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To Add or Not To Add Volunteer Experience in Cover Letter

Amy Vann

Hi everyone,

I'm preparing my application to the Dubai offices of MBB as well as to Strategy&, EY and Roland Berger. I have volunteering experiences working with homeless families and tribal women in India and Africa. My question is this: is it necessary to add this to my cover letter? I feel because I have advance degree (PhD), it may not necessary to include this information. I'd appreciate it if you could please share your thoughts on this.

Thank you.

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Francesco replied on 05/05/2017
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (1000+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Amy Vann,

in order to understand if it could make sense to add your volunteer experience in the cover letter, let’s start with what a good cover letter should include. Generally speaking, a cover letter should address the following: (i) quick intro on why you are applying; (ii) why you are adapt for the job; (iii) why you are interested in that particular firm compared to others in the same sector; (iv) final remarks, mentioning again your interest.

Your volunteer experience could therefore potential be included in the second area. What you should include there is what can help the recruiter to understand you have the skills to do a great job as a consultant. The kind of specific skills your volunteer experience can show would of course depend on what exactly you did during it, but in general terms it probably helped you to develop better communication skills, proactivity and ability to listen to the needs of people different from you.

The questions you asked thus translate in “Is it necessary that I include a story showing I have good skills in communication/proactivity/listening”? As Vishwa mentioned, consulting companies are interested to see whether people have competences at 360°. The big bias you would have as a PhD would be they would consider you very strong analytical, but not as strong on communication. Thus, a communication/listening story in the cover letter could definitely help you.

As a consequence, my recommendation would be that if you have already better stories showing communication skills, proactivity and ability to listen, then you may exclude the volunteer experience form the cover letter. If not, I would definitely consider to include it, in order to show you have the skills they may expect PhDs lack, as a further point of strength in your profile.

Best,

Francesco

Michal
Expert
replied on 05/08/2017
Ex-Bain consultant who cracked interviews at McK, BCG, Bain

Hi Amy,

My recommendation is that you should include this experience in your application. Your application consists of CV and Cover Letter, so it's up to you where you include this and where it fits your story. If this was a very significant part of your experience that shaped your character, you can include it in both.

The reason you want to tell the consultancy that you have volunteering experience are several-fold:
* It shows you can be selfless, that you care and that you are emotionally mature
* It shows that you gained skills relevant for the job (Francesco provided some examples why this might be the case)
* Sometimes consultancies are explicitly looking for volunteering experience

So to sum up - make sure you include it, but exercise judgement on whether to include it in CV/CL/both.

Good luck!

Michal

Marc replied on 05/09/2017

I would recommend it without hesitation - MBB often measures a prospect by it's academic, professional and 'personal' achievements. They are looking for excellence in one field and Volunteering experience is a great way of sticking out.

Think about volunteering in a broad sense - I recently joined an early stage incubator as a mentor. The position is not paid and I see it as a chance to share my knowledge with young entrepreneurs from deprived areas.

Vishwa replied on 05/04/2017

Hey there!

Here is my take on this question:

Most consulting firms look for a well rounded personality. They want to hire someone who has something more to look up to in their life rather than just slogging long hours. I believe you'd be mentioning your volunteering experience in the CV to show that you are well rounded (Good luck saying that with your PhD degree! ;)). If that is indeed the case, I would skip mentioning about volunteering experience in the cover letter. I'd use the space to show how interested I am to work at MBB/Strategy&, EY, etc and how my work experience would help me add value to the firm. I believe a cover letter should be as succint as possible.

This ofcourse would change if you're applying for government/public practice roles in the above mentioned firms. In which case, you'd want to show your depth of volunteering experience and show it directly links to the role you are applying for.

Cheers
Vishwa

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