A Consulting Cover Letter that Lands Interviews: Our Complete Guide
The recruiting season is approaching fast, and there’s one thing you’ll need to get your foot in the door for an interview at a top-tier consulting firm: an impressive cover letter.
What should you talk about in your consulting cover letter?
How do you distinguish yourself from the tons of other candidates applying to Bain, BCG, McKinsey, and other top consulting firms this year?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, don’t worry!
In this complete guide to writing a consulting cover letter, we’ll tell you exactly what points you need to address in your cover letter to put your best foot forward and land that interview.
We’ll also share:
Let’s get started!
The consulting cover letter is a separate document from your resume; it puts the work experience you outline on your resume into context to show why you’re a great candidate.
Most of the Internet articles on writing a cover letter talk about structuring them with the following sections:
This is not the best way to approach writing your consulting cover letter. My Consulting Offer has helped hundreds of clients land interviews and get offers with top management consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey.
We’ve even helped people who faced extra hurdles because they had low GPAs, majored in subjects other than economics or business, or attended non-core schools.
Our clients received interview invitations and job offers because our cover letter process works.
Want to know the best way to structure a cover letter that has statistically been shown to get more interviews?
Watch this video before proceeding.
Now that you watched the video (Watch now if you haven’t yet because the impact of the rest of the article is only 10% of what it could be if you watch it).
As you found in the video, the best way to structure your cover letter is to Google the characteristics the consulting firm you want to work for seeks in consulting candidates and then show you have those characteristics.
Yes, you read that right. Go to the Bain Careers page and read about what they’re looking for in candidates. You’ll find it on this page.
Every consulting firm has values they take very seriously, and that drive the candidates they target, so you will want to know what they are for each firm you apply to.
As an example, Bain wants consultants with:
You will use each of these to develop a paragraph or section of your consulting cover letter.
For each, choose a specific time from your professional or personal experiences that shows you possess that characteristic.
If you have more than one experience that shows you exemplifying a characteristic, pick the strongest example.
Then, create a story that briefly explains the context around your example, describes the action(s) you took, and shows concrete results.
Quantify the results of your actions whenever possible.
Proof the My Consulting Offer Cover Letter Structure Works
This strategy of showing how you’ve exemplified the characteristics the firm is looking for in applicants works particularly well if you are applying to management consulting firms from a non-traditional background.
If you’re a student with a liberal arts major, in a non-MBA master’s degree or doctorate, or attending a non-core school, you should definitely use our approach. It shows the reader that you’d be an asset to their team and have what it takes to be a successful consultant at their firm. This makes them focus less on your non-traditional background.
One of our early clients was an undergraduate who’d spent his summers interning in Michelin-star restaurants in New York City because he aspired to run a Michelin-star restaurant as a career.
He didn’t have high-level positions in these internships; he worked in the kitchens. He cut the tomatoes for the tomato soup and did similar food prep.
He wasn’t even in charge of making the tomato soup!
As graduation approached, he decided that while he knew all about the kitchen side of the restaurant business, he wanted to learn about running the front of the house. To do that, he looked into consulting jobs.
But he had no business experience.
In his cover letter, we developed stories about:
These stories showed he had the leadership experience, people skills, and drive needed in consulting, things that wouldn’t have been clear from his resume alone.
My Consulting Offer’s approach highlights the characteristics consulting firms value in applicants to develop your cover letter.
Just add a short opening, 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” and a short conclusion to these paragraphs, and your cover letter will be ready to submit.
There are red flags that can get applicants’ resumes placed in the “no” pile. These are:
A low GPA can be a problem because management consulting firms target people who can solve tough business problems. But if your GPA is low due to extenuating circumstances, such as a problem with your own or a family member’s health, or if you needed to work many hours each week to finance your education, firms will often overlook this.
Small offices at top consulting firms often have a problem. People choose them because they think they’ll have a better shot at getting an offer from the firm. But later, these same people want to move to a different office, leaving that office understaffed.
If you’re applying to an office because you genuinely want to live in that city, tell the recruiters why you want to live there (examples: near family, proximity to outdoor activities, etc.) They need to see that you are not planning to try to transfer to another office or they won’t want to invest in you.
If you have a gap in your work history, a consulting firm might think you were fired and had difficulty finding another job. If health or another issue was the cause of the gap in your work history, it’s important to explain that.
If you have any of these or other red flags in your consulting application, take the time to explain them in your cover letter so that they don’t derail you from getting an interview.
That’s it! You now have an impressive cover letter.
The best way to get a sense of what an effective management cover letter looks like is to read one.
We’ve got 2 examples of letters that helped My Consulting Offer clients land interviews: one from an undergraduate student’s application to McKinsey and one from an experienced-hire candidate’s application to Bain.
MONTH DAY, YEAR
McKinsey & Company
Dear [RECRUITER] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
Thank you for considering my application for Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s commitment to create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people by developing one another through apprenticeship, mentoring, and sustaining a caring meritocracy.
Given the opportunity to join McKinsey, I would bring to the firm my entrepreneurial drive, problem-solving skills, and collaborative approach.
I hope to bring these same attributes to McKinsey. Thank you for your consideration.
This consulting industry cover letter written by an undergraduate is effective because it addresses key characteristics that McKinsey looks for in their applicants, as you can see on their careers page:
While it only calls out 2 of the 4 characteristics McKinsey is looking for, entrepreneurial drive and problems solving, these stories also showcase the candidate’s personal impact.
The 3rd characteristic the cover letter calls out, teamwork/ collaboration, is also highly valued by McKinsey and other consulting firms.
The entrepreneurial drive paragraph is effective because it shows this candidate works hard and overcomes obstacles that would stand in the way of other candidates.
The problem-solving paragraph is effective because it shows the candidate’s structured approach to solving a problem. It also shows this approach worked.
The collaborative story works because it shows that this candidate was able to make strong personal connections from a very young age and that they respect people from all walks of life.
The candidate makes clear with his/her stories that they understand what McKinsey is looking for and that they’ve demonstrated those characteristics.
MONTH DAY, YEAR
NAME OF RECRUITER
TITLE OF RECRUITER
Bain & Company
FIRM OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear Ms. LAST NAME and members of the Bain recruiting team,
Thank you for considering me for the position of Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my passion for results, drive and character, and ability to have a lasting impact, as the following outlines.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
This management consulting cover letter sample focuses on the key characteristics Bain seeks when hiring consultants, as discussed on their career page:
Each of the 3 stories in this cover letter presents the applicant as someone who has the characteristics top management consulting firms look for.
Moreover, the 3 stories together demonstrate that he or she has “the whole package.” He or she isn’t smart but a poor team player or good at problem-solving but lacking the passion needed to get things done in a difficult, real-world environment.
The fact that the applicant could speak to all of the things Bain looks for helped them land interviews and then offers with multiple top firms.
Some management consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, have made submitting a cover letter optional.
Should you bother to spend the time to write one if they don’t seem to care?
If your resume clearly shows you are a good fit for the consulting firm, you don’t need to submit a cover letter. Things that would make you look like a good fit include:
If your resume doesn’t clearly communicate that you’re a good fit for the management consulting industry and their firm, in particular, your application will be strengthened by including a cover letter.
You should also submit a cover letter if you have been previously rejected from that firm so that they know you have taken steps to improve your application since last applying.
You’ll want to think about stories to use in your behavioral interviews anyway, so if you’re unsure whether you need a cover letter, it’s safest to write one.
To see the power of an improved cover letter, watch this video on how My Consulting Offer helped Cynthia get invited for an interview at every consulting company she applied to.
Are you ready to write your management consulting cover letter?
We bet you are since you now know:
If you have more questions about writing effective consulting cover letters, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s former MBB recruiters will answer them.
Other people who were writing their cover letter found the following pages helpful:
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on writing your cover letter. We’ve helped over 700 people get offers in consulting and 89.6% of My Consulting Offer clients land interviews and offers with a consulting firm. Most land more than one. We want you to get that opportunity to interview with McKinsey, Bain, BCG and other top firms!
For example, here is how we helped Tao land interviews at Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.