The cover letter is often overshadowed by the resume. While it will never be more important than the resume, a good cover letter is still an important component of the recruiting process. A great cover letter won’t necessarily get you the interview, but a poor one with tons of errors will definitely cost you. As a result, we’ll be going over our best cover letter tips that you’ll want to keep in mind as you prepare your next application.
Consulting Cover Letter Tips Overview:
- The Why of Consulting Cover Letters
- The How of Consulting Cover Letters
- Top Consulting Cover Letter Tips
- McKinsey Cover Letter Sample
- Concluding Thoughts
The Why and the How of Cover Letters
Before getting into what your consulting cover letter should have in it, it’s important to first go over why it exists and how it’s used in the recruiting process.
The Why of Consulting Cover Letters
The cover letter serves a few purposes in consulting recruiting. Perhaps most importantly, the cover letter serves as a writing test. As a consultant, writing good emails, PowerPoint deck taglines, and overall just communicating effectively with words is a crucial skill. The cover letter demonstrates a candidate’s ability to concisely summarize his or her previous experiences and persuasively explain why he or she is a good fit for the role.
How the Cover Letter is Used
The cover letter is usually read by junior consultants on the recruiting team. They usually screen up to a few hundred resumes and cover letters in one sitting. As you can imagine, there is a lot of skimming, but this just means that every aspect of your cover letter needs to be perfect because you don’t know which part will be read. Additionally, you should make sure your cover letter is easy to read and shouldn’t make the reviewer’s life more difficult than it already is.
Top 5 Cover Letter Tips
Tip #1 – Make a Personal Template
A good cover letter should include five components:
- An Introduction
- A Hero Story (how you achieved your most impressive professional accomplishment)
- Another Hero Story (how you achieved your most impressive leadership accomplishment / 2nd best professional accomplishment
- Reasons You’re Interested in X Consulting Firm (hint: the only acceptable answer is that you talked to someone at the firm)
Of these sections, the fourth is the only one that needs major changes for each consulting firm. Save yourself some time and structure your cover letter so that changing just this one section makes for an excellent cover letter. However, it’s important that you start from scratch and make your cover letter personal to you. Do NOT use a generic template cover letter that you found online. If you need help, allow our editing team to work on your docs.
Tip #2 – Make Sure the Cover Letter Looks Perfect
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Send the letter to other people you trust. Everything needs to be grammatically correct and formatted cleanly. 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.
Tip # 3 – Keep it to One Page
You don’t need to explain your whole life story. Consultants need to be people who can communicate effectively and concisely. However, you do want to fill up at least two-thirds of the page so it seems like you put some thought and effort into the letter.
Tip # 4 – Express Yourself
The cover letter is the time for you to humblebrag about your experiences. If you’re applying to a consulting firm and have put in hours preparing for the case interview, you likely have thought this through. Explain in your voice how you’ve displayed the skills consulting firms are looking for.
Tip # 5 – Start Writing as Early as Possible
Writing takes time. Writing something good and thoughtful takes even longer. Don’t leave the cover letter to the last minute. Plus, you’ll want time to send it to others before actually submitting your application. For the best shot in passing the initial resume and cover letter screening, start writing as early as you can.
McKinsey Cover Letter Sample
Let’s next go over a McKinsey example cover letter step by step.
1. An Introduction of Yourself
“McKinsey & Company | [Date]
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.
The introduction is more of a formality, so keep it short, sweet, and simple. Things you’ll want to include are:
- Full name
- Your major
- The firm name you’re applying to
- The position you’re applying to
- The locations you’re interested in
2. Reasons You’re Interested in X Consulting Firm
“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.”
Your reasons for wanting to join the consulting firm should be as personalized to the company as possible. Here are some tips on making this section as strong as possible:
- Most of your work for this section will actually come from networking. Speak with as many consultants from the firm as you can and ask them what differentiates the firm in their eyes. Then, put their words into your own words.
- Summarize what you’ve learned into one paragraph. Remember that this is the paragraph that requires the most changes out of the entire cover letter. There’s no need to go overboard and write several paragraphs for each firm.
- Save yourself the time and write one thoughtful paragraph instead.
- Name drop if you can. Providing specifics will instantly show the reviewer that you’ve done your homework and have personally interacted with the people at the firm.
3. Why You’re Interested in Consulting
“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.”
Your interest in consulting is an important aspect of your cover letter. Consultants want to know that you’re properly motivated for the job and that you have a solid understanding of your responsibilities. Here are our suggestions for this section:
Consulting Cover Letter Tips- Why You’re Interested
Make your interest go as far back as possible.
Show that you’ve been interested in the industry for a long time to strengthen your credibility.
Talk about previous consulting experiences.
Talking about previous consulting projects or organizations you are part of show that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
If you don’t have any consulting experience, write about the consulting skills you gained from your experiences.
Consulting firms accept candidates from all types of backgrounds. However, where you can, you should try to provide examples of transferable skills from your previous experiences. This includes working with clients, analyzing data to provide recommendations, and making presentations.
4. Why You’re Qualified
“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.”
This is where you want to really shine. Think about your most impressive experiences, both from companies you’ve worked at and from extracurricular activities. Here are some things to think about for this section:
Consulting Cover Letter Tips- Why You’re Qualified:
Brainstorm your top life achievements.
Take some time to think about your best accomplishments and bring them to life in your cover letter.
Quantify your results.
Consultants love their numbers. You’ll be working with a decent amount of numbers as a consultant, so this is a good way to showcase that are comfortable with numbers.
Don’t be shy.
This is really where you want to showcase why you’re such an impressive candidate that the firm can’t pass up. Of course, don’t be cocky or arrogant, but really make sure you demonstrate why you’re an excellent future consultant.
“I have seen that every individual at McKinsey contributes to the firm in his or her own unique way. With my own set of strengths and eagerness to learn, I firmly believe I will be able to contribute to McKinsey as well. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Just like the introduction, the conclusion is more of a formality. Summarize your thoughts and end on a thankful note. Keep it simple and to the point.
We hope these consulting cover letter tips provided you with a good overview in preparing for your next application. Though it may sound like a lot work, we promise that it gets easier with time as you continue to apply to more firms. Remember that thousands of other applicants are applying for the same spot as you, so you want to give yourself the best shot possible. We hope you found these consulting cover letter tips helpful. Now go crush that cover letter!