Q&A: Former Bain ACI / Incoming Bain AC

I've benefitted greatly from this forum the last two years and, given that recruiting/interviewing season is coming up, I'd like to pay it forward.

I interned in the private equity group last summer at one of the major offices (NYC/BOS/LA/SF/DC) and am returning to the same office. I recruited from a semi-target school. I interviewed with McK, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, PwC, and Simon-Kucher. I received offers from Bain and BCG. I did ~50 or so cases over the span of six months, which in hindsight was more than needed. I spent a year as a paid case interview coach, so I've run quite a few cases and given feedback on many resumes.

I'm happy to share my journey through recruiting, my internship experience, and nitty gritty stuff like benefits, firm culture, exits, etc. I'd appreciate if people avoided asking questions that can be answered in a five second Google search.

Comments (30)

8mo 
dxgenerated, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How important is networking during the internship process?

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

There's no right answer to this question as it depends on your situation. Networking in consulting is less important than in investment banking. If you would lump attending on-campus recruiting events into recruiting, recruiting is very important.

If you're at a school that has on-campus recruiting, there is typically a team of recent grads from your school that's in charge of screening resumes. They should know you who are. If you aren't at a school with on-campus recruiting, you should aim for a referral from a consultant at the office you're applying for or at least ensure that people at the firm know who you are.

My general rule of thumb is 1.) attend every on-campus recruiting event for every firm you plan to apply to, and 2.) have at least one conversation with a current consultant at every firm you plan to apply to.

8mo 
bulging_bracket, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Similar to the question above, how did you receive so many interviews coming from a semi-target? Did any of them recruit from your school specifically and did you have referrals at any?

Also what would be your best advice for case prep alone when you can't run a live case with someone else?

Also interested in the specifics of your offers and what your first year salary will be at Bain

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

I was part of one of the full-ride fellowship/scholarship programs at a T50 school (for example, UVA's Jefferson Scholarship or UNC's Morehead-Cain) where nearly all of the business majors in the scholarship program went into consulting at McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. It's a unique circumstance so I'm afraid that I can't give much general advice about landing an interview.

Every firm I applied to had on-campus recruiting at my school. I might have had referrals but nobody explicitly told me that they gave me one. I don't think WSO realizes how many schools MBB recruit at nowadays. Bain has a recruiting team at every reputable state school (ex. Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, Wisconsin, UNC, etc.). 

My advice is don't fucking case prep alone. Find people at your school. Find people online. There's no replacement to live practice.

ManagementConsulted's salary report has accurate numbers. My internship was $7,250 per month ($87k annualized). My full-time offer was $100k base, $15k target bonus ($22.5k max), $5k signing, $5k relocation, 4.5% 401(k) contribution, and a profit sharing. Base salary as an AC2 is $105k and $120k as an SAC (I think), and the offer letter says the bonus increases about 33% per year.

8mo 
goldendrip, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Paid interview coaching is allowed after internship and before full time?

Interested if you'd recommend doing this, and if you had any advice on sites, how to get clients, etc.

8mo 
thedog96, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Second this^^. In a similar position and curious how you were able to make this work

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

I'm not sure if it's allowed -- I never asked. I do know there are programs like iXperience that hire former MBB interns to work their programs. My take is that if you aren't currently employed by the firm, you're fine. I also know a few content creators on YouTube/TikTok who are current consultants and make consulting content, but they don't advertise the name of their firm. One that comes to mind is Taylor Bell on YouTube.

I don't have any advice on how to get clients and such. I didn't take it that seriously. I did probably 20-30 hours of coaching and another 10-20 hours of creating written guides over the span of a few months.

8mo 
grrrrrrrooooeeeeeooo, what's your opinion? Comment below:
  • what's the most surprising thing you learned about the job that wouldn't be obvious to an outsider?
  • what will you be doing to prepare/ better yourself between the internship and full time
  • what did you do to prepare between offer and internship?
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

Answer to 1.) Consulting firms sit on a massive amount of proprietary data on companies and organizations of virtually every size, in every geography, in every industry, from public to private to non-profit to governmental agencies. They obtain this from all the internal data that the client directly shares as well as a ton of primary research that case teams conduct throughout the lifespan of a project. All of this information is archived and most of it is searchable through the firm's own databases.

When a client pays for a project with a consulting firm, that firm has likely done prior work with their competitors. While the firm would never share that information, they can share general insights. For example, I did a diligence in the industrials space on the #1 player in a very niche and stagnant market ($100-$150m market, <6% annual growth). Funny enough, Bain diligenced the #2 player in this market less than a year ago, and we had all the data from that prior project. A lot of a consultant's job if you're at one of the larger firms is leveraging prior work.

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

To preface this answer, consulting firms have amazing training programs to get you up to speed and if you were smart enough to get an offer then you shouldn't worry about "how to prepare". During an online training the first week of the internship, one of the interns in my class turned to me and literally asked "What's EBITDA?" -- I will caveat that she was probably the smartest intern and declined a full-time offer with Bain to get a Ph.D at one of the HYPSW though...

Answer to 2.) Bain actually has some optional summer programming that I'm going to do. Other than that, I actually really enjoy making random spreadsheets in Excel so I've been doing that to keep my modeling skills fresh (I studied finance). I'm spending most of my time travelling and studying for the GMAT. Most firms let you expense $500-$1,000 for GMAT prep. Bain gives $750 pre-start date and $1,000 post-start date, which is really generous.

Answer to 3.) Between the offer and the internship, I made a groupchat with all the interns so we could get to know each other before the summer. We met a few times over Zoom. 

8mo 
OttoReadmore, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How helpful is casing on the job really? And how relevant was it for PEG? I ask because I'll be an SA this summer. Congrats on Bain!

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

Thanks, and congrats to you as well!

Case interviewing (when you do it a lot) literally changes the way you view problems. You instinctively know how to decompose a problem or situation into its component parts, develop a hypothesis, determine what elements are/aren't important, and drive towards an answer. You're comfortable with navigating complex, ambiguous problems. Bain defines these traits in a ton of buzzwordy terms like "answer first", "zero-defect", "80/20", etc. -- This is what the "consulting skillet" is and this is why ex-consultants are so valuable. So in that sense, case interviewing tests for these things because these are the things that you learn how to do on the job.

Casing is a bit less relevant for PEG because private equity due diligences are typically higher level than a pricing/M&A/profitability question.

  • Intern in Consulting
8mo 

Where did you intern sophomore year and what were your on campus involvements? How about GPA/major?

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

It was COVID summer so I didn't have a real internship. I took classes and trained for a marathon. My freshman year I did an internship abroad at a fintech startup in Kenya.

Sophomore year, I was a member of my school's consulting club, VP of Finance for our Model UN team, a senior editor for our school's political journal, and in one or two other business-oriented clubs. I double majored in Finance and Economics with a minor in Organizational Leadership with a 3.88 GPA.

8mo 
ibman101_82, what's your opinion? Comment below:

how do you recommend structuring long-term casing prep from now through summer if you're applying to summer roles due mid july assuming interviews in august/september? 

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

Do two live practice cases per week with a partner, ideally not practicing with the same person every week. Assuming you haven't cased before and you started the week after next, you'd have ~25 cases under your belt by August 1st.

For reference, I did about one to two live practice cases per week from March to September and ended up doing about 50 cases. I started to see diminishing returns after 35-40, but the magic number is different for everyone. I know a girl who did 12 cases and got offers from all 3 MBB firms and a guy who did well over 100 cases to get an offer.

Aside from live practice, run cases on other people as well -- it helps you understand the case from the perspective of an interviewer.

8mo 
ibman101_82, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Can you give some tips on networking to get interviews? I've heard that referrals only really matter from more senior consultants. How do you maximize any chance you get with someone on the phone?

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

I'd warn you that if you go into networking with the mindset of "I need to maximize my chance of a referral from this person" you will fail miserably because you'll come off as disingenuous and inauthentic.

Networking is most effective when you're genuinely interested in hearing what the other person has to say and you're actually trying to learn from and have a conversation with the other person. I've had several calls with people who reached out to me cold over LinkedIn, but I hated every single person I met because they all sounded like robots reading through a scripted list of questions that they really didn't give a shit about. Especially the target school kids.

My advice? Be an interesting person and be genuinely interested in having conversations with current consultants and recruiters. Go in with the mindset of "I can't wait to learn from this person" and not "I need to sound really smart w/ the questions I ask so they give me a referral."

I come in to networking conversations with the sole intent of having a good conversation with that person. And when I come off as authentic and genuinely curious, it leaves a really good impression. I've been offered interviews from start-ups, PE funds, etc. from just one phone call because I was acting like a real ass person. This advice holds not just for networking, but also interviewing. I didn't get an offer from BCG because I could calculate 12% of 278 in my head -- I got an offer because one of my interviewers saw Black Mirror on the interests section of my resume and we talked about how much we both loved sci fi. Once you can pass the bar for casing (which most people can), it's really just a question of "Do I like this person and would I want to work with them?"

Also, referrals matter, and yes, referrals from more senior people hold more weight, but that's really only true for Senior Manager and above. Don't quote me on this, but there's not much of a difference between a referral from an AC2 vs. an SAC.

TL;DR cut through the bullshit and be a real ass person

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

Official referrals aren't really a thing for OCR unless you come from a "non-target". However, there is word of mouth for OCR. You likely aren't going to get direct access to the recruiting director or a senior person who is A. involved enough in recruiting and B. cares enough about you to go to bat and push you through the interview process.

But, if you can figure out who the school lead is for your school (likely a junior consultant) and impress them, they are much more likely to vouch for you to the recruiting director and get you in front of them. My firm also asks our school specialists the couple people they found really impressive right before deciding interviews. Doesn't guarantee anything but can't hurt...

Source: Current school specialist at MBB

  • 1
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
8mo 

The consulting club at Cornell has a list of free resources here. Some people swear by one of the physical books for prep (Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng or Case in Point by Marc Cosentino) -- personally I wasn't a fan of them, but you can find a free PDF of Case in Point online pretty easily. Here's a link to the 7th edition.

Some case books have helpful intro guides/primers at the beginning. Here's Darden 2019 for example.

My favorite case books were Wharton 2008, 2010, and 2017, Kellogg 2011, and Darden 2019.

  • Intern in Research - Other
5mo 

How did you like your internship at Bain? Hours, people, culture, work itself?

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
5mo 

It was great! I signed my full-time offer before the internship ended.

HoursI spent my time in the private equity group and averaged ~55 hour weeks. As a full-time consultant in the PEG ringfence, it's closer to ~60-70. However, you do typically get a day or two off between diligences, which makes a big difference and brings the hours more in-line with other types of projects.

People: The stereotypes of the 3 firms holds true for the most part. I hung out with the BCG and McK interns a few times and I found Bain interns to be the most sociable and fun.

Culture: Bain has a great culture of mentorship and support. We had formal buddies and were allocated a budget to spend on activities with them. There were intern events, office-wide events, case events, etc. It was also really easy to grab coffee chats with managers and partners. I was also surprised by the level of trust and respect they had in interns. Albeit, I only had two slides make the final deck, but my analysis was presented to the C-suite of a $2B PE-backed portco.

Work: I split my time across healthcare and tech diligences. I was surprised to find that the more boring industries had the most interesting work. Who knew retail healthcare could be more interesting than a tech unicorn? At the end of the day, the work of a private equity due diligence is pretty similar across industries -- you have a market model workstream, a call workstream, and a survey workstream.

2mo 
j.ocky, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hi! I'm going to be an ACI at Bain next summer after spending a week there in the BEL program, but a friend of mine, who is a very capable, hardworking student, wasn't so lucky.

I'm guessing interns can't give referrals, but is there anything I can do as an intern to help them land an interview for full time? Is my only option connecting them with someone from my office?

  • Summer Associate in Consulting
2mo 

Thanks for doing this, had two questions - 

1 - How did you get interviews after networking? I know you said to come off as a real person and go to the recruiting events, but after speaking to a ton of BA/A/ACs at all of the MBB, I only ended up with one interview. Going back into next year, I was planning to go "up the chain" a little and try to secure referrals from higher up. What do you think of that approach? My casing wasn't as much of a problem because I got down to final round with the MBB interview and got an offer at a T2, and I want to make sure that this upcoming Spring is best utilized for getting the interviews in the first place.

2 - Why did you choose Bain over BCG? I know some friends who got cross offers, and they all chose BCG. After attending office visits and events, I've found Bain ACs to be easier to get along with / better culture, but BCG seems to have a wider alumni network and a broader range of exit ops.

  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
2mo 

1 - Networking is only helpful if you're a competitive applicant to begin with. If you secured referrals and did well in interviews but didn't receive many interviews, it's likely that something on your resume is holding you back. The two most common things I see that are dings are academics and leadership experience.

2 - The exit opportunities are the exact same. Your sample set means nothing -- many people choose Bain over BCG, and many people choose BCG over Bain. I chose Bain because I liked Bain more and thought I would be more successful there.

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
2mo 

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2mo 
leopold54, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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