Don't Give Up! Bain Is Still Hiring

Despite an economic downturn, the consulting firm is searching for more MBAs. Here's a look at the type of employee they're hoping to find

At a time when MBA graduates are fretting about their job prospects, Bain & Co., the global business consulting firm, is continuing to hire, says Bill Neuenfeldt, head of Global Schools Recruiting in New York. Recently, Bain announced the opening of its 38th office, in Dubai, a response to its growing client roster in the Middle East, according to the company's Web site. Bain clients have included Schwab (SCHW), Ford Motor (F), Dell (DELL), and De Beers.

Founded in 1973 on the principle that "consultants must measure their success in terms of their client's financial results," Bain still demands that employees develop deep partnerships with their clients, says Neuenfeldt, Candidates who would fit in well at Bain, he adds, are those who are intellectual, analytical, can work well in teams, and are passionate about making a difference. "Those are special people," says Neuenfeldt. "If we can find them, we are happy to hire them."

Bain does not disclose publicly how many MBAs it hires, according to a company spokesman.

Neuenfeldt, a former captain in the U.S. Air Force and a Harvard Business School MBA, recently spoke with reporter Francesca Di Meglio about MBA recruitment at Bain. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:

How would you characterize your recruiting program?

We are looking for people who are passionate leaders, who want to make a difference both in their schools and in industry. Recruiting is a two-way dialogue. We want to talk to them and hear from them. Then, we also look at their résumés and consider their interviews to make final decisions.

We recruit across a number of different avenues and not just MBAs but "undergrads and others, too". The MBAs joining Bain change the trajectory of the company, and work shoulder to shoulder with our clients. They use analytical skills, teamwork skills, and they are pragmatic. They think and act like owners. They reach solutions by becoming one with the client.

Has the economic downturn affected recruiting?

At Bain, we're coming off one of our best years, and we had great growth across all channels. We have a history of continuously investing in talent.

What kind of salary and benefits can hires expect?

We're familiar with the trends. We believe we offer comparable packages for top talent. We offer a long-term career trajectory. When we hire people, we think about their salary long-term and expect them to grow and take on new positions within Bain.

How can one rise in the ranks at Bain?

Rising in the ranks equals [creating] client success stories. Pragmatic thinking and acting like owners [are necessary]. Bain employees and our clients are truly teaming with one another. We make an investment in the global training program and provide formal training that goes beyond day-to-day business to help people rise in the ranks at Bain.

What is the biggest mistake MBAs make in the interviewing process?

Be yourself. Show us your energy and passion for the opportunity. Think on your feet. Don't force-fit a framework. Leave the frameworks at the door. Have fun. You must enjoy it. If you don't enjoy the interview, you might not enjoy the job later on. And we like what we do here.

How can you stand out? What would impress you?

Those who stand out are individuals who think critically, restate the problem, and use analytics to come up with creative but pragmatic solutions. They show ownership and engage in a dialogue. We want to see the wheels turning.

What can an MBA program do to improve the kind of employees they produce?

We recruit at many of the top business schools around the globe. We recruit great people, top talent, and there is lots of diversity. The business schools deserve credit. The fundamentals of teaching are there. It's more about the individual and how concepts are translated into the real-world setting. He or she needs to learn how to allow pragmatism to shine through. If [business schools] can do something to improve students' ability to show pragmatism in problem-solving, then I would suggest doing that.

How would you describe the Bain culture to those who are thinking about applying?

The culture is truly a differentiator. There is an energy, passion, and pulse that resonates. The people are down-to-earth and care about each other. They never let each other fail. We laugh a lot, and we enjoy what we do.

Where do you recruit?

We recruit at most top business schools globally, including many campuses in North America and Europe. If I listed them all, we'd be here a while. Individuals who don't see us on campus should go to "the company's Web site")>. We do the majority of our hiring on campus, but we can be contacted via the Web site, too.

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