Bain Interview Questions

Last Updated: 20 February 2020

Bain & Company (Bain) is one of the world’s leading business consulting firms, dealing with clients across six continents on issues of strategy, operations, technology and mergers and acquisitions. Founded in 1973, the firm describes itself as ‘the management consulting firm the world's business leaders come to when they want enduring results’.

Those applying for associate consultant roles with Bain can expect a fairly rigorous interview process, involving a combination of case study questions and experience-based interviews. The structure of the process may, however, depend on the office location and the position you’re applying for.

The Application Process

All applications to Bain should be made online. Once your application is received, it will be reviewed and you’ll be informed whether or not you have been selected for interview. This will usually be followed by two or more rounds of face-to-face case studies and/or experience interviews.

The application process typically runs as follows:

  • CV review
  • First interview stage
  • Second interview stage

Stage One: Online Application

The online application for Bain requires the following:

  1. CV and cover letter
  2. Details on your educational background
  3. Details on your work experience

Submitting your CV may seem like a straightforward part of the process, though it’s not to be brushed over. Given the massive quantity of high-calibre candidates applying to Bain, typically only a relatively small number of CVs will make it through to the interview stage. You need to make sure yours stands out. Follow the links to read more how about how to write a great CV and look at different CV examples.

Tip: Above all, the information on your CV needs to be accessible and easy to read. The most important details – educational and professional achievements – need to stand out and catch the eye of the HR professional reviewing your application. The less work the person reading your CV and application has to do in order to find the key information, the better.

Stages Two and Three: Interviews

Bain typically uses a combination of case and experience/CV-based interview, with the core focus being on the case interview (for MBA candidates, the application usually also includes a written case study, which is included in the second round of interviews).

Successful candidates from the first interview stage can expect to progress to a second round of interviews. This is likely to involve at least two further face-to-face case studies.

The Experience/ CV-Based Interview

This opening part of the interview process is relatively straightforward and comprises of standard questions based on the information submitted through your CV and application. These are likely to focus on your educational background and achievements, work experience as well as professional interests and motivation. At the end of the interview, you may also be asked to work on a short business problem, which will look to assess your maths and analytical skills.

Here are some example questions you might find yourself facing at this stage:

  • What interests you about consulting?
  • Why do you want to work for Bain?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • Why did you choose this particular course / university?
  • How do you feel your sporting / extracurricular activities have benefited you as a person?
  • What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?

Tip: While in many ways the pre-cursor to the more challenging case study interview that is to follow, the experience interview is still something you should take very seriously. The most important thing is to know your CV like the back of your hand. You should also be aware of any particular issues that are likely to grab your interviewer’s attention (or raise eyebrows) and be ready to address these.

The Case Study Interview

The case study interview usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. Your interviewer will provide you with a case study based on a real-life scenario or problem that Bain and its employees have worked on. This part of the application process is designed to help your interviewer to get to know how you think and approach a problem, while providing you with an understanding of what it's like to work at the company.

In the case study interview, the interviewer will take the candidate through a number of steps to try to assess their ability and understand their approach to the various levels. The steps range from establishing what is the critical issue at hand, to splitting a problem into integral parts, before finally coming up with a solution to the problem.

There is rarely a specific right or wrong answer. Bain is less interested in your knowledge of business or financial terms and current events, and more concerned with getting a glimpse of you analytical skills and how you go about breaking down a problem and working towards its solution. Your interviewer will be assessing your strategy for approaching the problem, your thought processes, communication skills, and how you go about implementing your solution.

Though perhaps the most nerve-racking aspect of the Bain recruitment process, it’s worth remembering that the case study interview is also a chance for you to get a feel for what it’s like to work as a consultant at Bain and the kind of work you could expect to be doing day to day.

The interview is usually carried out through the following series of steps.

  1. Seeing the bigger picture. To start, you are given the key components of the problem facing a fictional company and are then asked to identify the critical issues facing the business. A successful candidate will be able to focus on the key issues, rather then simply listing every potential issue. You will then be asked why you chose your answer.

  2. Problem-solving techniques. You will then be asked to lay out all components of the problem. What are the critical elements you should be addressing?

  3. Choosing a path. You will be encouraged to choose which areas of the problem to hone in on, and explain your reasoning for doing so. Here the interviewer is trying to get a sense of your instincts in relation to selecting the right path to go down.

  4. Results orientation. Your interviewer will then ask how you would look to implement your solution, providing a step-by-step account of how you would go about it.

Here are some of the typical case studies you could be given:

  • You have just been promoted to president of the university that you attend. What do you think the biggest challenges facing you might be and how would you go about tackling these?
  • The year is 1980 and your client, a telecommunications company, has just invented the cellular phone. They are asking you to estimate the market demand for the product over the next 30 years; they want you to tell them if there is a market for this invention (and prove it).
  • Your client is a $300 million-a-year copper-mining company. This year it has lost $50 million. What would you do to turn it around?
  • You are asked by a client to raise the shareholder value of the company, which manufactures medical gloves for hospitals. How would you look at doing this?

Tip: If you haven’t taken part in a case interview in the past, you should spend as much time as possible familiarising yourself with the format. There are a number of practice versions available online; while no substitute for the real face-to-face version, they should give you a fair outline of what to expect. To view examples of case study questions, click here.

When it comes to tackling the case interview itself, here are some key things to consider:

Listen. You will be given a lot of crucial details to sift through, both during the introduction to the case study and throughout the interview itself. Don’t try to take down everything you hear; while notes are important, you need a chance to be able to process the information you’re given so you can ensure you understand the issues and can establish your own conclusions.

Communicate. Just as important as what you say is how you say it. By clearly explaining your thought process, you allow you interviewer insight into your commercial awareness, which is really the crux of the whole process. Rather than just asking loads of questions, look to explain the reasons behind the questions you’re asking. This will show that you have a plan or strategy. Remember, the path you take in coming to your conclusion is just as crucial as the final outcome.

Take your time. Don’t shoot from the hip: consider all your suggestions carefully before giving them and how you would go about putting them into practice. Is your plan realistic? Think about any potential pitfalls and be aware of any issues your suggestions might raise.

If you still have any questions about the application process at Bain, please check out the WikiJob forums.