If you're looking at investment banking jobs and pondering their durability in the face of what appears to be a significant revenue downturn, then management consulting firms might be a safer alternative. Consulting has always offered an alternative to banking careers, and when banking revenues turn down, the allure of consulting rises.
Speaking in a session organized by Management Consulted yesterday, Keith Bevans, global head of consulting recruitment at Bain & Co, said the firm has its largest ever intern and full time associate class this year, and that its recruitment is immune to downturns. "We tend to hire through downturns because we are thinking of the longer term," said Bevans, adding that during his 26-year tenure with the firm he's worked through the dot com crash, the financial crisis and COVID and that every time, hiring at Bain has bounced back stronger than before. Staffing a consultancy is like filling a high school, said Bevans: you need first year consultants, but you also need second years and third years and managers; you need to keep hiring to fill the streams.
It's a lesson that banks may have learned too: after pulling back on hiring during the financial crisis, many were left with gaps in their ranks in the years that followed. However, while banks have a well-documented historic tendency to jettison staff in difficult years, consultancy firms tend to be steadier. "We are a strategy firm. We are thinking about things on a multi-year basis," Bevans added.
Bain & Co's deadlines for consulting associate applications fall between July and September in the U.S. depending on whether you're applying for intern or full time positions, but Bevans says the firm hires for its other roles in areas like technology, data and analytics throughout the year. The consulting positions are filled on a first come, first served basis and the firm starts interviewing over the summer, but Bevans said this doesn't mean people who apply first are at an advantage: "We are only limited by the number of great people we can find." If you apply early in the season, Bevans says you will also have the disadvantage of having less experience of case study interviews. However, he said too that Bain & Co. interviewers will also take this into account when they meet you.
Bain runs two rounds of interviews, with case studies a feature of both. This year, Bevans says the firm is trying to be "flight free" for the first round, which means a higher proportion (although not all) of its first round interviews will take place over Zoom. As well as the case studies, you'll be expected to talk about your resume and your background and things like the problems you've overcome, he says. The second round may seem more challenging, but this is simply because your interviewers are more senior: "The cases are the cases."
Aside from an ability to turn a good case study, Bain & Co looks for a certain sort of person. Bevans says that person is nice. "A Bainy never lets another Bainy fail": people at Bain care about each other as people. If you want to work there, it will help to display some humanity.
Unlike some other consulting firms, Bain hires people into specific offices. Does this mean it helps to find an office with a comparatively low ratio of applicants to places? No, said Bevans: all offices are equally difficult to get into. Like banking, he said consulting is an "apprenticeship career:" it helps to have juniors in the office as they learn, but staff are spending more time away from client sites now that clients are "more comfortable engaging over Zoom."
Photo by Melanie Kreutz on Unsplash
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