Crafting a McKinsey resume is the first major hurdle to navigate to land a coveted offer at McKinsey & Company. So, how do you set yourself apart in the competitive screening process? A management consultant resume for McKinsey is different than one you’d put together for a function-focused boutique. In short, the McKinsey resume is not simply a summary of all the things you’ve done. It’s a story that weaves together your transferable skills with the metric impact of what you’ve achieved.
The task of writing the resume is itself a kind of test. Everything from the language to the formatting speaks to your ability to clearly communicate and prioritize that which is most relevant and important. Let’s take a closer look at the McKinsey consulting resume to give you a better sense of how you can put your best foot forward in the application process.
McKinsey Resume: Some Context
This article is going to cover how a consulting resume is different than a typical resume. It will cover the McKinsey resume format, tips, and mistakes to avoid. While the McKinsey resume format is important (and something we’ll cover), let’s start with how consulting resumes are unique overall.
The Consulting Resume: How Is It Different?
The consulting resume takes the resume you would construct for other roles in the business world and takes it up a level. Firms like McKinsey are notorious for using any typo or formatting inconsistency as an excuse for discarding an application. The attention to detail required on the job must be seen on the resume.
Firms are looking for both “soft skills” (including leadership and people/communications skills) as well as more “hard skills” like analytical ability. Overall, they’re screening for a track record of personal achievement and impactful work.
Consulting itself is evidence-based work. This results in quantifiable, objective criteria being highly valued in the consulting world. On your resume these criteria include a history of education and employment at institutions with recognizable brand names, a record of key awards and recognition, and a track record of relevant quantitative achievement (e.g., high GPA, high test scores (in math especially)).
What Should a Consulting Resume Include?
First and foremost, your management consultant resume for McKinsey should include be formatted in a professional manner. Your current/alumni degree program’s resume template is often a great place to start. The Kellogg format, the Wharton format, and the Harvard format are examples that will work well for your McKinsey resume format. Generally, we recommend having four sections to your McKinsey resume: Education, Professional Experience, Leadership, and Personal. You don’t need an Overview section unless you have 10+ years of professional experience (or really diverse experience that needs to be tied together!). And remember, unless you have 15+ years of experience, your resume must fit within one page!
Start with Education listed first if: You are currently in school, attended a top brand-name institution, or graduated within the last year. Then move on to Professional Experience, Leadership, and finally a Personal section.
Pro tip: Don’t neglect the Personal section – it’s the only one that humanizes you! This section should include the languages you speak, technical skills you possess, your publications, certifications, and of course, hobbies and interests. An interviewer often looks first to your Personal section to help kickoff a conversation.
The Education, Professional Experience, and Leadership portions of your McKinsey resume should be arranged in reverse chronological order (meaning you list your current or most recent entries first). However, it’s not simply enough to list the places you’ve worked and studied. You must include relevant information as to how these experiences have instilled in you the competencies and characteristics that McKinsey will look for: innovation, problem-solving, leadership, and motivation.
Do this by including transferable skills in every bullet point (how you did something) and the metric impact you achieved. Transferable skills include things like people/budget oversight, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, stakeholder management, problem-solving skills, communication/presentation ability, and more.
You want to highlight the specific skills the firm is looking for in that position, so make sure to read the specific McKinsey job posting carefully for the expected skills and experience the firm is seeking. Seek to utilize specific words and phrasing that matches what the Firm is looking for.
Finally, don’t forget to include metric impact. Yes, this means you must quantify! If you don’t have a number in every bullet of your McKinsey resume, you’re doing something wrong. Consultants think in numbers and McKinsey prides itself in being evidence-based, so you must speak in numbers on your resume. Also, numbers make it easy for your achievements to stand out when a reviewer is scanning your resume (and they will scan!).
McKinsey Resume Tips
Don’t be shy about big brand names!
For better or worse, having a history (of working for or studying) at a famous institution or company will go a long way in getting you recognized. Part of the company’s job after hiring you involves selling your skills to new and existing clients, and this is much easier if the clients recognize and trust the other institutions you’ve been affiliated with. Some screeners have even said that the presence of impressive names on a resume can prevent the screener from being deterred by other imperfect or less-than-ideal components.
Don’t be shy about your quantitative accomplishments!
This isn’t a first date—it’s an efficient hiring process. Consulting firms don’t want you to be humble on your resume – they love to see evidence of achievement: including a high GPA, high test scores, experience conducting various quantitative analyses and solving business problems. Be sure to highlight any activities you’ve led or participated in that have created meaningful, measurable change.
Be smart about formatting!
As stated before, we recommend organizing your resume into four sections: Education, Professional Experience, Leadership, and Personal. Strive for a balance between these categories, with just three to five bullet points per experience entry. Fewer than three bullets can make an experience appear too lightweight, whereas more than five bullet points for an entry makes it seem like you don’t know how to prioritize information. You can always break down your time at one place into the individual roles you had, which helps keep to these guidelines and shows how you progressed throughout your tenure.
Keep in mind that if you are reading this with months prior to applying, you still have time to strengthen the content your resume! If you have at least a few months before applying to McKinsey, you can find ways to demonstrate leadership in your current role or on campus, build new analytical skills, get involved in the community, or advise a business pro-bono. Join our Strategy Sprint program to advise a business through a 1-week consulting project.
To develop your perfect management consultant resume for McKinsey, work with our expert editing team on custom resume edits.
McKinsey Resume Mistakes to Avoid
McKinsey consulting jobs are highly competitive, and so their resume screeners are looking for any and every excuse to eliminate candidates from contention. At least 60% of applicants are eliminated at an early resume screening stage. Here are common mistakes to avoid.
Almost nothing gets your resume discarded as fast as bad formatting. Bad formatting can include the use of different colors, unprofessional fonts, multiple columns, and other “creative” ideas. If your McKinsey resume possesses any of these traits, it tells a screener that you don’t have the education or expertise necessary to recognize industry conventions and that you haven’t networked enough—because otherwise your program or contacts would have given you this feedback. Be sure to keep your resume to a single page with 1/2 inch margins all around—aiming for a balanced presentation that doesn’t waste too much space and can be easily skimmed.
Not being action oriented
It’s not enough to list the roles you’ve held or the awards you’ve won. You must convey the actual actions you’ve individually performed within those roles and the impact those actions have had for your company/institution. The management consulting industry is all about showing results. So, make sure you emphasize the impact of your actions, presenting them in quantifiable form whenever possible.
Telling instead of showing
As you include the various activities you undertook, such as leading projects or completing tasks, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming everyone knows why what you did was impressive. They won’t! Include the relevant context in order to infuse your McKinsey resume with an actual sense of what you did, why you did it the way you did it, and (most importantly) the impacts and results you achieved.
Adapt your McKinsey resume format by avoiding simple mistakes – read our Consulting Resume: A Complete Guide for more.
McKinsey Resume Wrap-Up
You now have a better idea of what it takes to write a strong McKinsey consulting resume. For expert help, work with our editing team (co-led by a former McKinsey consultant!). Our team will work with you to rewrite your resume over two rounds of edits so that it’s ready for applications at McKinsey and other top consulting firms.
Finally, think of the job of writing your resume as your unofficial first task as a consultant. After all, the job of the consultant is to gather and synthesize large quantities of information, to design a solution, and to deliver a proposal to a client. In this case, the solution you’re proposing is that McKinsey hire you as a consultant, and it’s your job to convince them why that’s the right decision. Good luck!
- McKinsey Careers
- McKinsey Global Institute: What Is It?
- McKinsey Firm Profile
- McKinsey Frameworks
- Consulting Resume: Complete Guide