Writing your consulting resume? Not sure what to include to make it more impressive? Although you may be tempted to follow the common structure of international CVs, keep in mind that it is generally recommended to omit certain sections from a consulting application. Why? Because the most relevant details should be clearly conveyed in the achievements and skills section as resume screeners spend only a few minutes on each resume.
In fact, in 2012, a study was conducted which examined specific behaviors of recruiters as they screened applications, both paper and online, over a 10-week period. The research focused on what caught their attention and what was overlooked. The study’s eye-tracking technology revealed that recruiters spent almost 80% of their review time looking at just a few critical elements: the candidate’s name, current title and company, previous work and employer, and education. And they only spend around six seconds reviewing each element. “Beyond these data points, recruiters did little more than scan for keywords to match the open position, which amounted to a very cursory pattern-matching activity,” the researchers said.
So you see, every single part of your resume should serve your ultimate purpose, which is to impress the screener and land an interview. Incorporating details that add little to no additional value to your candidacy will only derail your success in the initial screening stage.
While some sections of a consulting resume are optional, the following sections are indispensable to crafting a winning consulting application:
This section of your resume is critical. Resume screeners prefer to see details about postgraduate and college education first. Don’t forget to include your degree(s), university, grades, or GPA. Also, it is recommended to mention any major milestone such as achieving magna cum laude status and/or receiving awards for academic excellence and outstanding social involvement. You may also include relevant academic projects like your senior thesis and other notable research, which will serve to demonstrate your academic prowess.
Many firms place emphasis on standardized test scores (GMAT, LSAT, SAT, etc) as well, so if you have taken such tests it is wise to include your results. If you don’t think your score is impressive, you can compensate by providing a remarkable track record in the next section.
Work Experience / Accomplishments
Resume screeners are greatly impressed with a results-oriented track record. That’s why this section is undeniably an essential part of your application. This is your opportunity to provide a synopsis of your relevant work achievements and advertise yourself and what you can bring to the table. Thus, it’s suggested to mention your accomplishments in a detailed yet concise manner.
Although this section is for work experience, do not make the common mistake of simply mentioning the title, company, and responsibilities of your previous jobs. Consulting resume screeners want quantifiable achievements not job descriptions. Emphasize what you have achieved in each major role that went beyond your daily responsibilities. Firms are more interested in the impact you made in your previous positions, the positive changes brought about through your direct involvement. It’s not enough that you complete your daily tasks, you need to show that your work will generate profitable results for your target employer.
Use this section to demonstrate your unique skills and experiences that will help employers understand your strengths—lack of self-promotion will hurt your candidacy. Sell yourself loud and clear. Aside from your consulting cover letter, your resume is the only way you can make a positive impression and land the highly-anticipated interview. Yes, it’s great that you were a marketing manager for five years, but this information will not be enough to attract McKinsey, Bain, and BCG recruiters.
Highlight your most impressive achievements and back them up with quantifiable results. (You may exaggerate a little with regard to quantifying impact.) Although not every positive impact has to be quantified, be consistently focused on the impact of your work and don’t fixate on the particular steps you’ve taken. For instance, instead of saying, “Devised a marketing plan for ABC Company,” say: “Developed a marketing plan for ABC company, resulting in a 30% increase in revenue in two months.”
Also, it’s recommended that you use actionable words like “managed,” “developed,” etc. You can also include key phrases such as managed clients, managed teams, proposed and implemented, increased performance by, reduced costs by, and the likes. Remember, top firms are likely to be looking for similar attributes in your application.
In addition to the work experience section, you may also take advantage of this part of your application to demonstrate your suitability to daily consulting duties. But take note that the skills you list must be relevant and proven.
It’s important that you’re aware of precisely which skills consultants are looking for so that you can highlight them in your resume. Reviewers generally look for solid proof of skills in these key areas: analysis and problem-solving, quantitative, achieving, social and leadership, and communication.
|Problem-solving||List specific roles you have taken that clearly show your ability to devise efficient and practical solutions. A consultant’s daily tasks primarily revolve around gathering information, assessing the situation, and developing a sound solution. Thus, it’s critical for a candidate to exhibit strong analysis and problem-solving skills.|
|Quantitative||Include evidence of your strong quantitative skills. Consultants deal with quantitative data on a regular basis, so as an aspiring consultant, you need to show that you’re comfortable analyzing large sets of numbers.|
|Achieving||Actually, if you’ve efficiently written your work experience section, this skill is already proven. As mentioned earlier, consultancy firms are attracted to results-oriented individuals. In other words, they want achievers on their team—those with a genuine passion for effecting positive change.|
|Social and leadership||Firms are also looking for candidates who can effectively handle different types of interpersonal situations. Ensure to provide proof of your strong leadership and people skills. Key duties of a consultant include people management and team leadership. Constant client interaction is also an integral part of consultancy. As consultants work with diverse people, you definitely need to establish that you’re personable as well as an effective leader.|
|Communication||Establish your strong communication skills in this section. Aspiring consultants are expected to be excellent communicators as they have to convey their insights to clients in a clear and concise manner. Actually, crafting a well-written resume is solid proof of your communication abilities.|
This section can add value to your application because firms are interested in volunteer work or positions you’ve taken which demonstrate your leadership, initiative, and commitment. That’s why it’s recommended to include leadership positions, involvement in extracurricular activities, and any other significant participation in sports or societies. In general, you should only include information that will help your target firm understand your strengths.
Although this section may not be as critical as your work experience and skills, it could add great value to your application. If you have credible business references and former or current consultancy clients, it could push your application forward. These references will provide your target firm with first-hand information that will strongly support the information you provided.
In order to further improve the sections listed above, follow these valuable tips:
|Jargon||Avoid using too much technical jargon. Doing so may give the screener the impression that you’re over exaggerating your credentials.|
|Position||Eliminate older positions in order to keep your resume to a single page or two maximum. Many candidates opt not to include a consulting resume summary section because they want to allot more space for highlighting accomplishments in their most recent positions. It’s recommended to leave off work experience beyond the last ten years. Remember, if you can’t keep your resume concise, the recruiters will get the impression that you have poor writing and communication skills.|
|Space||Leave enough white space so that your resume doesn’t appear too text-heavy and turn off screeners. A crowded resume may also cause the screener to overlook relevant information. Moreover, space everything equally. Proper spacing and alignment not only make your application more visually appealing, but are indicative of your keen attention to detail, which is a common quality of successful consultants.|
|Language||Check your choice and use of language. Ensure you use terms and phrases that are professional and appropriate. Also, avoid using obscure expressions and complex sentences. As your resume may reflect your personality, follow a formal business writing style.|
|Readability||Consider readability when structuring your consulting resume. Layout the information in a way that makes it easy for the reader to pinpoint important details. It’s suggested to use the bulleted approach for points you want to highlight, particularly your relevant accomplishments.|
|Font||Use a larger font for your name—this tip is so simple but often overlooked. Never use the same font size for your name as the rest of the text in your application. You don’t want the screener to deem you as qualified and move on to the next application only to forget your name.|
|Proofreading||Proofread your resume before submitting it for typos and other common errors, then have somebody else read it, then read it again. The competition for a consultancy position is steep, so you don’t want to commit any mistakes.|
|Contact Information||Double check your provided contact info—is it correct and updated. All the effort you put into writing a winning application will be wasted if the contact details you provide are not accurate. Include your primary email address and a working phone number, and check your email regularly. You don’t want to be selected as one of the top candidates and miss your chance to interview because your email bounces or your phone number is no longer active.|