The cover letter serves several purposes in the recruiting process. In an important way, the management consulting cover letter serves as an unofficial writing test. As a consultant, communicating effectively over email and on presentations is a crucial skill. The consulting cover letter provides recruiters with some insight on a candidate’s communication skills.
The cover letter also provides candidates the opportunity to present themselves in a qualitative manner. This is in contrast to the resume, which should highlight quantitative impact. Through the cover letter, candidates can tell their stories and express the qualifications that will make them great fits for the management consulting industry.
Tip #1 – Include 5 Key Components
A good management consulting cover letter should include these five components:
1. An Introduction
The introduction should be a short but sweet paragraph that briefly discusses your background, the position you are applying for, and the locations of the offices you are interested in.
2. Reasons You’re Interested in X Consulting Firm
Drawing from the interactions you have had with consultants at the firm (that really is the only good reason) discuss the qualities that make the firm attractive to you. These include the people you spoke with, special programs or initiatives within the firm, or projects that you found interesting. Aim to convince the consultant reviewing your cover letter that you’ve thoroughly done your research by speaking with someone inside the firm.
3. Why You’re Interested in Consulting
Use your previous professional experiences and extracurriculars to demonstrate your interest in consulting. Highlight any previous consulting experience that has confirmed your passion for the field.
If you don’t have direct consulting experience, that’s okay! Consultants don’t require previous consulting experience. Instead, showcase things like your ability to problem solve, achieve results for clients, and overcome challenging business obstacles.
4. Why You’re Qualified
Don’t be afraid to really sell yourself – it’s a must. Most people who break into consulting are impressive in some shape or form, and your competition is stiff. The meat of your cover letter should consist of 2-3 specific stories of achievement. What problems have you faced? What action did you take to combat them? And what was the corresponding result?
5. A Conclusion
Complete the management consulting cover letter by summarizing why you’re a great candidate for the firm. Express how you wish to contribute to the team and thank the person reading for their time.
Tip #2 – Use Anecdotes and Details
Avoid sounding generic with the descriptions of your past experiences. Details will help you stand out amongst the sea of candidates.
For instance, here’s a bad example: “My previous experiences and projects have given me a strong set of team and leadership skills.”
Instead, say something like: “As a Business Development Analyst at Facebook, I led a team of five on an internal initiative that reduced our group’s budget by 25% over one quarter. Convincing key stakeholders to reduce their own budget for the sake of the greater good was not easy, but the project sharpened by ability to overcome conflicts and arrive at consensus.” In the consulting cover letter samples below, look to see how we include these correctly.
Tip #3 – Keep it to 1 Page
Breaking this rule is like committing a cardinal sin in the eyes of a recruiter. In our experience, anything longer than one page gets automatically discarded.
Your management consulting cover letter should demonstrate that you’re able to communicate in a concise manner. Consulting firms receive thousands and thousands of cover letters, so the last thing they want to read is a candidate’s entire life story.
Keep your consulting cover letter to a page, max.
Tip #4 – Show Instead of Tell
The cover letter is the time for you to do a deeper dive into your 2-3 most impressive stories. Instead of explaining why you’re such a great fit for consulting and the passion you have for the field, pick and choose your strongest set of experiences and bring them to light. These stories are a lot more effective at driving home your point that you will be a great fit for Deloitte or BCG.
Of course, don’t come across as arrogant. How do you know if you are being arrogant? You talk about how much better you are than others at this skill or that ability – be honest about what you are skilled in, but don’t compare yourself to others.
Tip #5 – Start Writing ASAP
Writing takes time. Good writing takes even longer. Yes, our consulting cover letter samples will give you a head start, but they still take a lot of customization to make them your own!
Remember that you’ll be up against thousands of other qualified candidates who are vying for the same spots. You should aim to produce a high quality consulting cover letter, and that won’t come overnight.
If you don’t know which firms you’re applying to or haven’t spoken to people at the firm yet, write as much of the letter as you can first.
Tip #6 – Do Your Research
Your cover letter for all consulting firms will become stronger and stronger over time as you speak with more consultants. By networking with current consultants at the level you are applying for, you’ll figure out which firm and office are the best fit for you. You’ll also gain nuanced knowledge about consulting that you just can’t get from online searches. No, a generic consulting cover letter sample just won’t do.
Tip #7 – Use a Personal Tone
Your cover letter should adeptly showcase your unique skills and personality. As long as you stay professional, don’t worry too much about what you think consultants want to hear and focus on who you truly are. This is one area where using a generic consulting cover letter sample will get you into trouble!
Remember that no one has your story except you. Own it, and never apologize or focus on the negative.
Tip #8 – Get Your Cover Letter Reviewed by Others
Ask people you trust to review your cover letter in order to receive advice and suggestions. Ideally, your reviewers should be people who have previous consulting experience, since consulting firms have notoriously high standards.
Sometimes, even when you proofread multiple times, you will miss mistakes that others catch in their first reads. More importantly, they should be able to suggest edits that strengthen your letter to make it stand out.
Tip #9 – Submit and Send as a PDF
The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be ruined by computer formatting errors. Whether you are sending your cover letter to a consultant for networking or submitting it for an application, make sure your cover letter is in PDF format.
Sending in the file type (i.e. Microsoft Word or Pages) in which you created the cover letter is risky for two reasons. First, a lot of consultants will be looking at your cover letter on their smartphones, and most non-PDF files will ruin the formatting structure you have put into place. Second, even on desktop, if the cover letter reviewer doesn’t have the program you used or the same version, you can run into formatting issues. Or worse, they may not be able to open the file at all!
The extra step is totally worth it, and it’s best practice to send documents as PDFs anyways.
Tip #10 – Double, Triple, Quadruple Check
Before you send your cover letter anywhere, make sure to proofread until you’ve almost memorized the document. Any mistakes will point to a lack of attention to detail. If this seems harsh, remember that there are thousands of candidates vying for the same spot as you. Don’t leave anything to chance!
Example Cover Letters for Undergrads
source: managementconsulted / Victor Cheng