Did you know that over 60% of management consulting applications will fail to make it past the initial screening phase? Their consulting resumes end up in the rejection pile while the chances of a management consulting job drop to zero. Recruiting teams at top consultancies like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain (MBB) receive hundreds of applications, so they decide within just a few seconds if they want to take your CV forward. This makes your resume one of the most critical parts of the application process.
If you want to seriously pursue a career in management consulting, it is crucial that your consulting resume makes an instant good impression. Your CV must go into the actual requirements of a job in management consulting, so you can convince the reader instantly of your skills. In this article, we will explain to you step-by-step how to build a resume that will help you secure an invitation to your interview!
What Is the Difference Between a Regular and a Consulting Resume?
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To be able to write a resume that is appealing to your reviewer it is important to understand what it is they are looking for. The firm is looking to hire graduates that not only have strong academic records but that have the underlying potential to grow into the role of a consultant.
Junior consultants are never expected to be industry experts however, they are expected to possess a good balance between IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient), these should be complemented by any relevant work experience you have gained.
The skills that fall under IQ for a consultant are predominantly problem-solving and analysis. This is because the nature of consulting projects is to solve a problem the client is facing and a robust strategy must be built on sound analysis.
Demonstrating your problem-solving and analytical abilities on your resume can be easier for candidates that studied subjects such as engineering, computer science, and economics at university as these subjects exercise both skill sets. However, even if you did study a subject that involves problem-solving and analysis then it is still just as important to highlight when you have demonstrated these skills in any prior work experience.
Emotional intelligence is highly regarded in consulting for multiple reasons. The first reason is that a lot of the work is client-facing and so being able to build strong working relationships is important, senior partners and directors need to be confident that you are ‘safe’ to put in front of a client. Another reason that social skills are valued is that you will often work on small teams (3 or 4 people) and potentially work away with that team meaning you not only work together but socialize together. Being easy to get on with makes everyone’s lives easier.
To communicate EQ on your resume, include examples of working within a team successfully (sports teams included), volunteering work, extracurricular activities, and highlight any work experience that involved client-facing elements.
You are not expected to have loads of experience as a graduate applying for a consultancy job but any relevant experience is taken into consideration. They hold value because they can display your motivation to pursue a career in consulting, the working environments you have been exposed to so far and allow you to demonstrate your IQ and EQ.
Of course, the most relevant experience you can have is a prior consulting internship, the majority of applicants, don’t have this experience so what experience is valued?
Experience at big brands and investment banks is looked upon favorably by resume reviewers for a couple of reasons. One is that they have extensive application processes so the reviewer can be confident that any candidates with experience at big brands and investment banks are probably going to be high achievers. Another reason is that in these roles applicants will have been exposed to similar tools to those required for the job such as Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
Increasingly consultancies are looking favorably upon entrepreneurial activities and experiences. This is partly because industry incumbents (clients) are becoming increasingly aware of the threat of rapid changes in their industries due to smaller competitors but also because this is a clear signal of favorable characteristics for consulting such as work ethic and creative problem-solving skills.
Whilst big brands and entrepreneurial efforts are beneficial, they do not carry as much value as your EQ and IQ. You also cannot control the names and experiences on your CV at this point but you can control how you portray those experiences on the page. Use any components involved in the experience in which you can highlight your IQ and EQ clearly and concisely.
You may think that you can just use your regular CV as a consulting resume. If you do so, you will most likely fail the CV screening. Regular resumes are highly different from consulting resumes. They focus on the input, such as what you have done in a company, whereas consulting resumes focus on the output, i.e., what exactly you have achieved during your position in the particular company.
You will see that regular resumes are by far more vague than consulting resumes which aim to be as specific as possible about achievements and outcomes. Besides, normal resumes allow creative formatting and are more flexible than consulting CVs which follow standardized rules and rigid. Here are the most important differences between regular resumes and consulting resumes that you should keep in mind when creating yours:
…focus on the input.
Example: “I implemented xy.”
…focus on the output.
Example: “By implementing xy I achieved a cost reduction of xy.”
Example: “I finished strong”
Example: “I ranked #3/90 pilots”
Example: “Showed excellent negotiation skills”
Example: “Negotiated the biggest deal in company history, resulting in…)”
Example: Creative formatting
Example: One page, black and white, traditional font size, ordinary spacing.
Example: Normal resumes can be longer and small errors are overlooked more often.
…strive for perfection.
Example: One page should be flawless and small mistakes will be detected immediately.
You can put 20 hours of work into creating your resume but if it does not meet the necessary requirements, it will not pass the CV screening. You need at least two out of the three following criteria:
- Strong academic background – You need to come from a top university in your country or have a GPA way above average. This indicates intellectual curiosity and a strong work ethic.
- Impressive work experiences (with quantifiable achievements) – This can be for example an internship at a prestigious firm, a previous job in a rather high-level position or the creation of a start-up. This shows that you can be trusted with important workstreams and have experience to draw upon.
- Interesting extracurriculars – Have you done important voluntary work, or have you won a trophy in a competitive sport? Have you managed the consulting club or other clubs at your university? Outstanding extracurriculars like this demonstrate a desire to be involved in communities and shows leadership ability as well as persistence.
The basic principle of a successful consulting resume is to understand what the recruiter is looking for. Once you have internalized this, it will be a lot easier for you to know how your resume has to look like and how to optimize it to perfection. Then you can create the foundation of your resume by gathering all the information needed and putting it together, following industry standards and our resume tips. This way, you avoid creating your resume blindfolded.
Consulting CV: Download CV Templates
Give yourself 30 minutes for this step during the creation of your consulting resume. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter at McKinsey: You are receiving about 200.000 applications per year and only have time to scan each for about 20 seconds. After only a few seconds, the recruiter will already have an opinion on your resume, and it is up to you to influence which impression the recruiter will get of you first.
You can help the recruiter with this scan by pointing out the most relevant skills as clearly as possible. In the following example, we have color-coded the areas of a resume to make clear the importance of the different sections during the scan:
- Red: The red sections are those that the recruiter will scan first.
- Yellow: The yellow sections will come right after the red.
- Green: The green sections are skimmed second to last.
- Blue: The blue sections are scanned last.
As you can see here, the names of your universities and companies as well as the key takeaways from the positions are what the recruiter looks for at first glance during the screening process. This is followed by the sub-bullets in the educational and professional experience sections, where it should be said that here again only the first sub-bullets get the most attention and those that follow less so. The leadership and personal part of your resume will be the last to be considered, but this does not mean that you should put less effort into them. As mentioned before: consulting resumes thrive for perfection from top to bottom!
When you start writing your consulting resume it is essential to be familiar with the industry-standard guidelines. If you do not manage to follow these standardized guidelines, your application will end up directly in the bin. To avoid this, make sure you be aware of the following standards:
- Limit your resume to one page (except if you have more than eight years of professional experience).
- Use a standard font, e.g. Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri
- Set the margins to between 8mm and 16mm.
- Make sure your name at the top is larger than the rest, bold and centered with your contact information (email address, phone number) below that.
- Format the section headings to upper case, bold and underlined.
- Make use of “the rule of three” within the sections and mention three bullets per section.
- Do not include a photo – Although it is still standard to add one in some countries, the safer option is to not include one.
What the recruiter is looking for:
When screening your resume, the recruiter is looking for specific skills that are needed for good management consultants. This will convince them that you deserve to be taken into the next interview round.
What you can do:
Your skills should be outlined as accurately as possible. By doing so, you never lose focus on your goal to convince the recruiter to take your application to the next level. These are the most relevant skills needed in management consulting – make sure to point them out in your resume with concrete examples (To find out how, skip to How to Phrase Your Skills)
- Entrepreneurial Spirit – You take the initiative in projects and have a strong personal drive.
- Functional Expertise – You are comfortable with the business world and understand how it works on a functional level.
- Teamwork – Consulting is a people’s business. You are prepared to manage relationships and work productively with your team members.
- Problem Solving – You are able to determine the source of a complex problem and find effective solutions to it.
- Analytical Skills – You have a high cognitive capacity and an analytical mindset.
- Leadership – You can take charge of project activities and do not fear to take the lead.
- Delivery of results – You can put your thoughts and ideas into action to generate effective outcomes.
What the recruiter is looking for:
The recruiter who reads your resume will also look at which well-known companies you have already worked for but also whether you have attended a prestigious university. Since top consulting firms receive tons of applications every year, they focus on filling the positions with high-performing applicants. Big brands and top universities are a shortcut for the consultancies because they assume that you must be a high achiever if you want to be accepted by such a top school or top employer. Of course, this is not all recruiters look for in your achievements. They will also scan the specific aspects you have achieved.
What you can do:
If you can put in university degrees from top universities and professional experience from top brands that is great, you should definitely do that! Nevertheless, having prestigious brands on your resume will not automatically get you the job. Therefore, your consulting resume should be achievement oriented. Show the recruiter your particular achievements from each position you previously had. Ultimately, it will be these achievements that will make you stand out from the crowd and show recruiters that you have the key skills needed for the consulting industry.
If you want to learn how to phrase your achievements please skip forward to the section “How to Phrase Your Achievements”.
What the recruiter is looking for:
It is important that the recruiter understands every word of your resume and that the language you use is understandable. The person screening your CV will probably have a background in psychology or business administration with a focus on human resources, so they might not necessarily understand it if you use very specific terminology or jargon – and they will most definitely not have the time to. Remember: 20 seconds screening!
What you can do:
Make sure to use language and terms that can be understood by anyone. Especially if you come from a technical background it is important not to include technical jargon but to use words that the recruiter will understand directly. Keep in mind: If the recruiter does not understand what you are talking about, he or she will lose the attention on the CV.
What the recruiter is looking for:
The recruiter is looking for output and achievements that are relevant in the context of the respective company and management consulting in general.
What you can do:
As mentioned above, consulting resumes are specific and focus on output. With every point you mention in your consulting resume, reconsider twice if it is really relevant to what you want to say. Overall, you should only mention those details that are relevant in the context of management consulting. This way you provide a better overview for the recruiter.
What the recruiter is looking for:
One of the most frequently asked questions in the consulting forum on PrepLounge is whether the candidate will pass the CV screening with a 3.X GPA from University Y. We can say: Whether you pass the screening or not depends on more than your grades. Officially, there is no GPA cut-off in the US or other countries. The recruiter will look at your GPA for sure but will evaluate your resume on several dimensions.
What you can do:
If your GPA is above 3.5, that’s great, mention it! Mentioning the GPA is not a must. If your GPA is lower than 3.5, you will have to compensate the points you lost here with other parts of your resume that come out stronger like an extra-curricular activity that enabled you to show off your leadership skills or entrepreneurial spirit
Now that you know what the recruiter of a consulting company is looking for, it is time to lay the foundation of your resume. For this step, it is important to first gather all the information needed, like work certificates, university diplomas, honors, certifications of voluntary work. This will help you to phrase your skills and achievements within your resume.
In the following section, we will provide you with an overview of the most relevant skills needed in your consulting resume and examples on how to reinforce them with evidence. We also give you some different keywords and example sentences that you can use to help you get your point across and underline the skills that are relevant for your job in management consulting.
- Have you started your own business?
- Are you sharing your expertise in a successful blog?
- Do you have any evidence of when you have put an idea into action?
Keywords: Researched and Developed, Project Managed, Devised, Supported, Implemented, Lead, Managed, Launched, Introduced
Example: Developed and launched a gamified fitness-journey app with more than two million downloads in 2020.
- Did you take part in a cooperative business project between industry and university?
- Have you gathered functional experience during an internship?
- Do you have work experience in a particular sector?
Keywords: Analyzed, Documented, Evaluated, Calculated, Designed, Presented, Produced, Recommended, Solved, Identified, Tested, Traced, Examined, Generated
Example: Generated 3x user base growth by creating and managing digital marketing initiatives.
- Do you play any team sports?
- Have you been part of team projects at your university or other employers?
- Have you been volunteering?
Keywords: Advised, Cooperated, Participated, Networked, Tutored, Guided, Coached, Assisted, Trained, Instructed, Facilitated, Organized
Example: Organized $3.5k fundraise to support children and families in need during a pandemic.
- Have you found root causes and by that were able to solve a problem?
- Do you proactively address problems if you find any?
- Do you always strive to find alternative and efficient solutions to problems that you discovered before?
Keywords: Analyzed, Assessed, Computed, Conducted, Created, Decreased, Defined, Designed, Developed, Evaluated, Improved, Identified, Organized, Minimized, Proved, Revised, Solved, Overcome
Example: Identified a new market segment to increase revenue by 16%.
- Have you created models from data?
- Do you have programming skills?
- Have you analyzed data before to draw a conclusion from it?
Keywords: Analyzed, Audited, Assessed, Balanced, Maximized, Measured, Calculated, Built, Evaluated, Classified, Developed, Estimated, Performed, Quantified, Investigated, Rated, Forecasted
Example: Built analytical model to forecast sign-up growth of a social media platform with an 80% accuracy rate.
- Have you had any responsible position in a university club?
- Have you been responsible for a team at your previous job?
- Have you organized any events in the past?
Keywords: Appointed, Challenged, Dealt with, Directed, Employed, Executed, Enforced, Led, Hired, Initiated, Managed, Motivated, Planned, Trained, Supervised
Example: Recruited and managed a global team of 30+ across 8 countries.
Delivery of Results
- Are there any tangible outcomes of projects or tasks that you have completed in the past?
- Have you improved the efficiency of any processes at your university or previous jobs?
- Have you raised funds for a charity?
Keywords: Delivered, Developed, Built, Established, Implemented, Realized, Achieved, Launched, Introduced, Minimized, Maximized, Modernized, Transformed, Restructured, Advanced, Enabled, Managed
Example: Managed R&D testing of projects which led to one technology being implemented in a car series production
Your consulting resume should show off specific achievements and how you improved things in the company while you were there. In the following section, we will explain to you how to structure
The Structure of Your Achievements:
To make the first draft of your resume easier to write down later, we recommend you start by writing down a maximum of four achievements for your most recent positions and a maximum of two achievements for the oldest positions. Make sure to write down the action you took, and the result you achieved.
List Your Relevant Activities:
Create an overview of your academic and professional career as well as other activities where you were able to achieve outstanding results that are meaningful for your career in consulting. This overview should consist of your functions as well as your main tasks, for example:
- Accounting Intern: Scheduled meetings with investors
- Summer Intern: Helped managers with the preparation of presentation
- Analyst: Created Excel models to forecast inventory
Go Into Detail:
After that, you should think about your tasks in a more detailed way and ask yourself what you really did during your job at the respective company. You can do so by adding a more detailed description of your tasks. Try to always connect your tasks to numbers as this is more meaningful than just a plain description with words, for example:
- Accounting Intern: Scheduled and coordinated bi-monthly meetings with five large investors
- Summer Intern: Supported three managers with market and competitor analysis for client presentations
- Analyst: Created Excel models to forecast inventory with an 80% accuracy rate
Add the Results:
The next step is the most important: the results you achieved. Focus on how you have been a benefit to the company and how your actions made a difference to the status quo of the company. You will be a real problem-solver as a management consultant and will be demanded to have a positive impact on your client’s company. This is why recruiters will take a close look at your achievements. In the following, we have put together a list of different key areas in which you could potentially have made an impact during your previous job positions:
Have your actions had a positive impact on the revenue of the company? Has the revenue increased? By how much? And how did you do it?
Have your actions led to decreasing cost? How much?
Were you able to improve processes, productivity, etc.? By how much? How has it affected the company at the bottom line?
Did you improve the relations with old and new customers? What was the result?
Reports & Presentations
Have you been involved in the creation of important reports or presentations in front of an important audience?
Have you received any promotions, bonuses, or other forms of recognition?
- Accounting Intern: Scheduled and coordinated bi-monthly meetings with five large investors resulting in a seven-digit investment by one major investor.
- Summer Intern: Supported three managers with market and competitor analysis for client presentations leading to the realization of a new project with an increase of revenues by 12%.
- Analyst: Created Excel models to forecast inventory with an 80% accuracy rate that decreased costs by 20%.
After the first two steps, you have now everything you need to put together your first draft of your consulting resume. All you have to do is following the standard guidelines of a consulting resume or alternatively download our template and fill in your content. Give yourself approximately two hours for this third step and tailor each section of your CV according to the following:
Depending on how much work experience you have, the order of your consulting resume sections will differ:
- If you have less than two years of work experience, you should put your education first, followed by your work experience.
- If you are an experienced hire and can present more than two years of professional experience, it will be vice versa, so the education section will follow your work experience.
Let’s imagine the first scenario is the case for you:
If you have recently graduated, education will probably make up the largest part of your life. Nevertheless, you should not excessively focus on your education in your consulting resume. After all, you should only demonstrate information that is relevant to the work as a management consultant. This also applies to the educational qualifications you had before you entered a university. Only include it if they are either exceptionally good or if the employer asks for it.
However, as much as you should try to include only the relevant information, it is still important not to leave any gaps that could raise questions about your education history. For example, if you had a gap year between your bachelor's and master's, list it. Ideally, you can even add something that will add value to the resume. Here is a list of items you should include in the education section of your consulting resume:
- University Name, city, country, and timeframe
- The name of your degree and if required your qualification
- Courses relevant to the consulting career
- Exchange semesters
This is how your education section could look like in your resume:
By now, you should know that your work experience is the most important section in your resume. Within this section, you should demonstrate your skill set in two to five achievement-oriented bullet points. Make sure to show that you can for example work independently and that you have been exposed to top-level management.
And don't panic if you feel you cannot mention game-changing results, yet. Most employers know that entry-level employees or graduates do not immediately change the world when they make their first professional experiences. Again, we provide you with a list of components you should not miss in your employment section:
- Your job title, the company name, city, and country
- Time period: If you have more than two years of work experience, you would only list your experience in years. Shorter experiences, for example internships, are listed with the abbreviated month and year dates. Make sure to be consistent here.
- Achievement-oriented bullet points: In step two you should have listed your achievements. Now you can use these and list them here. Try to come up with a mix of competencies and skills required for the job you are applying to.
This is how your work experience could look like in your resume:
Impressive leadership experience and other extracurricular activities like volunteering allow you to stand out from the crowd. Especially if you do not have as much professional experience to fill the whole page, you can make use of this section to shine bright with extracurriculars that are related to management consulting or showcase your leadership abilities. Here are components you should not miss within this section:
- The name of the organization, business or consulting club, city, and country
- Time period: Follow the same rules as in the section of your professional experience
- Achievements: Just like in any other section, make sure to highlight the things you have achieved or how this activity positively contributes to your CV.
This is how this section could look like in your resume:
Your IT skills include all relevant programs or software you are familiar with, most importantly the Microsoft Office package (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.). On top of that, you can mention other data analytics programs or programming skills you may know. You do not need to go into any detail, just list the programs and your level of expertise.
As an international job, speaking several languages can come in handy. The listing of your spoken languages should follow a strict order: Start with your mother tongue and English after that if it is not your mother tongue. After this, you should list the languages you speak, that are relevant for the location you are applying to. Other languages you speak should be then listed at the end of the list. For each language, you should also state your level of proficiency: native, fluent, business, or basic. These levels should not be replaced by certificates you obtained years ago as they do not reflect the current language skills and can already be outdated. However, if you insist on adding your certificates to your CV, do so in addition to your language level.
Lastly, your personal interests can find space in this section. Do not overlook this part as it is still an important piece of your resume! Put in things that you are passionate about and even try to show your result-oriented nature. Did you run a marathon with great timing? That is definitely something to put into! You might be lucky and have someone reviewing your resume with similar interests. This could have a positive effect on your application.
Do not skip this step! Editing your resume at the end is the most important part of creating your consulting CV. In this step, you want to make sure that you did everything you can, so your resume will pass the screening process. At this point, it should be as good as it can be!
It is easy to compromise on minor details or make mistakes when you work on a document for so long and especially when it involves blowing your own trumpet. Asking as many people as possible for feedback on your resume provides you with fresh eyes and opinions from people that know you and therefore can make a judgment as to how well it reflects your achievements. They are likely to provide feedback that will elevate your resume higher. Be careful not to make all feedback changes as it is likely to result in a mess, only implement what you consider to be positively impactful.
Multiple eyes will also multiply your proofreading efforts. Any mistakes will be viewed very negatively as attention to detail is important for consultants so you need to be absolutely sure there are no mistakes when you submit your resume.
Once you feel like your resume is ready to be submitted, make sure to send it as a PDF file and double-check the file name. Here you should include your first and last name as well as the name of the company you are applying for.
Are you worried that your resume may not pass the CV screening? Download our consulting resume templates for free to spruce up your consulting application right now. You can save it as a word document and simply fill in your data. It’s that easy!
Consulting CV: Download CV Templates