Spoilt For Choice: McKinsey, BCG or Bain? - MyConsultingCoach
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Congratulations! Your hard work and perseverance has paid off and getting offers from MBB which is an impressive achievement. Right now you will be taking an extremely significant step and choosing the offer best suited for you.  Any MBB firm will provide your career with an amazing accelerated track, and they share a lot of commonalities around their focus on impact and talent development. There is no "right answer" as to which one you should choose. However, there are a few differences to take into account. Taking the time to research and compare your options is a worthy time investment. 


So let's look at this like a consultant, shall we? 

#1 Identify the problem

What are you optimizing for? Do you want to have the best possible two years as an analyst? Or are you taking this decision with a longer future career orientated view? Do you want to rise through the ranks and make partner? Or do you want to use consulting as platform to be the CEO of the largest Telco of your home country? You should be honest with yourself about your end goal. 


#2 Build your structure

Once we've narrowed down our goal, we need to build a structure about what are the elements we'll want to consider:


1) Location, location, location

2) Culture 

3) Industry focus

4) Network  & exit opportunities 

5) The offer package  

#3 Lead the analysis

Let's analyze each factor - Here a good consultant will prioritize which are the most important for them, but this is a question only you can answer.


3.1.) Location, location, location


When you start your research you'll quickly find a lot of generalities about the firms "McKinsey does the most government work" , "Bain is very fratty", etc. Generally, there is some truth, in some contexts, to these statements. However, think about it - These are global and integrated firms, sure, but they span five continents and 50-100+ offices depending on the case. So you'll find a lot of variability between offices. A strong case would be made that the culture of BCG Dubai will be as similar to the culture of Bain Dubai as to the culture of BCG Seoul.

Your experience will be profoundly shaped by where you are - The networks you develop, the local cultures and the types of industries you'll serve will all be to some extent molded by location. So the first step in your research should be thinking about location - Are all the offers for the same city? If not, where does it make more sense for you to be (professionally, and personally). 

On top of this, you should talk with people who work at the offices you're planning on joining. Don't relly on generalities - Deep dive on the speicifc dynamics of the offices you're considering. 

3.2.) Culture
The location caveat aside, the fact is that each Firm has their unique DNA. The workstyles differ, the staffing models differ and even some "preferred" personality traits will be different. So how can you figure this out? One option is you can just go with the stereotypes of McKinsey = Head of the student union, Bain = Captain of the football team and BCG = Winner of the Chemistry competition.
A possibly better approach is to do some due diligence yourself. Meet people from the firms you're deciding on. Check for patterns. Ask them explicitly about what they value, how their firm operates on the dimensions you care about. Are they more formal or more informal? Are they more creative or more structured? If after these questions you still don't see a lot of difference between them... Well maybe you're just in a location where the cultural differences aren't that big or maybe that's a factor which isn't that important to you. 

3.3.) Industry & functional focus

The focus of the firm will be partly contingent on location, and partly transversal. McKinsey is the undisputed champion when it comes to Public Sector work, whereas Bain takes the lead when it comes to Private Equity due diligence. So it will come down to whether you have a specific industry focus in mind. Again, you should calibrate this according to the specific office you'll be working with - The likelihood of getting staffed on an Oil & Gas project is higher if you're working out of the Lagos office than if you're staffed in Frankfurt. 

An emerging trend to consider here is the fims' push into new types of projects. Turnaround projects have been a growth area for McKinsey (RTS services), while all firms have been focusing on advanced analytics (BCG Gamma, McKinsey's acquisition of Quantum Black, Bain's Advanced Analytics Group). If these areas appeal to you, you would do well to understand the specific positioning of firms in each area. 

3.4.) Network & exit opportunities 

Given how close-knit the alumni networks of firms are, this is a factor that shouldn't be underestimated: The day you look for another opportunity will be the day you'll realize just how massively important your firm's alumni network is. You should study this criterion under two different lenses:  

a) Spread of the network: As a result of the with the industry focus of each Firm, you'll find that MBBs have differently focused networks - For example, Bain tends to have a higher percentage of their alumni working in Private Equity. The same is true for geographic focus - If you're working in New York but hope to one day work in Africa, McKinsey's network will be much more far-reaching than others'. 


b) Size of the network: Size matters. McKinsey is larger than BCG, which is larger than Bain. Furthermore, in our experience, this larger network size has not led to a significant dilution of the closeness of ties. If you're working in London where all three firms will have very deep networks this effect is not massive. But if you ever plan on relocating to another city, you might find that a larger network makes difference in your ability to quickly connect. 


3.5.) The offer package

Whilst we're neutral in terms of your prioritization of the above four factors, we'd advise you to significantly discount this last one. If you're getting an analyst or associate offer, the truth is that your yearly compensation is still far from what it will be in a few years time. As such, any differences in pay (generally McKinsey pays the lowest amount of base salary) will not be relevant in the grand scheme of things. 
However, if this is an area which is particularly important to you, make sure you consider all aspects:

1) What is your base salary, and the bonus range?
2) If you're pre-MBA: What sort of MBA sponsorship can you expect, and how soon? (Firms vary substantially in this respect)
3) Do you get a relocation package?
4) How good are the health insurance and related perks?
5) How much yearly leave do you get? Do you have an option to "purchase" extra days of leave?
 

#4 Deliver the recommendation 

We'll leave this last one to you - Try to use the pyramid principle to build a recommendation for the CEO of your career about which firm to go for. You should support this recommendation in a fact-driven way, using three parallel lines of reasoning. If you can't do this, maybe you should reflect for a little while longer. 

Don't know what the pyramid principle is? We've got you covered - look at the next section "Don't have the offer yet?")


Don't have the offer yet?

Getting to the stage where you have to make this decision takes effort, as only the best of the best candidates manage to land even a single offer. The good news is we're here to help - At My Consulting Coach we've developed the resources you need to successfully navigate the recruiting process, end to end.

Our case interview method

 Our case interview course has been developed by MBB consultants with clear goals in mind - To teach you how to think, act and communicate like a world-class strategy consultant. By going through it you'll become equipped not only to ace the interview process, but also to be a top performer at your firm. 

Other methods focus on helping you memorize dozens of frameworks and pre-packed structures. We take a different approach. We believe that distinctive candidates and distinctive consultants don't rely on crutches and that they use their own minds to solve the toughest problems. We're here to help them master the concepts and processes they need to be able to shine. We can support you in:

1) Understanding business fundamentals: Get your mini-MBA with our Marketing, Strategy and Economics, Accounting & Finance modules

2) Learning how to crack a case:  Identify the problem, Build a problem driven structure, Lead the analysis and how to provide recommendations.

3) Shaping your approach with our building blocks: Master profitability analysis, competitive dynamics, pricing discussions, among others. 


Our coaching sessions

Coaching can help the best candidates to pinpoint their development points and turn them into strengths. They will give you self-awareness about your profile and how to best position yourself for that MBB offer. Equally importantly, they will give you the confidence to know you can succeed in such a challenging process. 


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