The Top 11 mistakes you’re making in your consulting resume


I’ve been offering a resume editing service since site launch. In this time, I’ve had the fortune to work with hundreds of clients.

Below is a list of the Top 11 consulting resume mistakes I’ve noticed in my clients. Some are corollaries of my Top 10 resume tips, but the majority are unique.

1. Inadequate spacing throughout the resume

You don’t want someone to say your resume is “too texty.” Readers will pay less attention – not good when you’re one of 200 in their review stack.

One effective remedy is effective line spacing. Shrink and expand lines as needed (by manipulating font size).

Some areas where spacing is critical:

  • Between the category title (eg, “Work experience”) and the first experience (eg, “Citibank internship”)
  • Between each experience within the category
  • At the end of an experience and the beginning of a new category (this space should be larger than the first two)
  • At the margins – as I’ve said before, nothing less than 0.5″ (vertical and horizontal)

Ignore it and your resume will be an eye-sore.

2. Lack of numbers

Numbers are the most eye-catching parts of your resume – SAT, GPA, quantitative impact at work and in extracurriculars.

Numbers help you do the following:

  • Highlight resume “takeaways” – and trust me, you need at least 2-3 of these to get an interview
  • Prevent your resume from suffering the “too texty” syndrome
  • Help your resume become more results-oriented

Digital numbers are the right way to go. Instead of “five”, 5. Instead of “two hundred”, 200.

3. Lack of a personal interests and hobbies section

Self-explanatory – one line, make it specific, don’t put more than 3-5 interests.

4. Insignificant awards/scholarships/fellowships

Point 4 and Point 5 below fall into the umbrella of “too much content in the education section.”

Unless it’s a nationally recognized award/scholarship/fellowship, refrain from including it. If you do include, explain how selective it is. No one cares about the Sarah Day Jones Community Service Award that you received sophomore year. Unless there were 5,000 applicants and only one recipient.

5. Coursework lists

It’s great that you took “Systems Management.” Only:

  1. No one knows what you learned
  2. No one cares what you learned
  3. No one will see how that applies to consulting

It’s OK to list challenging courses taken on your resume for consulting interviews (e.g., Advanced Econometrics 101, Differential Equations 202). But do so only if:

  1. It’s clear what the course covers
  2. What the course covers is very challenging/technical/quantitative
  3. You don’t list more than 3-5 courses

Some of you include diverse course descriptions to showcase academic breadth. It’s not something I recommend, but it’s not a clear faux pas.

6. Describing what you did, not what you accomplished

I’ll repeat this over and over and over and over. Keep process explanations at a minimum.

Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s helpful. But the balance for each work or extracurricular “clunk” should be at least 50% results.

To be clear, results can also mean innovative/challenging methods utilized. A process description would be:

Used Excel to collect data from 100 websites.

An innovative methods description would be:

Wrote VBasic macros in Excel to autocollect data from 100 financial websites.

7. Useless computer skills

Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe, Mac OS, and a million other software programs and operating systems are not skills. Repeat, not skills.

The only time you should include a line on computer skills is:

  1. You knew multiple programming languages
  2. You knew graphics/design/technical software that less than 5% of the general population knows how to use well

8. Sentences and paragraphs

Never use sentences or paragraphs. This is a direct symptom of the “too texty” syndrome. Write in short, grammatically-correct fragments.

Rare is the description that requires a full sentence. Non-existent is the description that requires a full paragraph.

9. Using “Justify” alignment

Left alignment for content always. “Justify” alignment leads to irregular spacing, uncomfortable reading, and annoyed resume reviewers.

10. Using 2 words when 1 will do

Another symptom of the “too texty” syndrome.

“Planned and coordinated” a conference? “Led and managed” a team? “Completed and processed” 5,000 documents?

Bonus. Incorrect usage of tense

If you’re describing a past work experience, you “created” models and “wrote business plans.” You aren’t still “managing 5 employees” from that software firm you left 2 years ago.

Same rule applies for your extracurricular activities and educational background.

Want more dos and don’ts to help you avoid mistakes on your consulting resume? Check out our Consulting Resume and Cover Letter Bible – 98 power-packed pages including 24 templates to get you that interview slot with your target firm.

Click here to buy it now and start landing consulting jobs!

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34 Responses to “The Top 11 mistakes you’re making in your consulting resume”

  1. chris

    would you mind posting an example of a good resume?

  2. kgao

    @Chris – there are a few on my “Resume editing” page. I’m adding several more to The Consulting Bible as well.

  3. sigmo

    great post! didn’t know I had to include (3) interests and hobbies section.
    I got a certificate in business administration from an extension program 2 yrs after a PhD in Mech Engg – should I mention the certificate first in the education section of a consulting resume?

  4. kgao

    @sigmo – yes. keep it short.

  5. Paul

    What’s wrong with not including interests? (I’m from Aus, where 2-page resumes INCLUDING interests are the norm… I’ve been thinking of leaving off interests, though, judging by the ‘isn’t that a solitary pursuit’ BS I encounter when I list ‘writing’).

  6. kgao

    @Paul – just answered precisely that in my latest reader question round-up.

  7. Paul

    Thanks!

  8. Steward

    Whoops, in Aus 2 pages resumes are norm ? that’s interesting !

  9. Amar

    Hi,

    I am interested in your services, but I would like to know if they would be of benefit to me, firstly, I am looking to apply to a mgmt consulting firm , I graduated in 2006, I have approx 3 – 4 experience in project leadership…I dont have any internal contact at the firm, just wanted to understand how I could get an interview ?

  10. kgao

    Amar,

    It’s probably best if we setup a call. Feel free to email me first and we can arrange it. Cheers.

    Kevin

  11. Prateek Mathur

    Hi,

    Awesome Post…!!
    I am still not sure that what

  12. kgao

    Prateek,

    My view is that the benefit of establishing a personal connection/human dimension outweighs the benefit of having one additional line for “real” experiences.

  13. Anmol

    What do you feel about a coursework section like this?

    Selected Coursework: Corporate Finance, Financial Markets, Financial Accounting, Enterprise Finance, Financial Risk Management, Global Business Strategy, Economic and Business Forecasting

    too many courses listed? what would be considered important?

  14. Kevin

    Anmol, that feels a bit lengthy for a consulting-focused resume. With respect to which are important, stay away from the more generic descriptions and focus on ones that clearly emphasize quantitative/analytical skills.

  15. Albert

    Do you think it helps to include a LinkedIn URL on the resume?

    Most of the information is included on the resume anyways, but recruiters can always take a look at recommendations and the types of networks we belong to.

  16. Kevin

    Albert,

    It’s an interesting idea. I could go both ways with this – if you do include a LinkedIn URL (or any other URL, for that matter), make sure:

    -The link itself is short
    -It’s correct and working
    -You manage your profile carefully

  17. Laurens

    I am very interested in paying for the CV help. However, what if everything I have done is just not good enough to get into the consulting firms I want to, regardless of how you word it? Would you look at my CV and then say, yes, there is definite scope for improvements that would lead to a competitive CV, or no, sorry, I cannot help you?

    Thanks for your comments.

  18. MC

    Hi Laurens,

    Sure, please go ahead and send us your resume and/or cover letter (products@managementconsulted.com), and we’ll let you know how we would improve it.

    Warm Regards,
    MC

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  20. Stephanie

    Hahahah! I loved your tone in this post! It’s like a slap in the face for people who can’t do resumes, and a few times you slapped mine :)

    Thanks for the info!

  21. Jaydub

    Great list. Would you recommend including GRE and/or GMAT scores? If yes, in the education section?

  22. MC

    Hi Jaydub,

    Yes, you should include GRE and GMAT score in the education section, especially if you got a good score. One place to add it is after the GPA with a semicolon, for example:

    GPA: 3.6/4.0; GMAT: 720 (V:94% | M:92%)

    If you got a mediocre or bad score, you can leave it off of your resume in most cases.

  23. Kartik

    I would love to have some help like Lauren had since I am an entry-level engineering graduate thoroughly interested in pursuing my immediate career in this field (after doing a thorough research and being true to myself and my career needs).

    I am forwarding my resume to the email address listed above, presuming you guys can help me out too!

    Awesome site, btw!

    Thanks,

    Kartik

  24. Atljogger

    Should you include only those interests relevant to consulting work (ex: investing, journalism, pro bono work, etc.) or interests that are unique and serve to catch the eye of the reader (ex: I’m member of a local interpretive dance troupe and enjoy collecting water beetles)

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  26. Sarah

    Hi Kevin

    I’m applying to McKinsey via the online application system and here is one of their tips regarding formatting of resumes:

    “It is best to list dates on the left hand side.”

    I’ve noticed in your sample resumes that you list dates on the right hand side. Any reason for using a different format?

    Thanks!

  27. Anonymous

    Sarah, feel free to do it either way – it won’t make or break anything. If
    it makes you feel more comfortable to list dates on the left hand side, then
    by all means. Good luck!

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  29. Audrey1215

    Hi,
    Great article! I have a question though. I was awarded an international student scholarship from an international business school in Boston but I withdrew because of personal reasons. Should I still include that in my resume? And how do I write my cumulative GPA it’s on a 5.00-1.00 scale? Thanks!

  30. Reow

    Dates/durations are less important than roles/qualifications. Hence roles first, dates after/below.

  31. jennyrae

    If you will include the course credits earned at that University, do include that you earned the scholarship. If you are not including your educational tenure there, leave the scholarship off with it (if you don’t know if you should include it or not, contact us). If your GPA is on, what you feel is, a unique scale, we recommend writing your GPA and the total scale (EG: 3.75 / 4.00 or 4.6 / 5.0). Hope that helps!

  32. samantha

    My resume prints great but when uploaded it shows – on the left side of each line i typed. i did take out the bullets i had and used a space before could that have done it and how do i correct it?

  33. Josh

    Computer software skills are anything but useless – unless you are applying for a job where these things are irrelevant, like shoveling dirt. My resume was recently reviewed by an expert resume-writing company who stood to make money off me if they could make improvements to my resume. While I included these (critical) computer *skills*, the resume-writing company returned my resume stating it was excellent and that they would not recommend any changes to it.

    Now, could it use some improvements? Sure – I am working on that right now as I have for countless years. In my opinion, a resume is always a work-in-progress, no matter how good it is.

    However, I make a point to ensure I include my (critical) computer *skills* under a heading of “Areas of Expertise” to highlight that these are not simply programs I know how to use (after all, who doesn’t?), but rather that my expertise in these programs is noteworthy and consideration should be made regarding them. Especially a program such as Excel that has a nearly endless list of nuances that can be mastered – this being a program included on the “Useless computer skills” heading on this guide (included in Microsoft Office).

  34. Jtaza

    How to get an interview? How about start by not writing really long run-on sentences.

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