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Cover letter while applying through referral

Anonymous A asked on Jul 20, 2018 - 7 answers


Is a cover letter required if I'm applying through a referral in the firm?


7 answers

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updated his answer on Jul 20, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

based on my experience a cover letter is generally not required if you apply through a referral – when I applied for interviews I did all my applications via referrals, and when the person directly referred me I have not been asked to submit one, the CV was enough. However, I would keep one ready just in case it is required for the particular company/country you are considering - some firms/countries have particular requirements related to that.

In case you are required to present a cover, you can structure it in 4 paragraphs.

Cover letter for consulting application

  1. Introduction with positions you are interested in and specific element you find attractive for that company
  2. Why you are qualified for the job. You can report 3 skills/stories from your CV, ideally related to the usual topics of leadership, impact, drive and/or teamwork
  3. Why you are interested in that particular firm, with additional 1-2 specific reasons
  4. Final remarks, mentioning again your interests and your contacts.

It is important that you make your reasons for that specific firm unique – the rule of thumb is, could you send the exact same cover to another consulting company? If that’s the case, your cover is too generic.

Hope this helps,



Benjamin replied on Jul 20, 2018
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It can vary from firm to firm.

But in general I would consider that a cover letter is requred / preferred.
When applying from a referral you somehow make sure you go through the initial screening process, but from there you will be treated like other candidates.

For your to understand the recrutment process : before each interview, the interviewer receive the candidate application (CV + Cover letter), to prepare for the interview. Its always better for him to have your cover letter and learn more about you before jumping in the itw.


replied on Jul 20, 2018
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A cover letter requirement varies significantly as per the geography of application. If you are applying through a referral in the United States, then a cover letter becomes mandatory - not necessarily so in other parts as pointed out by my fellow experts. But, since you have such a doubt, it is always better to make that extra effort than not.

I would suggest you prepare the following:

1. A short and crisp cover letter for the particular firm where you are applying

2. A generic cover-letter for future - this can be a generic version of the cover letter you prepare for this firm

Please do keep in mind the following points while drafting your cover letter:

  1. Be precise and to the point: Do not beat around the bush or try to use flowery language. Understand that consultants are busy folks and they will not be able to read the entire thing if you write long sentences.
  2. Structure: This is the key-word to consulting. Structure your cover letter into separate paragraphs with each paragraph centred around different ideas. This has been covered greatly by Francesco.
  3. Give them what they want: Don't just talk about yourself and your past achievements. Highlight what is it in for them and why they should hire you. Have just 2-3 illustrative examples to show that you are the right fit.
  4. Gratitude: Finally, thank them for giving you this opportunity and for any past interactions they might have had with you.

Wishing you all the best. Please do get in touch if you need any other assistance.

Anonymous B replied on Jul 20, 2018

I'll have to disagree with Vlad and Francesco - at least for McK Germany.

I just applied through a referral and my contact had to submit CV, Cover letter and all transcripts etc.

I'm applying to BCG through a referral and am hoping to get one for McKinsey too-both in Germany. With the referral were you granted the first interview/how long did it take to hear back? Also, I'm not yet done with my Masters so my transcript is technically incomplete, but I'm guessing they would just need the updated one later. Any tips would be helpful, thanks! :) — Anonymous on Sep 22, 2018

Anonymous A replied on Jul 20, 2018


Whom should the cover letter be addressed to considering I'm not interacting with any of recruiter directly?


Anonymous replied on Jul 20, 2018


Some great response so far.

To add my small piece from a UK perspective, it's very important to check on a firm by firm bases on the need to submit a cover letter with your application. For instance, McKinsey suggests that you should NOT submit a cover letter with your CV. On the other hand, Parthenon-EY (who do not require candidates to complete numerical and verbal reasoning tests as part of the screening process) do require a cover letter and see it as an integral part of the recruitment process.

So the key is to check the preference of each firm in your specific country before applying.



replied on Jul 20, 2018
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At McKinsey the consultant does not submit your cover letter but the HR will ask for a cover letter later.

Also when the consultant is making you a referral, he needs to provide some information about you (Basically saying why you are a good candidate). Thus he will need your cover letter to gather these facts.