Everyone gets stressed when it comes time to write their consulting resume. How is it possible to stand out among the sea of applicants top consulting companies receive?
In this article, we’ll walk you through our step-by-step guide to planning, outlining, and then writing the perfect consulting resume.
- Key skills management consulting recruiters are looking for when they assess resumes,
- Our step-by-step guide on how to write a consulting resume:
- Mapping your work experience and extracurricular achievements to these skills,
- Structuring your consulting resume,
- Polishing your language, and
- Avoiding pitfalls.
- We’ll provide a consulting resume example you can use for ideas, and
- Our 5 tips on writing your management consulting resume.
Let’s get started!
Key Skills Management Consulting Recruiters Are Looking For When They Assess Resumes
Your consulting resume and cover letter are the first things a recruiter will use to determine whether they would feel comfortable putting you in front of a client. This is otherwise known as ‘the acid test’.
It might seem like interpreting what recruiters are looking for when they assess consulting resumes is impossible to decipher. But the truth is that most are working from a fairly standard model.
So, how do we know what skills are important to recruiters and will help us make it through the selection process? There are 4 things the top consulting firms are all looking for.
Recruiters will be looking to identify occasions where you have taken the lead – whether that’s on a project, a sports team, or organizing an event.
More than just the ability to analyze information, this is about the ability to synthesize and interpret data to solve complex problems and deliver results.
3. Entrepreneurial Drive.
One thing recruiters love to see on a consulting resume is evidence of applicants taking initiative. Consulting can be fast-paced, and the quicker new hires feel comfortable striking out on their own, the better.
4. Personal Impact.
Great interpersonal skills will be required no matter which role or firm you want to be part of. Consultants work with a diverse range of stakeholders and the ability to effectively build relationships is key.
Our Step-by-step Guide On How to Write a Consulting Resume
- Map Your Work Experience and Extracurricular Achievements To The Key Skills,
- Structure Your Consulting Resume,
- Polish Your Language, and
- Avoid Pitfalls.
Get your application noticed with these insider tricks from former McKinsey, Bain, and BCG Recruiting Managers.
Map Your Work Experience and Extracurricular Achievements to Key Skills
We’ve identified the 4 key skills that need to find their way on to your consulting resume. Now let’s look at the best way to map your current work experience and extracurricular activities against those skills.
For ‘Leadership’, start by jotting down any examples where you’ve held a position of responsibility. This could be on a university sports team, in a club, or in a society.
It could be in your community, previous employment, or as a volunteer. It could also be any time that you’ve had to manage people, coordinate resources, or organize an event.
Example of demonstrating leadership on your consulting resume:
- Achieved 45% increase in client retention rates by reducing customer complaints and ensuring on-time delivery
To gain credit for problem-solving, you’ll need to show evidence of where you noticed a problem in the way something was done and changed something to deliver a positive result.
This could be about changing a process or the way something is organized to make it better. Or it could be fixing a process that normally works well but, due to a change in circumstance, a problem arose that needed to be fixed.
For those with a science background, describing experimental work that was carried out to prove or disprove a hypothesis can also be used as evidence for problem-solving.
Examples of demonstrating problem solving on your consulting resume:
- Contributed $50M to revenue and reduced project delivery time by 15% by implementing best operational practices through analyzing data set for 20 past projects
Entrepreneurial drive is all about taking initiative. Recruiters are looking for examples of someone who is not content with the status quo, who likes to innovate and might use creative approaches to solve the problems they face.
If you want to apply to a boutique consultancy, e.g., LEK for life sciences, and have work experience that is relevant to that niche, consider reframing your ‘work experience’ section to showcase this area.
Undertaking work experience in a specialist environment can be evidence of entrepreneurial spirit as you have taken the initiative to go and learn more about the industry in which you want to, ultimately, consult.
Examples of demonstrating entrepreneurial drive on your consulting resume:
- Helped tech startups employ over 20 students per year by organizing Brown’s first startup-focused career fair.
Evidence of personal impact can be seen through examples of public speaking or communicating with a diverse audience. It can also be about contributing to a team or society or organizing or collaborating with others to drive a result. Work experience where you presented an idea or recommendation which was accepted by stakeholders is great evidence of personal impact.
Examples of personal impact on your consulting resume:
- Improved the department culture and raised the morale of students from underrepresented backgrounds by working with administrators to organize mandatory diversity training for all TAs.
These key skills should also be highlighted in your cover letter.
Structure Your Consulting Resume
Let’s now look at how to best organize your resume to showcase some of these key skills that ultimately enable you to pass ‘the acid test.’
One thing that is important to understand is that a management consulting resume is different from a regular resume. There is a very standardized approach that is accepted across all the firms and trying anything more ‘creative’ will simply lead to immediate rejection.
The recruiters and consultants tasked with helping to evaluate applications typically have less than a minute to assess each resume and they need to be able to make quick comparisons between those they receive.
Effectively Presenting Information
Use standard sections. A strong consulting resume should include the following sections (in this order):
- · Personal Information
- · Work Experience
- · Non-work Experience or Extra-Curricular Activities
- · Education
- · Other – Additional Skills & Interests
Leading with ‘Work Experience’ rather than ‘Education’ directly after ‘Personal Information’ is especially important with on-campus recruiting where everyone is from the same school. Re-ordering the sections breaks up the monotony for recruiters and jolts them into paying more attention to your resume.
Fill up one page
It sounds pedantic, but any less and you won’t look accomplished. Any more shows you can’t focus or distill key information effectively. A big no-no for consultants.
Use consistent formatting
Use one font throughout and be consistent in how you treat similar types of words, e.g., always putting company names in bold and position titles in italics, always starting bullet points with a verb, etc.
Use bullet points.
Within each of these sections of your resume, use bullet points to show evidence of the key skills that recruiting teams will be looking for. Each of your bullet points should target one of the key skills and, where possible, the evidence should be broadly split across all key skills.
The 3-Pass Process
Remember that creating an impressive, polished management consulting resume can take time, so make sure to start the process early. Don’t try and do it all in one go.
Adopt what we call the ‘3-pass process’:
First Pass: Get all the relevant content down in one place. Brainstorm all the examples you can think of for the 4 key skills. Ask friends, colleagues, former managers, and mentors if they have ideas about where you’ve demonstrated those skills. Don’t worry about including too much in the first pass – it is best to get everything on the page and worry about trimming it down to 1 page later on.
Second Pass: Concern yourself with structure and formatting. This is where you can sort your examples into the relevant sections and make sure that all your bullet points follow the ‘XYZ’ format described below.
Third Pass: Proofread, make final tweaks, and check grammar.
Polishing Your Language
Signposting Your Impact Using the XYZ Format
Make it easy for recruiters to truly understand the impact of your actions. Making sure your content is relevant and easily signposts your most impactful contributions.
We suggest adopting the ’XYZ’ format when describing your experience. Following the XYZ format means starting your sentence with what was accomplished (X) as measured by (Y) by doing (Z).
For example, consider the statements below:
- Cold-called 48 companies to land $100,000 contract.
- Led 85-person football team to win league title over 7 other teams (1st team title in 20 years).
Sounds impressive right?
However, this is still not showcasing these examples in their best possible light as the result is somewhat lost at the end of the sentence. With the XYZ format, we place the result at the beginning which is important in a consulting environment. After all, they are paying you for the results you create not the work you’re doing.
So, if we rearrange our sentences, they now read:
- Increased revenue (X) by $100,000 (Y) by landing contract after cold-calling 48 companies. (Z).
This sounds significantly more impressive and easily signposts key achievements to a recruiter quickly scanning your resume. And, it is the opposite of how almost all candidates write resumes, so you will stand out.
First (and Last) Impressions Count
The same principle applies to the order in which you place the bullet points for each section on your consulting resume. For example, if you have 3 or 4 examples where you‘ve demonstrated these key skills, make sure to order them with the strongest bullet point first in the list and the second-strongest bullet point at the end of the list.
Other less impressive but still relevant information should go in-between. This classic ‘sandwich’ technique means that recruiters get the most important information first and are also left with a great final impression.
Check, Check and Check Again
Don’t forget to do a final pass for spelling and grammar checks. Have someone you trust read over your information to pick up on any small errors that can make the difference between impressing recruiters with your resume and it hitting the bottom of the pile.
A good option is to use a site like Fiverr where you can pay a small amount for professional proof-readers to scan over your document and offer suggestions. Just make sure to tell Fiverr you only want them to edit for grammar (not content or how you structured your sentences!)
Finally, after all that work, do make sure you submit your resume as a pdf file. Many recruiters now read resumes on a mobile device and the last thing you want is computer gremlins ruining your well-formatted document!
- Include your GPA. If you choose not to, recruiters will assume your GPA is low. As a strong GPA can provide additional evidence of intellectual curiosity and work ethic, you certainly don’t want recruiters to make that assumption.
- Include other relevant courses you’re studying outside your major. For example, if you’re a Biology major who has also taken an ‘Introduction to Finance’ course, make sure you mention it. This presents a broader skill set and ticks the ‘Entrepreneurial Drive’ skill box.
Skills and interests:
- Include those that are relevant to consulting. For example, if you can program, only state those programming languages used in consulting, not others.
- State up to 3 outside interests and indicate a level of commitment to them rather than just the interest themselves, e.g., Traveling (have visited over 17 different countries) rather than just ‘Traveling’.
Most Common Pitfalls in Consulting Resumes
If you follow the advice above, you should automatically avoid all the following pitfalls. However, let’s run through them quickly just in case.
1. Overcomplicating things.
Your consulting resume should not be over-complicated in either content or format. McKinsey receives hundreds of thousands of applications each year, and you can bet that their recruiters do not have time to research a particularly complex science experiment you use as evidence of your brilliant problem-solving skills.
It is your responsibility to turn complex and technical subjects into evidence that is easily accessible and impactful to recruiters. Just as you would for a future client.
Also, don’t be the applicant that decides to include a glamourous headshot or use a wacky font or format. You don’t want to be the person whose resume is remembered for its typeface, not its content.
There’s a standard approach to consulting resume formatting for a reason. It should be simple, formatted into sections as described above, and should fit on a single page.
2. Irrelevant information.
While it may seem hard to synthesize all your brilliant experience into a single page, remember that a key skill for consultants is to successfully consolidate and interpret data to present a concise and effective solution for clients.
The same should be true on your consulting resume, and since it’s the first chance a recruiter will have to judge you on this skill definitely utilize it! Make sure you value quality over quantity, choose your most impactful examples, and target the 4 key skills above.
If you have something that makes you unique and interesting that differentiates you positively from other candidates, add it into the additional skills section. Training as a trapeze artist or lion-tamer just might pique the interest of a recruiter enough that they want to talk about it at an interview.
This one is simple. Don’t be the candidate that gets caught out at the interview stage when you’re grilled on something impressive on your resume which turns out to be entirely false.
Recruiters are savvy to the fact that candidates may ‘inflate’ their actual achievements to sound more impressive and, to some degree, they expect this. However, showing your actual achievements in the best light is very different from stating something that is a complete lie.
Getting a job with a big consulting firm can be tricky and it may require more than one try. Don’t blow your first and all future chances by showing recruiters that you lack integrity.
Consulting Resume Examples
Undergraduate Management Consulting Resume Example
MBA Consulting Resume Example
5 Tips On Writing Your Management Consulting Resume
1. Start the process early.
Preparing an impressive management consulting resume requires investing time and effort to carefully present your best examples and show evidence of the skills required.
2. Focus on quality, not on quantity.
Make sure all the examples you give target one of the 4 key skills that recruiters are looking for. Remove irrelevant information and lose any complex language or technical jargon.
3. Ensure all your achievements are clear.
Use the XYZ format to focus attention on the results you achieved rather than the things that you did. Use action words such as ‘Led,’ ‘Solved,’ or ‘Influenced’ to signpost recruiters to the information they need.
4. Use a classic management consulting resume format.
Keep it to one page and use standardized sections, fonts, and layout.
5. Check it!
Make sure you have checked and rechecked your resume before submission. Consider hiring a professional proof-reader to do a final check for any errors in spelling or grammar.
So there you have it. You’re now armed with:
- The key skills recruiters are looking for in a top management consulting resume,
- Our step-by-step approach to matching your experience to the key skills,
- Our recommendations on the best way to structure the content of your resume,
- 2 consulting resumes examples to guide you, and
- Our 5 top tips to craft the perfect management consulting resume.
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about writing a consulting resume, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.
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