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© 2019 Management Consulting Prep
If you ask, most screeners will tell you that he or she spends about 60-90 seconds per resume. But the honest number is much lower. After roughly 10 seconds, we have already formed an opinion about a resume and depending on the situation we may spend another 30 something seconds to confirm our thought. Over 80% of the time, the initial impression ends up being the final decision. During those 10 seconds, there are certain areas that we look into more closely. Those are areas you MUST rock.
Well, at first glance, a consulting resume is just like any other resume. You have typical main sections: personal information, Education, Work Experience, etc.
But when looking closer, there is a world of difference. While a normal resume is a quick summary of your professional life, a consulting resume is a celebration of consulting skill sets and qualifications. Every word, every phrase, every bullet there must scream “consulting”.
If you know the consulting industry along with its culture well, naturally every detail of your resume will look “consulting” without you even thinking about it.
An input way of thinking would be: “I went grocery shopping today”
An output way of thinking would be: “I ensured that the whole family with enough food for the whole week”
Consulting people work hard and make huge inputs every day. But all they care about is the outputs. The input is only meaningful when it leads to an output of some sort. Not only with big tasks, but even each trivial work every day also reflects this way of thinking too.
So every bullet in your resume must reflect this. There should always be a result, no matter how trivial a task is.
Even if you just flip burgers at a local restaurant, you should tell screeners about your record-breaking speed, or your perfect customer satisfaction rate.
Let’s say I just competed in a Paragliding World Cup event, a vague way of bragging is: “I finished strong”.
A consultant in that situation would say: “I ranked #3/90 pilots in the competition”.
Effective people always talk with specifics. Consulting people are shaped to be specific. And they are trained to ask follow-up questions every time encountering non-specific communication. So if you write vaguely in your resume, we screeners will notice really quickly.
To be specific, it’s much more about just adding numbers. Good impressions can come from qualitative descriptions too. You will see many examples of that on the Resume Toolkits program.
This is hard to believe at first. The common thinking is that: the more effective you are, the more direct your communication should be right? In many cases, that’s true.
But when talking about yourselves, the way to go is through objective information. Consultants would much rather provide concrete facts and data, which subtly whisper: “hey I am good”, … then saying it out loud in a direct way.
We don’t write: “had excellent negotiation skill”
We write: “negotiated the biggest deal in company history, resulting in … dot .. dot .. dot”
Interesting hah. Specific, but implicit!
Here’s another interesting fact. We want to stand out in terms of content as much as we can. But on the other hand, we want to stand out in terms of formatting and presentation as little as possible.
This is somewhat similar to how we dress up for interviews: As conservative as possible. Conservatives here will be perceived as professionals.
You should strictly follow the standard format: one page, black and white, traditional font size, ordinary spacing. Literally use it. The easiest way to get eliminated is to use creative formats.
We do like creative people. But you also have to show your creativity through texts, not through colors or graphics.
Consultants spend countless hours perfecting their PowerPoint slides to the finest details. Every space, every dot, every word is … perfect. It’s expected. So if you wanna be a consultant and all you can show is the one-page resume, chances are that any small mistakes will be detected and the thing will get discarded very quickly.
We have a list of auto-fail mistakes you should absolutely avoid in your resume here for you!
Like any other resume, the consulting version also features the same main sections of:
You can play around with font size and spacing a little bit to make yours fit exactly to one page. When you have extra space, increase the font size, increase spacing, and decrease the margin; and vice versa. But remember, there is a limit to how much you can do this. For bigger adjustment, it’s better to cut or write more contents.
If you want to start with some numbers, aim to have a total of approximately 600 words (+ / – 100) with Times New Roman font size 10.
The optimal bullet length is roughly 1.5 lines. Anything more than 3 lines is overkill and probably no screener will read. Less than 1 line usually means not enough content.
Each position should have roughly 2 to 4 bullets. More important jobs should come with more bullets of course.
Here is the link to download the official standard template accepted at McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, completely for free.
Here’s the fun part. When screening resumes, do screeners look at everything equally?
There are typically a few more important areas. I interviewed dozens of resume screeners across McKinsey, Bain, and BCG offices and asked them what do you look at more often in a resume. Amazingly, we all somewhat point to similar areas of focus.
Here below is the powerful heat map, you can watch the video analyzing these insights on our YouTube channel!
Each bullet is a building block of a great resume. At the end of the day, there’s no escape from it. We need to write exceptional bullets … over and over again … based on less-than-perfect experience.
So how do we do it?
Typically, a great bullet has 3 parts:
The work – Explanation of the work – and the output
For example: “went grocery shopping – at the most crowded supermarket, – ensuring adequate food supply for the whole family for the next 7 days”
For each part, notice the following:
Now, let’s take a look at some serious examples from real resumes so you get a sense:
“Managed consulting engagements with P&L responsibilities generating $700K in 2012; exceeded profitability goal by 8%”
A classic bullet, with 3 simple yet clean parts. Here is Part A! Here is Part B with specific quantification of his challenging responsibilities. And here’s Part C with clear results. Classic, but it works!
“Conducted market research, identified addressable markets, developed market segmentation and recommended entry strategies resulting in a 97% increase in potential revenues and a 125% increase in valuation”
A little more complicated as Part A and Part B merge altogether. But all the ingredients are still there. Qualitatively, the description of his challenging work is specific with some decent consulting wordings. And nice and direct results in Part C.
Once you master this, you can be a little more flexible, playing around with the underlying principles and still write good bullets without strictly following the above formulae. As long as you have all the ingredients, there should be no problem.
When writing each bullet, we focus on the micro details. But it pays to zoom out from time to time and evaluate your own resume from the top-down view. Does it show off a well-rounded set of consulting skills and qualifications?
Maybe it shows more than enough analytical skills while missing out on the leadership and people part?
Each screener has a slightly different version of the “grading system”. But all the general ideas are pretty much the same. Some screeners do it in their heads while some others would even put grades on an excel sheet next to a carefully drafted grading table.
Over the years, I have talked to many screeners and accumulated everything into a magic resume grading sheet. This is like the average grading sheet that a normal and typical screener will use, either implicitly or explicitly. See this in the Resume Toolkit program.
As I mentioned earlier about having consulting wordings. But be careful that there is a world difference between the actual content and professional wording we use in consulting’s official end-product documents … vs those verbal jargons floating online.
Saying words like “boil the ocean” or “on the beach” won’t help you score any points. In fact, you even put yourselves at risk for being unprofessional.
Use real words! It’s not on the internet. It’s only on our website. You can download it for free!
As humans, we make mistakes very often. The only way to combat this is by checking over and over … and over again… in different contexts. Run it through an auto-grammar checker. Run it through your friends. Print it out. Look at it when you are high. Read it when you are low. Examine it like you are a screener …etc.
You will be amazed by how many details you can pick up. The goal is to make your resume a little better every day. There is always something you can improve. After months or even years of doing it every day, you will be in a good position.
At the end of the day, nobody can replace you as a writer. If you can’t write a good management consulting resume, you will hate consulting anyway. But can somebody act like a real screener giving you pointers? Yes! Find out about this in the Resume Toolkit Program.
You will send your resume digitally. Nothing more annoying for the firm than receiving dozens of “resume.doc” files. Please follow the naming convention widely accepted at consulting.
A) Put it in PDF format
B) Start with the date
C) Your name
D) Then “Resume”
So ideally, your file name should be something like “2020.3_Donald_Trump_Resume.pdf”
Resume writing is very challenging. Consulting Resumes are even more difficult. But following tips in this article, you will be in very good shape!