Writing a management consulting resume

MANAGEMENT consulting has become an increasingly competitive field. The industry’s top players - McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company - receive hundreds of resumes for every spot they are looking to fill. The competition is fierce, often against other outstanding students from top global schools and with a myriad of impressive accomplishments. The recruitment process is long, sometimes exhausting, and often daunting. It starts with a resume.

The following guide will teach you how to write a great resume targeted at consulting firms. You should be reading this guide if you feel that you have the right accomplishments for a top consulting firm, and want to ensure you best display those. I would advise against applying the lessons learnt here for technology companies, investment banks and others types of resumes directly, as those have their own quirks.

As you brainstorm about each of your accomplishments, remember to put your modesty aside. Think of this as a marketing exercise - You are the brand to be built.

Before we start, it is important to remember that despite the aura around the management consulting industry, like any job it has its downsides. Getting into a top consulting firm or not getting into one does not define your future success, nor is it an indicator of it.

About the author
Itai Turbahn is an Alumni of The Boston Consulting Group, where he spent two years as the first associate in its Tel Aviv office. He graduated from MIT with a B.Sc in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a B.Sc in Economics, and is currently pursuing his MBA at Harvard Business School.

Overview

THE management consulting recruiting process comprises of several steps. At first, you submit a resume and a cover letter using both the company’s online website and through your university’s career center. Then, if all goes well, you are invited to either take a test or directly to interview. The test is an hour long and checks your understanding of simple business case intuition and analytical abilities (basic math). The interviews consist of two parts - the fit and the case.

The fit part of the interview assesses your experiences and background. The interviewer is trying to understand if you are a good fit for the firm and the consulting business as a whole. The case part of your interview assess your ability to analytically and systematically approach business problems, thinking creatively about solutions and methodologically about how to find those.

Upon passing your first round of 2-4 interviews, you will be invited to a final round, usually with several partners in the office you are applying for. In this round you will undergo 2-4 similar interviews, also divided into case and fit. Offers are given out anywhere between an hour to a week after you complete your interviews. Personally, I received an offer as I was standing in La Guardia airport trying to catch a plane back to Boston and within an hour of leaving my last interview.

The resume part of the application is probably one of the most important steps of the process. In terms of sheer numbers, it is the most narrow and challenging funnel to get through. Your resume has to stand out from those of your peers although the reader will probably spend less than a minute reading it. To be successful, you have to submit a resume that is beautiful to look at, concise, and highlights your accomplishments.

The resume also serves more than a single purpose. While it is the key to passing the first screening phase, it also serves as the base for your fit interview. Make sure you are comfortable with everything that appears on your resume, as you will probably be asked to expand on most of these topics.







The three most prestiges consulting firms (from left): Bain & Company, McKinsey & company & The Boston Consulting Group are considered highly competitive, and receive hundreds of resumes for every candidate who receives an offer.

Structure

The header section contains your name, address and contact details. It should be simple to read through.

The education section contains your education history, starting from college. You should not include your high school education unless you attended a particularly special and exclusive prep school. This section should be located after the header section if you are a current student, or after the experience section if you are currently employed.

The experience section is the core of your resume, and should list your selected work history. Note that it should not contain your entire work history but rather the most relevant experiences. DO NOT list your summer job at McDonalds, but rather use this space to expend further on your Google internship.

The leadership section is saved for special leadership experiences that are not part of your work history. This would include significant volunteering activities, university clubs you've led, or other non-profit work. This section is vital within the resume as it sets you apart. It is also a great conversation topic during the fit part of your interview.

The "other" section is a collection of additional important information that does not fit into any of the other sections. If you have patents, special accomplishments (e.g. olympics gold medalist), publications and other extraordinary abilities, you should list them here. This section is also used to list your language knowledge and 1-2 hobbies to show that you too are in fact a human being.


JOHN DOE
77 Massachusettts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
(617) 555-6666 | john.doe@myemail.com

education

2011-2013

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

PALO ALTO, CA

Candidate for an MBA
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2005-2009

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

CAMBRIDGE, MA

B.Sc Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
B.Sc Economics.
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experience

2009-2011

GOOGLE
Associate product manager

PALO ALTO, CA

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2009-2011

GOOGLE
Associate product manager

PALO ALTO, CA

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2009-2011

GOOGLE
Associate product manager

PALO ALTO, CA

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leadership

2009-2011

GOOGLE
Associate product manager

PALO ALTO, CA

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patents

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publications

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other

Native in French and Russian. Avid tennis player since 1995.

THE five golden rules of resume writing are:
1. Each sentence is a line long
2. Start each sentence with a strong action verb
3. Provide a number that illustrates impact
4. Compare yourself to your peers
5. Focus on what you did


Sentences are a line long because people are lazy. Your accomplishments are often hard to describe in a single line, but no one will read them if they go over. Remember that a resume screener will go over your resume in a minute, and after reading 50 resumes a day, will probably be tired. Often he will only read parts of your resume and move to the next one. You need to ensure you convey your key strengths as concisely as possible.

Sentences start with action verbs because those sound better. These action verbs help you clarify your role within the organization, rather than that of your group or company. In addition, you can couple strong actions verbs, such as - Designed and implemented or administered and coordinated.

Most sentences should be accompanied by numbers, as those help you show measurable impact. Remember these words - - measurable impact - These will be used throughout the recruiting process and your consulting career. It means that the change you led has a meaningful and quantitative effect. It is vital to learn to what extent you impacted something, not just how you did so. Examples of this include - Reduced service calls by 20%, saved $5M over a two year period, or recruited 300 participants to a social cause.

Some sentences include peer comparisons. This is vital because it gives a resume reader perspective on how you compare to other qualified candidates. If you went to Stanford and you won the Palo Alto scholarship (made up name), while your classmates didn't, that matters. If you are the only one to have received an award, that matters. If you won a major sports tournament, and 90 other participants didn't, that really matters. Consultants receive applications from a myriad of backgrounds and from various walks of life. Help your resume screener understand how unique you are by benchmarking youself against your peers.

Last but not least, focus on what you did. A reader does not care that the company you worked for raised $40M or was sold to Ebay. He cares that you initiated a relationship that led to the sale or structured the five year strategy that was presented to venture capitalists. When you talk about the group, you essentially waste space that could be used to talk about yourself (I realize this doesn't sound modest). Make sure the reader knows what you did, don't leave it to luck.

Note:

PhD candidates might be able to waive a one page resume requirement, but should thoughtfully consider whether their added content outweighs the headache given to the resume screener when reading a resume that is several pages long.

The resume's formatting is vital. A reader might skip a cluttered resume because it is a pain to read, and might spend another 5-10 seconds on a well-organized and clean resume. These seconds are crucial for you to get your greatness across.

In this guide I use the Harvard Business School resume format with a few minor changes of my own. In any case, if you decide to use your own format, ensure you use Times New Roman font 10 for the entire document, and leave ample white-space for the reader to navigate through the page.

Action verbs:

Management
Administered
Analyzed
Assigned
Chaired
Consolidated
Contracted
Coordinated
Delegated
Developed
Directed
Evaluated
Executed
Organized
Oversaw
Planned
Prioritized
Produced
Recommended
Reorganized
Reviewed
Scheduled
Supervised

Teaching
Adapted
Advised
Clarified
Coached
Communicated
Conducted
Coordinated
Developed
Enabled
Encouraged
Evaluated
Explained
Facilitated
Guided
Informed
Instructed
Lectured
Persuaded
Set goals
Stimulated
Taught
Trained

Communication
Addressed
Arbitrated
Arranged
Authored
Co-authored
Collaborated
Corresponded
Developed
Directed
Drafted
Enlisted
Formulated
Influenced
Interpreted
Lectured
Mediated
Moderated
Negotiated
Persuaded
Promoted
Proposed
Publicized
Reconciled
Recruited
Spoke
Translated
Wrote

Research
Clarified
Collected
Critiqued
Diagnosed
Evaluated
Examined
Extracted
Identified
Inspected
Inspired
Interpreted
Interviewed
Investigated
Organized
Reviewed
Summarized
Surveyed
Systemized

Creative
Acted
Conceptualized
Created
Customized
Designed
Developed
Directed
Established
Fashioned
Illustrated
Instituted
Integrated
Performed
Planned
Proved
Revised
Revitalized
Set up
Shaped
Streamlined
Structured
Tabulated
Validated

Helping
Assessed
Assisted
Clarified
Coached
Counseled
Demonstrated
Diagnosed
Educated
Facilitated
Familiarized
Guided
Inspired
Motivated
Participated
Provided
Referred
Rehabilitated
Reinforced
Represented
Supported
Taught
Trained
Verified

Financial
Administered
Allocated
Analyzed
Appraised
Audited
Balanced
Budgeted
Calculated
Computed
Developed
Managed
Planned
Projected
Researched

Accomplishments
Accelerated
Achieved
Attained
Completed
Conceived
Convinced
Discovered
Doubled
Effected
Eliminated
Expanded
Expedited
Founded
Improved
Increased
Initiated
Innovated
Introduced
Invented
Launched
Mastered
Originated
Overcame
Overhauled
Pioneered
Reduced
Resolved
Revitalized
Spearheaded
Strengthened
Transformed
Upgraded

Technical
Assembled
Built
Calculated
Computed
Designed
Devised
Engineered
Fabricated
Maintained
Operated
Pinpointed
Programmed
Remodeled
Repaired
Solved

Clerical or Detail
Approved
Arranged
Catalogued
Classified
Collected
Compiled
Dispatched
Executed
Filed
Generated
Implemented
Inspected
Monitored
Operated
Ordered
Organized
Prepared
Processed
Purchased
Recorded
Retrieved
Screened
Specified
Systematized

List taken from the MIT Global Education & Career Development Handbook: http://gecd.mit.edu/sites/default/files/handbook.pdf


THE resume's header is aimed at conveying your personal details, and nothing else. It is supposed to be clean and easy to navigate. I usually recommend using a Times New Roman font 11 for your name, followed by a Times New Roman font 10 for all other elements in the header.

Sample header:


JOHN DOE
77 Massachusettts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
(617) 555-6666 | john.doe@myemail.com

Don't over complicate this part of the resume or condense it too much. Think of it as a recruiter's door into the rest of your resume. It should be clear and inviting.

Also, refrain from using weird email addresses. If a recruiter or consultant has to struggle with inputing your email address to outlook, or finds it too odd, they might move on due to the lack of time. E.g. iamsexy@gmail.com is a bad email address to have on your resume.

Education


THIS section is a vital part of your resume because the management consulting industry is drawn to strong brand name schools. The names Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and others are strong brands to flaunt, and at times make the screener continue reading your application. If you don't have a brand name school on your resume you are unfortunately at a slight disadvantage, which you have to make up for with unique experiences and an outstanding cover letter.

In this section you should also mention important school related activities, any prizes you might have won during your academic days, your GPA (if you had a good one or the company specifically asked for it) and other school-related accomplishments.

From BCG’s London Office

“[We look for] an outstanding academic record, which would include [outstanding grades], any prizes, awards or scholarships won, strong A levels, IB, [SAT, GMAT] or equivalent scores, and for PhD students any publications, scholarship awards or presentations at conferences”

(http://www.bcglondon.com)

Always reference your accomplishments at school to those of your peers. E.g GPA 3.7/4 - Top 5% of class, received student leadership award - Selected out of 3000 applicants, GMAT 750 - Top 2% of test takers, only student out of 500 to speak at the graduation ceremony.

If you graduated a while ago, you might want to squeeze in research type work done while in school to this section as well. For instance, you can add a sentence about your year in the MIT Media Lab, rather than add it as a seperate experience.

Reminder

If you are a current student this section should be located directly after the header. In addition, you should add "Candidate for..." before writing your degree name. If you are currently working in industry you should list your experience first.

Experience


THIS section is the core of your resume. Due to its complexity and potentially endless size it has to be approached systematically, in a way as you would approach a consulting interview case. As you read through the next couple of paragraphs keep in mind that consultants care about leadership experience and measurable impact, and these two must be repeatably apparent in your work history.

I recommend approaching this section by writing two separate documents. The first is a ranked list of your most significant accomplishments. Write down what you think are your most impactful activities, and then numerically rank them. If any of your work experience does not appear in this document, it should not be on your resume. If one job has most of these, you need to be more creative about flashing out accomplishments from other work experiences.



Brainstorming example:

My top accomplishments
1. Won first place in college summer computer science competition
2. Raised $50,000 for my Google's team product
3. Won national tennis competition - I was also my team's captain
4. Presented to Google's executive management team
5. Authored two patents

Examples:

Original draft

Created a social media system at IBM that was used by over 50K employees. I worked with executives to gather support for the project and ended up receiving $2M in funding to expand the project. I also authored two patents during the summer as a result of this project.


Final sentences

•  Initiated the creation of a social site at IBM, currently used by 50K employees globally.
•  Worked with executives to raise $2M to expand project.
•  Authored two high-impact social media patents with 6 co-inventors.


***

Original draft

Headed a $50M real estate project for my family. Communicated with contractors and headed the budget creation for the project. We got a 150% return on our investment in two years thanks to my involvement and negotiations with service providers. I also managed to sell over 40 apartments in under two months.


Final sentences

•  Led a $50M real estate project; obtained 150% return on investment in two years.
•  Negotiated contracts with service providers, reducing project costs by 5%.
•  Organized marketing plan and sold 40 apartments in under two months.

The second document is a chronological timeline of your work history. This might sound obvious to remember in your head, but when writing this down it becomes more evident to you how to build your resume and organize it. The resume is always organized from most recent experience to least recent one.

My employment history:

Born
(1990)

Summer research internship - MIT Media Lab (2005)

Summer internship - CitiBank
(2008)

Summer internship Google
(2009)

Summer internship - Microsof
(2010)

Full time - Google
(from 2011)



Once you completed these two lists, create a first draft of your experience section. I recommend writing more than a single page allows, and then iterating on each sentence, shortening and molding it. Forget about writing sentences that are only a line long for the moment, and rather focus on writing longer ones that completely describe your experience.

After creating a first draft of your resume, put it away and return to it a day later. Now go over each sentence and read it out load. Think about whether your use of words conveys your points, and whether the order of the sentence is correct. Active sentences are stronger than passive ones, and sentences where you had a clear role are most powerful.

Examples of great sentences:

•  Established $100K collaboration project with ETH Zurich (technology institute).
•  Led $10M in savings initiaties for a automobile manufacturer; worked with 20 senior managers to implement plan.
•  Formed group of 200 student volunteers to improve infrastructure at local schools.
•  Received "Exceptional leader" student award for significant contribution to campus life (given to 1% of students each year).
•  Created a production management tool for a home goods company, currently used in three global facilities.
•  Managed five person team in summer internship to develop new search algorithm; solution used by 50M clients worldwide.

Leadership


THIS section is the trickiest to write, as it is hard to define whether a role should go into the education, experience, or leadership section. In general, the content in this part should be of significant activities and leadership roles you have undertook that are not part of your daily job or education. For instance, if you were part of the student association in college but with no significant leadership experience, add that as a line under the education section. If you were the president of the association, add that as a topic in this section and expend on your accomplishments, as you would in the experience section.

Examples of good leadership roles

•  Head of political party local branch
•  Captain of football team
•  Presented artwork in a known gallery
•  Started college club
•  Volunteered for several years at charity organization
•  Work with friends to build a startup over nights and weekends
•  Lead dancer in city's dance group



The rule of thumb for determining whether the experience should be in the leadership section is to think whether you can talk about it in length in the context of leadership. Take under consideration that you will be asked to elaborate on these experiences in the interview. Keep this section shorter than the experience section. While leadership is important, experience slightly trumps it.

Other


IF you have other special achievements, such as honors, awards, certifications, patents or publications, you should list those, as they show your uniqueness. Not everyone publishes peer reviewed articles or presents in large conferences. Make sure you add things that you think will set you apart.

If you have a technical background, you might be tempted to add the different programming languages you've used, as you would for a resume you submit to Google. This is a mistake. Management consultants don't care that you know Java or Rails, but would much prefer you talk about how you built an application for school and got 1000 registered users within a week. Do not add your technical background to a consulting resume.

In the hobbies part of this section, I personally prefer to write real hobbies I love, regardless of whether they sound consulting related. I write that I'm an avid skier and that I love to build web applications. I do so because I can talk for hours about either topic. They excite me, and if I get asked about them the interviewer will probably hear excitement in my voice.It is hard to fake enthusiasm, and genuine excitement causes your interviewer to connect and engage with you further on the same topic.

A word about languages - This section is the place to include any languages you speak. It is important to only add languages you are comfortable conversing in. Remember that it might be the native tongue of your interviewer and he could enjoy the opportunity to practice it with you.

Next Steps


I RECOMMEND returning to this guide as you are writing your resume, focusing on a single section at a time and perfecting it. Don't defer your resume writing until the last minute. Many of the guidelines presented here take time to process, and a resume truly becomes great after many iterations and changes. You will do well if you spend a day writing, take a break for a day, and return to it. You will be surprised to see things you haven't seen before in your resume, and think about great experiences you've forgot about years ago. Also, make sure to show your resume to people who don't know you well and ask for their feedback. Some things that you find obvious might not be to others. A process engineer for instance is an everyday concept for anyone whose worked in manufacturing, but this title will make no sense to your reader if he is an art major.

This guide is only one step of a bigger consulting interview process. I recommend using additional resources and making extensive use of Google to enrich your perspective on the process.

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