The question, “why this firm?” is guaranteed to come up at least once during your Bain consulting interviews. It is one of the most frequently asked fit questions, and also a topic you are expected to tackle in your consulting cover letter.
So it’s imperative that you come to the interviews having thought about why you want to work for Bain specifically, rather than its competitors. We’ve put together this guide to help you craft the perfect answer.
Our first tip: Focus on the office you’re applying to over the company as a whole.
How should you respond to the Why Bain interview question? By being specific about Bain as well as the exact office you want to join: talk about people who work there, highlight the office’s projects and industries, and mention Bain’s reports and intellectual capital that interest you.
To help you get started, we’ll list some unique facts about Bain versus other top consulting firms below. You can pick one of these facts to be a data point in your answer, or to simply inform yourself about what makes the company stand out.
As we mentioned before, it is also very important to bring up facts about the specific office you’re applying to join. Bain has more than 60 offices in 39 countries all over the world, so we won’t be able to highlight every office here. But we’ll give you some tips on how to do your research and prepare your answer in sections 2 and 3.
Here are some facts that make Bain stand out:
- Bain does consulting work across many sectors, but they have particular strengths in working with private equity funds and other principal investors. If those are sectors that interest you, and especially if you have previous experience in these areas, you should bring it up.
- As the youngest of the Big Three, Bain is known for taking big risks and making market-differentiating choices, compared to its more established competitors. Look up some of these big moves and find one that aligns with your experience and interests, then bring it up as a compelling reason why Bain is the best fit for you.
- Bain is known for having the most collegial culture, with a more laid-back office environment compared to McKinsey. CEO Manny Maceda even has a 96% approval rating on Glassdoor. There is a strong culture between Bain alumni as well, which means that mentioning Bain connections that you already have would be a strong point to bring up in the interview.
- Bain staffs its projects with a higher proportion of analysts to more senior consultants, compared to McKinsey and BCG. This means that newer highers get more of a say in projects and company decisions, and you’ll get to play a real part in the office’s success. Mentioning this, as well as the fact that you’re a self-starter and have worked in similar environments in the past, could be a plus.
Now that you’ve seen a few reasons that make Bain unique among the Big 3, let’s take a look at a full sample answer that uses some of these facts as well as details about a specific office. After this, we’ll go through a list of tips and tricks that will help you craft your own stellar answer.
Sample answer: Why Bain?
“Bain appeals to me for three reasons.
First, I’ve met a few people from the firm, all of whom had nothing but great things to say about it. Naomi Otieno, for example, was my former boss at Blackstone, which she transitioned to after her time as a consultant at Bain’s New York office. She was a big fan of Bain’s culture and encouraged me to apply.
Also, having begun my professional career at Blackstone, I have experience in and a passion for private equity. As Bain is the world’s leading consulting firm in private equity, it looks like a great opportunity to apply my existing experience while learning new skills.
Finally, I’m a loyal listener of Hugh MacArthur’s Private Equity podcast, Dry Powder, and I already feel as though I’ve learned a lot through his interviews with industry leaders. Working at Bain, where these decisions and insights take place on an institutional level, would allow me to work on some truly unique projects.”
2.1 Tips to prepare your answer for “why Bain?”
As you create your own answer to this question, take a moment to consider why Bain interviewers ask it in the first place.
Interviewers ask questions like “why consulting?” and “why Bain?” to test whether you’ve got the motivation to last in a fast-paced and high-stakes environment. If they sense that a candidate is not motivated enough, or has the wrong motivations (e.g. the high salary), then they’re unlikely to hire them.
Interviewers also want to know whether you’ve done your research. As you’ll be doing quite a bit of research and analysis on the job, showing a nuanced understanding of Bain in your answer is a good sign to the interviewer that you possess the right skills for the position.
Below are a few ways that you can show off these qualities in your answer, as well as common pitfalls that you should avoid.
How to answer “Why Bain?”
- Network. Mention the people you have met from the office you are applying for. A surprisingly big part of answering the "Why this firm?" question is about networking. Your interviewer wants to know if you have done your homework and have talked to anyone from the office you are applying for, or at least from the firm in general.
- Talk about the projects and industries the office you will join focuses on. Having talked to a few people is not enough. Your interviewer also wants to know if you understand what type of projects the office you are joining works on. If you join the Bain New York office for instance you will likely work on financial services or media projects because these industries are big in the city. But if you want to work in oil and gas, New York is not the right destination; instead you should probably apply for Houston.
- Mention the reports and other intellectual capital produced by the office you will join. Be aware of the recent reports published by the partners from the office you are trying to join (e.g. New York) and the practice you are interested in (e.g. Financial services). This will demonstrate to your interviewer that you have a genuine interest in a specific area that the office they belong to works on.
- Make it personal: If you have any examples from your personal experience that tie in with this firm, now is a good time to bring them up.
- Make it specific: Of course, your answer for “why this firm?” should be different with every company you’re interviewing with. Test out your answer by swapping another bank’s name with the one you’ve got in mind. If your answer could also apply to this other bank, then you need to fine tune it.
- Rehearse your answer: Before the interview starts, you should already have your answer to this question prepared and ready to go.
Now, take some time to review common mistakes that candidates make when answering this question.
Common pitfalls in answering “Why Bain?”
- Answer is too broad: Simple answers such as “it would be a great opportunity to learn more,” “the people here are very smart and work hard,” or “the culture here is awesome,” won’t make the cut on their own (even if it’s true!). Interviewers have heard these responses many times before, so you’ll need to make it more personal and targeted.
- Answer is too long: This question is frequently asked at the beginning of a longer interview round or during the initial screening process. In both cases, it’s important to answer quickly and concisely, so that the interviewer can understand your answer and have time for other questions. Aim for a roughly 1-minute response.
- Answer lacks structure: Think of two or three reasons you’d like to work there, and describe each of them, one at a time. Otherwise, the interviewer will have difficulty following your train of thought, and you are more likely to ramble.
Of course, there are many aspects to prepare for in a Bain consulting interview in addition to the “why Bain” interview question. To help you get ready for the interview process as a whole, we recommend that you complete the two steps below.
3.1 Practice for every type of Bain interview question
Bain has many facets to its interview process, including case questions, fit/PEI questions, and written cases. Here are overviews of each of these assessments:
Interviews in both the first and second round will typically start with one or two fit / PEI questions (~10mins) and your interviewer will then ask you case questions (~35mins).
In addition, Bain also uses written cases in its SECOND ROUND interviews in some countries including the US, UK and Russia. For written cases, your interviewer will give you a pack of 5 pre-filled slides that you will need to complete in 90 minutes by doing analysis on a 20-page business document. You will then need to present and discuss your 5 slides with an interviewer over a 30 minute time slot.
3.2 Practice with mock interviews
Finally, it’s time to try out your answer in an interview setting. A great place to start is to do mock interviews with friends or peers.
This will help you polish your answer, practice answering follow-up questions, and get used to case interviews. However, if your interview partner isn’t familiar with consulting interviews, then practicing with an ex-interviewer will give you an extra edge.
If you know someone who runs interviews at Bain and other firms, then that’s amazing! They'll be a great person for you to practice with.
If not, we want to help you make these connections. That’s why we’ve created a coaching platform where you can find ex-interviewers from Bain to practice with. Learn more and start scheduling Bain mock interviews today.