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Bain & Company Remains Committed to International MBA Hires Amid H1-B Uncertainty

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In this third installment in our continuing series on the H1-B visa and its impact on international MBA students, we checked in with consulting firm Bain & Company, a leading MBA recruiter, to understand the issue from an employer’s perspective.

“We definitely hear more questions coming from students about how we handle the H1-B,” says Bain Global Head of Consultant Recruiting Keith Bevans. “Students are asking about it much more in the last year than they have in previous years.”

Bain is actively monitoring all of the proposed changes to H1-B legislation—which range from doubling minimum salaries of H1-B visa holders to $130,000 to earmarking 20 percent of H1-B visas for small and start-up employers to requiring firms hiring H-1B visa holders to make a “good faith” effort to hire Americans first, among others.

“Like everyone else, we’re looking at where it’s going to land and how it affects the support that we are providing recruits,” Bevans says. “Are there things that I can be doing today to make sure that in a time of uncertainty students feel like Bain has their back?”

international MBA hires
Bain Partner Keith Bevans, global head of consultant recruiting

Visas Are Never Guaranteed
Of course, says Bevans, with any international hire the firm has always faced the possibility that someone who requires a visa will not get one. “We have always had that challenge looming,” he says. So first and foremost, he tries to be proactive in helping students figure out a Plan B if they don’t get the H1-B.

As an example, he offers the case of a Polish national at business school in the United States who gets an offer for Bain’s Chicago office. To this student, Bevans would say, “We know you need to get a visa to work here, but if you don’t get the visa you need, would you be comfortable working in your home country for a while instead?” In that case, the Poland office would be notified, and the recruit would have a backup plan—giving him or her peace of mind.

Of course, if the offer is for the Chicago office, it’s because Bain needs someone in the Chicago office—so the firm has to mitigate its own risks some, too. “What we’ve had to do differently than we have in years past is pay attention to the balance of the hiring we are doing so we don’t get any unpleasant surprises,” Bevans says. “If 80 percent of my recruits need a visa, that becomes a problem—I can’t take that much risk.” Still, it hasn’t changed his hiring behavior that much, he says.

The hypothetical Polish native who doesn’t get the H1-B for his or her Chicago office might also decide to start in Chicago as part of OPT and try again with the lottery the next year. “We try to work with students to find the best answer for them professionally and personally,” he says. “If they start in Chicago and want to try again, that’s great—but if they want to settle down somewhere and not live in a constant 12-month cycle of uncertainty, I would understand that, too.” His advice in each instance is more about what’s best for the individual and less about what he thinks is best for Bain, he says.

Supporting recruits in the current environment of uncertainty regarding the H1-B visa is really not a departure from the norm at Bain, Bevans says. “We’ve always invested heavily in making sure that the people coming in have the support they need dealing with all types of issues, including immigration.” There is a very strong team at Bain that helps international applicants navigate the visa application process, there are mailing lists for people working on visas alerting them when it’s time to review, and the firm’s mobility team sends out messages on a periodic basis just to let management know where things stand with everyone, he explains.

Our Number One Priority Is Finding the Best Students on Campus and Getting Them into Bain
Has Bain’s approach to considering applicants who would require a visa changed in recent years? Bevans says no. “Work authorization doesn’t become a question for us until the very end of the process of recruiting,” he says. “And if it does come into play, it’s in terms of needing to have a Plan B.”

“Our number one priority is finding the best students on campus and getting them into Bain—wherever they come from.”

Advice to Anxious Prospective International MBA Hires
Bevans says he recognizes that students who are currently on business school campuses very likely started their journey at a time when they thought there was a lot more certainty. “I know many are tremendously anxious,” he says. “My advice is to stay focused on what your goals were, control the things you can control, and choose an employer who is going to help you navigate through very uncertain times in a way that is supportive.”

“You don’t know whether you will get a visa, but you do know that you have to choose an employer who will support you. You can’t control the coin toss of whether you get a visa, so focus on what you can control: choosing a firm based on how supportive it will be to you in any outcome.”

In case you missed our two preceding H1-B–focused articles, check them out: