Consulting Resume: A comprehensive guide

More than 60% of candidates applying to MBBs do not pass the screening phase. Several applicants underestimate the importance of a well-crafted CV, often assuming that a standard resume will be effective in consulting. Wrong.

Consulting resumes have very specific requirements: using our 4-step method you will be able to craft a CV that will impress recruiters in consulting firms in less than 10 hours. Sounds like a lot of work? You will use your CV throughout your professional career so definitely a worthwhile investment. Let's look at our method.

Begin with an end in mind: what recruiters want

Most consulting firms claim they look for very similar traits such as analytical skills, intellectual competence, structured thinking, business intuition and personal drive, the same we focus on in our case interview course. Busy recruiters will not have time to carefully evaluate you on all these dimensions. With 200000+ applications every year for McKinsey for instance, your CV will be reviewed in less than 30 seconds. This means that you will have to signal the skills they are looking for in an effective way, leveraging your experience to highlight your competencies. However, don't forget that your CV will also be used during your fit interview as interviewers will likely question you about the experiences you included. A consulting resume needs to be:

  • Skill-oriented

    There are specific skills and sets of behaviours required to be successful as a consultant. Consulting recruiters carefully select the candidates whose achievements signal specific desirable skills.

  • Achievement-focused

    Consulting recruiters are not passionate about roles. Unless you were an astronaut or a secret agent, you have limited chances of impressing a recruiter with your past positions. Consulting firms are looking for achievements. Each bullet point on your CV should show how you made a difference in your role, not the title you had on your business card.

  • Industry standard compliant

    You should adhere to very precise guidelines when it comes to format and layout: one page, standard font, no picture, 4 to 5 sections. We provide a free template developed by McKinsey consultants so you can forget about formatting and focus on what matters: your achievements!

You can find more information about what MBBs are looking for on their websites: McKinsey, Bain and BCG. LEK has made a video about it as well.

You have probably realised that all these companies broadly look for the same skillset, which is obvious as they all work on similar projects.

Ok, done with theory. You should now have a better idea of what recruiters look for in a consulting resume. Time to start writing.

Lay the foundations: collect and elaborate data

The first active step in writing a resume consists of collecting factual information about your experience and turn it into achivements.

Factual information

Factual information includes your personal details, academic and employment history, extracurricular activities and all your other qualifications. List these in a document under the aforementioned headings. The purposes of collecting factual information is:

  1. Ensuring that your personal details are correct: some candidates actually get their email wrong! Trust us, we have seen it a few times.

  2. A starting point for building your achievements: having your employment and academic career in front of you will help match them with the relevant skills.

Skills

Consulting firms look for candidates with very specific skills, which should all be mentioned in your CV. Use the table below to match these skills with your experiences to identifying the ones you should include in your resume.

The table below summarises the key consulting skills and offers suggestions for supporting evidence; if you struggle to find anything among your experience, our coaches will be happy to help you.

Skill Example of supporting evidence
Analytical Creating models from data,
Solving particularly challenging problems in any scientific area,
Analysing data to extrapolate conclusions,
Programming skills.
Problem solving Experimental work in any scientific area,
Solving a problem by identifying root causes and proactively addressing them,
Finding an alternative and more efficient solution to a problem you previously encountered.
Leadership Leading teams,
Having a position of responsibility in university clubs or societies,
A position of responsibility in previous employment,
Any evidence of managing people,
Organising events.
Teamwork Playing any team sport,
Team projects at university or at previous employment,
Taking part in volunteering groups.
Ability to deliver results Evidence of completing a task with a quantifiable outcome,
Designing and completing a demanding project with a tangible outcome, such as a website,
Improving the efficiency of a process at previous employment or at university,
Raising funds for a charity,
Learning a language.
Functional expertise Collaborating with industry at university,
Internship in a particular sector,
Work experience in a sector,
Evidence of skills in a specific sector,
Working extensively in a specific area,
Following the development of a particular industry.
Entrepreneurial spirit Starting your own business,
Writing a successful blog,
Proposing volunteering activities,
Evidence of putting an idea into action,
Finding a solution to a problem in a short time.

Achievements

Signalling skills with experiences and roles is useless. Power without control. Achievements show how you managed to leverage your skills to achieve impact, which is what consulting is about. Recruiters are not passionate about your past roles. They are looking for an achiever with the best fitting skillset. Turn your responsibilities into eye-catching, relevant achievements in 5 steps.

STEP 1: What did you do?

Create a list of all the things you were responsible for in the roles you held in your professional and academic career together with some key duties you had. For example:

  • SUMMER INTERN: Schedule meetings with investors,
  • BUSINESS ANALYST: Created excel model forecasting demand,
  • COMMUNICATION INTERN: Helped directors in preparing presentations,
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT: Responded to customer calls,
  • TREASURER OF UNIVERSITY SOCIETY: Managed funds and introduced new sponsors.

STEP 2: What did you really do?

Create a detailed list covering all of the most important aspects of the key actions you performed, both on you own or as part of a team. The key here is not to overwhelm the reader with minor details, but to give a concise fact-based overview of the steps you took in order to achieve the desired outcome. Avoid general statements, such as increased customer satisfaction, and add figures, percentages, and other quantifiable information to the story. Use numbers: they are the most straightforward action based expressions and stick to recruiters’ minds.

  • Scheduled and coordinated monthly meetings with 3 major investors,
  • Created analytical model forecasting demand with a 90% accuracy rate,
  • Helped 2 directors with market analysis in preparing client proposals,
  • Responded to over 50 customer complaint calls a day,
  • Managed £ 5k funds and introduced 2 new sponsors.

STEP 3: So what?

Reflect on the implications of each of your actions. What results did your actions bring? Always focus on the difference you made vs. the status quo. Think about all the impact you had on the organization you worked for in these key areas:

  • Revenue: Did you increase the company’s revenues by contributing to the acquisition of new clients or by boosting revenues from existing ones? By how much?
  • Costs: did you reduce costs? By how much?
  • Processes: Did you increase productivity or reduce downtime? By how much? How did the savings affect the bottom line?
  • Customers: did you improve interactions with customers? In what capacity? What were the main results?
  • Did you participate in client meetings? What contributions did you make to the team? What results did you bring?
  • Did you create any important reports or presentations? Who was the intended audience? What results did they bring??
  • Did you receive any awards, bonuses, or promotions?

Examples, connected to the previous list could be:

  • Forging a stronger relationship with 3 major investor funds,
  • Achieving a 30% reduction in working capital thanks to better accuracy in demand prediction, currently implemented,
  • 3 new projects sold worth 2 m,
  • Over 85% of customer concerns solved within 3 hours,
  • Increased sponsor funding by 30% by introducing 2 new sponsorship contracts.

STEP 4: Signal skills through achievements.

Your resume is not a one size-fits-all document. Once you created a list of your most significant achievements you should clearly identify the expected set of skills for the job you are applying to. You can link your achievements to the most sought after competences by using the right buzzwords: verbs and nouns popular among top recruiters that signal certain skills. You can find a list of all key buzzwords at the end of this section, clustered according to signalled skill.

STEP 5: Synthesis.

Finding the right words to describe your achievements is essential. Make sure you don’t exceed 2-3 lines for every achievement and insert only the best 3-5 for each role you covered. The following examples show how to build your achievements and link them to your skills.

  • Strengthened relationship with 3 major investment funds by organizing and coordinating monthly analyst meetings.

    > Communication skills (interacting with external stakeholders), organization skills (organizing meetings).
  • Developed analytical model forecasting demand with a 90% accuracy rate, leading to a 30% reduction in working capital. Pitched ideas to top management and launched multi-phase implementation plan.

    > Analytical skills (build analytical model), Orientation to results (reduction in working capital).
  • Supported 2 directors with market analysis to prepare persuasive client proposals, leading to acquisition of 3 new projects worth £2 m.

    > Analytical skills (market analysis), Communication skills (interacting with internal clients).
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction by solving over 90% of 50 daily customer complaints within 3 hours interacting with over 12 departments in the organization.

    > Communication skills (interacting with clients and internal departments), Entrepreneurial approach (solution in 3 hours).
  • Increased society’s budget by 30% (from £ 3.5k to £ 4.6k) by negotiating and signing 2 new sponsorship agreements.

    > Communication skills (convincing external stakeholders), Entrepreneurial approach (negotiation and signing).

The synthesis: draft your resume

Having collected all the information needed to build up your skills and achievements, you are now ready to start writing your resume.

Draft your resume

This section begins by covering layout requirements and then details the content for each section. Step-by-step instructions follow.

Layout and formatting

The layout and the sections of your resume are standard. They only change slightly between recent graduates and young professionals. If you have less than 2 years of experience, you will need to put your education first and vice versa.

Font should be Times New Roman, Arial or any other standard font.

The layout should have following characteristics:

  • One page. You will often hear that this is not the case and that some offices allow for a 2 pages resume. While this may be the case, one page is always the safe choice. Furthermore, if you don't have 8+ years of experience you will not need 2 pages.
  • Margins between 8 mm and 16 mm
  • Your name in bold,capital, centred at the top, in a bigger font size
  • Email address and telephone number below your name
  • Headings for each section in upper case - bold and underlined.
  • Make use of the rule of 3: 3 bullet points per section etc.
  • No picture. Again a controversial one as it is not a huge problem but not putting it is the safe option.

You can download our resume template here.

Resume content

Consulting resume sections

Personal information

This section should only contain the three essential pieces of information needed to get in touch with you:

  • Your name with increased font size and in capital letters as recruiters are more likely to remember it,
  • An institutional or standard email address (name.surname / surname.name),
  • Your mobile phone number.
Consulting resume personal information

Make sure your information is correct: you would be surprised by the mistakes we see in this section when reviewing resumes.

Education

Even though education has probably been your main commitment in your life so far, do not be tempted to include everything about it. Focus on what shows you have the right skills for the position you are applying to (e.g. analytical, communication, problem solving). Include qualifications prior to university, if they are either very good or requested by the employer. Never leave unjustified gaps in your education; if you took a year out mention it on your CV trying to focus on the activities that could potentially add value to your career. The information you must include in this section is following:

  • Institution, city (only if not included in the university name) and country.
  • Degree name (and qualification - UK). Include your qualification only if it's very good or outstanding (equivalent to 2:1 and higher).
  • Coursework (e.g. Managerial Economics, Game Theory, Corporate Finance).
  • Class rank / (GPA – US). Include class rank or GPA only if it's very good. If you think the recruiter will not understand your degree class, include an approximate percentile.
  • International exchange programmes.
  • Scholarships. Include awarded scholarships, without exceeding one line.

Example:

2012 - 2015
  • ESCP EUROPE, Paris, France,
  • Msc International Management, First Class Honours,
  • Coursework: Managerial Economics, Strategy, Incentives in organizations,
  • Ranked among top 10% students, GPA of X.X/X,
  • Awarded full merit scholarship for academic excellence.
Consulting resume education

Work experience

Your goal is to show that you have developed an appreciation of the business world along with a set of valuable competences through previous employment or internships. The core of this section will be two to five achievement based bullet points in which you outline your key achievements. Employers understand that if you have less than five years’ experience, you will rarely have had the chance to manage life-changing company turnarounds; the achievements they expect will most likely focus on exposure to top management or independence. As for education, never leave gaps in your employment history, your interviewers will certainly question it. Bear in mind that you can also add some of your experiences to your cover letter so there is not need to include everything on your CV.

The sections to be included are:

  • Job title, company name, city and country.

  • Dates. If your experience is relatively long (2+ years), only use years - while if your experience is shorter or you have some relevant short internships, use abbreviated month and year (eg. Feb. 2005). Whichever choice you make, be consistent throughout your CV.

  • Company description. Only if you think recruiters will not recognise the name of the company you worked for.

  • Achievement-based bullet points. Through your achievements, your bullet points should highlight the best mix of competencies required for the job you are applying to. Structure them in the most eye-catching way as shown in our previous section. Do not exceed five bullet points for every position you covered and 2-3 lines for each bullet point. In general, you should include more points for more recent jobs, unless previous jobs or internships are more relevant to the position you are applying to.

    Example:

    2012 - 2015 McKinsey & Company, Berlin, Germany: Business Analyst Intern
  • Revised end-to-end value chain of the back office of a European Insurer identifying 12 initiatives leading to €150 m savings in 5 years. Pitched initiatives to top management and created multi-phase implementation plan.

  • Redesigned processes to improve by 30% productivity of 2k claims handlers in a European Insurer. Co-led a 15 people client team in successful implementation on 200 employees.

Consulting resume work experience

Leadership and volunteering experiences

Employers like well-rounded individuals who stand out of the crowd: it makes a lot of difference whether you were elected as a student leader or volunteered on a regular basis. Structure your bullet points so as to highlight what you have achieved. Only create a section for leadership and volunteering experiences if you have a considerable number of significant experiences or if you would like to offset a weak work experience. Otherwise you can include your leadership experiences in the Additional Information section.

2012 - 2015 ESCP Europe Entrepreneurship Society, Treasurer
  • Doubled budget for Conferences from £ 5k to £ 10k by securing 2 new sponsorships with emerging start-ups.
Consulting resume leadership

Additional information

Do not forget that this section is your chance to impress your recruiter. You can expect at least 30% of the content of interviews to be based on this part. You thus need to consider carefully all your extra-work achievements, and select the most relevant and interesting ones.

One of our customers included the following bullet point:

“EBay: raised more than 5k € in 9 months by selling recipe books and UK-imported goods in Spain”

During his interview, all the recruiters asked him questions about that experience. Questions about our achievements are almost 100% safe, since we know what we are talking about very well. Such questions are also extremely effective for convincing the interviewer that we have well-rounded personalities.

Before starting to fill this section, think carefully about the set of competences required for the job you are applying to and try to find out which competences you did not sufficiently showcase in your Work and Education sections. Your additional information section should be made of four to six bullet points, each one or two lines long. Typical areas you could cover in the Additional Information section include:

  • Standardized test scores, possibly with percentiles (e.g. GMAT score: 730, 96th percentile),
  • Volunteering activities,
  • Sports achievements (e.g. Won Dutch rowing championship),
  • Awards that you did not include in the Education section,
  • Positions in students societies / clubs / student councils (e.g. Elected student representative), if leadership and volunteering section is not present,
  • Entrepreneurial activities not included in Business Experience,
  • Interests and passions.

Typical points which should not be included in this section are:

  • Language certificates,
  • High school grades,
  • School competitions you won when very young (unless at national level).

Structure your bullet points to highlight what you achieved. As always, do not focus on the role you covered, but on the results you achieved - as shown in the example below:

  • GMAT score 730 (96th percentile).
  • Board member and fundraising chair for Kelston Area Big Brothers Big Sisters in Newark, New Jersey (2016-2017).
  • Planned and implemented the first annual city-wide Salt Lake City Marathon (2015-2018).
  • Interest in Chinese studies: organized a seminar on the impact of China on the imbalances leading to the 2008 financial crisis.
Consulting resume interests

Language and IT skills

Include your languages and IT skills in 2 lines:

Languages: List your languages starting from English, followed by the language(s) spoken in the country in which you are applying, and then by any other languages you have some level of proficiency in. Choose a level between Native, Fluent, Business and Basic. Do never overemphasize your certificates - employers on average do not care about whether you have 5 English certificates hung up on the walls of your room, but about whether you are able to talk with a client or negotiate a contract in another language. If you still want to include your certificates do not substitute them with your level of fluency, but keep both (e.g. Fluent English (First Certificate), Business French (Delf B1 Certificate).

IT skills: Essential IT skills include the Office Pack (Word, Excel & PowerPoint). If you have knowledge in advanced IT programs, mention what they are without going into too much detail. Make sure not to delve too deep into your knowledge of sophisticated Engineering programmes: the HR Manager who will select you will most probably have a background in Psychology and will not care if you can use tetrahedral elements in ABACUS.

Consulting resume languages

And this is it. After finishing writing your resume, go through our checklist to make sure you are not missing anything.

Total Quality Control: Revision, Feedback, Iteration

Revision

You should go through a checklist to make sure you cover all areas. These should be: Admin, Style and Content

Admin

  • Proofread. Check that the spelling 100% correct.
  • Personal details. Check that they are 100% correct.

Style

  • One page. Strictly keep your resume within a single printable page.
  • Concise. Do not exceed 2-3 lines for every achievement-based bullet point.
  • Consistent in style. Use one font style and one single font size (with the only exception of your name at the top).
  • Nice-looking. Margins should not be narrower than 13 mm and font size should not be lower than 10 pt.

Content

  • Conquer hearts and minds. Make sure every single line on your resume matches the required competence set necessary for the job you are applying for.
  • Consistency over style. Make sure all the bullet points start coherently with a verb in the past tense.

Feedback

Getting feedback is probably the hardest part of the whole process because it is not under your control. You will have to find someone who has the competence and the time to give you feedback. Since consulting resumes are very industry-specific, consultants are the only ones who are really qualified to give you feedback. Getting feedback from a general career advisor can be useful but again, only consultants can make a difference. If you are interested in a 3-rounds, in-depth review of your CV by an MBB consultant, find out more about our packages here.

Iteration

Once you get feedback you will have to incorporate it into your CV. Keep on going until is perfect. Again, a professional coach will be able to advise you on when your CV is impeccable.

Consulting resume template

You can download our template here for free. It is available in Word, PowerPoint and LaTeX.

Why only one template? Contrarily to what a lot of guides seem to suggest, writing a CV is not about being creative, but about being effective. You will impress your recruiter by clearly conveying your achievements, not with compelling graphics. Our one page template is the industry standard for consulting and it has been developed by McKinsey consultants. Even though some minor variations are acceptable, you will never go wrong if you use this one. Guaranteed by years of consulting experience.

Find out about our resume editing services