This morning I had a call with a case interview coaching client about her consulting resume. This being our very first call about her consulting resume, we spent a lot of time going through the basics. We are helping her secure an interview and receive an offer. She had tried twice in the past before joining our program.
Both times it was a decline for an interview at McKinsey. This will be her 3rd attempt for McKinsey New York.
This article is going to lay out the logic of how we guide our coaching clients to prepare their consulting resumes. All coaching clients use Felix’s videos in TCO I to do their editing. Since I just had the call and it is fresh in my mind, I realized others may have the same questions and misunderstandings that she had.
My most important piece of advice about your consulting resume is not to worry. You will do fine if you just take the time and work through it slowly.
Tougher Consulting Resume
Even though we maintain an 80% placement rate for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, our coaching clients have very challenging profiles. Given our very selective process to admit coaching clients, almost every client we have ever admitted has worked with one or more alternative service before seeking our help.
They usually seek us out when all other options have failed.
When they apply to us, their consulting resumes have already been reviewed, edited and updated multiple times. They have applied to and usually have been declined from several firms at least once but usually several times.
It’s like a credit score in some ways. As a result of applying so many times, being declined so many times and circulating a consulting resume that is not working, they have lowered their chances of getting in. Each subsequent unsuccessful application makes it progressively harder for them to join a firm. Firms have a memory.
The firms may give you a chance to interview, even if they are not sure. But getting a second chance is much harder. A third chance is unlikely.
A client is always easier to place if they have never applied before. So when you think about your profile, remember that the number of times you applied has altered your profile.
In this way, it is exactly like a credit score.
So editing a consulting resume for our clients is about overcoming all those hurdles. We edit with that very specific purpose in mind
Consulting Resume Visual Validation
Before I even read a resume, it must pass several visual hurdles.
Is the consulting resume written in the HBS format?
Since so many of our clients have been declined multiple times before working with us or have challenging profiles, they almost always have to network with a partner to avoid the likely rejection they would receive from a direct application to a recruiter.
Only partners can get them in and override a rejection.
So we write consulting resumes for partners.
Since partners graduate from many schools, we write for the most well known and most common school in the partner ranks.
So the resume must be written in a format most partners are familiar with, and that is the HBS format.
This resume is a slight deviation from the traditional HBS format because it must also be appealing to non-HBS partners.
Why make a partners’ life harder by giving him/her a format he/she does not immediately understand?
Is the consulting resume visually logical and prioritized?
People see what you want them to see. Your consulting resume must be designed so that they see what you want them to see.
Without even looking at the details we can see the blocks in the consulting resume above. We can see 4 categories of experiences. We can also see 4 activities within Yale. We see three sections of education, experience, and personality.
Everything is arranged in a clean order with little guess-work needed.
We are not forcing anyone to scrutinize the resume to understand Alice’s profile.
The biggest mistake to make in a consulting resume is to assume someone reads it carefully.
Is the consulting resume writing style dense/compact?
Bachelor of Business Sciences with a Major in Finance in the Class of 2024 at Hogwarts Business School
B.BS Fin., ’24 HBS
Do you see the major difference this will have in a consulting resume? Resume’s that are dense show thought and care. A resume like this requires multiple iterations of editing. We want to interview people who took the time to get it right.
After each resume editing session in TCO, you will notice Felix sometimes holds up her consulting resume on the screen to show a sea of red markings.
We make hundreds of adjustments to slowly get it done right. We do not hack out large parts of the resume. We sand it down. Sanding takes time. Chainsaws are not allowed.
This dense style allows you to add more useful content. Words like “with” “a” “in the class of” are all filler words.
They are not hard facts nor accomplishments. Adding filler words simply dilutes your resume.
Is the personal section of the consulting resume meaningful and factual?
Enjoys traveling and meeting new people and cultures.
Blogged visiting 23 cities in 2 years, 2K views/day.
Do you see a very big difference? The personal section should be 4 to 5 lines and contain accomplishments or activities that can be quantified.
The less impressive your school, employer or initiatives the more important is your personal section. I have interviewed people purely due to some activity in the personal section of their consulting resume.
Always include sporting achievements and a military career. Coming dead last in the Olympics is still an achievement. Serving your country in the military is the greatest achievement. Just make sure you served in a military that is allied to the military of the country where you are applying. For example, a Russian Spetsnaz should not mention this distinction on his resume should he apply to the Kiev office.
This may sound funny, but it has happened in the past.
Is the consulting resume format broken?
The format is broken when one bullet is not horizontally aligned with all the others and should be aligned. Another example is the wrong font, wrong font sizes or paragraphs indented incorrectly.
They all signal a lack of care and pride. Who wants to interview someone like that?
All of the above are things you should have in place before the resume is even read.
I find it personally difficult to see anything else if the format is broken.
Consulting resume writing services
Do not use a consulting resume writing service. We do not offer it for a reason. Do the hard work yourself and you will be better off.
If your profile is great, you have not already been declined 2 times in the McKinsey New York office, then yes, a resume service may be helpful. Simply because the resume is not going to matter much to your overall profile.
Our coaching clients usually have bigger hurdles to overcome. A simple consulting resume edit will not help much.
This is what happens with typical consulting resume services.
You send your consulting resume across.
The editor does a first pass making changes and asking questions.
You review the edits, answer the questions about your consulting resume and send it back.
The editor makes the final changes and you are done.
There may be 2 or 3 rounds of edits but that is the gist of a consulting resume editing service.
These are the problems with typical consulting resume services.
They assume you have listed all of your achievements. A consulting resume is just one page. If you have left out something due to a lack of space, the editor will not know about it and it is not included. The editor only edits what you give them.
They assume you correctly understood and explained your achievement. It is often hard to know exactly what you did on a task at an employer. You hope you understand what you did and you hope you explained it correctly. Without someone asking you about the details, they can only edit what you have originally written and that may not be correct. Resume writing is hard. Here are some of the mistakes clients make that we can only uncover by speaking to them.
They claim their work saved $200K when they were a part of a team that saved $200K and they had a role within the overall team. They should only be discussing their role and the benefit of their role.
Assuming that the value they added was doing lots of things on a task and listing them all in a bullet. We are only interested in that one thing that led to the overall benefit. The value is not that they did many things.
Often clients pick the wrong initiative, wrong benefit and wrong task to discuss. If they did numerous things on a task they usually pick the one the consulting firm wants to hear about, when it may not be the most impressive task.
You assume that they know what you did. Consulting resume writers do not have a crystal ball. They cannot see what you did, examine it from multiple angles and re-write a bullet to accurately capture what was done. They can only refine what you give them, so if you give them weak bullets, the consulting resume will be weak. It may be edited better, but the content will be weak.
If an editor doesn’t have the inclination nor the opportunity to interrogate each bullet how can they ever understand what you did, let alone rewrite it correctly?
If you still think editors can magically transform a consulting resume, think about any book you have ever read. Who does the majority of the work? The editor or writer? Editors help for sure but the primary work is done by the writer. Do not assume simply paying money for editing will fix the problem. No editor can truly understand what you did and capture it on paper unless they spend a lot of time talking to you.
It is not the editor’s fault. It is a function of the constraints of communicating via email and doing 2 or 3 rounds of edits.
Strategy to write your consulting resum
Step #1 – HBS Consulting Resume Template
Recreate the HBS consulting resume template (you can use a consulting resume example above for guidance) or get a copy of it. You can request to purchase our resume template (email [email protected]). And you can become a Premium member here to get guidance on how to edit your resume and other steps in the consulting case interview process.
Do not take a PDF and convert to word format with a converter tool. Those tools lose the formatting and that is a big no-no.
Start typing your resume into the template directly. If you copy and paste from a different consulting resume format template you may over-ride the font size, font, formatting rules built into the resume. This is a nightmare to fix.
Step #2 – Ignore the 1-page consulting resume rule
Add in as many bullets, achievements, activities that you can remember. It is okay if you go to 2 or 3 pages initially. Here we are trying to find the universe of things from your past that we can use.
Your writing style does not need to be perfect. Trying to be perfect now may force you to forget things. So just capture them all.
Do not remove anything yet. Keep it at more than one page if necessary. We will bring it down to size later.
Step #3 A dense consulting resume
Density is your friend. Unless it’s mentioned in the same breath as your personality.
This is how you make a consulting resume dense and compact. Do this after a week of thinking if you have everything from the step above.
Remove all ambiguous words. An ambiguous word has more than one meaning. Like the word “assisted.” It can mean bringing the team muffins in the morning, giving the team power massages or leading the core analyses. If you leave in a word with more than one meaning the interviewer may not interpret it the same way you do.
Remove all subjective words. A subjective word is where the meaning is clear but the intensity is clouded by personal experience.
In “I learned a lot,” “a lot” is subjective.
We know it means many but while 2 can be a lot to one person and 34 can be a lot to someone else.
Words like relentless, meticulous, significant, major findings, competitive, energetic, eager, personable are all subjective.
Never place a summary at the top of a consulting resume with these subjective terms. Write your consultin resume without the summary and such the content demonstrates the skills you purportedly have.
WSJ Rule. Write with facts. Numbers, names of companies, sizes of companies, sizes of teams are all important. People who write such detail are less likely to be fabricating their experiences. Lots of detail does not imply more words. It simply means more facts and precision with, usually, fewer words.
Remove dead words: Words like “if” “them” “of” “from” are all words that dilute the facts in your consulting resume. You can use commas, apostrophes etc. to eliminate them.
Start with the achievement: Start with words like “Led a 3-person engineering team…” or “Realised $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co….”
Follow-up with what you did and the insight: Always remember that the work you do is not important. We want to see what insight you created from the work AND the benefit of that insight. Here is an example.
“Realised [the benefit] $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co., by [what you did] conducting a value chain analyses which identified [the insight] maintenance outsourcing opportunities at 3rd largest auto plant.”
Step #4 – A bonus consulting resume
Doing your job is not an achievement. A banker who is expected to generate $2MM in fees is writing about their routine work if they list hitting $2MM in fees on their consulting resume. A consulting resume is about achievements.
A strategy consultant who develops a strategy for a bank is not achieving anything. They are just doing their job. They are doing what is expected of them. You should not get a bonus for doing your job.
We define achievements as the things that lead to a bonus at the end of the year.
As you write out your bullets in your consulting resume, ask yourself a simple set of questions:
Was this task expected of me? If yes, why is it so special to include?
If the task was expected of me, did I achieve something unexpected and beneficial for my employer/client? If yes, definitely build the bullet around that achievement and not the expected work.
A good guide is to include things in your consulting resume that you believe can support any discussions you have had about a bonus.
Step #5 – Including “What did you really do” in your consulting resume
This will be the hardest part. As you are editing your bullets, you will face a tendency to not want to improve a well-edited bullet.
In this step, you need to ensure your bullets correctly capture what you did and what you want to emphasize. A bullet that all your friends say is impressive and requires no changes MUST be changed if it incorrectly explains what you did and/or does not emphasize the correct benefit.
Let’s look at this bullet. It looks fine. But is it?
Realized $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co., by conducting a value chain analyses which identified maintenance outsourcing opportunities at 3rd largest auto plant.
The bullet should be edited if you were one part of a team that identified the savings. The bullet is also wrong because you realized nothing. You can only realize a benefit when it is implemented and the savings appear in a bank account.
So, in this case, the bullet should be changed to.
Identified $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co., as part of 3-person team conducting a value chain analysis, via maintenance outsourcing opportunity at 3rd largest auto plant.
This is the part that takes up time and the part no consulting resume editing service can do since they don’t know what you did.
Step #6 – Hiding flaws in a consulting resume
There will be a strong urge to hide errors in your consulting resume that you assume can never be discovered.
After all, the two bullets below look very similar. Who will ever know what you really did?
Realized $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co., by conducting a value chain analyses which identified maintenance outsourcing opportunities at 3rd largest auto plant.
Identified $23MM savings at $32B MCap Auto Co., as part of 3-person team conducting a value chain analysis, via maintenance outsourcing opportunity at 3rd largest auto plant.
And that is what many people will do. They will not change it.
And you will not have a problem getting an interview.
You will have a problem in the PEI/FIT section when the interviewer wants to know what you exactly did. Expect these lines of questioning as they review your consulting resume.
How did you realize the benefit?
Did you lead the implementation?
Did someone else lead the implementation?
$23MM savings are very large. That is impressive. How were you able to complete such a significant value chain study in such a short time to find such a saving?
This is a normal line of questioning even if they believed you did the work.
Why would I hire someone if they cannot even remember what they did? Even if they genuinely forgot, why would I hire someone who cannot recall critical moments of their life despite selecting the moments to present and spending months practising their answers?
So think of this process as helping you really understand the detail for PEI/FIT.
Best practice for each part of the consulting resume
Education section in a consulting resume
Education should always be at the top of a consulting resume. No matter your experience, we will always go looking for your education so place it at the top. Don’t hide it. And definitely, don’t be embarrassed about your education. A degree is a tool. It’s what you do with it that matters.
It should always be a solid 2 to 4 line paragraph. Do not use just a little of the last line. It should look like a rectangle. This rectangle guide applies to the bullets and personal section.
GMAT is not that important in the West. GPA is far more important. I don’t think Ihave never hired anyone with less than a 3.5-3.6/4.0 GPA but I hired many people with lower GMAT scores. You don’t need to include GRE or GMAT score breakdowns. They have little value in the West.
CFA, CIMA, CMA, CA etc. are all valuable and important designations. Definitely add them as a separate paragraph. Include achievements so that the paragraph is a full two lines. In emerging markets, these designations can be very helpful.
Online degrees and courses can be included but they lack prestige in the West. Harvard courses that are not formal degrees have the same lack of weight. In my view, they weigh down a resume and diminish your formal degree. In the West at least, a good GPA from an accredited school is always going to have more weight than an MIT online course.
No matter which accredited university you attend, a 4.0/4.0 GPA is going to get attention and most likely an interview. So do not worry about brands, rankings and so on. Just study, become intelligent and have it reflected in your GPA. The rest will take care of itself.
Always include your GPA, because it is going to come up at some point. You could leave it off if it is low but be prepared not to apologize for it when you are asked about it. Be factual and not apologetic.
There is no excuse for a low GPA. So you should not even try. There is a simple logic trap many fall into when citing health problems etc. While it is true health problems may have negatively impacted your grades, there is no evidence that being healthy would have led to stellar grades. Because if that were true, all healthy people would have 4.0/4.0 GPAs.
Related to grades the firms have women who escaped across the Berlin Wall, consultants who were once refugees etc. In the back of the interviewer’s mind, you are always being compared to them. This may sound harsh but it is the truth and you need to plan your life knowing the truth.
We want to hear about the non-mandatory activities you led while at university, like a club. A VP is not a leader. He/she is a sub-team leader. There must be an achievement linked to that leadership. We look for balanced people who did things they were not required to do. If you did something off-campus while you were studying include it.
Only include real awards recognized by the university. Getting the highest grade in a marketing paper is an achievement only if the university cites it as an award. Like the “Mary Alice Award for Best Marketing Paper.”
Listing a prominent publication is fine here. But keep it to the most important ones or a summary like 4x 1st Author Papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Alice broke out her publications as a separate section. You may do it but it is not essential. We know you are a Ph.D. Listing the publications is not required since we need no further convincing of this irrefutable fact. Try to convince us you were a better Ph.D. does not help you convince us you can be a better consultant.
Include scholarships and the name of the scholarship.
Listing achievements to raise money for clubs is dicey. $2,000 may be a lot of money but it never looks good on a resume. Anything less than that is just not worth including unless it is part of a long list of accomplishments so this does not diminish the rest of resume.
If you did any of these four things below, I would always interview you even if the recruiter or associate rejected the application. Irrespective of your grades or school. In every office I worked I asked the recruiters to send these resumes to a partner to review.
If you did all 4 things then I think you are such an awesome human being you should join my family by marrying my son or daughter. If you are below 18 years of age I am open to adopting you.
StartUp founder. Not a StartUp planner which is what most students are. Planning a StartUp and working on a business plan is not the same as founding a StartUp and running a StartUp. Running a tutoring business is not a StartUp, unless there is a business here that does not involve you trading cash for coaching time. Coding an App by yourself, releasing it and forgetting about is not a StartUp.
Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Review. Editor in chief of any formal university recognized and/or sponsored/endorsed publication will work.
Digital Marketing Assistant to Senator/Mayor/Congressperson/Governor. Any role in a government organization, especially, for re-elections is going to look good.
Military service. If you served in the military you would need to have something very wrong in your application to not receive an interview.
Experience section in a consulting resume
Everything that is not education and personal goes into the experience section of your consulting resume.
Do not have a section called leadership. To do so is to imply everthing outside that section involved no leadership on your part. You should be a leader in everything you do. Or at least try.
If you have 17 years of experience it is fine to leave out roles where you have worked for just 1 or 2 years. Especially, if there are not many achievements in those roles.
Promotions within a company must be clearly displayed using the format we used to show Alice’s different roles in Yale. This allows the interviewer to see the roles are all part of the same company.
Each bullet should be a full 2 lines and 3 lines at most.
Each bullet can be about a separate client or you can have different bullets covering different achievements at the same client. If you have 4 bullets about 4 different achievements at the same 30B revenue client, do not start all the bullets with “For a 30B revenue client….” For each of the 4 bullets, it is better to refer to the different divisions within the same client, assuming the divisions are different. Or use the Yale-type grouping since this can also help.
You do not need to have a lot of bullets. The quality is what counts. So focus on quality and consistency.
If you are a Ph.D., you are banned from using the word novel. It is overused. And there may also be a very good reason no one did it. Maybe the novel technique creates no value?
Use judgment when listing accomplishments. Dedicating 3 lines to a bullet where you increased revenue a mere $20,000 is unlikely to be impressive.
All bullets must have some objective measure of a benefit to the client and/or employer. If you do not include the measurement of the value you created it is difficult for the interviewer to assess your resume.
If this is indeed your second or third attempt, consulting firms will ask you to get more experience before applying. You can take the time to gain more experience or rewrite your existing bullets to show you have deeper insights into the work you have already done.
Firms want you to gain experience to improve your skills before reapplying. If you can show them you already improved without the experience, that will be acceptable.
We have clients who interview 3 times at the same firm within 1 year. It is not easy but possible. We prefer this since they don’t forget their training.
The personal section in a consulting resume
The personal section matters in a consulting resume. It should be 4 lines as a solid paragraph. There is no need to separate things into languages, charity etc..
Don’t list the technical skills that we expect you to have. Do not list Excel, PowerPoint and Word Skills. It must be something specialized. And that’s only if you must list them. Generally, don’t. Most people have never heard of FORTRAN and will not care that you know the language. Same for Cobalt, MS Access etc.
We want to see that you do things outside of work and studies, that you work with a team and that you take a leadership role. Forming, leading and performing for a rock band would work well here. Some firms like Bain take this section particularly seriously.
If you came dead last at the Olympics or any major competitive achievement, list it. Yet, focus on having qualified versus coming dead last.
Charity work is fine, but do not overdo it. Spending other people’s money is not an admirable trait. Show us you worked in areas that make money too.
I personally mark down applicants who avoid charity work in their home country and fly off to foreign locations to help the locals. I am probably not the only partner who does this. It seems like they picked the foreign location as a partial vacation and so that they could advertise their charitable credentials.
Since each consulting resume is tailored you can see we added many non-personal items for Alice that were not mandatory. That is the only reason we included it. Our view was that if Alice did them for her personal benefit, even though they seem formal and professional, it would work in the personal section of her consulting resume.
The goal is to show you are an interesting person who is not successful merely because you work and study all the time with no social life.
Do not include marital status, visa status, gender or political views. People will tell you they are open-minded and non-discriminatory but they usually are not.
Listing cooking or baking skills are fine. But at least use the right names when listing techniques.
Finalizing your consulting resume
Wrapping up a resume is not a short process. When I edit client consulting resumes, I print out a copy and leave it on my desk. As I had an idea to tweak a bullet, better explain a point etc., I would make a note. Sitting down for 1-hour blocks at a time does not work. Insights do not follow a schedule.
You should do the same. Print out a copy of your consulting resume and keep it with you.
This process of iterative tweaking will take about 4 to 6 weeks to get it right. If you are wondering why it takes so long go back to the beginning and remember the profile of clients we tend to have. They typically have made their profiles very challenging by facing repeated declines etc. So we need to leave no stone unturned.
Once this is done, the consulting resume is still going to be over one page since we have only edited the content for its crispness and accuracy. Now we have to decide what to include. Include bullets that show you achieving something versus doing your job. All other bullets should be removed.
Don’t change the margin to fit in bullets. Edit down bullets or remove them completely.
Once this is done, send the resume to three people who know you well. This includes friends who are consultants.
Take their advice with some skepticism. Use your judgment. Your profile is different from anyone else’s and your consulting resume has been edited to fix your unique problem.
Once you make any necessary edits, you can use the consulting resume verbatim to create a Linkedin profile.
You are welcome to post any comments and questions below. As you can imagine we receive many requests for help and as much as we would like to respond to them all, we just do not have the time. To ensure our responses reach as many readers/listeners as possible, questions will only be answered in our iTunes podcasts and some simple questions may be answered in our youtube channel comments. This allows us to offer both thoughtful and meaningful answers that help improve your career and that help the entire FIRMScosnulting community. If you ask a question please offer as many details as possible. It is difficult to offer customized and valuable feedback if the details are vague or missing. It helps to provide more facts and leave out your interpretation of what happened. It is better to write “Duke MBA, graduated 2 years ago and working in Wells Fargo Technology Support,” than “a Top-10 MBA, recent graduate working for a large bank’s internal technology team.” The advice we offer would be very different for each and we would select the first type of question to answer.
In this article, we will discuss McKinsey recruiting. To make a critical point you need to indulge me in a little survey.
I promise you it is linked to McKinsey recruiting and it as an important observation.
McKinsey Recruiting Paradox
Let’s assume your daughter is very ill, God forbid. It is a life-threatening situation and you need to take action quickly and you have limited options. You have read up on the disease but you are no expert. You have to trust the doctors. For this survey to work please be realistic and do not assume there is some hypothetical situation where you would know more than the doctors.
There are three hospitals willing to treat your daughter and each is led by a senior surgeon. All your research indicates they appear to be similar. Online reviews, for what they worth and not much, are about the same and they all have roughly the same profiles, at least as far as you can determine since you are not a medical professional.
You just do not know enough and can never know more than an informed consumer.
If these were the three doctors’ profiles which would you pick?
Dr. X: Harvard BS, Harvard Medical School, Doctorate in Immunology from Harvard Medical School. Advisory Dean of the Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Y: Johns Hopkins BSc in Biochemistry, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Doctorate in Surgery from Johns Hopkins Medical School, Chief of Surgery.
Dr. Z: University of Arizona BS Chemistry, University of West Virginia Medical School, Doctorate in Surgery from the University of Nevada, Chief Surgeon of Henderson Hospital in Nevada.
You could pretend to have given this serious thought but if your daughter’s life was on the line you would go with the Harvard surgeon. You want what you think is best for your daughter. Even if the Nevada surgeon is objectively better, you would not know that and go with the Harvard credentials.
Although, that is NOT the critical point I want to make about McKinsey recruiting. It is just the starting point.
McKinsey Recruiting System You Perpetuate
The client who wrote in basically told me he believed it was unfair that he could not get a McKinsey interview with his state school resume, despite being a strong candidate. He had a 3.8/4.0 GPA and a relatively good experience.
So I gave him the McKinsey medical test above. The test must be administered whereby the person does not know what is being tested. If they think it is a test, they will always adjust their answer to not seem biased. In his case, his daughter had been ill recently so we could naturally have this discussion. With other clients who raise this same interview concern, I have to find an innovating way to weave the test in.
Which surgeon did the client select?
He picked the Harvard Surgeon without any hesitation. In his words, “the answer was obvious.”
So here is the problem and how the client perpetuates the system he rails against.
The client is consciously willing to entrench a system that he acknowledges is unfair, by supporting the Harvard Surgeon based solely on the surgeon’s education, when the client or his family benefits.
Think about that for a second. His behavior strengthens the cycle of Ivy-league graduates getting ahead based on their degrees alone. Yet, when that system that he is perpetuating is applied against him, the client believes it is unfair.
So here are the questions that matter the most?
A – Is he truly outraged with the system of Ivy-League graduates gaining alleged unfair advantages?
B – Is he only outraged that he is not getting ahead in this system and he does not really care if the system remains the same provided he alone is treated like an Ivy-league graduate?
Everyone who has ever raised this concern, with me personally at least, is really focused on B. And that is why the system continues.
In fact, this client only wants to be at McKinsey because of its Ivy-league sheen. The day McKinsey stops seeking out the most prized school brands this client will question McKinsey’s standing.
To be blunt, this client wants everyone else from non-Ivy schools to not get into McKinsey, but he wants the pride of being the one that bucked the trend to stand alone amongst. And that is why it is hard to offer any sympathy here.
McKinsey Recruiting System is Everywhere
And this McKinsey recruiting approach is everywhere. How does this client choose his?
Schools for children
I doubt his spouse, financial advisor, children’s teachers etc., all went to Harvard but if he could have it that way, he would have it that way.
The McKinsey recruiting system was not designed by McKinsey. The client and all readers live in a world where they knowingly and proudly reward certain degrees and designations and harshly punish those without them. McKinsey simply observed what is happening and concluded that if the world and business respected some schools and degrees more than others then they should logically hire from those schools for those degrees.
It is a system we created and it is a system we reinforced every single day through countless actions from choosing to read articles of Ivy-league graduates, to choosing to forward the articles of Ivy-league graduates, to choosing to pay more for the advice of Ivy-league graduates.
You would have to go back a generation to find a US president who did not attend an elite school. We reward certain degrees.
We try to work for Harvard graduates to buy homes near good schools to send our children to expensive prep courses, extracurricular activities, on-going tutoring, internships etc., all with the goal of producing roughly 3 to 4 A4 pages that will take them to Harvard: a resume, cover letter, and essay.
And it can get nasty pretty fast.
Society is the sum of the choices we voluntarily make. Our children inherit the society we make.
Give your children an inheritance worth having. The confidence to know that they will be successful no matter where they study, provided they actually learn, and their life does not need to only begin when they gain the external validation of getting into Harvard and McKinsey.
If you spent their entire life prepping them for Harvard, don’t become bitter if society does not give your children a great life, and opportunities should they not get into Harvard. After all, it was you who trained them, and society, to not value anything other than an Ivy-league credential.
You are welcome to post any comments and questions below. As you can imagine we receive many requests for help and as much as we would like to respond to them all, we just do not have the time. To ensure our responses reach as many readers/listeners as possible, questions will only be answered in our iTunes podcasts. This allows us to offer both thoughtful and meaningful answers that help improve your career. If you ask a question please offer as many details as possible. It is difficult to offer customized and valuable feedback if the details are vague or missing. It helps to provide more facts and leave out your interpretation of what happened. It is better to write “Duke MBA, graduated 2 years ago and working in Wells Fargo Technology Support,” than “a Top-10 MBA, recent graduate working for a large bank’s internal technology team.” The advice we offer would be very different for each and we would select the first type of question to answer.
How a management consultant resume is screened at McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, etc.
Today we’re going to discuss how a management consultant resume is screened at a major consulting firm like McKinsey, BCG, Deloitte etc. In other words, I’m going to talk you through what generally goes through the mind of a screening officer when they receive a management consultant resume. I will talk about some tricks and techniques that you could use to improve your management consultant resume.
Before we go any further, it is important to point out that the format and style of the resume we teach are also very effective for banking, industry, technology companies and even start-up jobs. The content also will look great on your LinkedIn profile. So even if you will not end up in management consulting, investing in putting together a resume in the style and in a format we teach is a great investment to help you have a successful career.
Before we dive into speaking about resume for consulting case interviews, we would like to share with you 2 free resources we prepared for you as a gift, based on FIRMSconsulting book on brain teasers and another FIRMSconsulting book on solving business cases and overall consulting case interview preparation (including consulting resume and consulting cover letter).
These downloads include 20 brain teasers including explanations on how to approach solving each of those brain teasers. It also includes a comprehensive estimation cases guide. Estimation cases are very often used in consulting, either as a separate case or as part of a larger case. As part of your preparaton for consulting case interviews, you will certainly come across various estimation cases. It is crucial for you to learn how to solve them.
You do need a winning consulting resume and cover letter to get interviews, but once you get those interviews you will need to pass various rounds of consulting interviews to get an offer from your target consulting firm like Deloitte, McKinsey, BCG or Bain. You can get links to download copies of both resources below. It is completely free. Get it now and thank us later. Enjoy!
FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE
FREE GIFT #2 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – A Comprehensive Estimation Cases Guide: CLICK HERE
Now, let’s go back to our discussion on management consultant resume. Assume you sent through your resume to McKinsey, Bain, BCG or Deloitte and they are looking at your consulting resume. I’m going to look at your resume independent of GMAT scores, cover letter, essays, testimonials and anything else that you may have supplied.
1ST WE LOOK AT THE FORMAT OF A MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME
The first thing we do when opening up a management consultant resume is we look at the format. What do I mean by format? The format plays a big role in how we think about you.
If you use a bad format, it does 2 things. First, it distracts us from the most important information that you want to share with us. Second, it gives us the impression that this person obviously isn’t networking in the right circles. He probably doesn’t have friends at any major school or in management consulting. Otherwise, they would have looked at the format and told him to redo it.
On the other hand, a good format allows you and allows us to focus on the right things, and it creates an impression in our mind that you have the right circle of friends and a good professional network who helped you ensure your management consultant resume is in the right format.
So, make sure you’re using the right format. The Harvard format, Kellogg format, Wharton format, and Stanford format are all very good. We use the Harvard format. You can go with any of them. We like the Harvard format because we think it really focuses on the core or the substance of a consulting resume, as opposed to using a text and font sizes to play out who you are. We do not reccomend to go for unusual formats that come from unknown schools.
CONSULTING RESUME EXAMPLES
Before we go any further you are probably asking yourself where can I see consulting resume examples? As you go through this article it is a good idea to either print or refer to Alice Zhou’s management consultant resume from Season II of The Consulting Offer (TCO).
Now let’s continue.
2ND, WE SCREEN YOUR EDUCATION
The next thing we look at is the school you went to. If you went to Stanford, for example, the interviewer knows Stanford is a great school. So you could be a good candidate. But if you didn’t go to a good school, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It just means that you have to convince the interviewer that you’re a good candidate.
People seem to assume that everyone who joins McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte etc. must have gone to the Ivy League schools. It’s not always the case, especially when it comes to undergraduate degrees because there are many graduates who get in from many outstanding schools out there that many people have never heard of. Ten to twenty years ago it was different, but today the recruiting is much more diverse.
We will look at your school first, then your grades or GPA. Good school, good grades, obviously thumbs up. We also look if you were a club president or part of any honor society? Did you win any awards or scholarships?
We look at postgraduate, then undergraduate. Postgraduate carries more weight than an undergraduate. If you don’t have a postgraduate school, then your undergraduate school carries a lot of weight.
However, undergraduate GPA is very important, and unless you did something exceptional in your graduate studies and are truly articulate, the undergraduate GPA is going to be the deciding factor.
3RD WE SCREEN YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE
Next, we look at where you work/worked. We look at 3 things.
First, we look at who you work for. In other words, the name of the organization. Is it a good organization? Obviously, a well-known organization that has a reputation for doing outstanding work and churning out outstanding executives looks good on your management consultant resume.
Next, we look at how long you worked there. If you served a 2-month internship at General Electric Finance it’s not going to sound as impressive as serving 3 years and being promoted.
And last, we look at what you did. I’ll look for a bullet starting with 2 words: led xyz or analyzed xyz. If I don’t see them in a management consultant resume, I wonder, “What did this person do”, and think to myself, “Have they ever led anything, or analyzed anything?” That is what consulting firms want. They want people who lead; they want people who analyze things.
FINALLY, WE LOOK AT YOUR OTHER PERSONAL DATA
Finally, I look for the most interesting part of your management consultant resume, which I call other personal data and it has the potential to create a very compelling vision of who you are and make you stand out compared to other candidates who went to similar schools, received similar grades and have a similar level of achievement after graduation.
Other data are your other activities or things like you belong to the Rock mountain climbing club, or you play professional volleyball, or you’re a car enthusiast and rebuilt an entire 1996 Lamborghini, etc.
MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME SCREENING FROM TOP-DOWN
So from the top of your management consultant resume you have your name, address, telephone number, contact details. Then we look at your resume in this order:
- The format. Is it a good format?
- The school you went to. Is it a well-known or unknown school? Your postgraduate and undergraduate degree, your grades, academic awards, honor societies, leadership activities after school or on an academic basis
- Where you worked. How long you worked there. What you did when you worked there
- Finally, we look at other additional data. Are there other activities and other additional data that’s not superficial?
THINGS TO PONDER WHEN WRITING YOUR MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME: EDUCATION
Just because you went to a school ranked 99th in your country or the world it doesn’t mean you have no shot. A lot of blogs and forums claim that only the Ivy League school graduates get into consulting firms. It’s not true. A lot of them do get in but consulting firms are certainly not dominated by Ivy League graduates anymore.
In fact, consulting firms have a rule. They will look at any accredited school. They look beyond superficial measures like merely going to Yale, Princeton, etc. to determine if you have a good profile. They look for people who have the drive, determination, ambition, people skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills.
So, if you’re a strong candidate, it doesn’t matter what school you went to, firms will still look at your profile. If you have gone to an unknown or a relatively lesser-known school it probably just means that you have to try harder to explain what school you went to, and bring out more data points to show that you’re a very solid candidate.
Consulting firms also have a policy of trying to get in locals to staff their offices. For example, when Bain or BCG builds an office they bring in foreign consultants to build up the office. But, over time, they will try to get in the locals to grow them within the firm. Maybe some of the locals are trained at foreign universities, but most of them are trained at local universities.
We have worked with candidates like that who went to a school that is ranked 90th or below in the United States and got offers from all the firms.
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME WRITING: WORK EXPERIENCE
When it comes to work experience, people generally describe their work very badly. As I mentioned earlier, I look for 2 words “led” or “analyzed”, but when you write out a bullet you should write it in the following format: the context or why you did something, what you did or the actions you took and the results of those actions.
Preferably, the results should be numerical. So you can say, for example, how much value you generated.
Sometimes it’s not numerical. That’s fine but try to write out what the result was even if it was not numerical. For example, you could say,
“Raised $50K conference funding from Yale alumni and healthcare companies; 90% converted to long-term sponsors for 2019 conference.”
Notice what we did there. We wrote out the context, what candidate did and the results of their actions. We didn’t write in lengthy details like “put together a list of potential sponsors” etc. We also focused on just the most important thing done. Doing many things is not an accomplishment.
Also, stay away from saying things like, “Clients tried to hire me.” I’ve seen people doing that. Ok, if you want to say that you are highly in demand in your local market you can find a way to put that in your cover letter. Just don’t put in your management consultant resume. That doesn’t help your resume. The reason is because we don’t know the standards of the firm making you the offer. They could have low standards. By listing what you did to get the offer, we can judge for ourselves.
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME: OTHER PERSONAL DATA
A lot of people treat it as if it’s not important. However, in many cases, it’s the most important section to help your profile stand out. Can you imagine how many top graduates coming from all the best schools around the world like the United states, Europe, Canada, Australia etc. apply to major consulting firms? It’s very hard to distinguish between candidates, even when you have very good grades. But if you do something pretty exciting, like you trekked across Cambodia, took a year off and built a network of schools and made them self-funding, etc., those things make you stand out.
Do not put in superficial things like I like eating out. I don’t see how that should be in additional data, but candidates do that a lot. If you’re going to put in extracurricular activities you should make sure that it’s something semi-professional, something where you belong to a league, something that you’re doing in a competitive spirit, or at least in a team-based spirit where you have to perform to the best of your ability because people are counting on you, or you’re being graded for it.
That always sounds a lot better than saying, for example, I like traveling because when I was a child my father worked in the military and I traveled around the world. So, don’t put in things like that, either.
Also, a lot of candidates say things like I backpacked through Thailand. It actually means nothing. If you backpacked through Thailand in the 1960s then it’s exciting. Now it’s a tourist destination. Any single 18-year-old female student from Brown University could also do that. So, it’s no longer exciting or a sign of someone who is really taking life by its horns and trying to do something exciting and build something for themselves. If you backpack through North Korea then you can put that in your management consultant resume.
Or some candidates say I play sports. That’s nice but what sports do you play. How often do you play it? Once a week, or once a month, or once a year. Are you in a professional league?
Interviewers can read between the lines when they don’t see the details. So you need to put in the details and rich information that allows the interviewer to understand the scope of what you’re doing. For example, how often do you do it? When do you do it? For whom do you do it? Are you being graded?
I pretty much skim through this section in 60 seconds. If I’ve decided this person is interesting then I’ll go through it in detail.
Having said all that, what truly makes you stand out are the school you went to, who you worked for and what you did there. The additional data is going to make you stand out only if it’s truly exceptional. For example, maybe at the age of 13 you played for the national baseball team representing the United States at a professional baseball tournament or something like that. That would help you stand out.
It’s not recent but it does show that you understand teamwork, you understand competition and you did something quite different from everyone else. But it’s very rare that the additional data alone is going to be enough to swing the vote in your favor to get a consulting interview. Though it can. Launching a start-up (versus planning one), serving as editor of a journal or working in a political campaign tends to get interviews.
WHAT YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO APPLY IN A YEAR? 2 THINGS
First, write your management consultant resume keeping your competition in mind. A lot of candidates write up their management consultant resumes and say this is the best resume they could put together because it’s much better than the one they had 2 months ago. That’s great, but how is your management consultant resume going to stack up against your competition?
You’re not competing with yourself 2 months ago. Are you?
You’re competing with other candidates from other good schools or even your school. So don’t make comparisons to the management consultant resume you had 2 months ago. Compare to the resumes of those who will be trying to get the same interview slot with you at consulting firms. It’s not difficult to find some good resumes on the Internet for you to compare. You will find resume examples of real candidates in The Consulting Offer. You can access all candidates and seasons when you become a Premium member.
Second, and this is very important. If you’re planning to apply in a year, think to yourself what are the weaknesses in your management consultant resume today. Then, what you’re going to need to do in that next one year to overcome those weaknesses and rewrite your consulting resume.
For example, one of your weaknesses could be that you don’t have a very quantitative background due to your odd major at some liberal arts college. Maybe next year you could do a couple of things to overcome that like you can prepare and write a GMAT test or you can take a quantitative course. Put those into your consulting resume.
Now, here’s why the 2nd point is so important. What you’re doing is you’re writing your management consultant resume as if it’s the version you’re going to hand in a year from now. And a year from now you would have done the GMAT test or that quantitative course, then you can put it in your management consultant resume.
So, write your resume the way you want it to look in a year from now. Put in the courses you expect to do, the grades you expect to get, etc. This is going to serve 2 purposes.
One, it gives you a target to work towards, and two, it forces you to achieve your objectives within the pre-set 1-year time frame. In the end, if you end up not achieving those objectives, you can take them out before submitting your management consultant resume.
MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RESUME WRITING IS A CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT PROCESS, AND YOU SHOULD START EARLY
A lot of people hold the idea that writing their resumes is just a one-time event. They will sit down and think that they’re going to do it over the weekend. Those people don’t know what they’re doing, and as a result, they’ve got a really poorly written consulting resume.
A good management consultant resume isn’t written overnight, in 1 week or 2 weeks. It’s a process of continuous improvement. For a lot of candidates, it takes us months to write their resumes. We would write up one version and then we think about it to make it better and better.
People from all over the world like the United States, Canada, France, Argentina, Australia, Thailand, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, or even tiny place like Monaco submit their resumes to us, and we see a lot of resumes from schools like Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD, Ivey, Queens, Waterloo, etc. So we see the trends taking place in the world, and we can guide candidates in terms of what they need to do to make their resumes better.
You may not have that kind of access to us, but you can still follow our recommendations to write your management consultant resume. What you should do is write out your management consultant resume, and then don’t work on it for a week. Instead, put it up on your fridge, or somewhere you can see it regularly, ideally every day.
Every time when you look at it, think about what you could do to make it better. Look at it for just 5 or 10 minutes when you have coffee in the morning, then make a little pencil note of the change you want, but don’t do any full updates just yet. Give it a week or two. You will notice that every time when you do that you will come up with some ideas to make your management consultant resume better and better.
ARE LOCAL NUANCES REALLY APPLIED TO CONSULTING?
The other thing you need to consider is local nuances. A local trait or nuance is something that occurs in just one part of the world. For example, German candidates like to put their photos on their resumes. I’m OK with that if it’s a local trait. When I was in consulting, we even interviewed German candidates and it wasn’t such a big issue. Or some candidates like a 2-page management consultant resume.
But if you’re applying to consulting firms you must ask yourself, “Is that local trait for a general a resume also applicable for a management consultant resume?” Because many international consulting firms like McKinsey operate on a global model, which means the way they review resumes in Switzerland is the way they review resumes in the United States, or in Australia, etc. If you’re applying to the New York office, for example, and sending in a 2-pages consulting resume with a photo you’re automatically telling the recruiter in New York that you don’t understand the New York office, you don’t understand the culture in the United States, which is a big deal and mostly it will get you dinged.
You won’t even get a call for an interview. So make sure that whenever you want to build any local nuances into your management consultant resume, ask yourself, “Is this nuance also applicable for a consulting resume?”
I always encourage people to write a 1-page management consultant resume following the format we teach in The Consulting Offer (see an example above). Even in Europe and Australia.
I’d like to add a closing note. There is no resume that cannot be improved. We’ve seen many well written resumes which we totally reoriented, totally rewrote and it became much better.
So even though you’re exhausted and have given it all to prepare your management consultant resume, and even though you think you’ve done your best, ask yourself, “How is my management consultant resume going to stack up against my competition in the next 5-6 months?”
That’s is what matters at the end of the day.
FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE
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