The consulting resume review process is a black box for applicants. You only know whether you’ve gotten the interview or been rejected. In rare cases, you’ll get feedback on why you didn’t make the cut, but the advice is generic (“You didn’t have enough work experience”).
Without reinventing the wheel, this post will shed light on how consultants review resumes. There are some important differences between consulting and finance.
Resume screening is identical for summer internships and full-time positions.
What Is The Consulting Resume Review Process?
With the consulting resume review, it’s a team of analysts, associates, and managers. You can bet that:
- There will be a review team of at least 3-5 consultants looking through your resume independently and in groups.
- Most of this team will have graduated from your school (undergraduate, graduate, and MBA).
- Final decisions are made by committee.
Similar to finance, senior folks don’t get involved until interviews and offers. We’d like to think it’s because they have faith in the junior folks, but it’s mostly a question of time and value.
On your resume, the most respected input comes from someone who shares your background. So if you’re a Harvard engineering undergrad, a fellow Harvard engineering graduate on the review team will be looked to for insight on your GPA, student group involvement, and so forth. This insider knowledge helps to give appropriate consideration to the appropriate things. If they know that becoming the President of the Harvard Consulting Club is extremely competitive, they can give that the appropriate consideration and convey that to the consulting resume review team.
How does the process work?
Each member of the review team will get a pack of resumes. This can range from 50-300 resumes per member. Often, consulting cover letters are removed from this pack – yet another reason why you should focus your energies on a top-notch resume.
Consultants spend more time on each resume than bankers. 30 seconds may be par for finance, but you can expect at least a minute in consulting. (How generous, right!?!)
One minute is still really fast. This places a premium on attention-grabbing bullets; concise, results-oriented experiences; clean formatting and styling. Basically, your resume must be formatted in the way that consulting firms expect it.
After reviewing the resumes independently, the team will review each resume as a group, comparing notes and sharing insights. This is when decisions are made.
What Consulting Firms Look For In Resumes
As mentioned in this post on consulting resume tips, it comes down to 3 buckets:
- Academic success: Good signs include high GPA and standardized test scores, challenging courses of study (e.g., multiple majors, technical degrees).
- Work experience: Good signs include brand-name companies, jobs where you took initiative and demonstrated impact, breadth and depth of work experience.
- Leadership and entrepreneurship: Good signs include founding companies and campus groups, experience leading teams.
The specifics vary by company, and it’s tough to discern specific benchmarks or cutoffs. But your consulting resume needs to demonstrate strength in all 3 categories to get an interview at the best firms.
If you don’t get an interview, it typically comes down to one of those 3 things. Often, low GPA and standardized test scores (this is not an ironclad rule) are the primary factor. This is particularly true if you have solid work experience and leadership/teamwork experience.
On Borderline Consulting Resumes
There are always borderline candidates, those who have one clear Achilles Heel (ahem, Ms. very low GPA). Or those whose resumes just lack a knockout blow. For these candidates, the consulting resume review group takes a second look at your resume.
This is where a great consulting resume is the difference between getting an interview or receiving a dreaded denial.
Why? Because when review teams apply a microscope, they really look to see what we’ve recommended to readers this entire time: meaningful results in your experiences that show hard-work, taking initiative, and impact.
If consulting resume review teams can see #1, your story makes you a fit for consulting, and #2, you demonstrate success in a variety of situations – you’ve got an interview.
Is there a secret waitlist?
The answer is yes… and no.
Yes, because specific offices, groups, and departments occasionally need to fill a gap. And to do so, they review applicants from previous recruiting cycles who didn’t make the cut.
No, because this usually happens if you make final round interviews and didn’t receive an offer. It rarely happens at the resume to first round interview bridge. But if 10 first round interviewers from your school fall sick with the flu, you may receive a call.
Want to know more about the candidate selection process and how to write that killer resume that will get you an interview slot? Check out our Consulting Resume and Cover Letter Bible – 98 power-packed pages on mastering the application process. Includes 24 resume and cover letter templates! Buy it now.