A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in a lot of places. But it particularly doesn’t work when it comes to a management consulting resumes at McKinsey or Deloitte.
Of course, a non-consulting resume, or even a resume that is a general catch-all for all consulting firms, just won’t do with the biggies of management consulting.
What consulting resume readers want
We have it from Deloitte itself that most recruiters spend only an average of six seconds reading each resume. You can’t blame them: for each opening, there are one hundred resumes to be read.
In six seconds, a recruiter will see your name, scan your intro for keywords, jump to education, quickly move on to experience (scan employers, read the first entry), and decide whether to call you for an interview or not.
Who reads your resume at the big firms such as Deloitte / McKinsey and what do they focus on? Recruiting staff are your first line of resistance. You need to pass their scrutiny to get to the next stage, where a committee, no less, reviews your resume.
But first, a little more about the expectation of the recruiting staff. They usually insist on a GPA of at least 3.5, a degree from a target school, and high standardized-test scores.
Their list doesn’t end there, and goes on to a blameless presentation of the resume, consulting / organizational fit, and interesting personality.
Presentation should be of high caliber with standard font style and size, consistent margins and formatting, good grammar and punctuation, correct spelling, and clarity & flow.
Your resume will probably end up in a bin if you come across as careless or casual or go overboard with creativity. Limit your resume to a maximum of two pages.
Too many sections distract the recruiter. Stick to “Professional/Experience,” “Education,” and “Personal.”
Focus on your contribution to the business rather than to the technical side. Take particular care to avoid irrelevant technical information.
Emphasis is important to a resume. If you won a university award or scored a high GPA, put “Education” on top. If your leadership qualities are the best thing about you, highlight this aspect.
If you won “Employee of the year” at your previous job, let this be in the first section.
Proof of fit
Consulting / organization fit will be evident from the success you have achieved in a range of situations. Show that you are interested in the business of consulting.
Highlight your communication skills, which is important since you will be spending most of your work day interacting with team members, management representatives, and clients. Show off your soft skills.
Don’t forget to throw some light on the fun part of your personality. You will be spending a good part of your week with colleagues, so showing that you have a lighter side won’t hurt you.
Use the “hobbies and interests” section to make your personality come to life. Someone said that this is the section many recruiters look forward to, as a break from reading hundreds of resumes.
Each resume for a consulting post is read by a review committee of four to eight analysts, associates, and managers, according to someone who knows how it works at Deloitte.
In some firms, there are only hiring managers. Most of them would have graduated from your university, whether graduate or MBA.
Academic success (high GPA, high standardized test scores in especially math, excellent grades in challenging courses), work experience (in well-known brands, where you had an impact), and entrepreneurship and leadership qualities (founder of campus clubs and start-ups and experience as group leader) are much sought after by the committee.
However, some achievements could give you a clear advantage: undergraduate / graduate from a top-tier university or school; work experience in a top-branded organization; or a prestigious honor such as a Marshall scholarship.
Add to this list the languages that you know, a major advantage. You know French and Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, besides English? Then your firm could send you on projects to the US, UK, or Spain / South America / France, or China / Japan.
Of course, generally, resume reviewers look for problem-solving skills; people skills; client-relationship-building; technical and quantitative research and analytics; proven record of success at work; and results achieved individually and for your team (personal impact).
If you’re giving, say, 20 bullet points in a resume for McKinsey, give five each to problem-solving, personal impact, entrepreneurial ability (initiative), and leadership.
At McKinsey, these are just must-haves. What will make them really want you is a PhD in cutting-edge research, invention of a surgical technology, or founding of a company. You have one of this, and you are a star candidate.
If you are a repeat applicant, you should show what more you’ve learned since the last time you applied, and what new perspectives you could bring from your experience at your current organization. How has your candidature improved?
Recruiters at McKinsey are known to keep track of your old application.
Of course, you should never sound arrogant in your eagerness to impress the recruiter. Don’t use language that make you sound overconfident, but a certain small amount of chest-thumping should be fine.
In the header section, you will be of course mentioning your name, postal address, email address (no strange names, please), phone number, and LinkedIn profile (optional).
You will have separate sections for work experience, education, and interests, which can be given in bullets, with just three bullets except for the main entry.
In the work and education sections, use a reverse chronological timeline. Give the title, name of the organization, and period for work experience, and name of the degree, university/school, its location, and period of education.
Of course, you will certainly avoid using text paragraphs in the sections.
Objective and summary
It’s almost counter-intuitive, but it would do you good to avoid giving a summary of your resume or objective (to avoid lengthening your resume), especially if you are experienced and aren’t looking to change your domain.
In any case, your resume should be clear and concise enough without a summary, and your objectives should be obvious without your actually stating what they are.
But you may include a short summary in two or three short sentences if you’re a fresh college graduate or are planning to change your sector.
If you’re writing “objectives,” take care to include your objectives for the company as well and not just your personal targets. You don’t want to sound self-centered.
For McKinsey, the buzzwords may be “structure,” “credibility,” “credentials,” etc. But there’s no use just garnishing your resume with them. You need to connect yourself with these concepts with examples.
For example, when you say “structure,” show how you broke up a problem into different parts to solve it. Tell a story.
As for “credibility,” nothing impresses McKinsey more than a past internship with McKinsey itself, a Fortune 500 firm, or a top nonprofit organization.
As for “credentials,” did you graduate from a top-tier international school with honors or receive a Rhodes scholarship?
For McKinsey or Deloitte, numbers are also “buzzwords.” That is, you share the numbers to buttress your claims. Use action words such as “redesigned,” “launched,” and “modernized.” Try “created,” “led,” or “spearheaded,” and “managed” but also provide examples (what did you spearhead” exactly?).
Some nouns, verbs, and skills are keywords for big consulting firms. Here’s a short list:
Nouns: Strategies; deliverables; impact; convergence; critical; emerging customer needs; life cycle; pack; segment; selection criteria
Verbs: Evaluate; facilitate; deliver; align; bring up to speed; hypothesize; drive; validate; growth plan; action plan
Skills: Analysis; creativity; breadth of experience; compelling story; strategic thinking; depth of experience; industry experience; intellectual competence; interpersonal skills; leadership
But aren’t there some clichés here? Yes, there are. But these words and phrases are part of the consulting vocabulary and make immediate sense to the reviewer. So, why not?