8 insider secrets to Bain recruiting

This information was shared with us by a helpful reader and a former Bain consultant.

Read on for an insider’s perspective on recruiting at a top consulting firm, and the key differences between university recruiting and experienced hire recruiting.

While the information is particular to Bain, many of the methods will be similar across big consulting firms. Boutiques firms will differ, given the limited scale of their hiring.

For the traditional University recruiting route

1. Probably the toughest part of the application process is passing the initial screening process. As an example, a large Bain office would receive around 3000 applications and narrow it down to about 100 for the first interview. So you would have to be at the top 3% to even get the interview.

These acceptance numbers are lower than what we’ve seen (around 5-10%) – but in a recession economy it won’t be far from the truth

2. In deciding who gets the interview, Bain has a points system for all applicants. Key categories include academic, work experience and extracurricular activities. Bain may be the only firm out of the Big 3 to use this method. Those with top academic marks but crappy work experience and extracurricular activities would still get interviews at McKinsey, for example.

We’d have to disagree here. Most companies are looking for diverse qualities in consulting resumes, which usually are a combination of school, work, and miscellany.

3. Whenever there is a borderline case, there is an internal team meeting to discuss who should get the interview. At this stage, the process becomes more random and you might as well flip a coin to find out your fate, because this is subjective and susceptible to many external variables.

Very true. As noted before, networking with consultants can significantly help your chances, especially if you’re a borderline candidate. In addition, producing a high-quality consulting cover letter and resume will also help, because in these internal meetings those are the only 2 pieces of paper they’re reviewing

4. Without very strong academic marks/GPA, or a brand name firm (like a Goldman Sachs internship), it’s an uphill battle. However, interesting experiences that reflect entrepreneurship, distinctive leadership, and the like, will help a candidate standout.

Wonder why so many consultants pursue entrepreneurship? They look for those same qualities in offering first-round interviews

For the lateral and experienced hire route

1. This is extremely difficult given the current economic conditions. In short, they will mainly rely on the supply of undergrads and post-MBA applicants from the traditional recruitment programs.

We wouldn’t be too worried. While most firms have reduced hiring, companies are always looking for talent. You will need to work harder, however.

2. There is no points system like above for the lateral recruits, which could help or hinder a candidate

Depending on your level of experience, the focus shifts progressively to your work experience. Focus on the skills you’ve developed and your accomplishments

3. Somebody on the inside recommending you would double your chances of getting the interview.

The interview with a Booz Allen consultant also covered this point. Let’s just say that networking helps. A LOT

4. If you submit your application via the campus recruiting program and don’t get through, you won’t be blacklisted without a chance of getting in through lateral hiring. Your resume will simply be thrown out, and you’ll have a fresh slate for experienced hire recruiting. However, if you get an interview through campus recruiting, then it is more likely that they will keep your records for the future.

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If this is attempt #2, the key is to tell a different story. Focus on what you’ve done well in the interim.

Want more insider tips on acing the interview process? Our Consulting Interview Bible will break it down for you – from what interviewers are really looking for in the fit interview to how to structure your answers during the case interview, it’s a comprehensive guide to take you all the way from interview to offer! Consider our interview prep or resume prep as well!

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12 Responses to “8 insider secrets to Bain recruiting”

  1. Narasimha

    Hello Sir,

    I have few related queries pertaining to Management Consulting career switching from Engineering Professional area.

    * Is acquiring MBA, a pre-requisite necessity for Consulting career ?

    * Please identify the mainline personality, characteristics, skills and knowledge to be pursued before getting into the Organization / Corporate Functions and commit duties uprightly. What are the pre-requisites in terms of his/her Personality & Characteristics skills towards achieving successful Consulting Career in leading companies ?

    * In this Seven plus Years span of my IT / Embedded Semiconductor Systems Career, I have worked in five companies ( approx one company every year ), with four companies being served abroad ( Taiwan, China, Singapore ). Would this mean anything to the Company Recruiters. Now, at this point of time, is it the right choice / path of applying for
    Associate / Consultant position ? Kindly extend your suggestion on this.

    * Technically, in what ways could I reflect my IT / Embedded Systems Technical background experience with Management / Technology Consulting areas so that large organizations such as McKinsey, Bain, Booz-Allen-Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group and others could identify my potential thereby switching from pure Technical position to Management
    consulting position ?

    * Further, what do you think about the skillsets and points that must be incorporated in resume to strengthen and made suitable in relation with Organization interests ? And what are the implementation specific skills I need to possess [ both in Technical & Personality-wise] before embarking from my present field to Consulting / Strategy / Operations field in companies such as the above mentioned ? I wish to post my profile for
    your reference and I appreciate if you could pin-point certain ‘good’ & ‘to-be-improved’ points.

    Thanks and I look forward to your honest suggestions / ideas.

    Regards, Narasimha

  2. David

    Question for you. I recently graduated from Georgetown University with a Master’s degree (not in Business) this past May. Even though I just graduated a few months ago would I still be put into the pile with experienced hires? And if so…..would my resume be given more leeway for having less job experience? I am only 25 and graduated from undergrad in 2006.


  3. Kevin

    It’s an awkward spot since you graduated more than 3 years ago and have a Masters. I’d say you’d probably be put into the “experienced hires” pile, depending on where your resume was sourced (eg, did you submit it on-campus, directly to a recruiter, etc). Hope that helps.

  4. Alex

    I am going to be graduating from Seton Hall University December of 2009. I will hopefully complete the degree with a perfect 4.0 while having double majored in both Finance & Management. Additionally, I obtained a masters level certificate in Entrepreneurship and a Black belt in Six Sigma. I am an Operations Manager with Allstate for the past 6 years. Not knowing anyone in the consulting industry and not coming from NYU, Harvard, Columbia, etc, I am fnding it very difficult to get in for an interview with anyone.

    I have been at it for almost 6 months now.

    I network with everybody under the sun, I apply for jobs on company sites, I attend seminars, I do everything I am supposed to do, and still, BIG OLD GOOSE EGG?????


  5. Raymond

    What challenges do director level candidates face when attempting to land a role at a top tier firm? Should one expect a horizontal move? Or is it better to target roles at the project leader or consultant level?

    Also, do top tier firms shy away from recruiting professionals with 10+ years of experience that is focused in fields other than management consulting? If so, what are your suggestions to changing perceptions?

    Technically speaking, I have served in a consultant role working as a group director of strategic media planning for 2 of the top 3 global advertising networks over the past 13 years. I am confident the skills I have developed translate well to management consulting as I am experienced advising clients, managing projects, developing new business, leading teams, and directing strategic plan development and execution for Fortune 500 & 1000, start-ups, and turnaround businesses. I’ve also increased my marketability by attaining a dual concentration MBA in Finance and Strategy/Entrepreneurship from the Cox School of Business at SMU while maintaining full time employment.

    I am very interested to land a role with a top tier firm so your advise is greatly appreciated.


  6. Bryan

    Being in Finance for the past ten years, I can tell you all the bad news. Companies such as Bain only hire from top ten schools. Even more than that, they prefer to hire from the Ivy League. If you are not from an Ivy League school, you need to stand out in a big way. This means that you must have been a Rhodes Scholar or a top nationally recognized athlete. My advice is to stop wasting your time and get experience. Even if you begin your career at a low level firm, you can fight your way to the top. If you are the best performer, you will eventually make it, it will just take a bit longer. Degrees at public universitys or second tier private do little to get your foot in the door at firms such as this.

  7. peacerenity

    For the first statistic, you mean 30%, not 3%, right?

  8. Mr Frodo

    Yeah, the 30% you fall in ;-)

  9. Andy

    Hi Kevin,

    I’m interviewing with Bain for their ACI position in a few days. They informed me that the first round would be 2 30 min case studies. I have 3 questions to this.

    1. What type of case interviews will they give me (market sizing/business case/brainteasers or some combination)?

    2. For a first round, I always thought that they would at least have some competency based interviews. However, judging from the email they sent me it looks as if it is entirely case based. Should I even spend a lot of time preparing for behavioral/fit questions?

    3. I applied through early recruiting. Do you know if there is any difference between early and regular recruiting (besides the obvious difference in time)?

    Anyways, thanks in advance. This site has helped me a lot including landing this first round interview.

  10. asphalt

    Hi, I also have this interview coming up. I would appreciate it if you could share your experience

  11. ph45

    I have the same question, I am in a director level role and I am very interested in Management Consulting, but I am concerned about taking a step back from a role and compensation perspective. Any thoughts on Raymond’s question (and mine as well)?

    All the best

  12. Ali

    I think this is generally the case. But there are exceptions. I graduated from Colby (T15 LAC) and we sent a couple guys, myself included, to top consulting firms, ie MBB, accenture etc. The difference is coming out of Harvard you can swing an interview with a decent GPA and quick cover letter. At a more lowly ranked school, it takes academic excellence and networking to nab the summer positions that turn into jobs at the end of college. Just my 2 cents hope it helps someone. Oh and Bain is a fantastic place to work. Challenging, stimulating, fast paced, rewarding, and, I think best of all, friendly. You should all network and send something in! School is important but if you’re great you’re great

Comments are closed.