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Would you choose Bain or BCG if you had both offers and planned on staying in consulting for a while?

likesmart
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Had offers from all 3 and chose Bain. Would do so again due to:

- WLB: yes there are edge cases, but pretty certain we work less, which makes it more sustainable long term. This is driven by culture, team structure, office staffing model

- Business/Work: fastest growing (= more spots at the top), good mix of work with less focus on implementation. Big leadership in some areas (e.g. tech, PE). Huge push to fill in gaps where we have been historically weak (e.g. HC). PE strength gives us access to cool work for PortCos who wouldn’t normally be able to afford us

- Comp: if you’re thinking long term then you can factor in NAP (profit share) as like cash comp (takes 3 years to vest before SM, vests annually after that). With that, we pay the best. SM and above also get co-invest which can be very lucrative

- People/Culture: just seems like people care more about you and people tend to want to build more personal relationships rather than be transactional. Could be self perpetuating, could be driven by hiring or the office staffing mode, I don’t know. But whatever it is, it makes Bain a lovely place to be.

BCG is also a great firm and if you clicked with the people there more than Bain then you should strongly consider it. If you are interested in Healthcare or Public Sector work then you’d also be better off going there as growing our HC business will take time, and we aren’t going to move into public sector anytime soon.

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Chose BCG over Bain and McKinsey. You can find great people at every firm so broad statements on here telling you people are definitively better at one are bs. You have your own best intuition of how that fits for you. For me, it was BCG and I felt that was the most important factor.

Other considerations

Staffing - I saw the Bain local office staffing model as a major downside for me as I was restricted to cases served by partners in that office. I liked BCG and McKinsey here because I had more agency. Bain also basically tells you the case you are on for your first year (you did get to input on what factor matters most to you) whereas there is a little more of a free market at McKinsey and BCG (with additional support early on). I.e., my final round Bain buddy could not staff a HC case despite him wanting to be on it, the team wanting him, and him having HC background.

Type of work - I saw McK and BCG as essentially peers in the market with Bain not having many of the same opps./growth. Consistently, McK and BCG partners referenced once another when asking about market competition and never mentioned Bain. Bain PEG is larger relative to their firm overall, but all three seemed plenty big for me to get opps. there.

Exit Opps. - You will get some sort of pitch from the firms that there is differentiation here, but I concluded that there was no noticeable difference here after doing a lot of digging.

Comp. - Was not a factor for me as the benefits are ridiculous at all 3 and never imagined making this much money in my life. After comparing notes with friends after 2 years, it does appear our comp./benefits are marginally better than the other two, but mostly rounding error in grand scheme of things

Time to partner - This was also not a factor for me. Clear difference here though. From fastest to slow (on average) McK then BCG then Bain.

Negative recruiting - McK and BCG never said anything negative about the other two during the conversion process and Bain was aggressively stating "we work less hours" "You won't have as good of apprenticeship" , etc. This really rubbed me the wrong way for a number of reasons.

likefunny

Yes, was referring to Partner at Bain vs MDP at BCG (the fake partner title is ridiculous). Agreed the manager year slows things down, but that’s only relevant if you want to leave in 2 years. Bain comp lags in year 3 because of this, but is then back to being higher in year 4 onwards. Promotion data across NA suggests the range from SM to P is 3.5-5 years with average being ~4.5yrs.

Definitely comp nuances around performance as you describe. Realistically I think it’s easiest to say that for all intents and purposes the comp and progression are identical, with NAP maybe giving Bain the edge when looking over 3+ years (to account for ups and downs).

Not competing in healthcare is maybe a bit strong, but we are sub scale (and are trying to fix this). It’s a tough one though as it requires a lot of technical knowledge that takes time to recruit in.

Would agree about everything else, and if you actually ignore federal/HC we aren’t that much smaller than BCG

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Recent IconRecent

Bain is more collaborative, and the people are happier. If you’re in it for the long term, pick happiness

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I’m not from the traditional pool Bain draws from. The happiness of my teams is contagious, and I’ve never met a stranger at Bain. The office is my tribe. Seriously, it’s such a special place.

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I’d choose Bain for the culture and strength in PE. Everything else is pretty similar

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It also depends on the geo - went with Bain after a cross-offer and have been overall very happy given the people. IMO that should be the key driver for your decision.

Pro Bain (US):
- Local staffing
- People
- PEG

Pro BCG
- Really strong growth
- Probably better at eg Digital and just bigger
- Slightly better perks (if that matters to you)

likesmart

I’m a PoC, could give 2 shits what the color breakdown at the top looks like. I’ve always felt at ease and welcomed in my large northeast office. I had cross offers and chose Bain bc I got along with the people the best and wanted to have a viable career in consulting without needing to travel.

I also came to the US as an international student and diversity generally seems to matter less to us than native-born PoCs - so take this with a grain of salt.

likeuplifting

Bain no doubt. Took McK over Bain because of city preference. Regret it often

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Why do you regret it?

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Bain

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Honestly I would chose BCG for PE. BCG has been growing massively on a small base and theres tons of room at the top to mint new partners.

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I wouldn't choose BCG for PE. there's benefit to scale in that market... Makes for a lot less craziness and a lot more institutional knowledge to use as a starting point in a fast sprint (though still crazy at bain sometimes).

I realize BCG is big too but they're not even close, and when talking about niche markets nobody has ever heard of which is common in PEG, the institutional knowledge that comes with decades of market leadership is very valuable. I never once had to truly start from scratch.

Also at BCG you have a lot more leaders in PEG with relatively much less experience than you find in Bain PEG leadership. Not uncommon to have a partner tagged to your team with 15+ years experience just in PEG.

Bains PE practice has far more demand than supply. No shortage of growth opportunities.

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Bain is great if you have a traditional background (target undergrad/MBA), but not so great otherwise. There's much fewer MD/PhD/JD hires at Bain and I think less diversity in general. Bain is also not as strong as BCG in certain industries, Life sciences being one. Great people in both from my experiences, it comes down to what your personal background and preferences are and how well you connected with the people at each firm.

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I have no interest in PE, so BCG

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One thing to point out about Bain. If there’s a specific industry you’re interested in or passionate about, make sure your office does work in that field.

During recruiting they mentioned they could staff people on projects at other offices based on industry interests, but after almost 3 years I can tell you it almost never happens.

The local staffing model has its perks (partners are incentivized to provide better WLB since they’re likely to work with the same team members across multiple projects), but from a staffing perspective it can be extremely limiting.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed my time at Bain, but just something to think about.

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I had all 3 and picked BCG. Connected better with people and liked the firm a bit more overall.

Personal preference as there ain’t really that big of a diff

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Hm case coach was good but only cuz I had free access. Case books from b schools are helpful, just gotta find practice partners

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Bain

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I would say go with the firm that you felt more connected with the people.

Got cross-offers, went with Bain and never looked back, but that doesn't mean I should 100% vouch for Bain in your case.

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Watch out on the Bain-PE comments. Bain and PE is more a relative size importance than an absolute size. Our PEPI practice is huge and we serve all big funds and mid-market players, it’s just not the biggest practice for us, but we’re multiple times bigger than Bain.
The co-investing part may be different but there are tons of things that happen at the Partner level that no firm talks during recruiting and lower levels (true time to partnership, requirements, equity needed, partnership structure, partner compensation, etc etc)

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More like 2x overall, so math on absolute practice size doesn’t add up. I’d assume PEG is still bigger unless PEPI is >10% of McK revenue (which I don’t believe it is, might be incl. corp work, but that doesn’t count as PEG for us)

Our co-invest is for SM and above too

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Bain and BCG were my top 2. Agonized over it for a while, signed with Bain because I felt the people just seemed generally happier

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I chose Bain over BCG. Home office model gave me a lot of assurance that I'd find a home, not just a job.

6 years later, I don't regret it, but I certainly do get a little annoyed at the fact that BCG tends to raise comp first, and that BCG does more title inflation.

I also think that as you get to management positions, it becomes easier to specialize at BCG (and easier to generalize at Bain). That's a preferential question. I've always loved the ability to stay a generalist but have recently felt a desire to get more expertise, and that's a very proactive thing at Bain.

I have a close family member at BCG, until he recently got fed up and left. I definitely have been happier than he has been on average.

Consulting is consulting. It's a tough industry and these are two of the best companies in it. You can't go wrong between the two if you want to do consulting.

likehelpful

Had this same decision, went with BCG because of (generally speaking) better capabilities outside of PE compared to Bain. Culture wise, Bain people were nice throughout the process but seemed very distracted during our interviews.

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Echoing others on looking at how many cases are done in particular industries if that’s important to you. I worked at McKinsey and BCG and much preferred McKinsey. I would have joined Bain over BCG, but they don’t do enough work in my focus industry (even ignoring the typically-local staffing). I prefer the Bain people I’ve met and have more Bain friends than BCG friends despite working at BCG.

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why did you prefer Mckinsey? thinking about the two

Reading all this seems like marketing pitches from each firm :)

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Shouldn't it?

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