Inside Secrets for Resume Review
Reviewers spend as little as six seconds reading your resume.
That’s six seconds to put your best foot forward, presenting a lifetime of professional skills, successes, stories and style onto a single page.
At the most, you might nab a minute of their attention. And in a consulting-management world where only 3 percent of applicants get accepted into the top 10 consulting firms, the importance of tailoring a knockout resume for consulting companies is hardly hush-hush. It is the make-or-break element that gets your foot in the door to launch a thorough and distinguished management-consulting career.
Yet this very intensity of crafting the perfect consultant resume causes so much chaos. The more prospective individuals aim to adopt industry resume best practices, the apter they become to dig holes for themselves. They focus too much on the flair, the styles and unique details that might get them to jump off the page.
Resume tips for consultants often focus on this sort of sparkling self-presentation. However, how your consultant cover letter and resume should look to go to the “good” pile — and not get instantly thrown out — can be both subjective and idiosyncratic, with elements on a Deloitte consulting resume differing from a prime consulting resume for McKinsey, and so on.
We’re cutting through the fluff and pomp to provide actionable consultant resume tips you can adopt today. From listing the right resume categories, presenting specific information, aligning your skills with style, using appropriate formatting — to what you should leave off the page — we’re walking through the most successful resume strategies for consulting companies.
Resumes for Consulting: What Are Consulting Firms Really Looking For?
It’s the question that’s kept many eager applicants up at night: What do top consulting firms really care about when they look to fill open positions — and how can I exceed that?
Many management consultants’ key resume-builders aren’t revolutionary. You’re likely to find things like professional experience and education topping most resume lists, particularly if you’re a graduate student or just entering the field.
The consulting world is notoriously competitive. Its resumes, therefore, sport a few critical details, distinctions and industry-specific notes that help firms identify only the most promising candidates.
1. Results-Focused Employment History
Given the nature of consulting work, it’s no surprise resumes for consultants need to cut to the chase and prove results.
Tangible professional accomplishments are the name of the game here. First and foremost, your resume won’t go anywhere if you give broad descriptions of roles and responsibilities at past jobs — even if those roles show eloquent and impressive snippets of work history with highly reputable companies, clients or accounts. Of course, those names help, but if you don’t show an impact, someone else surely will.
Everything you write under your employment history section must be outcomes-based. Don’t tell the recruiter what you did daily. Tell them a pain point you solved, the money you saved, costs you trimmed or processes you streamlined.
You want outcomes, not tasks. You want quantitative statements, not qualitative ones. You want results, not day-to-day responsibilities. Quantitative results prove the depth and breadth of your professional capabilities and are a hiring team’s best glimpse into what you bring to the table.
2. Top-Tier Education
Reputation matters. Just as the top 10 consulting firms carry weight in the field with their names alone, so, too, do higher-ed institutions and their programs.
While it can be a frustrating and even elitist practice, it has its professional logic. A Fortune 500 company paying hundreds of thousands to a firm for a mergers and acquisitions strategy is going to feel more comfortable doing so if that team of consultants comes from the best. It’s likely they went to these top schools themselves.
While top-tier consulting pipelines tend to flow out of Ivy League institutions, you don’t have to have an MBA from Harvard Business School or Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management to showcase your exceptional education.
Your resume for consulting work should always name your alma mater and GPA. If your GPA sits below 3.8, be prepared to beef up this section with other qualifiers. Consider adding challenging but relevant undergrad or graduate courses. You don’t need to list your entire transcript — just a handful that further connects your education with the firm’s expertise.
3. Math and Data-Analytics Skills
Data analytics, computations, reports and other math-based operations are the backbones of management consulting. Many firms will want to ensure you walk the walk and talk the talk with your analytics skills, since they’re so imperative to the job.
Provide standardized test scores to buffer alongside quantitative professional accomplishments. The math segments of SATs and GREs are great options to include on your resume, as all employers will be familiar with these.
4. Client-Facing Skills
Candidates for consulting companies must display not only technical acumen, but a personal touch, as well. In fact, many candidates fall short here, banking on their exceptional intelligence and past projects to sway hiring managers, yet lacking the charismatic touch or network so commanding in the job.
The best ways to prove your interpersonal skills on paper are to highlight past people-centered activities. Include team management or collaborative experiences, leadership roles, conflict-resolution successes, workshops or public speaking ventures. Anything remotely related to influencing people will give your consulting resume an interpersonal boost.
5. Entrepreneurial Spirit
It may be a club you founded back in college. It may be an app you helped develop. It may even be a fundraiser from years ago you organized and launched. Whichever way you spin it, portraying a certain go-getter “je ne sais quoi” is the cherry on the top of standout consulting resumes.
This attitude is keenly attractive to top firms. It shows you contain a drive and initiative that goes above and beyond, that puts in the time and work to execute flawless deliverables — all music to management consultants’ ears.
Consultant Resume Format
Let’s be clear: What goes on your resume is always more important than how that resume looks.
You can have the world’s most aesthetically pleasing, crisp, curated resume, complete with designer color schemes, eye-catching fonts and a perfectly tailored layout. If you don’t have the education, experience, leadership and proof of skills, though, you can kiss a next-step interview call goodbye.
Resumes for consultants have a few formatting distinctions. These revolve around the industry’s succinct expectations — not playing it cute and ultra-creative. The basics to bear in mind for consultant resume formatting are as follows.
1. Resume Font
A resume’s font should be simple and skimmable. While you certainly don’t have to stick with trope-like classics — looking at you, Times New Roman — keep formal readability top of mind.
Forgo quirky or overtly casual fonts. A good typeface rule of thumb is if the font contains serifs, or decorative protruding strokes or lines embellishing the basic character of a letter, the font will appear more formal. A font that lacks serifs, which is called sans serif, will read as informal.
Keep the point size of your font between 11 and 14. The size will vary depending on your chosen typeface, as well as your ability to keep information within the one-page resume recommendation.
Font size has a few noteworthy exceptions: Use a significantly larger font for resume headers, specifically your name. Contact information should be the next largest font on your resume, though not overwhelming. Resume categories like “Education” and “Professional Experience” should follow suit, one or two point sizes above bullet-pointed copy.
2. Resume Text and Spacing
Strategically used whitespace draws the eye. On the other hand, even relevant, quantitative information crammed into too many successive sentences or bullet points is a significant resume reviewer turnoff. It makes what you do have look dense and claustrophobic — and your reviewers will spend less time reading that information.
Strike a Goldilocks “just-right” spatial balance by putting limits on the details you present. If your experience doesn’t have numbers and you can’t sum it up in one to two sentences, something is wrong.
Opt for no less than .5-inch margins on all document sides. Use single-spaced lines, not double or custom spacing. Bold important titles, employers and positions consistently throughout sections.
3. Resume Style
The overall look of your resume should be straightforward, but distinct. Don’t beat recruiters over the head with graphic designer-flourished layouts, fancy margins, various alignments or extraneous formatting.
You can still employ visual hacks to make your information stand out in seconds, though. Some consultants split their resume into columns, though exceeding even two can condense your information into awkward, disjointed text. Keep everything left-aligned and use bolding or italicization to highlight the most important and functional experiences.
What Not to Include on Your Resume
It’s just as important what you put on that piece of paper as it is what you keep off. With resume trends ever-changing and technology poised to restructure how leading firms recruit talent, it’s in your best interest to know what doesn’t work on a resume, just as much as what does.
1. An Objective Statement
Hiring teams get it. You want the job. You think you’re a good fit. So what’s the point of your objective statement?
Too often, these sentences are bland and trite cliches, with applicants recycling the same strings of adjectives to describe themselves. Save yourself precious resume room and nix the objective statement, with the sole exception being if you’re making a significant career pivot and want to explain the change.
2. Pictures of Yourself
It doesn’t matter if it’s a professional headshot. Including a picture of yourself with your resume and cover letter might seem like a clever personal touch — but it often has the opposite effect. At backfiring best, a hiring manager will perceive a photo as too forward. At worst, including a photo can set you up for unfortunate, bias-ridden first impressions.
3. Full Mailing Address
Nowadays, a firm’s hiring team is likely to bypass details such as a street address, which means you’ve wasted precious resume space. Show contemporary savvy and industry relevance by including only professional contact information, such as LinkedIn profiles, an online portfolio, a personal consultant website or an industry blog or platform you manage.
LinkedIn produces annual surveys in which they reveal the most-used words and descriptors seen on its platform. Top recent offenders? “Passionate,” “detail-oriented,” “strategic” and “creative” max out the list, looking and sounding shapeless to consulting firms.
These words may sound sophisticated and trendy to you, but they read as vapid and elusive to everyone else. Including them on your resume makes it appear you’re less qualified for the consultant position, rather than more.
5. Anything Opinion-Based, Really
You might think you’re an innovate self-starter, a tactical leader or an agile team player with years of experience. If you don’t have numbers to back it up, these words are nothing more than empty claims.
Breaking into an industry-leading management consulting career is a dream for many. And not many agencies usher that dream into reality quite like Management Consulted.
Our holistic approach to consultant prep means there isn’t a corner of the industry we haven’t touched. More than 55 percent of our trainees get offers from the top 10 consulting firms, compared to the rest of the industry’s 3 percent average. Ask yourself: Why take the risk?