Table of Contents:
- What is the Cover Letter?
- Are Cover Letters Still Important? (Video)
- Top 10 Consultant Cover Letter Tips
- Management Consulting Cover Letter Samples
- Consulting Firm View of Cover Letters
- Common Cover Letter Mistakes To Avoid
The cover letter is undervalued by candidates because it is misunderstood. A good management consulting cover letter can give you a small edge over other candidates, particularly because firms use it as a writing sample. And don’t forget: a bad cover letter can do your application serious harm.
Here’s what a consulting cover letter is not: an opportunity for you to rehash your resume. In this ultimate guide to the consulting cover letter, we’re going to walk you through the elements of what makes a good cover letter, our best tips, share top mistakes to avoid, talk about how consulting firms view cover letters, and show you consulting cover letter samples.
Now, we know what some of you are thinking. Aren’t there some firms that no longer require a cover letter? (Here’s looking at you, McKinsey). That’s true! However, many firms still require one, and it’s more than an afterthought in the review process. Creating an outstanding management consulting cover letter isn’t the most difficult thing you’ll do in the recruiting process, but it will take some work. The effort is well worth getting that edge you need to land an interview.
What is the Cover Letter?
The management consulting cover letter serves as an unofficial writing test. As a consultant, communicating effectively over email and through presentations is a crucial skill.
In addition, the consulting cover letter also provides you with the opportunity to showcase your storytelling ability. The goal of the cover letter isn’t to communicate the breadth of your experience (that’s the job of the resume). Instead, the goal is to communicate the depth of your experience through diving deeper into two of your most impressive accomplishments. The cover letter gives you the ability to SHOW what the resume TELLS.
Are Cover Letters Still Important?
Top 10 Consultant Cover Letter Tips
Let’s next dive into our top 10 management consulting cover letter tips. We’ve amassed these over 10+ years of experience helping candidates write winning cover letters. Don’t worry, we include free consulting cover letter samples later on!
Cover Letter Structure: Include 5 Paragraphs
A good management consulting cover letter should include these five components:
The introduction should be a short paragraph that gives a brief overview of your background, the position you are applying for, and gives an overview of the skills you’ll highlight through the rest of the letter.
Two Paragraphs That Tell Two Stories
As mentioned earlier, the meat of your consulting cover letter consists of two stories. Each story should highlight your ability to drive impact by solving a specific problem. Start your story by sharing the context of the problem you faced, then talk about the specific actions you took, and finally end with the results you achieved.
Focus one story on your hard (read: analytical) skills, and one on your soft (ex: leadership) skills.
Why You’re A Good Fit For X Consulting Firm
This is where you tailor your cover letter to the specific firm you’re targeting. This 4th paragraph of your consulting cover letter should reference at least one person at the firm that you’ve spoken with, and expound upon what you learned about the firm in that conversation that draws you to apply.
Don’t focus on what you’ll get out of the experience. Focus on how you know you’ll be a good cultural fit. News flash: The only credible way to communicate this is by having talked to someone at the firm (and ideally the offices you’re targeting!).
Tie your previous professional experiences and extracurriculars together to reinforce why you’ll be a great consultant. End by thanking the reader for their time and consideration.
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Use Anecdotes and Details
Avoid sounding generic with the descriptions of your past experiences. Details will help you stand out amongst the sea of candidates.
For instance, here’s a bad example: “My previous experiences and projects have given me a strong set of leadership skills.”
Instead, say something like: “As a Business Development Analyst at Facebook, I led a team of five on an internal initiative that reduced our group’s budget by 25% over one quarter. Convincing key stakeholders to reduce their own budget for the sake of the greater good was not easy, but the project sharpened by ability to overcome conflicts and arrive at consensus.”
Keep It To One Page
Going over 1 page is the cardinal sin of consulting cover letters. Anything longer than one page will be automatically discarded.
Your management consulting cover letter should demonstrate that you’re able to communicate in a concise manner. Consulting firms receive thousands and thousands of cover letters, so the last thing they want to read is your entire life story.
Keep your consulting cover letter to one page, max.
Show Instead of Tell
The cover letter is the time for you to conduct a deeper dive into your 2-3 most impressive stories. Instead of explaining why you’re such a great fit for consulting and the passion you have for the field, pick and choose your strongest set of experiences and bring them to light. These stories are a lot more effective at driving home your point that you will be a great fit for Deloitte or BCG.
Of course, don’t come across as arrogant. How do you know if you are being arrogant? You talk about how much better you are than others at this skill or that ability – be honest about what you are skilled in, but don’t compare yourself to others.
Start Writing ASAP
Writing takes time. Good writing takes even longer. Yes, our consulting cover letter samples will give you a head start, but they still take a lot of customization to make them your own! We can help if you’re stuck.
Remember that you’ll be up against thousands of other qualified candidates who are vying for the same spots. You need to produce a high quality consulting cover letter, and that won’t come overnight.
If you don’t know which firms you’re applying to or haven’t spoken to people at the firm yet, write as much of the letter as you can now.
Do Your Research
Your cover letter for all consulting firms will become stronger and stronger over time as you speak with more consultants. By networking with current consultants at the level you are applying for, you’ll figure out which firm and office are the best fit for you. You’ll also gain nuanced knowledge about consulting that you just can’t get from online searches. No, a generic consulting cover letter sample just won’t do.
Use a Personal Tone
Your cover letter should adeptly showcase your unique skills and personality. This is one reason why using a generic consulting cover letter sample will get you into trouble! Remember that no one has your story except you. Own it, and never apologize for or focus on the negative aspects of your experience.
Get Your Cover Letter Reviewed by Others
Ask people you trust to review your cover letter in order to receive advice and suggestions. Ideally, your reviewers should be people who have previous consulting experience, since consulting firms have notoriously high standards.
Sometimes, even when you proofread multiple times, you will miss mistakes that others catch in their first reads. More importantly, they should be able to suggest edits that strengthen your letter to make it stand out. Work with our expert editing team if you don’t have this level of review available to you.
Submit and Send as a PDF
The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be ruined by computer formatting errors. Whether you are sending your cover letter to a consultant for networking or submitting it for an application, make sure your cover letter is in PDF format.
Sending in the file type (i.e., Microsoft Word or Pages) in which you created the cover letter is risky for two reasons. First, a lot of consultants will be looking at your cover letter on their smartphones, and most non-PDF files will ruin the formatting structure you have put into place. Second, even on desktop, if the cover letter reviewer doesn’t have the program you used or the same version, you can run into formatting issues. Or worse, they may not be able to open the file at all!
The extra step is totally worth it, and it’s best practice to send documents as PDFs anyways.
Double, Triple, Quadruple Check
Before you send your cover letter anywhere, make sure to proofread until you’ve almost memorized the document. Any mistakes will point to a lack of attention to detail. If this seems harsh, remember that there are thousands of candidates vying for the same spot as you. Don’t leave anything to chance!
Management Consulting Cover Letter Samples
McKinsey Cover Letter Sample
Address Line 1
Address Line 2
McKinsey & Company
Re: [Position Title] in [City] office
To Whom It May Concern:
As a junior majoring in [Major] at [College], I am excited to apply for a Summer Associate role in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York offices. I am confident my previous internship experience, analytical skills, and problem-solving ability will enable me to add quick value to the firm’s teams and clients.
My overwhelmingly positive experiences with McKinsey moved me to apply. From attending the McKinsey info session and speaking with several consultants including John Smith and Kate Doe, I learned about the distinguishing qualities that make McKinsey an ideal place to start a career. But beyond the obvious credentials of a top-notch client base, unmatched global network, and a platform to effect deep, large-scale change on business and society, it is the passion for business and true culture of collaboration I have seen exhibited in McKinsey consultants that sets the firm apart for me.
I have had an interest in consulting ever since middle school, when I first made recommendations to my parents on adjustments to make at the restaurant they owned. Seeing how my subtle suggestions delighted customers had me hooked, and problem-solving within a business context has been my aim ever since.
Since then, I have pursued this goal via multiple internship and project experiences. As a student consultant for a nonprofit organization, I led a team of four on a cost-reduction project. My research and analysis led to a successful recommendation of how our client could reduce costs by 15% while increasing payroll. Through a workstream I led as a Business Analyst at Dropbox, I led 10 focus groups and conducted a nationwide survey with 3,000+ responses to identify the top 5 millennial technology trends. These trends were then compiled in a report presented to senior leadership to inform decision-making.
Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: cover letter sample McKinsey
Example Cover Letters for Undergrads, MBAs, and Experienced Hires
Depending on your background, your cover letter should sound different. Here are some additional example consulting cover letters whether you are recruiting as an undergraduate student, MBA student, or experienced hire.
Undergrad Cover Letter Sample
Address Line 1
Address Line 2
[name of company]
Regarding: [name of position]
Dear [Mr./Ms. name of recipient; use To Whom It May Concern only as a last resort]:
I would like to express my sincere interest in becoming Associate Consultant with Bain & Company. I developed a passion for consulting as a result of my experience at Proctor & Gamble, where my strong work ethic, analytical strengths, and problem solving abilities enabled me to be an effective product manager. These characteristics, along with previous work experience at Genentech and Blue Cross, have positioned me to quickly become a highly effective Associate Consultant.
Throughout college, I was successful in two competitive internships while maintaining a strong academic record. Specifically, I believe my demonstrated ability to create solutions to tough problems will enable me to add value to clients. This past fall, I created and implemented a financial modeling training class for 100+ interns at P&G corporate headquarters. After seeing many of my fellow analysts struggling with basic Excel modeling skills, I pitched the idea to senior executives in human resources and product management. After the pitch was accepted, I systematically analyzed the training curriculum and summer program to see how my suggestion would fit into a packed agenda. I brought the training staff together to create a schedule and worked with 20+ P&G employees to develop a thorough curriculum. In November, we launched the first class, which received rave reviews from attendees and supervisors.
The experience I have had as a P&G Product Manager gives me confidence in my ability to create impact because of the similarities between product management and management consulting. Aside from the strong leadership responsibilities, they share a data-driven approach, a need to balance multiple projects, and the requirement of strong presentation skills. Based on my conversations with Darren Ronkowski, a former Associate Consultant, to my more recent conversation with Jeff Brazeal, a current Associate Consultant, I understand Bain is not only a place that cultivates strong leaders, but also a place where individual talents are recognized and strengthened. I would be honored to join your team.
I believe that the success I have achieved as an individual that is results-driven and works relentlessly will allow me to make substantial contributions to Bain and its clients. Please do not hesitate to contact me, as I would welcome the chance to discuss my qualifications. Thank you very much for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: Consulting-Cover-Letter-Template-Undergrad
MBA Cover Letter Sample
Address Line 1
Address Line 2
January 15, 2012
Firm Address 1
Firm Address 2
Dear Mr. Recruiter Name,
I am applying for an XXX position at FIRM NAME. I am currently pursuing a double degree: a Master’s in Public Administration at Harvard, and my MBA from Dartmouth College. I am confident my passion, leadership experience and analytical insight will enable me to excel at FIRM NAME.
Before I began my graduate degree, I served as a consultant with a boutique firm providing M&A advisory services to clients including XXX, YYY and ZZZ (brand name firms) in the Middle East. Although many consultants became consumed with details, I structured large problems into addressable parts. In one situation, I created a model that identified inefficient actions, including an existing process that sent duplicate letters to mobile network customers. My solution, which I proposed, developed and implemented with my team of 12 technical experts, saved the client $2.6M per year. My efforts were recognized by the firm’s senior leadership team, and I received a quarterly achievement award from the client.
As an MBA intern, I was first exposed to consulting while preparing for a case interview competition with 5 teammates. Our task was to develop data-driven recommendations for a Japanese auto manufacturer trying to expand into Australia. We won the competition, placing first out of 60 teams, and were awarded the honor of presenting our recommendations to the client’s senior management team in Los Angeles. Five of our recommendations were implemented in the field. I am deeply satisfied when I can create meaningful impact for companies, and I am passionate about management consulting as a full time career; no other role will better enable me to pursue my love for problem solving and implementation.
I attended the FIRM NAME presentation at Harvard on DATE and met with members of the firm at NAME OF EVENT on DATE. The entire team came across as warm and welcoming; I was also extremely impressed by the mentorship culture at FIRM NAME, and by the investment FIRM NAME makes into the career development of its staff. Furthermore, I was inspired by the phenomenal pro-bono work being done by FIRM NAME for XXX. I am confident that I would thrive at FIRM NAME, and I would be honoured to join your team.
I would love to have the opportunity to discuss a career opportunity at FIRM NAME. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: Consulting-Cover-Letter-Template-MBA
Sample Consulting Cover Letter Experienced Hire
City, State, Zip
Re: (Position title) in (city) office
I am applying for the (Position) position with (Name of Firm) with interest in working in Boston, New York or Chicago.
My educational background is in finance with an emphasis on econometrics, game theory, and political economy. After graduating with honors from (name of university) with a B.A. in (name of degree), I joined (name of firm) as a Consultant for one year. At (name of 2 firms), the majority of my client engagements have been with large industry-leading consumer products firms including Kraft Foods, PepsiCo., and Johnson & Johnson.
For the past four years I have worked as a strategy consultant with (name of current firm). I was recruited to the fast-growing boutique consulting firm to lead consumer products client engagements, particularly those that required advanced analytics. I provide business unit turnaround and growth strategy predominantly for Fortune 500 clients including Unilever and Proctor and Gamble.
At (current role), I have served as both team leader and analytics guru. I lead our advanced analytics team and I’m incredibly familiar with (names of technical programs utilized). Over the past two years I have developed 16 financial models, testing sensitivities through scenario analysis, and providing clients with strategic guidance on how to utilize scenario optioning to improve their business process. I’ve also had advanced client-side exposure to senior management, developed and presented to C-level executives, mentored junior analysts, and drafted winning proposals. I look forward to offering the skills and experience I have gained to (name of firm) and its clients. I have also demonstrated leadership in non-traditional settings. At (first firm) I started the firm’s pro bono and diversity groups. At (second firm), I’ve mentored six analysts who have all gone on to attend top MBA programs. Beyond the workplace, I’ve led the (name of non-profit) to raise $XK to increase the educational standard in Tanzania.
Although I have been successful as a consultant and project leader, I’d like to broaden my global impact. (Firm’s) global consulting leadership and enthusiasm for using analytical frameworks and global best practices drives my desire to be a part of the company. My university colleague (name) is a consultant at (name of firm) and he has spoken at length about the potential for growth, the trust placed in consultants, and the fantastic experiences that he has had with (name of company). I believe (firm) offers unparalleled opportunities to grow as a consultant, and I would be honored to join the team.
I would enjoy speaking to you further about the possibility of working for (firm). Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Download this free sample consulting cover letter experienced hire pdf: Cover-Letter-Template-Experienced-Pro
We have many more sample cover letters available. If you’re interested in really knocking it out of the park, start with one of our templates and then work with our expert editing team to really make the cover letter your own. Our Resume + Cover Letter Edits package is the one you want. It gives you:
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Consulting Firm View of Cover Letters
Here’s the honest truth: A good cover letter is table stakes to be considered for a consulting role. It won’t earn you many extra points. However, a bad cover letter will disqualify you from consideration. So, the upside is limited but the downside is enormous.
Consulting firms ask you to write a cover letter for 3 reasons:
- It’s a writing sample. Firms will train you on many things when they hire you, but one thing they won’t teach you? How to write.
- It’s a chance for them to see if you truly know the firm – this is why referencing the folks you’ve spoken with is so important.
- It’s where they get a fuller view of your experience. So, spend some time crafting your stories to complement the bullet points on your resume.
Common Cover Letter Mistakes To Avoid
Now that we’ve told you what you should do while writing your consulting cover letter, here is a list of what you shouldn’t do.
DO NOT do the following things:
- Use a template you find online without seriously customizing it for your situation.
- Go over one page OR make the cover letter too short. (i.e. 2 short paragraphs)
- Use small font or small margins to fit everything onto one page. Font should be no smaller than size 11 and margins should be 1″ all around.
- Have any typos or grammatical errors.
- Name drop if you’ve never talked or met the person.
- Be overly enthusiastic with too many exclamation points.
- Rely on yourself – send your letter to others and receive suggestions.
- Just rehash your resume.
- Sound overly confident or arrogant.
- List the wrong firm or position. (This will surely ruin your chances!)
A good consulting cover letter requires a lot of work, but we hope that this guide will make the writing process easier. Above all, remember that consultants expect a high quality deliverable. The cover letter is a small test that you can definitely pass with flying colors if you put in the time.
If you want help to make sure your first impression puts you in the best light possible, get help from our expert reviewers.