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How important is the cover letter?

Application application process Cover letter MBB selection selection criteria selection process
New answer on Apr 29, 2020
6 Answers
8.6 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Mar 17, 2017

Does anyone know how important the cover letter is during the selection process? Do only HR recruiters check them or also the consultant who interviews you later? Do they ask questions specifcially about the cover letter or just the CV? How much effort should I put into this?

Any help appreciated! Thanks guys

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Anonymous replied on Mar 17, 2017

Hi Anonimous A

The cover letter is very important because of 2 main things:
- HR recruiters use it as an information source on your carreer path, motivation and willingness to be a consultant within their firm (and this becames crucial, when there are some gaps or unstandart situation inside your CV such as unusual job positions, not very clear shifts between employers or not correllated education)

- Interviewers do not often but still read your CV mainly for better understanding of who you are and what questions you to ask. CV also shows them your desire to get into the company and your ability to structurally communicate the most important information about yourself

Of cource your CV is not the most important part of the whole selection process but when correctly composed - it could help you a lot to land your dream job in consulting!

Hope it helps
Best Regards

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Chamal on Mar 24, 2017

HI, im planing to join a consulting firm in near feature, i have already completed my Bsc in civil engineering if im follow my MBa what kind of masters degree will be most preferred.


Joseph replied on Jan 08, 2019

The cover letter is very important because all firms require a consulting cover letter. It will be read immediately after your CV, provided your CV has gotten the recruiters attention. Whether you are writing a BCG, Bain or McKinsey cover letter.

Every year, ~200,000 candidates apply to McKinsey, but only ~2,000 of them end up getting an offer. That's a 1% success rate. Candidates usually don't know this, but the most competitive step in the recruiting process is the cover letter and resume screening. That's where more than 60% of candidates get eliminated.

So how do you do it? How do you craft a cover letter that gets you interviews at McKinsey, BCG and Bain? You have already written cover letters in the past. But how do you make sure they work with consulting firms?

Because here is the thing. Consulting cover letters are actually VERY different to cover letters for other jobs. So, you should be aware of consulting cover letter basics and writing tips.

There are two main reasons why consulting firms will ask you for a cover letter.

First, partners bill several thousand dollars per day to their clients. The opportunity cost of interviewing you is HUGE for the firm. Put yourself in the shoes of a consultancy for a second. What are the top 3 questions you want to answer before investing money in interviewing a candidate?

  1. Have they demonstrated the skills needed to be a consultant?
  2. Do they know what consulting is and what they are getting into?
  3. Are they genuinely interested in working for our firm?

If you don't answer these three questions in a structured and impactful way, your chances of getting passed the screening process are very low. This is why every cover letter should be structured as follows:

  1. Why you?
  2. Why consulting?
  3. Why this firm?

The second reason consulting firms ask for a cover letter is to test your writing skills. Consultants write all the time: emails, power points, word documents, etc. They spend 50% of their day writing. And a lot of the time their job is to summarise very large quantities of information in a succinct way.

This is exactly what you have to do in your cover letter. You have to a) look back on all your past experiences, b) select the relevant experiences to convince the reviewer that you are the right person for the job and c) summarise all these experiences in a way that's easy to read and digest.

Cover letters are a disguised writing test. Candidates who end up getting invited for interviews recognise this early on. Making a good impression on PAPER is WAY HARDER than making a good impression in PERSON.

Are many candidates ready to invest HOURS in writing the perfect cover letter? NO. That's the whole point. That's how you can set yourself apart. If you spend enough time making sure that your letter is as impactful as it can be, you stand very high chances of getting invited for interviews.

You can also get all the information from the consulting websites on the cover letter.

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Anonymous replied on Apr 29, 2020

Hi A,

Cover letter in my eyes is still one of the most important documents alone with your CV, because it answers the question “Why? Why you? Why consulting company is so important to you?”. It gives actually a lot of discussion points for me personally when I interview candidates and look in their cover letter to really understand their motivation distant point and what drives them.



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Anonymous replied on Mar 21, 2017

Hi there!

It's mostly read by the recruiters in my experience. So it is mainly needed to get into the interviews at all.

But even if you have the most amazing CV, it still makes sense to put some work into it and make sure it's free of mistakes and tells a coherent story.

Personally I prefer short letters, but wouldn't generalize.

Hope this helps!

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Katherine replied on Apr 17, 2020

Every year, big 3 consulting firms McKinsey, BCG, and Bain (MBB) receive a million applications and reject more than 80% of them even before interviews. CV and cover letters are your only chance to impress recruiters.

In such tight games with competitors from HBS, Wharton, Sloan, etc., you must be exceptional in every way possible, even to the smallest details. The resume is important, but Cover Letter is another weapon you absolutely need to utilize.

I recommend that you can get your free management consulting cover letter template here at MConsultingPrep!

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Anonymous B replied on Mar 21, 2017

I know for a fact that not every recruiter reads the cover letter. It also depends on where you are applying, for example, in countries like India you are not even allowed to attach a cover letter, but only a single page résumé because they receive hundreds of applications when recruiting on campus.

However, I still put a lot of effort into writing them because of course some people do check them and find it really important as Alexey pointed out the reasons. I try to make sure the cover letter adds value to the application and is not just a repetition of CV and empty set phrases.

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