Bain is making drastic changes to their interview process. In this article, we explain these changes, explore why they are happening, and how they will affect you as a candidate.
Bain is making its recruiting process more objective
In recent years, Bain has revamped their recruiting process to foster greater diversity in their team. In order to eliminate — or at least reduce — unconscious bias, Bain is experimenting with a more rigorous data-driven and evidence-based recruiting process and interview formats. These changes also aim to increase consistency between interviewers and locations, so that every candidate gets the same fair shot at joining Bain.
On the case interview side, Bain is moving away from the candidate-led format in some of its locations. Instead, the firm is rolling out standardized, interviewer-led cases that are developed and scripted by a central team to ensure a fair and uniform candidate experience. This trend has been observed in many European and US locations, but some offices and senior interviewers still use the legacy candidate-led approach.
On the fit interview side, Bain is phasing down the traditional fit interview, often criticized for being a self-marketing exercise rather than a test of transferable abilities. Many offices have eliminated the fit interview from the first round, to focus exclusively on cases. A new “behavioral interview” format has also been introduced in European offices. In this interview, candidates reported being asked specific questions without sharing their resumes.
Bain’s efforts to reduce unconscious bias do not stop there. Some offices require their interviewers to receive training sessions on unconscious bias. Others do not share candidates’ resumes with the interviewers who do not conduct a fit interview.
Finally, similar to other consulting firms, Bain is increasingly using cognitive and psychometric tests to screen candidates. This allows them to consider candidates from a broader range of sources without compromising on quality, and to bring more objectivity to the application screening process.
Although some variations remain between locations, roles, and interviewers, these changes are making Bain’s interview process more predictable, open, and fair.
Bain is moving toward interviewer-led case studies
In the past, case studies were developed by the interviewing consultant. Since 2019, Bain has been standardizing their materials. New cases are developed, scripted, and calibrated upfront by a mixed team of recruiters and senior case leaders.
As a result, Bain case studies, in many locations, are now primarily interviewer-led. After a short context introduction, the interviewer will raise the main question of the case, as well as additional questions which should help the candidate prioritize their ideas. At this stage, the interviewer would only expect the candidate to ask clarifying questions.
The first part of the case is inevitably about structuring the main question. Candidates should also think about where the additional questions fit into the overall structure or mention how they would tackle them separately.
The interviewer will then guide the candidate through the case to ensure all candidates have a similar experience and can be assessed using a prescriptive scoring grid.
Even with this guidance, candidates should not take the back seat, as case leadership is still one of the assessed dimensions. Showing initiative, putting forward hypotheses to test, and suggesting next steps (even if the interviewer follows a pre-set plan) are essential to succeed. This should also help make the case interview a discussion rather than a more mechanical question-answer interview.
Other assessed dimensions include structuring, math, judgement and insights, and communication.
Although this change toward interviewer-led cases has been observed in many European and US offices, some locations and senior interviewers still use their own material and the legacy candidate-led approach.
Some Bain offices are deploying blind, behavioral interviews
Many candidates in Europe have reported experiencing a 45 minute, one-on-one, “behavioral interview” with a Bain Manager who did not have access to their resumes.
In these interviews, candidates are asked eight scripted questions focused on whether they have the transferable skills necessary to succeed at Bain. The questions are a mix of backward-looking (past achievements) and forward-focused (hypothetical situations) scenarios. Themes include teamwork, the capacity to learn, and the ability to listen and empathize. Examples chosen can be personal, academic, or professional but the context matters less than what the candidate says about their thoughts and actions.
Key tips to succeed:
- Listen carefully to the question and tailor your answer; do not rush to an answer you may have prepared in advance;
- Although the context is important, spend most of your time talking about why and how you behave, the longer-term outcome/impact, and what you have learned;
- Be structured, succinct, and specific; do not hesitate to take 10-30 seconds to gather your thoughts.
Do be aware that Bain’s behavioral interview might feel mechanical and transactional as questions are scripted with no link between them. The interviewer may also interrupt your answer to move on to the next questions to ensure all eight questions are covered. So, don’t be too phased if either of these happens.
How to prepare for Bain’s new interview format
- Find out from the Bain recruiter what kind of interviews are involved for your specific Bain office and role.
- Use CaseCoach to prepare. The Interview Prep Course covers interviewer-led cases, candidate-led cases, written cases, estimation questions, fit interviews, and behavioral interviews — all formats that are used by Bain around the world.
- Make sure to practice cases and fit interviews with peers or with our experienced coaches using our coaching services. Successful candidates do at least 25 live cases before they are interview-ready.