Bain interviews include case interviews, behavioral or fit interview questions, and written case interviews for some offices. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what to expect in your upcoming Bain interview and how to best answer each of the different questions you may be asked.
We’ll cover in detail:
- The Bain interview process
- The 6 steps to ace your Bain case interviews
- The 3 most common types of Bain cases
- 4 examples of Bain cases
- 8 steps to ace your Bain written case interviews
- The 10 most common Bain behavioral and fit interview questions
Bain Interview Process
The Bain interview process has the following steps:
- Resume and cover letter screening
- Bain math test (only used by a few offices in South America)
- First round interviews
- Second round interviews
Bain’s resume and cover letter screening is similar to other consulting firms. Two or three weeks after the application deadline, you should hear back from Bain on whether or not you have been invited to a first round interview.
In a few offices in South America, Bain uses math tests to screen candidates before interviews. For the vast majority of candidates, you will not need to worry about taking a test.
There are two types of tests. The first one is based on questions that are similar to GMAT questions, a graduate level exam for entry into business school. You’ll have 25 minutes to complete 15 critical reasoning, data sufficiency, and problem solving questions.
The second type of test is similar to the McKinsey PST and BCG Potential Test. You’ll get two business cases with text, charts, graphs, and tables. You’ll have 45 minutes to answer 15 questions.
First round interviews consist of two 40-minute interviews. The interview may start off with one or two behavioral or fit interview questions, but the majority of the time will be spent on the case interview.
After your first round interviews, you should hear back from Bain within a week or two on whether you have been invited for a second round or final round interview.
Second round interviews consist of two to three 40-minute interviews. One of the interviews will be focused on behavioral and fit interview questions with a mini-case if there is time. The remaining interviews will focus primarily on case interviews.
In some countries, Bain uses a written case interview in their second round of interviews. You’ll be given 90 minutes to review a 20-page packet of information to fill in 5 pre-made slides.
After completing your final round interviews, you should hear back from Bain within a week on whether or not you are being extended an offer.
In the following sections, we’ll cover how to do well in Bain’s case interviews, written case interviews, and how to best answer behavioral and fit interview questions.
Bain Case Interview
Bain states on their website that all consulting role candidates and some non-consulting role candidates can expect a case interview, regardless of which office they apply to.
Bain case interviews are candidate-led. This means that you will be expected to lead the direction of the case. You will propose what areas to investigate, what analyses to do, and what the next step should be.
There are four qualities that Bain looks for:
- Problem solving skills: Can you demonstrate the ability to structure complex problems and think creatively and pragmatically to find solutions?
- The ability to lead: Can you lead and contribute to teams?
- Results delivery: Have you made an instrumental and quantifiable impact to an organization, project, or team’s success?
Passion: Do you have an entrepreneurial drive and can you inspire others?
The 6 Steps to Solve a Bain Case Interview
1. Listen to the case
The case will start with the interviewer giving you the case background information. During this step, make sure you are taking notes on the most important pieces of information. You should focus on understanding the context, company, and the objective.
2. Verify the objective
Understanding the business problem and objective is the most important step of the case interview. Answering the wrong business question is the quickest way to fail a case interview.
Therefore, you should ask clarifying questions to better understand the business situation and issue. Make sure that you confirm the objective of the case with the interviewer. This will ensure that you start the case on the right track.
3. Create a framework
Next, create a framework to help you tackle the business problem. A framework is a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into simpler, smaller components. Think of a framework as brainstorming different ideas and organizing them neatly into different categories.
Walk the interviewer through your framework. They may ask a few questions or provide some feedback.
4. Develop a hypothesis
After creating a framework, you should develop a hypothesis that answers the business problem. A hypothesis is an educated guess on the answer based on the data and information that you have so far.
Your hypothesis does not need to be correct because you’ll be continuously testing and refining your hypothesis throughout the case. The purpose of having a hypothesis is to guide your analysis and ensure that you are spending your time answering the right questions.
5. Test your hypothesis
The majority of the case will be spent testing your hypothesis.
Sometimes, your hypothesis will be completely wrong and you’ll need to develop another hypothesis to test. Other times, your hypothesis may be correct, but you’ll need to refine and narrow down your hypothesis further.
Throughout this process, you’ll likely be answering a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions. Make sure that after each question, you explain how your answer impacts your hypothesis and state your new hypothesis.
6. Deliver a recommendation
In the last step of the case interview, you’ll present your recommendation and provide the major reasons that support it. It is also good to include potential next steps that you would take if you had more time or data.
The Three Most Common Types of Bain Cases
While you can be given any kind of business situation or problem, there are three types of cases that are by far the most common in Bain case interviews:
- Profitability case
- Market entry case
- Merger and acquisition case
Bain Profitability Case
A profitability case might look like this:
“An electric car manufacturer has recently been experiencing a decline in profits. What is causing this decline and what should they do?”
There are three steps to solving a profitability case.
First, you need to understand quantitatively, what is the driver causing the decline in profits? Is the decline in profitability due to a decline in revenue, an increase in costs, or both?
Next, you need to understand qualitatively, what factors are driving the decline in profitability that you identified in the previous step. You’ll likely need to look at customers, competition, and the market to understand why this decline is happening.
Have customer needs or preferences changed? Have new competitors entered the market? Are there new technology or regulatory changes?
Once you have identified why the decline is happening, you can brainstorm potential solutions and prioritize the solution that is the most effective and practical.
Bain Market Entry Case
A market entry case might look like this:
“Facebook is considering entering the smartphone market in the United States. Should they enter?”
For market entry cases, there are typically four major areas you want to investigate in order to develop a recommendation:
- Market attractiveness: Is this an attractive market to entry?
- Competitive landscape: How strong are competitors and how easy is it to capture meaningful market share?
- Company capabilities: Does the company have the capabilities to successfully enter the market?
- Financial implications: Will the company achieve its financial goals or targets from entering the market?
After determining whether or not the company should enter the market, you can look into potential risks, the market entry strategy, or explore alternative options that the company has. What you choose to do depends on the context of the case.
Bain Merger and Acquisition Case
A merger and acquisition case might look like this:
“Walmart is considering acquiring a company that provides an online platform for small businesses to sell their products. Should they make this acquisition?”
For merger and acquisition cases, you first want to understand the reason why the company is looking to make an acquisition. For example, are they trying to gain access to more customers, acquire intellectual property, realize synergies, or diversify sources of revenue?
Next, there are generally four major areas you want to investigate in order to develop a recommendation:
- Market attractiveness: Is the market that the acquisition target plays in attractive?
- Company attractiveness: Is the acquisition target an attractive company?
- Synergies: Are there significant revenue and cost synergies that can be realized?
- Financial implications: What are the expected financial gains or return on investment from this acquisition?
Afterwards, you can consider potential risks or consider alternative acquisition targets. What you choose to do depends on the context of the case.
Bain Practice Cases
Bain provides two videos that show what their case interviews might look like:
- PrintCo case interview example: Market entry case focused on helping a restaurant menu printing company decide whether to enter the electronic restaurant menu market. This case is in a video format and is helpful in understanding what an associate consultant-level interview looks like (post-undergraduate role).
NextGen Tech case interview example: Partnership case focused on helping a wearable computer device company determine which cellular network company to partner with in order to make $1B over the next two years. This case is in a video format and is helpful in understanding what a consultant-level interview looks like (post-MBA role).
Bain also provides two practice cases that you can do on your own:
- CoffeeCo case interview practice: Market entry case focused on helping a friend decide whether she should open a coffee shop in Cambridge, England.
FashionCo case interview practice: Profitability case focused on identifying how a fashion retailer can increase revenues.
We have videos covering how to solve every step of these practice cases below.
Bain Case Interview Tips
Here are six tips you should follow to improve your Bain case interview performance:
Tip #1: Don’t rely on using memorized frameworks
Interviewers can tell when you are using memorized frameworks because not all of the elements of your framework will be relevant to the case. You can make yourself stand out from other candidates by creating customized frameworks for each case.
To learn how to create outstanding, tailored frameworks review our comprehensive case interview framework guide.
Tip #2: Have a hypothesis-driven approach
A phrase you’ll often hear Bain consultants use is “answer-first.” Bain consultants develop a preliminary answer before they begin solving a case.
In your Bain case interview, you should do the same thing. State a hypothesis in the beginning of the case based on the limited knowledge that you have. As you answer quantitative and qualitative questions, continue to adapt and refine your hypothesis.
Tip #3: Answer “so what?” after every question
Throughout the case, make sure you are connecting each of your answers back to the overall business problem or question. What implications does your answer have on the overall business problem?
Many candidates make the mistake of answering case questions correctly, but they don’t take the initiative to tie their answer back to the case objective.
Tip #4: Structure your approach before doing any math calculations
When given a quantitative problem to solve, resist the temptation to start crunching numbers immediately. Instead, take the time to write out an approach and walk the interviewer through it. This will help you avoid making unnecessary calculations or reaching a dead-end.
Tip #5: Talk through your calculations out loud
Talking through your calculations out loud provides two benefits. One, it makes it easy for the interviewer to follow your work. If they know exactly what you are doing, they can provide feedback or hints if you get stuck. Two, talking through your calculations out loud decreases the likelihood of you making math mistakes.
Tip #6: Be enthusiastic
Bain wants to hire candidates that love their job and will work hard. Displaying enthusiasm shows that you are passionate about consulting and working at Bain. Having a high level of enthusiasm and energy also makes the interview more enjoyable for the interviewer. They’ll be more likely to have a positive impression of you.
Bain Written Case Interview
Bain written case interviews are used by several offices as part of the consultant and summer associate second-round interviews.
The written case interview will require you to develop a recommendation based on a business situation and problem. There is no one right answer or recommendation for these cases. The goal is to present a structured, well-supported recommendation and to participate in a rich discussion with the interviewer.
According to Bain, here’s how the written case interview is structured:
- Bain will provide you with 20 to 30 PowerPoint slides describing a client’s situation
- You will have 55 minutes to review the slides and handwrite a brief recommendation before the interview begins
- You will then have 40 minutes to present and discuss your recommendations with the interviewer, who may challenge your assumptions and ask follow-up questions
8 Steps to Ace Your Bain Written Case Interview
1. Understand the business problem and objective
The first step in completing a written case interview is to understand what the objective is. What is the primary business question you are trying to answer with the data and information provided?
2. Read the list of major questions
Some written case interviews will provide you with a list of 3 – 4 key questions that you will be expected to address or answer. Read through these questions first since these will be the questions that you will want to prioritize.
If the written case interview is more open-ended and does not provide you with a list of key questions, skip this step and move onto the next step.
3. Skim the materials
Next, flip through the information packet that is provided to see what information is available. Identify what data you have and what data you do not have.
The goal in this step is not to read and analyze every slide. That would take too much time. Instead, by seeing what information exists, you will be able to better prioritize what you spend your time reading and analyzing.
4. Create a framework
Before you begin reading and analyzing the information in the slides in more detail, you should create a basic framework to help guide your analysis. If you are provided with a list of key questions or pre-filled slide templates, then this will likely be the foundation of your framework.
Else, based on what information exists in the information packet, identify the three to four key questions you need to answer or investigate.
5. Read and analyze the material
Afterwards, read and analyze the information that is relevant to each area of your framework. As you begin answering questions and drawing insights, make sure to write a one or two sentence summary. This will make it easier to decide on a recommendation later.
6. Decide on a recommendation
Review the list of key takeaways that you have summarized from answering all of the major questions in your framework. Decide on what recommendation these findings collectively support.
Remember that there is typically no right or wrong recommendation. As long as your recommendation is supported by data and evidence, you will be in great shape.
7. Create your slides
Once you have a recommendation, it is time to start filling in your slides. Usually, Bain provides slide templates that you will need to fill in.
If no slide templates are provided, you should use the following structure when creating your slides:
- Slide 1: Present your recommendation and the three reasons that support it
- Slide 2: Present your first reason and the data that supports it
- Slide 3: Present your second reason and the data that supports it
- Slide 4: Present your third reason and the data that supports it
- Slide 5: Summarize everything that you’ve covered so far
- Slide 6: Propose potential next steps
8. Prepare for potential questions
If you have any time remaining, brainstorm potential questions the interviewer may ask you during your presentation. They may want to know how you performed your analysis or how you reached your conclusions.
Preparing for these potential questions will help your presentation go much more smoothly. You will also feel much more confident while presenting.
Bain Written Case interview Tips
Here are five tips that Bain recommends following to complete your written case interview successfully.
Tip #1: Prioritize your time
You may not have enough time to read everything in the information packet provided to you. Therefore, prioritize your time by focusing on identifying the most important issues. Then, spend your time getting answers to the most important questions that have the greatest impact on your recommendation.
Tip #2: Be concise in the messaging of your slides
It can be tempting to overload your slides with every piece of information that you learn. Instead, outline the most important points that you want to make. Make your slides concise and focused on illustrating the most important findings and takeaways.
Tip #3: Be prepared to do math and conduct analyses
Part of the written case interview will likely involve doing analysis with the numbers that are provided. Do the math that is required and double check your calculations.
Tip #4: Have a practical recommendation
Make sure that your recommendation can actually be implemented in a reasonable amount of time. You can demonstrate sound business judgment by recommending a course of action that is not only effective, but pragmatic.
Tip #5: Build counter-arguments to potential objections to your recommendation
You can strengthen your recommendation by looking at the major reasons that support the opposite recommendation. If you can acknowledge these points and build counter-arguments to them, you’ll have an easier time defending your recommendation when the interviewer challenges your assumptions and recommendation later.
Bain Behavioral and Fit Interview Questions
Each of your Bain interviews may start with the interviewer asking you traditional resume questions to get a better understanding of your background, interests, and career goals.
Some interviewers may ask specific questions on your professional or academic experiences. You may be asked to describe a project that you worked on and elaborate on the approach you took to solve a problem.
In addition to these questions, your interviewer may also ask a behavioral question, which asks you to describe past experiences and how you handled them. Interviewers want to know that you have displayed qualities of successful consultants in your previous experiences.
Bain suggests preparing answers to these ten behavioral and fit interview questions:
1. Why are you interested in Bain?
How to answer: Have at least three compelling reasons why you are interested in Bain. Among the top three consulting firms, Bain is best known for its incredibly fun and supportive culture. Bain is also the clear leader in private equity consulting work. In addition, you can mention Bain’s focus on mentorship and local staffing model to build stronger office communities.
2. What experience are you most proud of?
How to answer: Choose your most impressive, unique, or memorable accomplishment. Structure your answer by providing information on the situation, the task, the actions you took, and the results of your work. Make sure you talk about your accomplishment with passion.
3. What experience do you wish you could do over, and how would you do it differently?
How to answer: For this question, Bain is looking to see if you have a growth mindset and whether you continuously look for opportunities to grow and improve yourself. Pick a meaningful experience in which you felt that you did not take full advantage of. Speak to what you hope you could have learned from doing the experience over again.
4. What is a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year?
How to answer: For this question, Bain is looking to see how you make difficult decisions. You could pick an experience in which you used tremendous amounts of data to make an informed decision. You could also pick an experience in which you had to reconcile differing opinions from different groups of people. Show Bain how you tackled and thought through these decisions.
5. What is an example of a time when you showed initiative and leadership?
How to answer: Pick an example of a time when you were in a leadership role and went above and beyond expectations. Make sure to emphasize the steps that you took that demonstrated initiative and leadership. Also, quantify the results and impact of your work.
6. What aspects of your internship did you especially enjoy?
How to answer: Mention qualities of your internship that you’ll likely also experience at Bain. You can speak to how you enjoyed working closely in small teams, how you were energized by the opportunity to make a meaningful impact, or how you felt fulfillment from helping other teams achieve their goals.
7. What aspects of your internship did you like less?
How to answer: For this question, avoid bringing up aspects that are critical to being a successful consultant. For example, don’t say that you did not enjoy working in teams or working with large quantities of data.
You should mention aspects that you didn’t like that consulting would fulfill. For example, you can mention how you would have liked to make more of an impact or have more ownership and responsibility.
8. What do you most like to do in your free time?
How to answer: Bain asks this question to see if you are a fun person that has a life outside of school and work. This is a great opportunity to mention hobbies and interests that you have won awards or recognition for. Avoid mentioning generic hobbies and pick interests that are unique and memorable.
9. What attributes would you bring to a case team?
How to answer: Identify three attributes that make you stand out relative to your peers. You can mention qualities such as initiative, energy, compassion, mentorship, or positivity. Provide examples to make these claims more credible.
10. Describe a role where you changed the direction of a team. How did you do it?
How to answer: For this question, the interviewer wants to see evidence of leadership. Focus on explaining the steps that you took to change the direction of the team and then highlight the results and impact of your work. You may need to speak about your leadership style and how you were able to motivate or persuade others.
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