As an aspiring management consultant, you should do everything to get an invitation to an interview. To get there, you need to nail the first step: writing a concise, informative and enticing management consulting cover letter that presents you as the ideal candidate.
Your cover letter must capture a balance of directness and confidence within the span of a few brief but compelling, descriptive paragraphs. Writing about yourself can be one of the most difficult challenges but is imperative in giving a valuable, powerful first impression and in conveying that you have written communication skills on par with others in the management consulting profession. It can help to see how others have presented themselves.
In the competitive landscape of pursuing a career as a management consultant, you already know that you need to be aggressive, hungry and know what you want, what you have to offer and how to sell yourself. Your management consulting cover letter is your best tool for making the sale. This is regardless whether you apply to top-tier firms such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG or whether you apply to boutique consulting firms.
Before you write your management consulting cover letter, come up with a list of your qualifications that match the requirements of your target firm. Take a look at the table below as an example:
- Internship program or consulting experience
- Researches conducted while you were a student
- Relevant coursework
- Achievements as a student
- Awards, certifications and honors received
- Milestones in your previous job
- Written or spoken languages
- Attended debates and case competitions
- Journals and articles published on magazines or newspapers
- Positions held at school
- Team leader experience
- Group projects where you acted as the leader
Writing the Management Consulting Cover Letter
You can be told ad nauseam how crucial your management consulting cover letter is, and while you undoubtedly believe it, this document is still a troublesome point for many applicants. Putting together the right cover letter with all the necessary elements can be a lot of work. All the “scare tactics” about the make-or-break nature of this document will still not give you the step-by-step guidance and tools you need to get down to the business of actually writing the letter. A good approach is to break the letter down into parts and focus on each, as we will help you do below.
Breaking the Letter Down
A typical management consulting cover letter sample for consulting is organized like the illustration shown. While some items are self-explanatory, such as your contact information, the date and your signature, some things are much more ambiguous. How do you narrow down your experience and your personal skills enough to reflect your value to the desired hiring firm and maintain the brevity and concision required?It can be daunting to approach writing a cover letter that may play a significant role in determining whether or not you will get a chance at a future in management consulting. The process can be broken down into smaller, manageable pieces, giving you the ability to focus on one step at a time.
The opening of your letter provides an opportunity to introduce yourself and immediately get the attention of the reviewer. You have only seconds to make this impression. To succeed, your letter needs to lead to something that differentiates you, is personal, reflects your voice and makes you unique. All this while fitting into the constructs of what the major consulting firms seek in management consultants.
Some good examples of lead-ins include:
|Refer to people working at the firm with whom you have had contact and briefly describe your connection to them, how it relates to your application or fit with the firm, particularly if those individuals can act as references for you.
|Lead with references to any events or seminars in which you have taken part that have involved or been sponsored by the firm in question/to which you are applying. Personal connections and your existing network and experience with the firm can make a difference in tipping the scales in your favor.
|Touch on your motivation for wanting to be a management consultant as well as why this firm, what you know about this firm and how you fit into this firm.
Here’s an example:
I participated in a leadership seminar offer by X & Company in April 2011. My analytical skills and experience in public policy primed me for the workshops run by your firm’s government specialists, David Jones and Anne Smith. Mr Jones and Ms Smith encouraged me to put my dual MBA and MPA degrees to use at X & Company, citing my superior cross-functional and multidisciplinary communication skills and my passion for public policy and governmental affairs as particular strengths. Management consulting creates a perfect marriage of my expertise in the convergence of public and private business interests.
Experience and Education
Next part of the management consulting cover letter sample is experience and education. Depending on your experience level when you apply, you may emphasize experience over education, while a new graduate will not have much experience about which to write. Your resume will provide a formal list of all your education and experience, so you will not need to write extensively about every experience. The most important thing to reflect here is the most relevant experience and education.
Your job here is to sell yourself. You will do a bit of self-selling in all the sections of this management consulting cover letter, but it will be most prevalent in the experience and education section and again in your recounting of personal skills. In a way, these sections are related. If it flows better and makes more sense, you can feel free to switch sections around, so your motivation statement comes earlier or later, and experience and skills follow one another.
It is imperative in writing this section that you are specific and detailed. That is, choose specific and highly relevant and impressive achievements and accomplishments and illustrate them with solid action words and, wherever possible, concrete evidence or results of your efforts. If your effort on a project led to a ten percent increase in sales, a 25 percent increase in productivity, a five percent reduction in production budget or some other tangible result, back up your claims about experience with hard data. Similarly, you can highlight leadership roles you have assumed, programs you have organized, clubs or organizations you founded or contributed to and so forth.
As the co-chair of the X committee on X, negotiations between my department at the Department of XZ and an external agency were on the brink of collapse. My data analysis skills and fast thinking bridged the gap between the agencies when I created a data report and presentation that illustrated the 23% cost savings the external agency would reap over five years. One of my greatest professional contributions has been contributing to real savings and results by applying my creative thinking and problem solving skills coupled with the ability to strip conflicts down to their basic parts and offering solutions. In an advisory capacity, I have bridged many gaps between the public and private sector as the boundaries between these sectors blur.
My expertise and education in both private business and public agencies has given me unique insight into finding synergies between the public and private sectors.
While you may feel strongly that you are destined to be a management consultant, your passion and drive has to be conveyed as strongly in writing. Presenting your motivation for wanting to have this rewarding career can be difficult. One aspect of management consulting cover letters that is often missing is the sense of why and how much the applicant is motivated. It is important to infuse this section with your own voice, tone and personality. The danger is that you can come across sounding generic at best and careless at worst (for example, if you are cautious, you have left your motivation as an afterthought). This section should be carefully crafted and well thought out. Concrete motivations for your desired career choice will come through as being sincere.
Having worked extensively in the public sector and driven many hybrid public-private projects, it became clear that my skills and experience would best be employed in management consulting. In my work with ELW and Partners, the collaborative and deeply analytical, sober approach to making recommendations and strategic plans informed my decision to apply to ELW and to leave the public sector. In particular, the large-scale XX public works project in which ELW worked closely with my government agency and a third-party corporation demonstrated to me the potential of collaborative management and my future in it.
Your personal skills should set you firmly apart from other applicants and paint a picture of you as a unique applicant with something to offer that is unlike anything anyone else’s personal portfolio can rival. Again, you are selling yourself with confidence and honesty. Along the same lines as how you presented yourself in your experience and education section, you will highlight your personal skills using examples that are as tangible as possible.
Personal skills cannot be demonstrated as readily as quantifiable results. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to trigger the flow of thoughts on personal skills and abilities:
- What can you bring to this firm that no one else can?
- Why would this firm regret losing out on hiring you?
- Why would this be a perfect marriage between you and this firm?
- How are you a leader or a driver?
- What unique things have you done or accomplished?
More specific to the realm of personal skills, ask yourself how you have demonstrated the following in relation to your past experience and education:
- problem solving and analytical skills
- communication skills
- team working skills
- personal impact and leadership skills
- business judgment skills
Here’s an example for this section:
If you were to ask any of my colleagues about my professional strengths, all would say without hesitation that my approach to problem solving and analysis is key to my success as well as the success of the teams I have led. In particular, in terms of breaking problems down into manageable parts and dividing them among the best-prepared team members, I have been a leader and have displayed keen team building and organizational skills. My teams have consistently reported stronger annual results and higher team morale.
My leadership has been instrumental in helping to keep these communication and teamwork channels open.
Your closing is your opportunity to conclude, recap briefly and to thank the reviewer for their time and consideration. You may restate your motivation or encourage the firm to contact you. In any case, this is meant simply to close the letter politely.
Close your cover letter using professional words such as:
- Kind regards,
- Most sincerely,
- Yours truly,
Don’t forget to attach your signature as well to express your sincerity in applying to the firm. Simply scan your signature, crop the image and insert it to your cover letter accordingly.
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