3 Ways Management Consulting Applications Differ from Traditional Ones

If you’ve been around the management consulting industry for any amount of time at all, you know how different of a beast it really is to conquer than nearly any other industry. That’s not to say it’s not worth it: we happen to believe that consulting is right for almost anyone, and the cross-functional experience and skills building is unmatched in any other part of business.

But how do you conquer that all-important beginning step – the application? Well, first things first. You should NEVER be dropping an application blindly without first having networked inside the office you’re applying to. A recommendation from a consultant will fast-track your application inside the firm. In fact, it will take it through an entirely different path, virtually guaranteeing you a first-round interview invite. Even if you’ve done a masterful job of networking, you still have to jump through the hoops and meet the stringent criteria of consulting firms.

But how do you do that when you’ve never applied for a consulting role before? Well, that’s what we’re here for! Buckle up and get ready to learn the 3 ways management consulting applications differ from traditional ones.

1. The Application is NOT The First Step In The Process

We’ve already mentioned this, but it’s so important we’re going to break it down again. Unlike in industry, the application is not the first step of the process.

A firm really should have heard from you before you submit the application. Why? Every time consulting firms post an open position, they are bombarded by hundreds of applicants. There’s just no way to do due diligence on every one of those applicants, so firms tend to go with those they already know.

Not only do they have to be confident that you can do the work (that’s where the case interview comes in), they also have to be comfortable enough to leave you in a room with a client CEO alone. One of the prime ways they get a feel for your soft skills is networking. So our #1 piece of advice when it comes to your management consulting application? Get your networking plan together and don’t only focus on the application itself!

Join our upcoming Networking Intensive for live and applied networking training from a former Bain consultant. Limited spots are available!

2. Stand Out From the Crowd With Your Resume

You know how important your resume is to getting your foot in the door for an interview. Actually, your resume is all-powerful. You need to hear it from us first: your metrics really matter.

Think it didn’t matter where you went to undergrad 10 years ago? Wrong. Think your SATs don’t matter anymore? Unfortunately, wrong again. 

Firms need quick ways to identify who’s a target, and your test scores and pedigree are a great way for them to do just that. They get so many applicants, they’re looking for quick ways to screen people out, so you need to really stand out. Don’t give them a reason to say no!

The whole point of your resume is for the firm to see clearly and quickly what makes you special. If the resume doesn’t communicate this in 10 seconds or less, it’s not complete.

3. Get Right To The Point With Your Cover Letter

Last, but definitely not least, we’re calling out a mistake we see all too often. Your cover letter is meant to be a writing sample, NOT a sales pitch or love letter.

So leave those creative cover letters in the recycle bin; your cover letter is for you to share your personal narrative in a clear and compelling way (think extended elevator pitch). Hit all of the key points: education, work experience, leadership experience, and why you want to work for that particular firm.

Remember, everyone loves a good story, so make sure to weave your points into a memorable narrative. Do that, and your exceptional communication skills will shine through and could just put you over the top.


Have questions about your particular resume or cover letter? Wondering how to network effectively for the firm you’re targeting? We’d love to help you through our Black Belt consulting prep program.

We’ll develop a networking plan with you, edit your resume and cover letter, and prep you for interviews through 1:1 coaching. It’s end-to-end support for your consulting journey, helping over 80% of clients land 1 or more offers. Join today.


Filed Under: consulting recruiting, Where do I Start?