The recruiting season is approaching fast and there’s one thing you’ll need for a chance at getting 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 a writing 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.
- What a cover letter is,
- The RIGHT way to structure one,
- The Red Flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them, and
- 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter.
We’ll also share:
- 2 consulting cover letter examples that landed candidates interviews at the top firms.
Let’s get started!
Consulting Cover Letter – Why It Matters
What Is a Consulting Cover Letter?
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.
The WRONG Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Most of the Internet articles on writing a cover letter talk about structuring them with the following sections:
- Why are you interested in consulting?
- Why are you interested in the firm you’re applying to?
- What makes you a good fit?
This is not the best way to approach writing your consulting cover letter. My Consulting Offer has helped hundreds of clients land interviews and then offers with top management consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey.
We’ve even helped people who faced an extra hurdle to land these jobs because they had low GPAs, majored in subjects other than economics or business, and/or attended non-core schools.
Our clients received interview invitations and job offers because our cover letter process works.
The RIGHT Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
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:
- Problem-solving skills,
- The ability to lead,
- Results delivered, and
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.
- Results delivered – When I took over as the leader of my sorority’s annual fundraising event for a local food bank, I wanted to make it even more successful than in prior years. Each year, we threw an event and asked people to bring packaged food products and/or a donation. I went beyond that by asking the college’s academic departments to collect donations from faculty and staff as well. Packaged good contributions to the food bank increased by 50% and financial donations increased by over 300%.
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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, a student with a non-MBA masters degree or doctorate degree, or a candidate from a non-core school, you should definitely use our approach.
Because you are showing the reader that you would be an asset to their team and have what it takes to be a successful consultant at their firm, they become less focused 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:
- Managing the kitchen effectively even on hecticly-busy Saturday nights,
- Managing chefs with many years more experience than he had himself,
- Landing jobs at top-rated restaurants by showing up at the restaurants before they opened and networking his way in with perseverance.
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.
Why My Consulting Offer’s Approach to Writing Consulting Cover Letters Is So Effective
My Consulting Offer’s approach of highlighting the characteristics the consulting firms value in applicants to develop your cover letter works.
- You don’t need to explain “Why McKinsey/Bain/BCG/etc.?” because you’ve taken your bullet points from their firm career pages.
- Your stories explain why you’re a good fit.
- You can cover the question “Why consulting?” in just a sentence or 2 because you’ve demonstrated you understand what consulting firms look for in candidates through your stories. This question is especially important for applicants with non-traditional backgrounds or experienced hires.
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.
Mistakes People Make with Their Consulting Cover Letter that Lead to Rejection
There are red flags that can get applicants’ resumes placed in the “no” pile. These are:
- A low GPA.
- An unexplained office choice.
- A gap in their work history.
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 members’ 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 apply to them because they think they have a better shot at getting an offer from the firm if they apply through that office, but later, these same people want to move to a different office.
If you are applying to an office because you genuinely want to live in that city, tell the recruiters why you want to live in that city (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.
Writing Your Management Consulting Cover Letter – a Step-by-Step Guide
- Opening – keep your opening short and sweet. Just introduce yourself and express interest in working for the firm you’re applying to, mentioning the specific position you want. Include your 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” here.
- Central paragraphs 1 – As explained above, find what the firm is looking for in consultants from their Careers page and dedicate one paragraph to each characteristic.
- Central paragraphs 2 – Create a story from your experience that shows you have that characteristic. You should include 3-4 stories in your cover letter.
- Central paragraphs 3 – Quantify results whenever possible.
- Central paragraphs 4 – Order these stories in the way that works to your advantage, with the strongest story first, the second-strongest last, and weaker (but still good) stories in the middle.
- Address any red flags.
- Express your interest again and close the letter.
That’s it! You now have an impressive cover letter.
5 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter that Lands the Interview
- Tip #1 – Start with the characteristics valued by the consulting firm you’re most interested in. You should tailor the cover letter for each firm to the characteristics they list on their Career page. You’ll find, however, that you can re-use stories because all consulting firms value leadership, drive, teamwork and creating impact.
- Tips #2 – Pick the most compelling stories from your experience. You probably have multiple stories you could use for some values. Choose just one story. If in doubt, the one where you solved the biggest problem or where you had the biggest impact is probably the best. Don’t worry, if you have another great story, you’ll get to talk about it in your consulting interviews.
- Tips #3 – Quantify results wherever possible. Showing that you increased revenue/ attendance/ donations by x% quickly and effectively displays you can get things done. Same with cost reductions or reduced time/effort to get work done.
- Tip #4 – Tighten your language to show your point as efficiently as possible. Never say more than you need to in order to make your point. Recruiters screen thousands of applications and they appreciate communications that get right to the point. Consulting partners will also appreciate this skill once you’re on their team and drafting PowerPoint slides for client meetings. Keep your cover letter to one page.
- Tip #5 -Use Fiverr or another service to ensure you have no grammatical or spelling mistakes. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don’t send a letter out with a big mistake in it especially if you can prevent it with $5.
Consulting Cover Letter Examples
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.
Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Example
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 a collaborative approach.
- Entrepreneurial drive: I was a scholarship athlete on the [UNIVERSITY] football team and was expected to arrive on campus a month before classes started. This reduced summer availability left me at a disadvantage for traditional summer internships, so I founded my own landscaping business. It was grassroots, and I conducted business relationships built on trust and relied on word of mouth. To ensure superb deliverables, I taught myself Google Sketchup to model my projects before building them. I learned about drainage and construction techniques using YouTube videos and manufacturer websites so that I could build retaining walls and outdoor structures. Using self-taught skills, I netted $30,000 in profit over the course of 3 summers which was a major source of funding for my education.
- Problem solving: To increase the competitiveness of our off-season testing, the [UNIVERSITY] strength staff started an event called the “Tricolour Draft.” As a captain in this draft, I was responsible for drafting a team of my peers. Rather than relying on my perception of players, I took a more empirical approach. After seeking out the previous year’s testing numbers, I entered them into Excel and added projections for players who were new to the team. I was then able to rank all my teammates based on their average performance across all the tests. I drafted my team strictly according to the unbiased rankings on this list and let the opposing teams draft based on their subjective feelings. My team ended up winning the competition and, using the exact same approach, I won the following years Tricolour Draft as well.
- Collaborative: When I was 4, my parents took roles as expats and moved our family to Khartoum, Sudan. I went to an international school but lived among the locals. This resulted in a unique environment to grow up in and one where I developed some great relationships. One such relationship was with a company employed driver, for whom I was the best man at his wedding at the age of 7! I quickly realized that everyone, from my peers to the locals, brought something to the table. I learned that people from all walks of life possessed valuable perspective and input worth considering. This recognition of diversity and drive to collaborate has given me the skills to produce results on teams and to form meaningful relationships with people of varied backgrounds.
I hope to bring these same attributes to McKinsey. Thank you for your consideration.
Why Is This Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
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:
- Personal Impact,
- Entrepreneurial drive,
- Problem Solving skills, and
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.
Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Example
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.
- Passion for Results: During a recent work-related project for COMPANY, I was placed in an innovative concept location for healthcare and lifestyle services, that had previously accounted for a monthly loss of $60,000 per month. I arrived as a transitionary replacement for the managing director with little time to adjust. Knowing that I had to turn around a loss-making business quickly, I began examining the most relevant products, services, costs and customers. After translating this analysis into a strategy, I convinced management through my presentation of recommendations to pursue a number of key steps in order to turn around the business. Three months later, we managed to create a business that generated $20,000 per month. Through the use of a structured analysis, combined with consistent execution of plans, I came to understand the value of an external consultant in a challenging business situation. Indeed, this project has motivated me to continue this type of result-driven work as a consultant at Bain & Company.
- Drive & Character: Before starting university, I worked as a paramedic in an ambulance, as part of Austrian mandatory civilian service. We worked in emergency teams, sometimes even throughout night shifts. This experience taught me a lot about first aid and human nature, and about working with colleagues amidst emergency situations. Moreover, I learned about my own performance, and how to stay calm and professional when it matters the most. Although handling emergencies became part of the daily business, I also developed professionally by performing services with great social impact, like taking care of disabled individuals several times a week. Regardless of the nature of the case, I learned to work diligently and always put the patient at the center of every action. As consulting also requires putting the interest of the client first at all times, I am confident that I can deliver value for Bain’s clients.
- Lasting Impact: At NAME OF UNIVERSITY, I was elected president of NAME OF ORGANIZATION, a residential community of internationally minded members with over 1000 members worldwide. Heading a board of six representatives, I developed valuable teamwork and delegation skills throughout our meetings. One day, a member of the board abruptly stopped communication. I saw it as my responsibility to ask for clarification and how I could support him. However, upon learning that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, I immediately and discreetly took steps to delegate his workflow to other board members and myself, so that he could focus on his family. As I led the other board members through a process of working overtime, we still managed to deliver results on time. This experience underlines my belief to always care for all members of a team and to be a leader by enabling them to perform.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Why Is This Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
This management consulting cover letter sample focuses on the key characteristics Bain seeks when hiring consultants as discussed on their career page:
- Problem-solving skills (addressed in Passion for results and Lasting impact.)
- The ability to lead (addressed in all 3 stories.)
- Results delivered (addressed in Passion for results with quantified impact.)
- Passion (addressed in Drive and character)
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 with multiple top firms and then their management consulting offers.
What About Firms Like McKinsey Which Don’t Require a Cover Letter?
Some management consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company have made submitting a consulting 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, then you don’t need to submit a cover letter. Things that would make you look like a good fit include:
- A high GPA,
- Attendance at or a degree from a core school that the firm recruits at through on-campus interviews and hires consultants from every year,
- An undergraduate degree in business or economics or an MBA,
- Leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills clearly demonstrated through work and volunteer experience on your resume.
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.
Also, 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 not sure whether you need a cover letter or not, 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:
- What a consulting cover letter is,
- The RIGHT way to structure one,
- The red flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them,
- Our 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter, and you’ve got
- 2 Consulting cover letter examples that worked.
Still have questions?
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:
- Consulting Resumes,
- Consulting Networking,
- Case Interview Prep: The Ultimate Guide,
- Our List of Top Consulting Firms and their company values, and
- The Non-MBA Master’s Student’s Guide to Landing a Consulting Job.
Do You Need Help Writing a Perfect Consulting Cover Letter?
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on writing your cover letter. We’ve helped over 400 people get offers in consulting and 85% 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.