Consulting is a tough sector to break into. Top graduates who would have previously chosen investment banking are now gravitating towards more stable consulting jobs, while the likes of Bain, McKinsey or the Big Four professional services firms are gaining more work from massive macro events like Brexit.
Whether you're breaking into consulting from another sector or looking to move laterally, your consulting resume needs to be all about tangible achievements. It’s all very well gaining the right sort of experience, but how you applied yourself, got your ideas across and implemented the right strategy are equally as important to convey on your CV as putting big brand names up in lights.
So, what does it take to impress? We’ve spoken to specialist consulting recruiters who told us what they expect from the perfect consulting CV.
1. You will include a brief personal statement
Personal statements in resumes are frowned upon in the financial sector, but a brief summary of the sectors you specialise in, combined with some indication of what results you achieved during your latest assignments are encouraged, says Rakesh Pabbi, a former KPMG consultant who now heads executive search firm Consulting Point.
“The key here is to be concise and not too wordy,” Pabbi says. “This is a test – if you can’t sell yourself concisely, how can you get a complex point across to a client effectively?”
If you’re applying for an entry-level role, start with your academics, however.
2. You will summarise your achievements in a table
Pabbi says that you have around 20 seconds to impress with your resume. The best way to pull in a recruiter is to outline your sector expertise and client list in an easily digestible table, says Pabbi. Here's an example:
||Selected Major Clients
|Oil and Gas
||BP, Saudi Aramco, Q8
||Jaguar Land Rover, Fiat, GM
||GKN, Michelin, Meggitt, QinetiQ
|Consumer & Retail
||SABMiller, Birds Eye, Wight Salads, ATS
||EON, Veolia, RWE
3. You will be very exact about academic qualifications
Consulting has traditionally been a magnet for MBAs from top business schools, but in spite of this it’s rarely a requirement, says Richard Stewart, managing director of consulting recruiters Mindbench. Instead, consultants want to see a first class degree and a top university listed on academic achievements.
“Consultants also demand that you provide high school and A-level grades,” adds Pabbi. “The bar has been raised, there are thousands of candidates and it’s a good differentiator.”
4. You will keep it to one page
Brevity is best in consulting, says Stewart. “One side if possible, but a maximum of two pages,” he says. “The skill of a consultant is distilling complex information concisely. You can always add supplementary pages outlining project experience.”
Not all agree with this sentiment, however. “Although consultants often say stick to one page, I have heard otherwise – if you have worked on some key client projects then in order to sell yourself you need to detail your achievements within each, it’s impossible to do on one page,” says Victoria McLean, managing director of City CV.
5. You will emphasise achievements not skills
Talking about yourself in the first person and emphasising unquantifiable traits like being a ‘strategic thinker’ are immediately going to hurt your chances. The key to success is to firstly emphasise your project skills and secondly talk about what you have achieved in the job.
“Structure your CV to showcase these skills,” says McLean. “There’s no need to tell recruiters ‘Developed skills in x,y and z’, instead just demonstrate these skills by writing about what you have done – your skill set should be implicit if you cite stories, examples and challenges.”
6. You will follow this format when talking about your experience
The first (perhaps predictable) point is that your experience should contain no unexplained gaps. Pabbi says that this is not tolerated and will immediately scupper your application.
More practically, you should ensure that every experience point contains the following.
- A brief description of your employer
- Your role and responsibilities
- Four to five bullet points explaining what you have achieved.
One example for highlighting tangibles is provided by Consulting Point:
- Developed EMEA-wide network of assessed, qualified and contracted suppliers
- Reduced non-compliant spend by 75%
- With Legal, developed standard global contracting terms and project managed implementation across circa 100 suppliers
- Substantially reduced supplier fees through controlling spend saving a FMCG client $500k p.a.
- Sold the next phase of the project which accounted for $1m additional sales
“List your key impacts – in proper sentences,” says Stewart.
“You’re essentially providing an inventory of your productivity,” adds Pabbi. “The interview is competency-based, so your CV should provide discussion points.”
7. You will do as management consultants do
Listing interests on your CV may seem like a waste of time – and if you like movies and eating brunch on Sunday, it is indeed – but you can also use it to convince a potential employer you’re the right fit. Any team sports are good, says Pabbi, as they demonstrate teamwork, as is any charitable involvement.
“Essentially they want to see personality – if you can’t interact with an employer, how are you going to develop relationships with clients?” says Stewart.
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