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How are creative Cover Letters scored?

Daniel asked on Sep 17, 2018 - 5 answers
Looking for solid partners. Currently preparing for McK, BCG, Bain and OW interviews

Consultants talk about having to read through stacks and stacks of cover letters, sometimes in just a sitting or two. I have asked a few first year consultants about their importance and have gotten variable answers - a lot of them just say they rarely help but can often hurt a candidacy.

I am writing my McKinsey cover letter now, My question is that in order to stand out, I was thinking about writing a more creative cover letter and working in the usual - school, education, work experience, skills, goals - into the narrative. How do you think this would be taken? I wanted the narrative to revolve around "what do you want to be when you grow up?", the inevitable question I would receive everywhere I went with my parents (as I'm sure others have to).

Thoughts? Is it just not worth the risk/reward?

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replied on Sep 17, 2018
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Agree with the previous answers. Not that important and an asymmetric risk-reward profile. Cover Letters are much more likely to hurt than to really help.

On the creativity thing:

There is a saying in German: "Kunst kommt von 'können' und nicht von 'wollen', sonst hieße es 'Wurst'", which loosely translates into: "'Art' comes from the word 'being able to' and not 'wanting to', otherwise it would be called 'Wart'"

So I am obviously butchering the wordplay here, but the message should be: You are applying to a consulting firm, not an ad agency. So tread very carefully. It needs to be brilliantly executed and spot on AND find the right reviewer to work. Unless you are very, very sure and have received feedback from actual consulting recruiters that your idea and the execution are f*ng brilliant, I'd rather advise don't do it.



PS: And if you are that creative, what do you want in consulting anyway? Do something cool instead ;-)

replied on Sep 17, 2018
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Cover Letters are not that important - in fact, I know for a fact that McKinsey London doesn’t’ even read the cover letters they receive (and they say it’s optional. At Bain as well, a CV is weighed about 10x the weight of the cover letter.

However, your statement that a CL can “hurt a candidacy” is partly true. A particularly bad cover letter will get noticed and may put the whole application into question - for example, I have reviewed letters applying to Bain with the wrong position name (eg Business Analyst) or even with the wrong form name!

replied on Sep 17, 2018
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HRs and consultants do not pay that much attention to the cover letters. So don't overinvest into it.


replied on Sep 19, 2018
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We use an actual formula to decide whom to interview (in our spare time, after project work). Letter might help for the 'may be pile, but odds are the experience we had when meeting you at a meet and greet will superseded anyway. Agree with the others: you gotta do the letter, but it will probably not even be read anyway.

Wouter replied on Sep 18, 2018
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When I was reviewing applications at BCG, it was actually advised not to read cover letters, and base the assessment on the CV. The cover letter would only be consulted if there were anomalies in the CV (e.g. a 2-year period that's unaccounted for, etc.). So if you have circumstances in your background / CV that need explanation, use the cover letter for this purpose. Otherwise, play it safe and don't go too creative!

Happy applying!

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