After a short break, we are continuing our company profile series with the Bain case interview. We’ve already looked into the history of Bain, giving you an idea of what sets Bain apart from the other MBB (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) firms and we will now investigate how these differences effect their case interviews.
Case Interview basics
In short, a case interview is a 3-month consulting engagement distilled into one hour. Instead of a team of consultants it’s just you trying to answer the client’s question, though you can ask the interviewer for information. The basic approach is to formulate a hypothesis as to why the client is losing money/should acquire another firm/enter a foreign market and then you gather information in an attempt to (dis)prove your hypothesis. If you do this in a well-structured manner, you’ll be able to quickly drive down to where the problem lies and give actionable advice to the “client”: the interviewer sitting in front of you.
The Bain Case Interview
As with other consulting firms, Bain takes its cases from what it sees in practice. With some common sense, you can predict that it’s very likely to get a private equity case in one of the New York offices, while you are certain to expect an automotive case in the Detroit office.
Asking around during recruitment events also pays off. This will help you get a feel for what kind of people work at your local Bain office and what kind of business cases you’ll get. But more importantly is that often, the people you meet during these events are also active in other parts of the recruitment process. A previous (positive) social encounter can offset a less than perfect resume or a rushed cover letter during the first selection rounds.
Even though Bain & Company (the consulting firm) and Bain Capital (Mitt Romney’s private equity firm) are split entities, their work is alike. Bain & Company is often asked to perform due diligence and performs a wide array of private equity services, aside from its consulting practice.
At Bain, there’s also a great emphasis on the quantitative part of the case. Expect number crunching, and a lot of it. All of this math is done without the help of a calculator: so make sure your math is up to par. You don’t want to make mistakes in front of the interviewer, even if he allows you to make one or two mistakes. Math mistakes are especially painful, and I’ve seen many qualified candidates screw up the rest of a case because a math mistake flustered them.
So do your research, visit those recruitment events, brush up your math and practice your cases. If you want some great frameworks with full explanation and “look over my shoulder” cases so you can learn from another person’s mistakes: get my book on case interviewing.
Good luck, and share this article with someone who’s also applying for Bain.