As Bain & Company has opened for internships this year, we sat down with the final-year students placed at Bain the previous year. Read on to find about their preparation, experience at Bain, and more.

1. What exactly does the work of a consultant entail?

Rohith: In management consulting, a consultant gets access to problems & scenarios businesses and corporations face across industries. As part of a large team, you try to arrive at a diagnosis and solution for these issues/scenarios. This need not necessarily be a problem as in something harming the corporation. It could be something that they are considering doing as well. Essentially, you work on anything that the said companies are planning to take action on.
For instance, they might ask for a strategic analysis from the management consultancy firm. Consultants would be part of a team that would break down the scenario and try to arrive at solutions for every part, or at least have a diagnosis done for each part so that they can further take on the steps they have planned to.

2. Could you give an example of what sort of cases a consultant would have?

Nandini: Let’s say you have a retail store located in India that wants to enter the Sri Lankan market. They would probably hire a consultant to know how to strategize their entry into a new market. Another scenario could be a potential problem: for instance, the company sees a decline in revenues and cannot figure out why or how. The consultant hired will need to figure out what the problem is, and if possible, give ways in which the firm counteract these measures and improve its revenues. Sometimes, companies face multiple issues and hire consultants for the entire set of problems.

Rohith: While preparing for the interviews, we were solving two or three major classes of problems. One was the profitability issue: there might be some reason a corporation’s profitability might be failing. Another possibility could be that there’s a particular market entry going on. As said earlier, a particular corporation might want to enter an entirely new market in completely new geography. Sometimes in the same geography, they would like to enter with a completely different product. Apart from this, consulting companies do due diligence for private equity firms and start-ups. We help out in various initiatives they are planning to take, operations, and such. This could very well not be an exhaustive description given none of us has started our jobs as yet.

Vishnu: To add on, some consulting firms do government projects or work with the government in framing policies.

3. What made you choose consulting over other options?

Vishnu: Consulting is something that you get a wide variety of exposure: you work in industries ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to commerce or the mining industry. You keep on changing your work style in 2 months or less; in a year, you will be working with more than 6 to 7 different kinds of industries. Another important thing that people look at is after 3-4 years, what kind of options do you have? Consulting gives you a lot of good exit options. Some people do three years of consulting, then go for private equity, do their own start-up or go for an MBA. For all these options consulting firms give you an edge.

Nandini: One of the lucrative points at every consulting firm is that they sponsor your MBA abroad, provided you come back and work for a year or two. Considering how expensive an MBA might be, and that these firms are willing to spend on you for an MBA, this is one of the best options that you may get at any point.

Vishnu: They sponsor your MBA, and you also have a job with you. It’s not like you go to college and then you have to search again for a job. You are already in a secure position, getting an MBA with fees entirely sponsored and then when you come back, you have a secure job. IIT already gives you a safety net that you won’t go jobless; consulting adds another layer of security over it.

Rohith: An important thing is that you would be working at the forefront of various industries, understanding and solving business problems happening in the current scenario. You would also be working with brilliant people with unique insights into different things. I always wanted to be at a workplace where I am constantly growing, around people who are also growing and are equally ambitious and capable. We get to meet CXOs of the best companies and advise them on strategic initiatives, and that too at the age of 22 or 23.

4. What kind of preparation would one need to be placed at a consulting firm such as Bain? What do consulting firms expect from candidates from Insti?

Varun: For interview prep, you essentially do case prep: solving simplified business problems we call cases. Your interview focuses primarily on your ability to solve cases. There’s a personal interview as well. I got all my case prep resources from the Placement team: they provide books and such. You tend to use around 3-4 books, from which I mainly followed two: Day 1.0 and Case Interviews Cracked. You can get plenty of case interviews online as well. There is no lack of resources as consulting is an established and lucrative job, so people put up resources and helpful material on YouTube and other websites. There are websites for helping crack cases too.

Rohith: The problem for the person preparing is filtering this material: deciding which is the best for them. That is something that requires a certain amount of focus. Another resource is your interaction with your seniors: people who have been through the process and are better at case-solving than you are. Doing cases, or even just talking about these things, with them helps you get a lot of insights.

Nandini: It’s not just the cases that you do with your buddies; it’s also the cases you do with peers. Every peer of yours probably being shortlisted will have their own buddy cases. That’s an immense treasure trove because they will be doing cases with you, so you will have those cases too. Another critical aspect is going through those cases over and over again to see what mistakes you made. That’s something not specific enough but is pretty essential to do.

5. What skills and experience could one get from Insti that would help them in a consulting job (courses, PoRs, internships)?

Nandini: There are two aspects to look at here: one is your resume, and the other is your interview. Regarding the interview, communicating your thoughts is something you can learn in Insti working in different clubs. It is a soft skill; it is not something that you can write on your resume. This soft skill will help you do a good interview in your final interviews because a significant part of it is you being able to structure your thoughts properly. Being able to structure and convey your structure is the most crucial thing in an interview.

Rohith: You should try to figure out certain things that will add value to whatever you are trying to do in life. You shouldn’t be trying to focus your entire journey in insti towards a specific job or role. Insti is this place that forms you. You come in as a person great at problem-solving, who can twist around numbers and such. Four or five years in insti gives you an insight into who you are, what you enjoy doing, and what you want to do in the future. You should give full time and scope for all these things to happen. In the process of doing what you take up if you are of the mindset that you want to do it to the best possible extent that you can, that is what will set you up for a great shot at doing well at a consulting job.

People always complain that it’s very vague: you want a well-rounded profile. That only comes from you exploring all the different things that you can do and trying to do it to whatever extent you can, given the constraints you have. I think that should be your guiding motive or guiding principle. It’s about you wanting to develop skills and attain intellectual strength in the process, instead of trying to fit your journey into an existing roadmap.

6. How is the application process and interview for placements at Bain like?

Nandini: You are asked to make a resume that you submit to the portal. After a week or so, the company sends out a shortlist. After the shortlist had come out, they immediately sent us our buddy contacts. We had a senior buddy and a junior buddy, with whom you can do cases. You can ask them questions about the company and the placement process, and they will be there to help you. Finally, you have the D-day where you do interview cases with the interviewer and get your shortlist. The firm will give out a hot list of like 10-12 people right before the day of the interview. Those people would be interviewed first and then the rest later.

Rohith: There was also a networking event, where you get to meet people who have been in the organization for some time, and you try to understand more about working at Bain and how things are. Usually, it’s a networking dinner, from what we hear from our seniors. They would take you to some fantastic restaurant: you’d get to meet people from the firm, eat dinner with them while trying to understand what they talk about. We, however, had a virtual networking event; it was essentially a Zoom call. You would be allotted breakout rooms. Each room would have a certain number of shortlisted candidates and a certain number of people from the firm. We ask them questions about the firm; they would also tell us about what they’ve been doing at the firm.

7. What advice would you give to someone hesitant to take up consulting because of the preparation process?

Rohith: Some people can be intimidated by the entire process of preparing for case interviews. There are two possibilities: some people might think case interviews are intellectually challenging, that only very clever people can make it, and might give up. Some people might say, “I am interested in some highly complex problem-solving; these cases are simple”, because, for one, the cases in standard books would be like, “a fruit seller has certain problems in his orchard” and such.

Neither of these is true: it’s not too easy, it’s not too tough. There are variations, and a person shouldn’t shy away from preparing for consulting or case study-related roles just because they haven’t done anything like it till now. There’s still a lot of time. With sustained effort and a certain amount of focus, everyone can prepare effectively for a case interview.

8. How was the placement phase for you, having your final year of Insti during COVID?

Rohith: It is different for different people. As part of Chennai 36, I used to speak to people who got placed and all. Once a person had told me, when I was probably in my second year, that during the placement, you have phases of extreme confidence, and you have phases of complete desolation, where you feel like you’re doomed. Back then, I thought that’s not logically possible: you know who you are, and you know your chances. However, to an extent, what he said was very accurate. There were periods when I felt very confident: maybe I had done a case well on that day, and I was like, “yeah, I’m going to ace it.” I was thrilled on days like that. And there were days when I’d do a case wrong or something else went wrong. I would think, “What if this doesn’t work out? What am I going to do?”

For me, two things were important. One was to know what my plans B, C, or even D were, to know what my worst-case scenario was, and come to terms with it. The goal is to understand what your other options are if everything goes wrong. If you have set a plan that goes “if everything goes wrong, this is what I’m going to do”, and you come to terms with it, that would help alleviate a certain amount of stress.

Another thing was to talk with people also going through the process: people who also have these phases of confidence and lack of it. If you and your friend are in different phases, it would be perfect if you compensate for your phase difference: you speak to someone feeling very confident when you are feeling low, and balance things out. It’s like a support group: this could be your case group, your close group of friends, family, or anybody.

Apart from this, you can speak to people who have been through the process: your seniors and people who’ve already been interviewed. Understanding what they went through on Day 1 and what, in their hindsight, could have gone better will give you insights. One thing I learned from these people is that you have to try and be yourself on the day of the interviews. You have to try to block out anxiety and be the person you are on an ordinary day because that is your best shot at doing the best during the interview.

9. Do you have any advice for students considering consulting, sitting for placements, and otherwise?

Rohith: Communication is crucial, not only for consulting but for any interview. People in insti have excellent analytical skills: most people will solve a complex problem given enough time and resources. It’s more about how they would communicate their approach and how they would take people through what they’re doing. If there’s a lot of time left to prepare, I would tell people to be spot-on with their communication and try to be precise and well-articulated, because that can go a long way.

Nandini: In the interview, even if one round goes bad, there are other rounds in which they will try to evaluate you. Don’t get worked up because one round went wrong: there will be other chances, maybe other companies waiting for you, so don’t think it is the end of the world.

Varun: Don’t get too stressed: you’re young, you can take risks. Even if something goes wrong, you still have a lot of time to cover it up. Don’t be too worried about placements in general: at the end of the day, it’s just a job. It’s good to prepare well, but I have seen people get super stressed about all of this. Stay calm. Do your thing, and try to do your best. Whatever happens, it happens.

Nandini is an undergraduate in the Department of Chemical Engineering
Vishnu is doing his dual degree in Data Science and Materials Engineering
Varun is pursuing his undergraduate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering
Rohith is an undergraduate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Written by Lakshmi Puthiyedath