The perfect resume for consulting
Have you heard? Consulting is the new investment banking. With macro events like Brexit and Trump's trade war setting the economic temperature right now, firms like BCG, McKinsey and the Big Four are look for more and more consultants to, well, consult. Many top graduates who may previously have danced into a career in investment banking are now tracking towards what are seen as more relevant, and ostensibly stable, jobs in consulting.
But just because there’s a gold-rush on, doesn’t mean it’s easy to land the perfect consulting role. Whether you're breaking into consulting from another sector or looking to move laterally, the competition remains elite. As such, your consulting resume needs to be on fire; intelligent, nuanced and pre-emptive, it should be about tangible, relatable achievements. Experience is great, but how you have applied yourself, put your ideas across and implemented strategy are equally as important on your consulting CV as listing all your job titles, however impressive they may sound.
So, what does it take to impress the best recruiters in consulting? We’ve spoken to the specialists on your behalf, these are their tips for success:
1. Personal statement yes, long rambling soliloquy? No.
Personal statements in resumes are generally frowned upon in the financial sector, but a brief summary of the sectors you specialise in, combined with some indication of what results you achieved during your latest assignments are to be encouraged, says Rakesh Pabbi, a former PwC and KPMG consultant who is now Senior Partner at leading Talent Strategy firm, Consulting Point.
“The key here is to be concise and not too wordy,” Pabbi says. “This is a test – if you can’t sell yourself concisely, how can you get a complex point across to a client effectively?”
If you’re applying for an entry-level role and don’t have much to show off about, start with your academics.
2. Don’t be afraid to use tables or bullets
‘You have around 20 seconds to impress with your resume.” says Pabbi. “The best way to pull in a recruiter is to outline your sector expertise and client list in an easily digestible table.” Here's an example:
3. Be exact about your academic qualifications
Consulting has traditionally been a magnet for MBAs from top business schools, but in spite of this it’s rarely a must-have for recruiters, says Richard Stewart, managing director of consulting recruiters Mindbench.
What most firms do want to see is a first class degree and a top university listed on academic achievements, says Stewart. “Consultants also want to see your high school and A-level grades so don’t be vague about them,” adds Pabbi. “The bar has been raised, there are thousands of candidates. How you did at high school is potentially a good differentiator.”
4. Keep it on one page, or not
Brevity is best in consulting, says Stewart. “One side if possible, but a maximum of two pages,” he says. “The skill of a consultant is distilling complex information concisely. This is where you show you can do that. You can always add supplementary pages outlining project experience if you think it’s vital.”
Not all recruiters are of the same mind, however. “Although consultants often say stick to one page, I have heard otherwise – if you have worked on some key client projects then in order to sell yourself you need to detail your achievements within each. You also must include the right keywords to beat the CV Robots (Applicant Tracking Systems). It’s difficult to naturally place the breadth and depth of keywords required plus your projects and achievements on just one page, so you may have to be flexible here,” says Victoria McLean, CEO of City CV. “However, you must keep it smart, lean and succinct.”
5. Achievements not skills
Talking about yourself in the first person and listing vague, unquantifiable traits like being a ‘strategic thinker’ are immediately going to hurt your chances. The key to success is to firstly emphasise your project skills and secondly talk about what you have achieved in the job.
“Structure your CV to showcase these skills,” says McLean. “There’s no need to tell recruiters I developed skills in x,y and z’, instead demonstrate these skills by writing about what you have done – your skill set should be implicit if you cite stories, examples and challenges.”
6. Follow this format when talking about your experience
The first and most obvious point is that your experience shouldn’t contain unexplained gaps. Pabbi says this will pretty much always scupper your application.
Once you’ve filled all the gaps, make sure every experience point contains the following:
- a brief description of your employer
- your role and responsibilities
- four to five bullet points explaining what you achieved there (tangibles)
Victoria McLean provides this example of how to highlight your tangible results within a specific role or project:
● Developed EMEA-wide network of assessed, qualified and contracted suppliers
● Reduced non-compliant spend by 75%
● With Legal, developed standard global contracting terms and project managed implementation across circa 100 suppliers
● Substantially reduced supplier fees through controlling spend, saving FMCG client $500k p.a.
● Sold the next phase of the project, generating $1m additional sales
But just because you’re using bullets don’t scrimp on your language, says Stewart. “List your key impacts in proper sentences,” he says. “You’re essentially providing an inventory of your productivity,” adds Pabbi. “The interview is competency-based, so your CV should provide discussion points.”
7. Do as management consultants do
Listing interests on your CV may seem like a waste of time – and if you like movies and eating brunch on Sunday, it most certainly is. But if you have something interesting to share you can use the opportunity to convince a potential employer you’re the right fit. Team sports are good, says Pabbi, as they demonstrate teamwork, as is any charity work or volunteering. “Essentially they want to see your personality – if you can’t interact with an employer, how are you going to develop relationships with clients?” says Stewart.
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