Bain & Co. is arguably America’s top employer.
The Boston-based management consulting firm frequently lands the No. 1 spot on national workplace rankings, including Glassdoor’s 2014 list of “Best Places To Work” and Vault’s 2015 “Best To Work For In Consulting” ranking.
“Our people tell us that it’s a unique combination of two things that makes Bain so special,” says Keith Bevans, a Bain partner and head of the firm’s global consultant recruiting.
“First, they are energized by the impact they create. For our people, the excitement they get from helping top executives solve some of their most difficult problems is tremendously rewarding,” he explains. “And second, they believe that our culture is very supportive of their professional and personal growth.”
Bevans says each employee at Bain is committed to the success and development of everyone else. “This happens through the mentorship, training, and other efforts we do as a firm. That combination of the impact we have and our supportive culture is what makes us a great place to work.”
Bain currently employs about 6,000 consultants in 51 offices globally. “We are continuing to grow that team to support the tremendous success we’ve been having around the world,” Bevans says. This year, the company plans to hire over 400 new people.
We asked Bevans what it takes to land one of those highly coveted positions, which pays upwards of $US120,000 a year, according to salary reviews on Glassdoor.
“For our consulting staff, we’re looking for individuals that demonstrate several characteristics that will help them succeed at Bain,” he says.
1. Analytical skills.
The company looks for people who have a demonstrated “significant analytic capability,” he explains. “They come from a variety of backgrounds, but the ability to solve complex problems is a common trait.”
2. Strong communication and leadership skills.
Successful candidates have the ability to explain complex concepts in a crisp, clear manner to senior executives and front-line managers in a way that motivates them to act, says Bevans.
3. Ability to be a team player.
“Everyone at Bain is a team player,” he says. “The people that choose to join the company are committed to the success of the team, and every member of the team.”
Bain hires people who are passionate about life. “We look for people that are excited about what we do. They are enthusiastic about tackling tough problems for some of the most influential companies in the world. They get energy from working with like-minded peers,” Bevans explains.
“We also look for people that know they are experts in certain areas, but are also willing to learn from those around them — including our clients,” he says. “We look for people that are willing to be coached and be coaches.”
To figure out if you’ve got what it takes, hiring managers at Bain use “case interviews.”
This is where each candidate uses their own personal case experience to describe a problem their client was facing, and the hiring manager engages the candidate in a discussion about how they’d address it.
“During the discussion, the interviewer will introduce new data and insights to see how the candidates can adapt,” Bevans explains. “At the end, the candidate will make a practical recommendation on what they would do. Each case interview is unique because it is based on each interviewee’s personal client experience.”
Bevans says there are four things Bain’s recruiters and hiring managers look for in the case interviews they give consulting candidates. They are:
1. The ability to break large, complex problems into manageable components.
“The best candidates can frame the problem into discrete components that can be tackled one at a time,” he says.
2. Communication skills and the ability to connect with people.
“Strong candidates often show us that they are able to speak clearly, confidently, and even stay calm and poised while working through a challenging interview. When this goes well, it feels a lot more like a business discussion than an interview.”
“In our culture, we try to support each other in our work each day,” he explains. In an interview, a candidate that can remain open to redirection and subtle advice on how to shift their focus is showing the type of humility that can help them succeed at Bain, Bevans says.
4. A strong, data-driven recommendation.
Based on their analysis and the discussion, Bevans says Bain’s recruiters and hiring managers look for candidates that are willing to take a point of view and make a recommendation to answer the question that was asked at the beginning of the case. There are usually not right or wrong answers. Instead, they are looking to see how a candidate arrives at an answer and supports it with his or her own insights.
“Our process is certainly very competitive, but we are continuing to look for as many great people as we can find,” Bevans concludes.
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