Why Bain?

Why Bain? What Bain’s Culture Is Like & Why Work There

Why Bain?
Courtney Evans
Courtney Evans

ex-Bain Recruiter

Why Bain?

This question comes up at least once during the interview process for every candidate.

What’s the best way to answer it?

You need an answer to this question to pass your interview. You’ll also need one to be sure you’ve chosen the best firm for your future consulting career.

At My Consulting Offer, our founder, Davis Nguyen, is a former Bainie and we have several coaches who are former Bain consultants.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why Bain asks the “Why Bain?”question,
  • Bain’s culture and what makes Bain unique,
  • How Bain’s culture compares to other MBB Firms – BCG and McKinsey, and
  • Sample answers to the “Why Bain?” question.

Let’s get started!

Why Bain asks the “Why Bain?” Question

A compelling answer to “Why Bain?” is looked for throughout the recruiting process – in cover letters, at 1st round case interviews, and during 2nd round experience interviews with senior members of the firm.

Bain’s culture is unique (read on to learn why) and it’s protected fiercely. Asking ‘Why Bain?’ is a way for members of the firm to determine whether you’ll contribute to the culture or detract from it. It’s one tool in Bain’s toolkit that assesses risk. They are looking for those who live Bain’s values and operating principles. In other words, they want to know you’ll walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk.

“A Bainie Never Lets Another Bainie Fail”- Bain’s Culture & What Makes Bain Unique

Throughout my career as a recruiter at Bain, I was asked time and time again “What makes Bain different?” The answer was always, without hesitation, the people. People don’t necessarily establish culture, but they can certainly perpetuate it. While cliché, you can’t go a few days without hearing or using the phrase ‘A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.’

This statement illustrates Bain’s One Team value, and that a Bainie is only a text, email, or phone call away from support. People around you are willing to get into the weeds with you and help you climb out. Bainies invest in you and set you up for success. There are many reasons that Bain’s culture differentiates them from other firms.

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Bain Emphasizes Delivering Results to Clients

Bain is the smallest and youngest of the top strategy consulting firms, commonly referred to as MBB (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain). Founder Bill Bain left Boston Consulting Group to start Bain & Company in the 1970s.

Bain was founded on the principle ‘Results, not reports,’ and they invest in their clients’ success through tied economics in their fee structure. This allows Bain to better align their financial incentives with client outcomes – they put their money where their mouth is.

Bain further illustrates their emphasis on delivering results by measuring their success by their clients’ success. Bain’s public clients outperform the S&P 4:1.

Bain Builds Strong Working and Personal Relationships

Bain is recognized for its ability to create great teams, and the hours Bainies spend together outside of work may well be a driver in their success. Work hard, play hard is a mantra you’ll hear over and over throughout the halls.

Classes (the groups of Associate Consultants and Consultants who start their Bain careers at the same time) become familial – I’ve known many who play on sports teams together, share a meal on a Saturday night together, and even vacation together.

The Bain World Cup illustrates just how much Bainies enjoy each other’s company. This annual soccer tournament has been going strong for 30+ years, and it sees ~25% of the global company meet in one city for a multi-day celebration of sport and camaraderie.

Bain’s Pyramid Case Team Structure Creates Strong Mentorship Relationships

Case team structure at Bain is a pyramid, with more Associate Consultants (the base of the pyramid) than Consultants. This perpetuates the collaborative, apprenticeship model, while also allowing for more responsibility as an Associate Consultant. BCG and McKinsey, on the other hand, structure their teams in the shape of a diamond, with few junior members and more Consultants, and few senior team members.

Bain Provides Opportunities to Personalize Your Career

Looking at the answer to: Why Bain?

Each of the top strategy consulting firms has a 2-year career path for ACs and Consultants, with an opportunity for those performing well to remain with the firm. About 90% of Bain’s ACs and Consultants are promoted after the 2-year mark and the majority choose to stay. This number is much lower for BCG and McKinsey. Clearly Bain’s supportive culture leads to this high retention rate.

Bain allows for career personalization along the way, often referred to as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Options encouraged as part of your professional development include:

  • Geographic transfers to international offices,
  • Externships (four-to-six-month periods spent at another organization related to achieving your professional goals),
  • Business school (which is fully sponsored), and
  • Social impact work.

Professional development conversations start at the beginning of your career at Bain, with dedicated managers who invest in learning what you are passionate about, where you want to live, and how they can support you.

Bain Encourages Exploring Your Passions

In addition to allowing you to personalize your career, Bain promotes exploring what you’re passionate about. Referred to as an Extra 10%, Bain encourages involvement in projects that are above and beyond your casework, but are determined by you and where your interests lie. These include internal interest groups like the Bain Band and sports teams, as well as projects related to social impact, diversity initiatives, startup incubators, and recruiting.

Each Bain Office Is Unique

While Bain has guiding principles and a set of values that are common across offices, each geography has a culture that’s unique to them. Local staffing models contribute to home office culture because everyone knows one another on a personal and professional level.

Cross-office sharing provides the opportunity to learn what other offices are doing and how a home office can benefit from their practices. The Green Team, an internal sustainability group, started in one Bain office. After sharing best practices with other offices, Green Teams have sprouted up in Bain offices across the globe.

Networking with consultants in the office you’ll be applying to is a great way to get a feel for how you’ll fit. Attend Information sessions and Ace the Case sessions to see how Bainies communicate with one another and with those outside of the firm, which can say a lot about a culture.

How Bain’s Culture Compares to other MBB Firms – BCG and McKinsey

Bain, BCG, and McKinsey all hire top talent, produce results for their clients, and have endless exit opportunities. Much of deciding which firm is right for you boils down to culture. As you advance through the recruiting process with them, it becomes increasingly important to assess which firm is a good fit for you. Should you find yourself with what’s known as the ‘trifecta’ – an offer from each of MBB firms – you’ll want to be well equipped to make that decision.

Benefits of Bain’s Local Staffing Model

Bain’s local staffing model is one of the key contributors to firm culture. It contrasts with BCG’s regional model and McKinsey’s global model.

Bain consultants work on teams primarily made up of ACs and Consultants from their home office. This provides the opportunity to develop deep and meaningful relationships with senior consultants in your home office and contributes to the One Bain philosophy, which inherently promotes mentorship and people who care about your success.

While the local staffing model minimizes unnecessary travel and promotes work-life balance, there is plenty of opportunity to jet set. Bainies participate in global training programs about every 18 months, providing a toolkit to excel on the job but also a network of people all over the world (and countless couches to sleep on when traveling!).

Benefits of the Generalist Staffing Model

Bain’s generalist model provides consultants with opportunities to work across many industries, capabilities, and functional areas. Specialization at Bain happens later in your career than at McKinsey and BCG because the firm believes that being a generalist allows you to learn more about what you’re passionate about, and what you’re not.

Benefits of Bain’s Flat Hierarchy

Bain’s organization is flatter than that of other consulting firms. While a hierarchy with clearly defined career progression points certainly exists, there is opportunity to advance faster based on merit. Direct promotion is a great example of this – those who are strong performers earn the opportunity to transition from Associate Consultant to Consultant without the break to attend business school. This is a common path for AC after three years of experience.

Benefits of 360 Degree Feedback

Why Bain? Question that only brings benefits if answered 

Feedback is part of most consulting firms’ professional development value proposition and Bain is no different. 360-degree feedback is practiced at Bain – everyone reviews peers, people below them on the career path, and people more senior.

Receiving 360-degree feedback can be a stark reality check and a difficult adjustment at first, but ultimately it is part of Bain’s culture. Feedback is just one more way for people to invest in you and coach you throughout your career.

Benefits of Mentorship

Everyone at Bain chooses a formal mentor, rather than having one assigned. This is someone who can coach you, help you navigate the system (or even the halls during your early days!), and advocate for you. Bain even supports these mentorships by providing a budget for time to connect in meaningful ways.

Exposure to Bain’s Private Equity Practice

You won’t be at Bain for long without having some degree of exposure to their Private Equity practice. Bain does due diligence for major PE funds and has a designated PEG (private equity group) that you can rotate in and out of.

The work is intense and cases happen quickly, so you’re staffed to the Private Equity practice for a period of time rather than the way one would be staffed to a client on a case team – for the duration of the work with that client.

Many consultants like this opportunity because it provides them with hands-on experience in PE. Bain is well known for outstanding exit opportunities and work in the PEG is beneficial to those wanting to enter Private Equity after their time at Bain.

Sample Answers to the “Why Bain?” Question

Ricardo Sherwell, Ex-Bainie and My Consulting Offer case coach provided his answer to the ‘Why Bain?’ question:

  1. “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail” is as true as you can imagine. People will invest in your success, even if they are not on your team.
  2. I found a lot of support from the company to be able to do the job and continue to have a great family life. The company allowed me to take my wife with me when I had cases outside of my home city and she was included in every event by other Bainees.
  3. Bain continues to care for your professional development even after you leave with great resources available for alumni (career center, a team to help you prepare for interviews, etc.)

As you consider your own answer to the “Why Bain?” question, don’t just take one of his answers. Get to know Bain and consider what about the firm resonates with you. An authentic answer will have the best impact on your interviewer, and we’ve provided many ideas to start you on your way to your answer.

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Why Bain asks the “Why Bain?” Question,
  • What makes Bain’s culture unique,
  • How Bain’s Culture Compares to BCG’s and McKinsey’s, and
  • Sample Answers to the “Why Bain?” Question.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about interviewing with Bain, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for the Bain interview found the following pages helpful:

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