No matter how well you can handle a PST or an interview, you will never have the chance to show it to potential employers unless you pass the screening round first. And the key to that is to have a great resume!
1. Consulting resumes are different
I have seen many candidates with excellent resumes who nonetheless got rejected by McKinsey or Bain. The reason is much simpler than most of them would expect: Their resume is not for management consulting! Simply speaking, they wasted too many words describing the wrong qualifications.
A perfect consulting resume should directly speak to consulting people. It should be written in a consulting-like tone and highlight skill sets relevant to consulting. In order to nail it, you should (1) understand the management consulting industry and (2) have someone in the industry give you feedback. (Check out the consulting terminology that you can and should include in your resume).
2. Behind the scenes
Though the resume screening process varies across different firms and offices, there are some common themes that every recruiter sticks to.
Your resume will likely be reviewed by junior consultants who share your background.
Three important keywords here are junior, consultant, and shared background.
Most consulting firms receive a huge number of resumes. The senior consultants’ time is too valuable to waste on such a basic task, so they just pass the screening to their junior colleagues. As a result, you don’t need stuff that is too fancy or technical to get in. In fact, simple and understandable language works best.
In order to evaluate whether a candidate is a good fit for consulting work, the screener must be insightful and have consulting experience. Most offices only allow consultants to review resumes. It will be highly beneficial if you can have someone in the consulting industry review yours.
Generally, your resume will be reviewed by whoever in the office whose background is the most similar to yours. Your screener might have gone to the same university or was from the same country as you.
3. Pitfalls to avoid
With resumes, there are more than one ways to be right. There are endless combinations of different styles, formats, and content, and it is difficult to make an absolute decision on what is appropriate. The best style, format, or content vary between specific situations, specific screeners, and specific candidates.
However, there are a set of standards that all consulting recruiters generally agree on. The following guidelines will help you conform to those rules by showing you the most common resume mistakes.
Mistake #1: What you have vs. How you present it
I have seen candidates work really hard to gain experience, hoping to add some impressive bullets to their resumes, yet do not get called in for interviews.
On the other hand, I have seen many who do not pay nearly enough attention to the very qualifications they put on their resume.
No matter how well you present your record, it is difficult to land interviews without good content (background, work experience, etc.). Still, building an impressive resume is a long and balanced process of developing your background and aptly showing it off in the shortest and sweetest way possible.
Simply put: start early and finish strong!
Mistake #2: Complicated and unclean language
Most screeners will not have much time for your resume. Your language should be as simple and clean as possible. Let’s look at some examples of real resumes we have been improving.
Examples of complicated language:
– “Determined the biogeochemical processes involved in the cycling of sulfur, iron, and carbon in three acidic metal-contaminated lakes in southwestern Spain.”
A more effective way is to convert all complicated terminologies into simple words that even people without technical knowledge can understand:
– “Determined the biological, geographical, and chemical processes in acidic metal-contaminated lakes in Spain.”
Example of unclean English:
– “Perform in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for patients seeking operations uncovered by health insurance.”
This description can be cleaned up as follows:
– “Research financial companies with financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations.”
Mistake #3: Resume is not specific
If you got to be a consultant for a day, you would be surprised by how many times you are asked to be specific. It is the nature of the job. Your resume will be reviewed by those who spend years in that culture. You simply cannot afford to be vague on your resume.
Let’s look at the same example for illustration:
– “Performed in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking for operations”
A few questions immediately pop up in my head:
– What kind of “in-depth research” was it?
– How was the research conducted?
– What role did you take?
– What did you do specifically?
A better way to convey this is:
– “Performed competitiveness and liquidity research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations through press search, interviewing experts, and analyzing published data”
Mistake #4: Resume is not result-oriented
The core of every consulting project is to create impact. You will not find a lot of consulting team meetings that don’t mention the word “impact”. Every line, every description on a good consulting resume must show the “impact” or the “result” of the candidate’s input.
Let’s continue with the same example:
– “Performed in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations.”
This description is not result-oriented. Questions that most screeners will have about that description are:
– So what? How do I know if those researches affected the company or if most of them ended up in the trash?
– Every college student can do research, how is this candidate special?
A better way to put this description:
– “Led and published critical research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations, leading to a major shift in the company’s target market.”
Mistake #5: Resume does not show your well-rounded set of consulting skills
A typical resume first lists out your background, then try to make each point look as good as possible.
While the method above sometimes works, there is a far better and more systematic approach when it comes to consulting resumes. That is: to identify comprehensively upfront all the skills and qualities screeners want to see, and to match your background to them.
By doing this, your resume will show what they need, NOT what you have to offer.
Mistake #6: Resume with grammar and spelling mistakes
This sounds trivial, but it is the fastest way to get your resume thrown out. It shows you are either careless (how does the screener expect you to make perfect slides at 2-3 am in the morning?) or not taking the application seriously.
Proof-read your resume! Spell-check it! Make someone review it! You have all the time in the world for your resume, there is no excuse.
Mistake #7: Resume with bad formatting
I talked to many different McKinsey screeners from many different offices. A very common complaint is about applications using different formats, and some are very hard to read. An effective format should always be clear and easy to read.
If you are concerned about whether your current format is clean and clear enough, use one of our commonly accepted formats attached below!
This is a simple issue and yet so many people struggle with it. Don’t let it keep you from your future dreams.
Get the most standard format for a consulting resume below.