

46 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
The Interviewing
Interviewer’s Tips
Checklist 1. As with interviews in any industry, do your

The Firm
homework. Know what Bain does, how it’s
Insiders say that a candidate’s analytical prowess is different from the competition, and why you
the most important factor in the hiring decision. The want to work there. “Do your due diligence—do
case interview is the critical tool for testing analytics, your research on Bain. Bain prides itself on
and interviewers use it to evaluate communication having a unique culture and a unique approach
skills, action orientation, and a focus on results. to consulting. It’s good coming into interviews to
The interviewer seeks evidence of achievement and have a sense of what makes Bain unique,” says an
leadership in past work and academic experience. On insider. “Too often, you receive a stock answer of

On the Job
an interview assessment sheet, each candidate is ranked why somebody wants to do consulting. It’s always
on a five-point scale for qualities such as “confidence,” much better in the interview to have somebody
“ability to prioritize key business issues,” and “potential who has a sense of what Bain’s value proposition is
client impact.” Bainies especially like to see evidence of and what differentiates us from competitors.”
the candidate’s ability to be a team player. Recruiters
look for the following traits during the interview: 2. Don’t get fooled by the somewhat informal nature

The Work place


of the interview. It may seem like a conversation
[ CHECKLIST] with a friend, but remember, Bain is looking
for pragmatic self-starters who are focused on
o Passion and drive results. “In terms of structure, the Bain interview
o Excellent grades (you won’t be the only 4.0 is very open,” says an insider. “It’s definitely more
the interviewer has ever seen, guaranteed!) of a discussion, although the challenge is to be
o High level of motivation
o Outstanding interpersonal skills
discussion-based and personable while driving to
o Strong sense of self (don’t allow yourself to the answer and keeping a structured approach.
be bullied) Working with numbers and recommendations
Keen business intuition

Getting Hired
o based on impact is always good. Always drive to
o High energy level
o Entrepreneurial spirit the answer, summarize what you have, and come
o Team player up with a solution.”
o Professional demeanor
o Maturity 3. Be enthusiastic and energetic in the interview.
o Creative perspective
o Diverse experiences Insiders say that a passion for anything (academic
o Down-to-earth attitude or nonacademic) is good; recruiters want to see
that you have strong interests and that you can
share your enthusiasm. “Highlight anything
that makes you unique,” says one AC. “There’s a
REFERENCE

strong company culture here, and it’s important


FOR YOUR

to emphasize your social skills. You need to show


that you’ve done more than studied and made
good grades.” Folks who “just sit there and act as

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 47


At a glance
Bain & Company

if they should be hired” because of their stellar


credentials are almost sure to get dinged. Related Grilling Your
to enthusiasm are strong interpersonal skills.
Team players are essential in consulting, and you
can be sure your interviewers are giving you the
Interviewer
Cleveland Airport test: What would it be like to This is your chance to turn the tables and find out
The Firm

spend a six-hour flight delay with this person at what you want to know. We strongly encourage you
the Cleveland Airport? “If you can keep a good to spend time preparing questions of your own. In the
sense of humor while keeping in mind that you meantime, the samples below should get you started.
should be structured and analytical, you’ve got a The “Rare” questions are meant to be boring and
good chance of making it,” an insider says. innocuous, while the “Well-Done” ones will help you
put the fire to your interviewer’s feet.
4. During the resume portion of the interview,
remember to listen carefully to questions before Rare
On the Job

answering them fully yet succinctly. The last thing • What are the differences between the San
an interviewer wants is a candidate with a well- Francisco and Boston offices [or X and Y offices]?
rehearsed spiel that fails to take into account the
fact that there’s another person in the room. • How much interaction is there among people at
different seniority levels at Bain?
5. Bain will look at your previous work with an eye
to how it illustrates the skills it’s looking for. Be • How are projects staffed?
The Wor place

prepared for behavioral questions, such as “Tell


me about a time when you were a leader of a • What are the advantages and disadvantages of
group and you didn’t agree with its solution— working on two cases at once?
what did you do?”
• Tell me about the project that was your biggest
6. “Don’t get psyched out about the case success.
interviews—it’s not rocket science,” says
one insider. “There’s not some assumed level • Tell me about a project that, in hindsight, could
Getting Hired

of knowledge. You just have to pick apart have gone better if done differently.
problems, ask questions, and take cues from your
interviewer.” Hard-core practice is the secret to • What do you like most about working at Bain?
mastering case problems, which are at the heart
of a Bain interview. The interviewer wants to • What is this office’s client mix?
hear your answers and see how you handle the
pressure. You’ll be a lot calmer if you’re familiar Medium
with how case interviews are structured—more • What percentage of your business comes from
so if you’ve practiced a couple yourself. All of the your largest clients?
top firms—including Bain—host case-cracking
REFERENCE

workshops during recruiting season. • How do you make sure that your work is results-
FOR YOUR

focused?

48 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
• What is management’s strategic vision for the
organization?

• What are the advantages and disadvantages of not


spending more time at the client’s location?

The Firm
• How does Bain make sure that its
recommendations get implemented?

• What is Bain doing to increase its workforce


diversity?

On the Job
“The challenge is to be discus-
sion-based and personable
while driving to the answer
and keeping a structured
approach.”

The Work place


Well-Done
• What would happen if some of your largest
clients left at the same time?

• How does Bain sell itself to prospective clients

Getting Hired
when so many of its staff members are generalists?

• What grade would you give Bain’s management


team?

• How tolerant is Bain of different styles and


personalities?

• Does Bain’s emphasis on long-term relationships


jeopardize the firm’s objectivity?
REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

For additional preparation, check outWetFeet’s Ace Your Case® series of


Insider Guides. Visit www.wetfeet.com for more information.

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 49


For Your
Reference

6
Consulting-Speak........................ 52
Recommended Reading.............. 54
For Further Study....................... 55
Key Numbers and People............ 55
.
At a glance
Bain & Company

Consulting- bottom line.” (The top line is sales; the bottom line is
profit.) “Business design is about what you do, how

Speak you gear up the troops. It has everything to do with


who you hire and what they do. It’s your channel, your
product, how you execute your offering.”
To help you prepare for your Accenture interviews—
The Firm

and for a possible career in consulting—we’ve asked indu- Case interview


stry insiders to share the most up-to-date consulting jargon. In a case interview, your interviewer will give you a
set of facts and ask you a question to analyze how
2x2 you structure a problem, think it through, and
Pronounced “two by two,” this is a favorite consulting ultimately come up with a solution. Case questions
tool used to analyze a number of items along two can be numerical (“How many dimes are currently in
dimensions. It’s essentially a graph with X and Y axes circulation?”) or business-related (“Suppose a client
that cross in the middle, creating four sectors. Don’t asked you to figure out why his or her business is
On the Job

be surprised if you’re asked to produce one of these experiencing an unusual decline in sales and a severe
during your interview. cash flow problem. How would you go about it?”.
They can also just be wacky (“If Dannon, Yoplait, and
Benchmark Colombo yogurts came to life, what kind of people
Another standard-issue item from the consultant’s would they be?”).
toolbox, a benchmark is a level of performance or
output against which you can evaluate the performance Change management
The Wor place

or output of something else. A benchmark study is an Here’s a $5 buzzword that sounds like it’s making
analysis of the performance of a number of companies things clear, when really it’s just muddying an
along specified dimensions. For example, a software firm already fuzzy concept. Most firms use this term to
might hire a consulting firm to do a benchmark study on refer to a specific type of consulting work dedicated
how much its competitors spend on customer service. to such things as helping a company restructure its
organization and cope with the human problems that
BHAG accompany such an effort.
Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This buzzword comes from
Getting Hired

the book Built to Last (see next entry). Convergence


The merging of the telecommunications, computer,
Built to Last and media industries. Think YouTube. Think iPhone.
A book in which the authors, James C. Collins and Jerry Think Amazon Unbox. Think Media Center PC.
I. Porras, destroy the myth that the core product is more
important than the vision the company espouses. The Core competencies
term is now widely used to describe a company with a Things a company does best.
strong culture based on a core ideology or identity. More
loosely, it refers to companies that want to be around for Customer relationship management (CRM)
many decades or centuries, not just a few years. Communications technology designed to help companies
REFERENCE

collect, store, and analyze customer information.


FOR YOUR

Business design
A consultant’s definition: “For a company, it’s not
about growing your top line, it’s about growing your

52 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
Deliverable work with clients to make sure their expensive analyses
The product or service you give (deliver) to the client. and recommendations ultimately are implemented.
If you promise an analysis of shipping costs, for
instance, that’s your deliverable. Deliverables typically On the beach
come with dates (when you will deliver). Any period of time during which you aren’t staffed on
a project. You won’t necessarily see any sunshine, but

The Firm
Engagement/project/study/case/job you won’t have to be anyplace either, so there’s a chance
These are all different ways in which consulting firms you’ll be able to leave the office early, do your laundry,
refer to a specific project. Interviewers often note pay your bills, and maybe even see your honey.
which term you use—just to see whether you’ve read
the company literature. Using the wrong word isn’t an Operations
automatic ding, but you’ll impress your interviewer if All the day-to-day tasks associated with the running of
you get it right. a company. In a manufacturing company, this includes
the buying and processing of raw materials, as well as

On the Job
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) the sale and distribution of the final product. Many
An IT system designed to streamline business consulting firms do a big business providing operations
operations by connecting human resources, billing, advice. At the simplest level, this just means they help
inventory, and other departments. A popular clients run their businesses better.
consulting project during the ’90s, ERP spurred
double-digit annual growth for many firms. Outsourcing

The Work place


To reduce overhead, many companies are turning
Framework to contractors to provide functions and services
Basically, a framework is any kind of structure you traditionally done in-house. Popular candidates for
can use to view a problem. It can be as simple as outsourcing include accounting services, marketing
“The company’s problems stem from both internal communications, payroll management, and data
and external factors.” Or it can be something more processing. Increasingly, public companies are turning
MBA-ish, like Porter’s Five Forces. Consultants love to these services because they create stable revenue
frameworks, and the more you use them (to a point), flows, which their investors like.
the more analytic you’ll sound.

Getting Hired
Pay-for-performance
Growth Billing based on performance rather than hours.
In the late 1990s, most firms shifted from
reengineering—which often meant downsizing—to Presentation
growth. Growth involved taking a small, private In the traditional consulting project, the presentation
startup from, say, 25 or 30 employees to more than was the means by which a consulting firm shared
500 employees and going public. its insights and recommendations with the client
company. The client’s top management team would
Implementation assemble in a boardroom, and a partner or case team
These days, nobody admits to doing only pure strategy manager would spin through dozens of overhead slides
REFERENCE

work. The reason? Too many consulting firms have displaying all the analyses the firm had completed.
FOR YOUR

been criticized for leaving behind a big stack of slides Although the overhead slideshow may seem outdated,
that never resulted in any action by the client. As a it’s still a popular drill at most firms (the overhead
result, almost all consulting firms talk about how they slides have simply turned into PowerPoints).

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 53


At a glance
Bain & Company

Reengineering
Reengineering lost its cachet in the mid-’90s. In its Recommended
purest sense, a reengineering project was supposed
to involve a complete rethinking of a company’s
operations from the ground up.
Reading
Bain’s published insigts
The Firm

Shareholder value analysis Check out his section of the Bain Website to find
The goal of many companies is to enhance their value publications authored by Bain consultants. Bone up on
to shareholders, and they engage consulting firms to these if you really want to impress in your interviews
help them do it. There are all sorts of ways, proprietary and find out what Bainies are thinking about.
and not, to analyze shareholder value. Source: www.bain.com/bainweb/publications/publications_overview.asp

True north Unstoppable


The place you want to reach. If you’re heading true Bain partner and global strategy expert Chris Zook,
On the Job

north, you’re going in the right direction. author of Profit from the Core (2001) and Beyond the
Core: Expand Your Market Without Abandoning Your
Value chain analysis Roots (2004) has a third book out titled Unstoppable:
An analysis of all the processes that go into a product, Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel
from the gathering of raw materials to the delivery of the Profitable Growth (2007). Building on the ideas
final product; ideally, each stage adds value to the product. from his previous books (he has begun referring to
the three as “the core trilogy’), Zook discusses how
The Wor place

Virtual office/hoteling managers can redefine their core business by looking


Sexy terms for an office setup in which nobody has a within their organizations to find unutilized assets for
personal desk or office. Means you could be hanging new growth.
out with the clerks at Kinko’s.
“Business Model”
White-space opportunity While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney,
A money-making opportunity in an area you aren’t ex-head of Bain, is opposed to civil unions and gay
set up to make money in. Think of it as an unbridged marriages, his old company is offering domestic-
Getting Hired

gap between what you do and what others do, or an partner benefits and forbidding discrimination based
untapped source of growth. on sexual orientation. It may be a charged issue,
but companies are finding that extending benefits
to gay workers and taking an active stance against
discrimination are actually good for business.
Source: Steve Bailey, The Boston Globe, February 18, 2004

“Skin in the Game”


What does a consulting firm do when its clients can’t
afford to pay its fees up front? Increasingly, consulting
REFERENCE

companies are “putting skin in the game,” or taking


FOR YOUR

at least part of their fees in the form of equity (a


practice Bain pioneered), success fees, or their client
company’s future savings. It seems to work well on

54 W E T F E E T I N SIDER GUIDE
At a glance
both sides: The client company’s risk is lessened, and downside (unfamiliarity, technical kinks, lack of
the consulting firm often ends up with more money personal element) of the unorthodox effort.
than it could have gotten the old way. Source: Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2007

Source: Daniel Lyons, Forbes, February 16, 2004

“Romney’s Fortunes Tied to Business


“Gap Widens Between Actual and Expected Riches”

The Firm
MBA Comp” The New York Times reveals how former presidential
This article discusses how the rise in competition candidate Mitt Romney made his fortune by helping
among MBAs hasn’t led to the increase in base salaries build Bain Capital into a powerhouse private equity
and bonuses that some prospective hires expected— firm. Originally scared to take on a leadership role in
they’re up only 2 percent from the previous year. the developmental stages of Bain Capital, Romney
Research indicates that new MBAs choose their jobs eventually made a fortune that has fueled his ventures
for reasons other than money, though, and most can into politics.
expect multiple offers.

On the Job
Source: David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times, June 3, 2008

Source: Consultants News, March 2006

“The 10 Best Consulting Firms to Work For,


Aligning the Stars: How to Succeed When 2006”
Professionals Drive Results Here’s proof that Bain lives up to its PR claims that it’s
Jay W. Lorsch and Thomas J. Tierney (Harvard a great place to work: Bainies say that morale is high,
Business School Press, 2002). the work is stimulating, and the company’s people-

The Work place


Providing insights into the success of Bain itself, friendly policies are top-notch.
Aligning the Stars discusses the crucial need to Source: Consulting magazine, http://www.consultingmag.com/categories/
retain star employees in a professional services firm. Rankings/Best-Firms-to-Work-For/Data-Center/
Recognizing that people are the competitive advantage
in such a firm, the authors regard employees as more
crucial to success than the employers themselves. The
authors discuss how an organization should align
itself to hang on to star talent. And, of course, there
is a pyramid diagram: This one outlines the interplay

Getting Hired
between strategy, people systems, structure and
governance, culture, and leadership.

“Top 25 Consultants: Russ Hagey, Bain & Co.”


Bain puts such a heavy emphasis on its people it has
the leader of the nonprofit group in Los Angeles
doubling as its Chief Talent Officer.
Source: Consulting magazine, July 15, 2008

“A Job Interview You Don’t Have to Show


REFERENCE

Up For”
FOR YOUR

Bain is just one of the companies that experimented


with Second Life, a virtual recruiting program.
Explained are the benefits (convenience, price) and

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 55


At a glance
Bain & Company

For Further Key Numbers


Study and People
• First, check out www.bain.com. 2006 Revenue
The Firm

2006 revenue worldwide ($M): $1,310


• After you find out which industries are served 1-year growth rate (%): 15.9
by the office to which you want to apply, hit the Sources: Hoovers, WetFeet analysis
library and scour industry journals for the latest
trends in those industries. It’ll help if you know Key People
your stuff before the interview. Orit Gadiesh, chairman
Steve Ellis, worldwide managing director
• A general resource for information about the Leonard Banos, vice president and chief financial
On the Job

consulting industry is Consultants News, published officer


by Kennedy Information. For more information
about this and other Kennedy publications, visit Recruiting Contact
www.consultingcentral.com or the Kennedy For recruiter contact information, visit the office-
Information website: www.kennedyinfo.com. specific Websites found here: www.bain.com/bainweb/
contact.asp
• Visit www.wetfeet.com for more information
The Wor place

about a number of consulting firms, their jobs, Major Offices


and recruiting. And for help with your case Bain & Company has a network of 38 offices in 25
interviews, check out the Ace Your Case series of countries across six continents. For a complete listing
Insider Guides, available from the site. of offices, go to www.bain.com and click on “Offices.”

• Reading Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Wall


Street Journal, and The New York Times is a great
way to stay up to date on the latest events and
Getting Hired

issues that management consultants address,


and will arm you with plenty of information
for your interviews.
REFERENCE
FOR YOUR

56 W E T F E E T I N S IDER GUIDE
SIDER
At a glance
WETFEET INSIDER GUIDES series
Ace Your Case - Consulting Interviews Consulting Careers
Ace Your Case® I: Consulting Interviews, 3rd ed. 25 Top Consulting Firms
Ace Your Case® II: Mastering the Case Interview Careers in Management Consulting

The Firm
Ace Your Case® III: Market-Sizing Questions Careers in Specialized Consulting: Information Technology
Ace Your Case® IV: Business Strategy Questions Consulting for PhDs, Lawyers, and Doctors
Ace Your Case® V: Business Operations Questions
Consulting Companies
Interviewing Accenture
Ace Your Interview! Bain & Company
Beat the Street®: Investment Banking Interviews Booz & Co.
Beat the Street® II: I-Banking Interview Practice Guide Boston Consulting Group
The Wharton MBA Case Interview Study Guide: Volume I Deloitte Consulting

On the Job
The Wharton MBA Case Interview Study Guide: Volume II McKinsey & Company

Resumes & Cover Letters Career Management


Killer Consulting Resumes Be Your Own Boss
Killer Cover Letters & Resumes Changing Course, Changing Careers
Killer Investment Banking Resumes Finding the Right Career Path
Negotiating Your Salary and Perks
Job Hunting Networking Works!

The Work place


Getting Your Ideal Internship Survival Guide for Women in Business
Job Hunting A to Z: Landing the Job You Want
Job Hunting in New York City Industries and Careers: General
Job Hunting in San Francisco Industries and Careers for Engineers
Industries and Careers for MBAs
Financial Services Careers Industries and Careers for Undergraduates
25 Top Financial Services Firms Million-Dollar Careers
Careers in Accounting Green Careers
Careers in Asset Management and Retail Brokerage
Careers in Investment Banking Industries and Careers: Specific
Careers in Venture Capital Careers in Advertising and Public Relations

Getting Hired
Careers in Pharmaceuticals
Financial Services Companies Careers in Brand Management
Deutsche Bank Careers in Consumer Products
Deutsche Bank in Asia Careers in Entertainment and Sports
Goldman Sachs Group Careers in Health Care
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Careers in Human Resources
Merrill Lynch & Co. Careers in Information Technology
Morgan Stanley Careers in Marketing
UBS AG Careers in Nonprofits and Government Agencies
Careers in Real Estate
INTERNATIONAL CAREERS Careers in Retail
REFERENCE

25 Top Global Leaders Careers in Sales


FOR YOUR

A.P. Moller-Maersk Careers in Supply Chain Management


The International MBA Student’s Guide to the U.S. Job Search

WETFEET INSIDER GUIDE 57


>>Wouldn’t you like to be a Bainie,
too? Bain enjoys a solid reputation, a top-notch client pool, and
an enthusiastic culture, making it one of the most respected strategy
consulting houses in the world. Insiders say the firm cultivates a
social working environment and talk almost unanimously about how

Illustration by mckibillo
much they enjoy the time they spend with their coworkers. As one of
the Big Three strategy consulting firms, Bain is an excellent place to
launch or advance your consulting career.

TURN TO THIS WETFEET


INSIDER GUIDE TO EXPLORE
★ HOW BAIN STACKS UP AGAINST THE ★ WHAT EMPLOYEES LOVE MOST AND LIKE
COMPETITION. LEAST ABOUT WORKING AT BAIN.

★ WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN ★ ABOUT AVERAGE STARTING SALARIES FOR
ASSOCIATE CONSULTANT OR A CONSULTANT UNDERGRADS AND MBAS, BONUSES, PERKS,
IS LIKE. AND TRAVEL EXPECTATIONS.

★ ABOUT THE FAMOUS BAIN CULTURE. ★ WHAT THE RECRUITING PROCESS ENTAILS,
WHAT THE RECRUITERS ARE LOOKING FOR,
★ HOW THE FIRM IS ORGANIZED, FROM AND WHAT TIPS BAIN INSIDERS OFFER TO
TOP TO BOTTOM. HELP YOU ACE YOUR INTERVIEW.

WetFeet has earned a strong reputation among college


graduates and career professionals for its series of highly
credible, no-holds-barred Insider Guides. WetFeet’s inves-
tigative writers get behind the annual reports and corporate
PR to tell the real story of what it’s like to work at specific
companies and in different industries. www.WetFeet.com

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