Reader FAQ: The one-page resume rule, applying overseas, and why our phone number is unlisted

Today, we cover some fun (and serious) topics that we’ve received via email from readers and clients in the last few weeks.  We knew that you might all benefit from answers to these questions.

Q:  I want to call you to talk about your services, but I can’t find your phone number anywhere.  What is your number?

A:  While we’d love to publish our phone number, it’s kept private for a reason – well, actually a few reasons.

We offer our time to paying clients for assistance with resume reviews (Power Half Hour), personalized networking advice (1-hour sessions), and Case Interview Prep (Prep Packages). We are not cheap, and we often book up full 10-hour days of client work sometimes weeks in advance (especially in busy season). We can’t dilute our time by answering random questions from those of you who just want to hear a voice on the phone – even an “I promise it will just be 1-minute” call can turn into 30 minutes or more, and that’s just plain annoying. It may seem rude to make it this hard to contact us directly, but it’s a HIGHLY rational choice.

What do we do instead? Well, we offer 24-hour responses to any emails you have about products/services (and usually reply within minutes).  We also encourage you to email us with your personalized questions even when they’re not tied to a service – and our standard response time (if not same day) is at least within a week. In addition, we provide copious amounts of information about our products and services on our site, along with unsolicited feedback from real customers.

We are entertaining the possibility of doing a monthly meet-and-greet webinar for prospective clients – perhaps launching in early 2013.  If you’d be interested, make sure to drop us a line and let us know if you have suggestions on how to make this a high impact time.

In the meantime, if you have a question that we haven’t answered somewhere on the site – email us!

Q:  I recently discovered your website and think it is extremely insightful. I wanted to get your opinion on my chances of getting into M/B/B.

I start the full-time Cross-Continent MBA (CCMBA) program at Duke this fall but will continue working full-time throughout the program. It is a blend of distance residencies (Durham, Shanghai, Dubai, New Delhi, and St. Petersburg) and online learning. Duke has a great career services center that does not only focus on daytime MBA students. I plan to take full advantage of this as well as the access to Fuqua alumni at the top consulting firms.

Since October 2010, I’ve worked at Morgan Stanley in corporate reporting and analysis. Prior to working at Morgan Stanley, I was at PwC doing an audit. I got my CPA while I was there; I worked there for 4 years as an Associate then Sr. Associate.  I graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2006 with a degree in accounting.

A:  Your chances of getting an interview are mid-range to strong – breaking in is a whole other story, with case interviews standing between you and an offer!  Here’s why you’re a good candidate for an interview…

  1. Duke (Fuqua) is a target school for all of the firms, and the CCMBA program is well-respected.  You’re also correct – the career services doesn’t tier its MBA students the way some others do, so you have wide access to opportunities.
  2. You’re currently working for a brand-name firm in a relevant role (not IT, for example).  If you were a banker, it would be even better so you’ll need to really nail the presentation of your MS time as relevant to consulting.
  3. Your only drawbacks are your time at PwC – audit is considered a lesser art to consulting, with less creativity or impact on results, and one that is easier to break into – and the fact that your undergrad degree did not come from a target school.  This is what keeps you from being unequivocally strong.

Your key will be effective networking – demonstrating that the career progress that you’ve made has adequately prepared you for the rigors of consulting.  In addition, don’t waste any time getting started on case interview prep – you have a lot of work ahead of you, and starting to prepare early (especially while trying to balance full-time work and the MBA program) will be essential.

Q:  I am a U.S. citizen even though I lived most of my life outside the U.S.  I am eligible to work in the U.S., nonetheless just looking at my CV and profile might mislead a lot of people into thinking I am a foreigner.  And maybe I am, in terms of identity.  Still, is it possible to arrange a, say, 6-month position to 1-year position, with firms in the U.S.?

A:  Most of the positions in the U.S. are either for 3-months or full-time – it’s rare that you’ll find something in between.  For consulting firms, they have highly standardized internship programs that run in the summer – the remainder of their hiring process is focused on full-time.
You’ve raised an important issue that I have not previously considered, so I’ll take a bit of a stab here as to why this difference exists (vs. Europe or Asia, where internships can easily run 1-2 years) – as US employee-employer relationships are governed by the “at-will” doctrine, they are less likely to extend internships beyond a short “courtship” period because there isn’t much more risk involved with taking on employees full-time.  In contrast, hiring employees full-time gives the employee a sense of value and stability – which decreases the flight risk and allows the firm to begin to prepare you for the time when you are really valuable (after your initial 6-12 month training period).
What about the risk if things don’t work out?  If you don’t perform, you’re out – with very few protocol steps required in between.
Good to hear you’re a U.S. citizen – make sure that you do what you can to apply with a U.S. address and flag your citizenship when you are submitting your applications.  Also, be prepared to foot your own bill to fly in from overseas when interviewing – you want to make yourself as competitive as a local candidate, and while it might not be necessary, if you can remove this hurdle from the hiring process, you stand to increase your chances.

Q: As a client of your editing service, you said I needed to keep my resume to 1 page because of my graduation date. Could you elaborate on that? I’m not sure why the graduation date determines the length of my resume.

I was also wondering if you could elaborate on what needs to be listed in the skills section. I have gotten different feedback from people who claim that skills could also be “leadership,” “working in teams,” etc. besides programming languages and all that. Could you clarify?

A: Happy to help.
 
There are a few factors that determine the length of a best-practice resume in any market.
First, your geography is key (the U.S. is the most adamant about 1-page resumes, for example, whereas overseas firms accept up to 2 pages for consulting – longer is really not done in any market unless additional pages are basically appendices with publications and presentations in them).
Second, the latest degree you completed makes a difference – a Ph.D. may justify a 2-page resume, if their work is relevant to consulting or globally impressive, but there is very rarely an undergrad senior anywhere who can claim enough work experience to justify being both 80/20 about their presentation and submitting a 2-page resume – and that really extends to those with up to 8 years of experience, unless you’ve completed substantial programs at 4 different firms during that period of time.  Finally, and touching on the last point again, the depth of work experience you have plays a major role.
Applying this to your experience, you graduated in 2009 from undergrad and are completing your Ph.D. this year – in 2012 – impressive!  However, there is not enough work experience on your resume that would be interesting to a consulting firm that would justify extending it past a page – you’ve been almost entirely focused on academics to complete your degrees so fast.
In summary, although you have completed your Ph.D., without applying outside the U.S. or demonstrating 5+ additional years of work experience that’s relevant, a longer resume will appear unfocused.  You CAN, however, add a second page of publications and presentations and include that in a submission.  It will almost never actually get reviewed, but it’s a nice-to-have.
As for the second part of your question – don’t listen to your other advisers!  They are leading you astray, especially for a consulting resume.  The resume itself is not meant to be subjective.  The types of skills they are suggesting are completely subjective and need to be demonstrated through your academics and experience, not in a bullet (no-one believes the bullet).
The types of skills we suggest adding in are safeguards against computer screening programs that require you to demonstrate core capabilities to be considered for certain roles (i.e. Six Sigma, Java, etc.).