Bain & Company is one of the world’s leading management consulting firms. Founded in 1973, the firm provides management consulting services to businesses, governments, and non-profit organizations around the globe. Bain is known for its expertise in strategy, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, organizational performance, and marketing, among other areas.
One of the factors that set consulting firms apart from other industries is their rigorous recruitment process. Bain is no exception. Bain receives hundreds of thousands of applications every year, but only a small fraction of these applicants are invited to join the firm.
Recently, Bain has been making significant changes to its recruitment and interview process, with the goal of making it more objective, consistent, and fair.
In this article, we will explore these changes, their rationale, and their impact on candidates who are seeking to join Bain. We will also provide tips and advice on how to prepare for Bain’s new interview formats.
Bain’s recruitment process
Bain’s recruitment process is known for being one of the most rigorous in the consulting industry. The process typically involves several rounds of interviews, including case interviews and fit interviews.
Case interviews are a key component of the recruitment process at Bain. During the case interview, candidates are presented with a business problem or challenge and are asked to provide a structured and logical approach to solving it. The interviewer will ask probing questions to test the candidate’s analytical and problem-solving skills. The case interview is designed to assess the candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and work under pressure.
Fit interviews are also an important part of Bain’s recruitment process. The fit interview is designed to assess the candidate’s fit with Bain’s culture and values. The interviewer will ask questions about the candidate’s background, interests, and career goals, as well as their motivation for applying to Bain. The fit interview is also an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions about the firm and the consulting industry.
Bain’s new interview format
Over the last couple of months, Bain has been making significant changes to its recruitment process, with the goal of making it more objective, consistent, and fair. These changes are designed to eliminate or at least reduce unconscious bias, increase consistency between interviewers and locations, and foster greater diversity in Bain’s team.
Changes to the case interview
One of the most significant changes that Bain is making to its case interview process is moving away from the candidate-led format in some of its locations. Instead, the firm is rolling out standardized, interviewer-led cases that are developed and scripted by a central team to ensure a fair and uniform candidate experience. This trend has been observed in many European and US locations, but some offices and senior interviewers still use the legacy candidate-led approach.
With this step, Bain has adopted the same case interview format that McKinsey has already been using for as long as anyone can remember. If you want to dive deeper into the intricacies of the interviewer-led format, this article is for you.
The new interviewer-led cases have been designed to ensure that all candidates receive a similar experience and can be assessed using a prescriptive scoring grid. After a short context introduction, the interviewer will raise the main question of the case, as well as additional questions that should help the candidate prioritize their ideas. At this stage, the interviewer would only expect the candidate to ask clarifying questions. The first part of the case is inevitably about structuring the main question. Candidates should also think about where the additional questions fit into the overall structure or mention how they would tackle them separately. The interviewer will then guide the candidate through the case to ensure all candidates have a similar experience and can be assessed using a prescriptive scoring grid.
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Changes to the fit interview
The fit interview is also changing at Bain. Many offices have eliminated the fit interview from the first round, to focus exclusively on cases. A new “behavioral interview” format has also been introduced in European offices. In this interview, candidates are asked specific questions without sharing their resumes. The aim is to test transferable skills, rather than self-promotion. This interview format has been well received by candidates as it is more objective, less subjective, and eliminates potential biases.
Another popular technique used by employers is the behavioral interview. This type of interview focuses on past behaviors and experiences to determine how a candidate will perform in the future. The interviewer will ask questions such as, “Can you tell me about a time when you faced a difficult situation at work and how you handled it?” or “Can you give an example of a time when you had to work with a difficult colleague and how you approached the situation?” The purpose of these questions is to gain insight into the candidate’s problem-solving skills, ability to handle stress, and interpersonal skills.
Also here, Bain is adopting a format that is similar to McKinsey Personal Experience Interview.
To answer these questions effectively, candidates should use the SCORE framework, which stands for Situation, Complication, Outcome Expected, Remedial Action, and End Result. This approach helps the candidate structure their response in a clear and concise way. First, the candidate should describe the situation or task they were faced with. Then, they should explain the complication and the expected (negative) outcome if no action was taken. Next, they should discuss their remedial actions they took to resolve the issue. Finally, they should discuss the end result of their actions and how they impacted the situation.
How to prepare for the new Bain interview format
Overall, it is important for candidates to prepare for a variety of interview techniques and to be adaptable during the interview process. By understanding the differences between a candidate-led and an interviewer-led case interview and the skills they evaluate, candidates can position themselves for success and stand out from the competition. I detail this with concrete examples in my book The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview.
Most of what you need to do in the new interview format is transferable from the older way of doing things. You still need to create case frameworks, interpret charts and data, and work your way through math problems. The same holds true for the fit interview. You need to come up with impactful, authentic, and structured stories.
Our targeted preparation materials can help you with that:
Learn how to ace candidate-led interviews and behavioral fit interviews with our video academy. While we originally designed the academy for McKinsey, it is fully applicable to Bain interviews as well.
We also offer 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions – see the reviews)
Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into consulting.
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