Bain’s new strategy on diversifying its candidate pool
Banks and consulting firms no longer appear satisfied with just the best industry-focused talent. They want a more diverse candidate pool, and they’ve had to change their recruitment strategies as a result.
Wall Street has professed its want to recruit a more diverse employee base – not just in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation but also in the educational and professional backgrounds of its staffers. The idea is that if you just hire people with finance and economics backgrounds, you’ll share a limited number of perspectives.
In the last two years, Goldman Sachs and other banks have made a push to hire more people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), for example. In the world of consulting, Bain is undertaking a similar initiative. The world’s top ranked advisory firm wants to broaden its recruiting reach beyond those that feel destined to be consultants.
“The diversity and talent on campus is very high, and we need as broad a pool of people as possible,” said Keith Bevans, head of Bain’s global consultant recruiting team. But some students may not feel they are cut from the right cloth to be a consultant, simply because of their background. They may be intimidated by the unique interview process and the fact that some of their MBA classmates may have already started the consulting track, according to Bevans.
“A lot of students are born to be consultants,” he said. But others who don’t already have the pre-MBA experience – people who worked at a non-profit or in education, for example – can be just as successful as long as they have the smarts and the innate problem solving skills, Bevans said.
“We can teach the business side of it,” he said. “The harder part of the job is connecting with the executives. That part can’t be learned.” Bain is doing whatever it can to connect with those people and are introducing them to the world of consulting.
Part of that effort is by breaking down the walls of the recruiting process and using technology to further networking opportunities. That includes social media, blogs and webinars, but also “coffee chats” –one-on-one online conversations between recruits and people at the firm that may share their background.
If an on-campus recruiter finds a student that is interested in retail, they’ll set up a casual online talk between a Bain employee who specializes in that sector. If a New York candidate wants a more global perspective of Bain, they can video chat with someone in Germany, Bevans said. "We want them to see there are people just like them."
Prior to the official interview – which remains in-person – “students are arguably interviewing us,” he said. “We want to give them a richer understanding than a phone call can provide.”
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The other step Bain is taking to broaden its candidate base is to try and make the interview process more welcoming to non-consultants. And as level a playing field as possible.
Consulting interviews are different breed. They combine your traditional behavioral questions with case studies, where you’ll be given real-life client scenarios that need to be analyzed and assessed, often using frameworks.
Bevans himself had an engineering background and had never taken finance classes prior to Bain. “Case studies can be intimidating if you haven’t done them before,” he said. Most people with alternative backgrounds – people who Bain say they are equally interested in – likely haven’t.
“They need live practice,” Bevans said. But, in the past, some recruits who may have needed the help may have reached out to a Bain employee or alumnus who has never been on the other side of the interview desk, and may not be able to provide the best perspective or feedback.
“Those people all say yes,” to providing any help they can, Bevans said. “That’s what Bain alumni do.” They just may not all have the same tool chest.
So, Bain is now giving its on-campus reps and its alumni the tools to get its ambassadors more of the help that they need.
“We’re providing standardized cases for the prep,” Bevans said. “Instead of just saying, ‘here is what a case may look like,’ we are giving you three cases, and a good, better and best answer,” he said. “We are trying to standardize the test cases so that everyone gets the same help.”
Students can even go online to see video footage that is used to train the interviewers at Bain. Examples of great answers are also on their website.
“I can’t get all the talent that I need if entire segments [of recruits] think the interview process doesn’t set them up to succeed,” Bevans said.