How MBAs Make a Tangible Impact on Bain & Company

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The consultancy firm hires hundreds of MBAs each year and values their cross-cultural communication skills, global networks, and adaptability.

Each year, Bain & Company, an elite management consultancy firm, hires hundreds of MBAs who make a tangible impact on their business.  

MBAs stand out as they typically have several years’ experience in a range of business contexts via the case studies and consultancy projects they conduct during their business school program. Their experience working on current, real-world business challenges means they come with an ability to juggle competing priorities, and relevant problem-solving skills. 

Cross-cultural collaboration 

Another reason Bain values MBA graduates: “They’ve worked in multicultural teams intensively, and often have travelled abroad for internships and research,” says Keith Bevans, global head of the firm’s consulting recruiting. MBA cohorts are generally very diverse, in terms of nationality, gender, race, and professional background, so students can handle the complex global business environment.  

Bain is a global firm with offices in 36 countries, working in dozens of different industries—their consultants need to get smart on new sectors and regions very quickly. “MBAs learn about a variety of industries and how business works in different contexts, which is tremendously helpful for Bain, which does not specialize people right when they join,” says Bevans. 

“Just being able to interact, learning from and with diverse people, is a skill that translates into what we do with our clients around the world. Your ability to connect and work with all types of people is important.”

A network of high-fliers 

Bain also values MBAs for their access to a global network of thousands of high-flying contacts all over the world, with whom they communicate and collaborate effectively with. 

“An MBA may not have worked in the semi-conductor space, or in Southeast Asia, but because of their classmates, they can reach out and ask for advice about doing business in that market,” says Bevans. “Their ability to do that is absolutely an asset to a firm like Bain. The network really does help you accelerate down the learning curve.” 

Bevans, an alumnus of Harvard Business School, adds that what MBAs bring to a network is as important as what they get from it. “Consulting is a relationship business,” he says. “Your ability to help clients address their needs and make them want to bring you back is valuable to us. So, learning how to give the client energy, to help people and network, is what we value in MBAs.” 

Adaptability 

Critics have argued that MBAs have rigid thinking, but Bevans says his business school hires have a willingness to learn and adapt, and the drive to further develop themselves. 

“Our MBAs have the humility to be successful in a client situation,” he says. “That’s important because our job is to blend richly deep analysis with the experience of our clients, who have been educated in the classroom of life,” Bevans says. 

“If we are not humble enough to learn and grow from our experiences, we will never arrive at the best solutions to the problems we help our clients solve,” reflects Bevans. 

He goes on to say that one of the biggest challenges facing Bain and its clients is digital disruption—and MBAs have helped the firm understand the implications of rapid technological change. “MBAs know how to adapt to a disruptive environment; to see how other companies have succeeded or failed and apply those lessons,” he says.   

“The people who get the most out of the MBA don’t memorize specific inputs. They learn from past situations and know how to apply it to what they face with our clients. It’s the difference between following a recipe and cooking. You can’t follow a rote approach to business—the world doesn’t work that way anymore.”