Bain waitlist vs. McKinsey exploding offer (NA)

I am in a very privileged position to have received a McKinsey offer for the associate position in NA. Previously, I had attended the Bain summer program for advanced degrees but unfortunately bombed the final case interview and did not receive an FT offer. The recruiting manager communicated that I was placed on a pseudo-waitlist and that they will reach out to me at the end of August or early September. Now I am in a bind. I know it is easy to just accept the McKinsey offer and never look back, but Bain has always been my top choice and I really felt at home with all the Bainies during my mini internship. My interactions with McKinsey have so far been more business-focused/professional, which is fine but I just didn't feel the sort of connections that I had at Bain. Therefore, I have two questions for the more experienced folks here -

1. Would it be possible/smart to leverage the McKinsey offer to try to push Bain HR or would this seem unprofessional?

2. Since the McKinsey offer "expires" in two weeks, would it be an option to ask for an extension? How bad would it be to accept the offer but eventually renege?

Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions!

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Comments (46)

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 22, 2020 - 12:48am

Just take McKinsey. I'm not sure what this advanced degree thing is - maybe you're a grad student... But anyways, with their recruiting process starting pretty soon and with COVID going on I wouldn't be surprised if they happen to forget about this psuedo waitlist and forget about you as they're busy with other stuff.

Aug 22, 2020 - 1:39am

"A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush"

You'd be an idiot to not take the McK offer. Once (IF) you get the Bain offer, you can then start comparing. Until that, just be happy that you broke into MBB during these times. Also - Congratulations!

  • 12
Aug 22, 2020 - 10:51am

Congrats on Mckinsey! I would just take the offer in hand but to answer your questions - 

1. Yes, it is entirely reasonable to reach out to your contacts at Bain with something along the lines of "I have a competing offer that expires soon but Bain is still my top choice. Can you accelerate my decision?"

2. Generally, you would need to provide a reason for the extension and since you might eventually be working there, it would be really bad to say that you are waiting for your top choice. Taking the offer is the better opinion, IMO. If you do eventually renege, it will be burning bridges but at least you will not be working there. I have seen this scenario for people that with T2 offers and then recruited for MBB but rarely between MBB

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Most Helpful
Aug 22, 2020 - 12:25pm

You say "I really felt at home with all the Bainies during my mini internship" and "My interactions with McKinsey have so far been more business-focused/professional, which is fine but I just didn't feel the sort of connections that I had at Bain".  

For what it's worth thought, the Mckinsey people liked you more....because they put their money where their mouth was and gave you an offer.  Bain didn't.  

So as much as the "feels" are one thing...the best gauge of real feels is an offer.

  • Manager in Consulting
Aug 23, 2020 - 7:18am

That's overly simplifying. At the likes of Bain or McK, it takes one single skeptical opinion to go from "offer" to "denied".

It could be that the person who happened to interview you at that specific time had a particularly bad day. It could be that you got a case interview about casinos and your fellow candidate just happened to know much more about casinos than you. Etc.

A rejection doesn't mean that the whole firm (and more specifically, the people at the firm) doesn't / don't like you or that your feelings about them is an flawed-that's bs and way too short-sighted.

Aug 22, 2020 - 2:26pm

100% ask Bain how much longer you can expect to wait to hear back form them, and mention you have a competing offer from McKinsey (also tell them when it expires). Mentioning that will definitely motivate them to give you an answer! And if they still don't, you're not losing anything since you still have McKinsey. 

If you were more hesitant between Bain and McKinsey the answer might have been to just take McKinsey, but it sounds like you feel you're a better fit at Bain, and that's important!

  • 10
Sep 5, 2020 - 2:26am


100% ask Bain how much longer you can expect to wait to hear back form them, and mention you have a competing offer from McKinsey (also tell them when it expires). Mentioning that will definitely motivate them to give you an answer! And if they still don't, you're not losing anything since you still have McKinsey. 

If you were more hesitant between Bain and McKinsey the answer might have been to just take McKinsey, but it sounds like you feel you're a better fit at Bain, and that's important!

The best advice is here. Thus, you will also show that you really do not mind working with them and the fact that you already have an offer from McKinsey shows that you are a worthy candidate. That is a good sales tip. 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Aug 23, 2020 - 9:42am

I used to work at Bain and my POV is you should absolutely tell them you have an offer with McKinsey that expires on X date, but would really prefer to work at Bain because of its culture. Probably the two more important things Bain cares about in its recruiting process are: 1) They get candidates to choose them based on culture and 2) They don't lose high-caliber candidates to McKinsey/BCG. If you tell them about the McK offer, they'll get get back to you with a decision by the expiration date. Could still be a no, but you should tell them.

Aug 23, 2020 - 12:20pm

Hey OP, congrats on the McKinsey offer. It seems like you had a better connection with Bain and that is important. As some have already mentioned, I think you should definitely reach out to Bain. Ask them whether it's possible to expedite your decision. Tell Bain you have a competing offer from McKinsey (add the date offer expires) but Bain is your preferred choice based on the interactions you have had. You won't be the first one to ask this. Many people have been in a similar situation and made this request. Even if Bain says no, you won't spend time thinking about the "what if I had asked Bain" scenario. Good luck 

  • 2
Sep 19, 2020 - 3:09pm

Yes, leverage it. If you prefer Bain that much, and if you bombed the case at the end, why not volunteer for another final round of cases, if that's what's holding them back? You're surely good enough by now.

That said, those of us with some gray hair can remember times when Bain nearly went bankrupt. McKinsey has also made capital calls of its partners, but is viewed as being more financially secure.

That said, take a page out of the McK book. Bain might be more fun, but this is business. I made a lot of lasting individual relationships at my MBB, and I don't ever want to return to consulting, but if I did, I'd view all three MBB equally. It would be a business decision, not an emotional decision. 

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • 4
Sep 19, 2020 - 4:03pm

Thanks everyone for the advice - I really appreciate it!!! I ended up receiving and accepting the Bain offer! Without going into too much detail, I wanted to my experiences throughout the process in case it would be helpful to others in the future - 

  • Asked for extension from McKinsey regarding deadline for offer acceptance. Received another 2 weeks which pushed the deadline to this week. I told them I was considering a competing offer even thought I did not actually have one at that time. Surprisingly, the recruiter was super understanding and mentioned that this happens pretty often. 
  • Emailed Bain contacts and was honest regarding my situation. They also were really nice and said they would try to push my case given the upcoming deadlines. About two weeks after the initial email, I received a verbal offer over the phone and a written offer later that day. 
  • Another priority for me that I didn't mention is start date. Given the nature of PhD programs, I wanted some flexibility in choosing a start date in case my graduation/defense was delayed. In the original McKinsey offer, it stated that I could start any time between next summer and Jan/Feb 2022. I mentioned this to Bain (after I had received the offer of course) and they were also super accommodating in terms of start date.
  • After speaking to my mentors in the consulting and neighboring fields, I accepted the Bain offer and declined my Mckinsey offer on the same day. Received a call from the Mckinsey recruiter almost as soon as I clicked send on the email. The phone call very professional and they simply asked about which firm I ended up picking and what were the driving factors as well as wishing me best of luck - it was pretty reassuring that there didn't seem to be hard feelings. 
  • Finally, sorry for not providing too much information here. As far as I know, there are only 12-13 of us in the Bain advanced degree class for 2021 so wanted to keep this as anonymous as possible. 

Thanks again for all the helpful advice telling me to be honest about my situation to Bain - it was really really helpful to me. I would be happy to share some more specifics of my situation on a more individual bases if that would be helpful!

  • Prospect in Consulting
Sep 19, 2020 - 6:26pm

I'd be curious to know what were your deciding factors in choosing Bain over McKinsey/BCG (not sure if BCG was in the picture)? How did you make your decision? For someone also deciding between offers :)

Sep 19, 2020 - 9:33pm

Don't know who threw the MS since this is a valid question. 

I applied to the Bridge to BCG program (which is BCG's version of the three-five day summer program available to advanced degrees) but unfortunately, didn't get invited. All the BCG people I've met were really nice and friendly so frankly, I really don't know what I would have picked if BCG was in the equation. It also seems like BCG, at least for now, are not recruiting for any advanced degrees outside of its bridge program participants so while I did apply, I have not heard back at all and am not too optimistic. 

Regarding factors for the Bain vs. Mckinsey decision, I guess the biggest factor was just the people I met. Rationally, I know that each company has good and bad apples and it is sometimes up to luck on which people you meet during the limited recruiting process. However, the sense of comradery I felt with Baines just wasn't there in my interactions with Mckinsey and thats what eventually drove my decision.

Another factor that was unique for me was mentors. Some of my friends and mentors are in IB/PE or some form of finance and through my discussions with them regarding consulting - they all spoke very highly of Bain in terms of culture, network, and type of work (many of them were ex-Bain). While PhDs are often taught to "not care about money", it is an important consideration for me and my family. I wanted to keep that door to finance open and Bain seemed like the best path for that. I know Mckinsey is also great for finance exits, but I kept having a (somewhat irrational) fear that I was going to be only assigned to life-science projects since that's what my PhD is on. Bain feels more generalist? Actually I don't know too much about this - it was just the feeling I got during recruiting. 

  • Prospect in Consulting
Sep 20, 2020 - 2:12am

Congratulations! May I ask a specific question about the start date on McKinsey offer? What was the earliest possible start date you could choose? I'm interviewing with McKinsey and also planning my PhD graduating timeline at the same time for some external reason, so it would be very helpful to know what to expect if the interview turns out promising, which I really hope!

Sep 20, 2020 - 10:54am

For me, the offer lettered mentioned early summer 2021 to early spring 2022 and that they will reach out later this year to ask about start date preferences. They also said that they will "work to accommodate each individual situation" so I'd assume that your situation will be worked out. I wouldn't worry too much about timelines. If you get an offer, I think they will make sure there is a date that works for you. 

  • Prospect in Consulting
Sep 20, 2020 - 2:21am

Congratulations!! Do you know if Bain is still planning on recruiting any ADC through the full-time cycle?

Sep 21, 2020 - 10:17am

Unfortunately I do not. Judging by what I have heard from people around me, it seems like firms are focusing on the participants from the "mini-internship" programs (Insight, ADvantage, Bridge) for now :/

Sep 21, 2020 - 12:13pm

Congrats on both offers and that it turned out well with recruiting/ HR at both firms! You seem to have thought it through fairly well and I hope, indeed, that you will get a nice generalist experience. My understanding from working with advanced degree colleagues is that they can always revert back to their field (within or outside consulting) if and when they want to.

  • 1
Sep 25, 2020 - 7:03pm

Congrats on your offers! About the 2021 class, never knew that Bain extends offers to such a small number! Could it be because of Covid? Also, do you know if they are still extending offers or are done with this yr's recruiting? Did an application but have not heard back.

Sep 25, 2020 - 9:08pm

It might be. This is only for the "ADvantage" class so I may be severely underestimating the class size here. I know that there were others in my situation, so perhaps they are trying to evaluate people on the waitlist first. There also have been some whispers that Bain (or MBB in general) overreacted to COVID and now is asking incoming consultants to start earlier rather than later so fingers crossed for you! 

Jun 10, 2021 - 3:58am

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