A Consulting Cover Letter that Lands Interviews: Our Complete Guide
- Last Updated November, 2023
Former McKinsey Engagement Manager
The recruiting season is approaching fast, and there’s one thing you’ll need to get your foot in the door for an interview at a top-tier consulting firm: an impressive cover letter.
What should you talk about in your consulting cover letter?
How do you distinguish yourself from the tons of other candidates applying to Bain, BCG, McKinsey, and other top consulting firms this year?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, don’t worry!
In this complete guide to writing a consulting cover letter, we’ll tell you exactly what points you need to address in your cover letter to put your best foot forward and land that interview.
- What a cover letter is
- The RIGHT way to structure one
- The Red Flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them
- 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter
We’ll also share:
- 2 cover letter examples that landed candidates interviews at the top firms.
Let’s get started!
Consulting Cover Letter – Why It Matters
What is a consulting cover letter.
The consulting cover letter is a separate document from your resume; it puts the work experience you outline on your resume into context to show why you’re a great candidate.
The WRONG Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Most of the Internet articles on writing a cover letter talk about structuring them with the following sections:
- Why are you interested in consulting?
- Why are you interested in the firm you’re applying to?
- What makes you a good fit?
This is not the best way to approach writing your consulting cover letter. My Consulting Offer has helped hundreds of clients land interviews and get offers with top management consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey.
We’ve even helped people who faced extra hurdles because they had low GPAs, majored in subjects other than economics or business, or attended non-core schools.
Our clients received interview invitations and job offers because our cover letter process works.
The RIGHT Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Want to know the best way to structure a cover letter that has statistically been shown to get more interviews?
Watch this video before proceeding.
Now that you watched the video (Watch now if you haven’t yet because the impact of the rest of the article is only 10% of what it could be if you watch it).
As you found in the video, the best way to structure your cover letter is to Google the characteristics the consulting firm you want to work for seeks in consulting candidates and then show you have those characteristics .
Yes, you read that right. Go to the Bain Careers page and read about what they’re looking for in candidates. You’ll find it on this page .
Every consulting firm has values they take very seriously, and that drive the candidates they target, so you will want to know what they are for each firm you apply to.
As an example, Bain wants consultants with:
- Problem-solving skills
- The ability to lead
- Results delivered
You will use each of these to develop a paragraph or section of your consulting cover letter.
For each, choose a specific time from your professional or personal experiences that shows you possess that characteristic.
If you have more than one experience that shows you exemplifying a characteristic, pick the strongest example.
Then, create a story that briefly explains the context around your example, describes the action(s) you took, and shows concrete results.
Quantify the results of your actions whenever possible.
- Results delivered – When I took over as the leader of my sorority’s annual fundraising event for a local food bank, I wanted to make it even more successful than in prior years. Each year, we threw an event and asked people to bring packaged food products or a donation. I went beyond that by asking the college’s academic departments to collect donations from faculty and staff as well. Packaged goods contributions to the food bank increased by 50%, and financial donations increased by over 300%.
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Proof the My Consulting Offer Cover Letter Structure Works
This strategy of showing how you’ve exemplified the characteristics the firm is looking for in applicants works particularly well if you are applying to management consulting firms from a non-traditional background.
If you’re a student with a liberal arts major, in a non-MBA master’s degree or doctorate, or attending a non-core school, you should definitely use our approach. It shows the reader that you’d be an asset to their team and have what it takes to be a successful consultant at their firm. This makes them focus less on your non-traditional background.
One of our early clients was an undergraduate who’d spent his summers interning in Michelin-star restaurants in New York City because he aspired to run a Michelin-star restaurant as a career.
He didn’t have high-level positions in these internships; he worked in the kitchens. He cut the tomatoes for the tomato soup and did similar food prep.
He wasn’t even in charge of making the tomato soup!
As graduation approached, he decided that while he knew all about the kitchen side of the restaurant business, he wanted to learn about running the front of the house. To do that, he looked into consulting jobs.
But he had no business experience.
In his cover letter, we developed stories about:
- Managing the kitchen effectively, even on hectic Saturday nights
- Managing chefs with many years more experience than he had himself
- Landing jobs at top-rated restaurants by showing up at the restaurants before they opened and networking his way in with perseverance
These stories showed he had the leadership experience, people skills, and drive needed in consulting, things that wouldn’t have been clear from his resume alone.
Why My Consulting Offer’s Approach to Writing Consulting Cover Letters Is So Effective
My Consulting Offer’s approach highlights the characteristics consulting firms value in applicants to develop your cover letter.
- You don’t need to explain “Why McKinsey/Bain/BCG?” because you’ve taken your bullet points from their firm career pages .
- Your stories explain why you’re a good fit.
- You can cover the question “Why consulting?” in just a sentence or 2 because you’ve demonstrated you understand what consulting firms look for in candidates through your stories. This question is especially important for applicants with non-traditional backgrounds or experienced hires.
Just add a short opening, 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” and a short conclusion to these paragraphs, and your cover letter will be ready to submit.
Mistakes People Make with Their Consulting Cover Letters that Lead to Rejection
There are red flags that can get applicants’ resumes placed in the “no” pile. These are:
- A gap in their work history.
A low GPA can be a problem because management consulting firms target people who can solve tough business problems. But if your GPA is low due to extenuating circumstances, such as a problem with your own or a family member’s health, or if you needed to work many hours each week to finance your education, firms will often overlook this.
Small offices at top consulting firms often have a problem. People choose them because they think they’ll have a better shot at getting an offer from the firm. But later, these same people want to move to a different office, leaving that office understaffed.
If you’re applying to an office because you genuinely want to live in that city, tell the recruiters why you want to live there (examples: near family, proximity to outdoor activities, etc.) They need to see that you are not planning to try to transfer to another office or they won’t want to invest in you.
If you have a gap in your work history, a consulting firm might think you were fired and had difficulty finding another job. If health or another issue was the cause of the gap in your work history, it’s important to explain that.
If you have any of these or other red flags in your consulting application, take the time to explain them in your cover letter so that they don’t derail you from getting an interview.
Writing Your Management Consulting Cover Letter – A Step-by-Step Guide
- Opening – keep it short and sweet. Just introduce yourself and express interest in working for the firm you’re applying to, mentioning the specific position you want. Include your 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” here.
- Central paragraph 1 – As explained above, find what the firm is looking for in consultants from their Careers page and dedicate one paragraph to each characteristic.
- Central paragraph 2 – Create a story from your experience that shows you have that characteristic. You should include 3-4 stories in your cover letter.
- Central paragraph 3 – Quantify results whenever possible.
- Central paragraph 4 – Order these stories in the way that works to your advantage, with the strongest story first, the second-strongest last, and weaker (but still good) stories in the middle.
- Address any red flags.
- Express your interest again and close the letter.
That’s it! You now have an impressive cover letter.
5 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter that Lands the Interview
- Tip #1 – Start with the characteristics valued by the consulting firm you’re most interested in. You should tailor the cover letter for each firm to the characteristics they list on their Career page. You’ll find, however, that you can re-use stories because all consulting firms value leadership, drive, teamwork, and creating impact.
- Tips #2 – Pick the most compelling stories from your experience. You probably have multiple stories you could use for some values. Choose just one story. If in doubt, the one where you solved the biggest problem or where you had the biggest impact is probably the best. Don’t worry if you have another great story, you’ll get to talk about it in your consulting interviews.
- Tips #3 – Quantify results wherever possible. Showing that you increased revenue/ attendance/ donations by x% quickly and effectively displays you can get things done. Same with cost reductions or reduced time/effort to get work done.
- Tip #4 – Tighten your language to show your point as efficiently as possible. Never say more than you need to in order to make your point. Recruiters screen thousands of applications, and they appreciate communications that get right to the point. Consulting partners will also appreciate this skill once you’re on their team and drafting PowerPoint slides for client meetings. Keep your cover letter to one page.
- Tip #5 -Use Fiverr or another service to ensure you have no grammatical or spelling mistakes. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don’t send out a letter with a big mistake, especially if you can prevent it with $5.
Consulting Cover Letter Examples
The best way to get a sense of what an effective management cover letter looks like is to read one.
We’ve got 2 examples of letters that helped My Consulting Offer clients land interviews: one from an undergraduate student’s application to McKinsey and one from an experienced-hire candidate’s application to Bain.
Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Example
MONTH DAY, YEAR
RECRUITER’S NAME RECRUITER’S TITLE McKinsey & Company OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear [RECRUITER] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
Thank you for considering my application for Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s commitment to create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people by developing one another through apprenticeship, mentoring, and sustaining a caring meritocracy.
Given the opportunity to join McKinsey, I would bring to the firm my entrepreneurial drive, problem-solving skills, and collaborative approach.
- Entrepreneurial drive: I was a scholarship athlete on the [UNIVERSITY] football team and was expected to arrive on campus a month before classes started. This reduced summer availability left me at a disadvantage for traditional summer internships, so I founded my own landscaping business. It was grassroots, and I conducted business relationships built on trust and relied on word of mouth. To ensure superb deliverables, I taught myself Google Sketchup to model my projects before building them. I learned about drainage and construction techniques using YouTube videos and manufacturer websites so that I could build retaining walls and outdoor structures. Using self-taught skills, I netted $30,000 in profit over the course of 3 summers which was a major source of funding for my education.
- Problem-solving: To increase the competitiveness of our off-season testing, the [UNIVERSITY] strength staff started an event called the “Tricolour Draft.” As a captain in this draft, I was responsible for drafting a team of my peers. Rather than relying on my perception of players, I took a more empirical approach. After seeking out the previous year’s testing numbers, I entered them into Excel and added projections for players who were new to the team. I was then able to rank all my teammates based on their average performance across all the tests. I drafted my team strictly according to the unbiased rankings on this list and let the opposing teams draft based on their subjective feelings. My team ended up winning the competition and, using the exact same approach, I won the following year’s Tricolour Draft as well.
- Collaborative: When I was 4, my parents took roles as expats and moved our family to Khartoum, Sudan. I went to an international school but lived among the locals. This resulted in a unique environment to grow up in and one where I developed some great relationships. One such relationship was with a company-employed driver, for whom I was the best man at his wedding at the age of 7! I quickly realized that everyone, from my peers to the locals, brought something to the table. I learned that people from all walks of life possessed valuable perspectives and input worth considering. This recognition of diversity and drive to collaborate has given me the skills to produce results on teams and to form meaningful relationships with people of varied backgrounds.
I hope to bring these same attributes to McKinsey. Thank you for your consideration.
Why Is This Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
This consulting industry cover letter written by an undergraduate is effective because it addresses key characteristics that McKinsey looks for in their applicants, as you can see on their careers page :
- Personal impact
- Entrepreneurial drive
While it only calls out 2 of the 4 characteristics McKinsey is looking for, entrepreneurial drive and problems solving, these stories also showcase the candidate’s personal impact.
The 3rd characteristic the cover letter calls out, teamwork/ collaboration, is also highly valued by McKinsey and other consulting firms.
The entrepreneurial drive paragraph is effective because it shows this candidate works hard and overcomes obstacles that would stand in the way of other candidates.
The problem-solving paragraph is effective because it shows the candidate’s structured approach to solving a problem. It also shows this approach worked.
The collaborative story works because it shows that this candidate was able to make strong personal connections from a very young age and that they respect people from all walks of life.
The candidate makes clear with his/her stories that they understand what McKinsey is looking for and that they’ve demonstrated those characteristics.
Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Example
NAME OF RECRUITER TITLE OF RECRUITER Bain & Company FIRM OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear Ms. LAST NAME and members of the Bain recruiting team,
Thank you for considering me for the position of Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my passion for results, drive and character, and ability to have a lasting impact, as the following outlines.
- Passion for Results: During a recent work-related project for COMPANY, I was placed in an innovative concept location for healthcare and lifestyle services that had previously accounted for a monthly loss of $60,000 per month. I arrived as a transitionary replacement for the managing director with little time to adjust. Knowing that I had to quickly turn around a loss-making business, I began examining the most relevant products, services, costs, and customers. After translating this analysis into a strategy, I convinced management through my presentation of recommendations to pursue a number of key steps in order to turn around the business. Three months later, we’d created a business that generated $20,000 per month. Through the use of a structured analysis, combined with consistent execution of plans, I came to understand the value of an external consultant in a challenging business situation. Indeed, this project has motivated me to continue this type of result-driven work as a consultant at Bain & Company.
- Lasting Impact: At NAME OF UNIVERSITY, I was elected president of NAME OF ORGANIZATION, a residential community of internationally minded members with over 1000 members worldwide. Heading a board of six representatives, I developed valuable teamwork and delegation skills throughout our meetings. One day, a member of the board abruptly stopped communication. I saw it as my responsibility to ask for clarification and how I could support him. However, upon learning that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, I immediately and discreetly took steps to delegate his workflow to other board members and myself so that he could focus on his family. As I led the other board members through a process of working overtime, we still managed to deliver results on time. This experience underlines my belief to always care for all members of a team and to be a leader by enabling them to perform.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
E-SIGNATURE PRINTED NAME
Why Is This Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
- Problem-solving skills (addressed in Passion for Results and Lasting Impact.)
- The ability to lead (addressed in all 3 stories.)
- Results delivered (addressed in Passion for Results with quantified impact.)
- Passion (addressed in Drive & Character)
Each of the 3 stories in this cover letter presents the applicant as someone who has the characteristics top management consulting firms look for.
Moreover, the 3 stories together demonstrate that he or she has “the whole package.” He or she isn’t smart but a poor team player or good at problem-solving but lacking the passion needed to get things done in a difficult, real-world environment.
The fact that the applicant could speak to all of the things Bain looks for helped them land interviews and then offers with multiple top firms.
What About Firms Like McKinsey, Which Don’t Require a Cover Letter?
Some management consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, have made submitting a cover letter optional.
Should you bother to spend the time to write one if they don’t seem to care?
If your resume clearly shows you are a good fit for the consulting firm, you don’t need to submit a cover letter. Things that would make you look like a good fit include:
- Attendance at or a degree from a core school where the firm recruits through on-campus interviews and hires consultants every year
- An undergraduate degree in business or economics or an MBA
- Leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills clearly demonstrated through work and volunteer experience on your resume
If your resume doesn’t clearly communicate that you’re a good fit for the management consulting industry and their firm, in particular, your application will be strengthened by including a cover letter.
You should also submit a cover letter if you have been previously rejected from that firm so that they know you have taken steps to improve your application since last applying.
You’ll want to think about stories to use in your behavioral interviews anyway, so if you’re unsure whether you need a cover letter, it’s safest to write one.
To see the power of an improved cover letter, watch this video on how My Consulting Offer helped Cynthia get invited for an interview at every consulting company she applied to.
Are you ready to write your management consulting cover letter?
We bet you are since you now know:
- What a consulting cover letter is
- The red flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them
- Our 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter
- Plus, you’ve seen 2 Consulting cover letter examples that worked
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about writing effective consulting cover letters, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s former MBB recruiters will answer them.
Other people who were writing their cover letter found the following pages helpful:
- Consulting Resumes
- BCG Cover Letter
- Consulting Networking
- Case Interview Prep : The Ultimate Guide
- Our List of Top Consulting Firms and their company values
- The Non-MBA Master’s Student’s Guide to Landing a Consulting Job
Do You Need Help Writing a Perfect Consulting Cover Letter?
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on writing your cover letter. We’ve helped over 700 people get offers in consulting and 89.6% of My Consulting Offer clients land interviews and offers with a consulting firm. Most land more than one. We want you to get that opportunity to interview with McKinsey, Bain, BCG and other top firms!
For example, here is how we helped Tao land interviews at Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.
How 800+ Candidates Have Landed Consulting Offers At McKinsey, Bain And BCG
2 thoughts on “everything you need to know about the consulting cover letter”.
Thank you Davis for this powerful tool you shared. Really, I havent thought of cover letters telling stories or narrating how you used the needed skills and the value you added using them in your past roles. No wonder I have been getting rejections based on my red flags – not having to work with the big 4s or having multinational experience. All these does not matter as long you can demonstrate the skill set you used to add value in your previous roles which must be inline with what the prospective role needs. I really aporeciate this exposure and I look forward to getting calls from recruiters going forward as I apply your strategy to my cover letters subsequently. Thanks a lot. Esther.
Hey, Esther, We’re so glad the tips we discussed about writing your consulting cover letter were helpful! Good luck in your job search!
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Consulting Cover Letter: a step-by-step guide (2023)
With a great CV, your consulting cover letter can open the door to scoring an interview and, ultimately, getting a job in consulting.
But it’s not that easy: less than 30% of applicants receive a call for an interview.
Thus, in this article, I’ll show how to write a persuasive and customized cover letter to move your job application to the top of the pile .
In particular, I’ll show you the exact steps you need to take to write a consulting cover letter that:
- Set you apart from the crowd
- Express your motivation to join the firm you are applying to
But first, let me introduce you to Paul.
Paul is a recent graduate from a business school in France.
He did two internships (one in Marketing and one in Finance).
Paul used the tips from this article to learn how to write a cover letter for a consulting job and landed job interviews in ALL the consulting firms he applied to .
At the end of this article, you’ll see Paul’s consulting cover letters for McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, and Deloitte.
Also, you’ll find a consulting cover letter template to help you craft your consulting cover letters.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Consulting salaries report: what happened since 2020, get the latest data about salaries in consulting, what is a cover letter.
Along with your resume, a cover letter is an important part of your consulting job application.
It is intended to provide a more in-depth introduction, enhancing the information in the resume or CV, outlining pertinent qualifications, and showcasing some of your most noteworthy achievements.
A strong cover letter convinces the employer that your skills align with their requirements and demonstrates the following:
- Justifications for your qualifications for the job.
- An explanation of why you want to work as a consultant.
- Justifications for why you would be a good fit for their particular company.
- Your capacity for producing engaging, clear, and concise writing.
A strong cover letter should ultimately focus on “why should we hire you” and “what’s in it for us.”.
And for that reason, it’s worthwhile to take the time to write a strong cover letter .
What recruiters want
The consulting recruiting process is costly for top consulting firms.
Do the math:
Multiply the time spent by a management consultant giving interviews by their fees.
You’d get an insanely high number.
Therefore, management consulting firms want to invite only candidates with a serious chance of making it.
To do so, they use two selection criteria.
Selection criteria 1: do you have the right consulting skills?
ALL consulting firms essentially look for these 4 skills when screening your application documents (resume and consulting cover letter):
- Problem-solving : As a Consultant, you will be essentially a problem-solver. Thus, Consulting firms will assess the range of problems you had to solve and the impact you had.
- Leadership abilities : As a Consultant, you must get things done while working with others. Thus, Consulting firms will assess your ability to work in teams and create a climate where people are motivated to do their best.
- Personal impact : As a Consultant, you will need to gain the support and commitment of others. Thus, Consulting firms will assess your ability to develop relationships with people and influence someone to act upon your recommendation.
- Drive : As a Consultant, you will work on new consulting projects every 3x months. Thus, Consulting firms will assess how comfortable you are with new situations and your ability to perform outside your comfort zone.
Selection criteria 2: are you a good fit?
A career in consulting is not for everyone.
And it can sometimes be stressful.
Therefore, management consulting firms want to assess your motivation to pursue a career in consulting.
And more specifically, a career in consulting in their firm.
To do so, they’ll assess if you’ve done your homework.
For instance, do you understand what consultants do?
And do you understand what makes them different from other management consulting firms?
Related articles :
Your answer to the question Tell me about yourself must be consistent with the information on your resume.
Check this article explaining how to craft a superior answer to the question “ Tell me about yourself .”
Also, read this article to learn more about the recruiting process at McKinsey.
Besides, I’ve written articles about the recruiting process at Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company .
How to write a consulting cover letter: your step-by-step guide
Good consulting cover letters tend to follow a tried-and-trusted format.
One that’s set up in a way that lets you show off your accomplishments and what are your motivations to join this consulting firm in particular .
If you’re worried about sticking to the same format as everyone else somehow stopping you from standing out, don’t.
It’s what you say (or don’t say) that counts.
Let’s break down how your cover should look.
Step 1: Add the header (mandatory)
To begin with, start your cover letter with the following information:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Date of sending
In addition, you can include the company’s name and address to which you’re applying.
Step 2: include the greetings (mandatory)
The greeting needs to display the right level of respect and professionalism.
If you have a name for the contact person, use it.
If you don’t know the contact person’s name, you can begin your cover letter with “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Do your best to find out to whom you’re writing to.
Look at the company website or LinkedIn page to see if you can track down the hiring manager’s name.
Or take the initiative to call the company.
Someone on the other end of the phone might be happy to tell you who does the hiring.
Step 3: write the opening paragraph (mandatory)
If you were to meet a hiring manager in person, you wouldn’t just throw your resume in their face and walk away, would you?
I’d like you’d offer a handshake and tell them who you are first.
This paragraph is like a good handshake.
You want your first paragraph to be strong, succinct and make a great first impression .
In your opening paragraph , start strong: show enthusiasm and show you want to come in there and make a contribution .
Hook the reader early with a first paragraph that makes them want to read.
You can use these guiding questions to craft the first paragraph of your cover letter .
- Which position are you applying to ? Consultant in the BCG Munich office
- What are your personal qualities? Results-driven and eager to learn.
- Who are you? What are your past and present experiences? A final-year student at HEC Paris who completed two internships in the Banking and Technology sectors
- What is your most impressive achievement? Experience in working with C-level management teams
This is an important cover letter tip:
Mention the position you’re applying to (Business Analyst, Senior Consultant, Associate, etc.)
Step 4: explain why you are a good candidate (mandatory)
Your management consulting cover letter must say why you’re the right person for the job.
This is one of the most important consulting cover letter tips.
To do so, you must highlight the specific skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for consulting .
For instance, here is how Paul has highlighted his skills in his consulting cover letter.
Here are the four steps followed by Paul to show off his skills in his cover letter :
- Step 4.1: List your most impressive achievements and write a great resume.
- Step 4.2: Select three skills you want to emphasize.
- Step 4.3: Select three achievements that best illustrate how you used those three skills.
- Step 4.4: Highlight these three achievements in your cover letter. But don’t repeat your resume word by word; show your personality instead.
Step 4.1: List Your Most Impressive Achievements And Write A Great Resume
In the “Consulting resume: 11 steps to get interviews in 2023” article, you have the exact steps you need to take to:
- List your most impressive achievements
- Summarize these achievements into compelling action statements in your resume
- Format your resume with a ready-to-use template
- Get inspired with (literally) hundreds of examples
- And much more…
So, start your cover letter… by writing your consulting resume !
Step 4.2: Select The 3 Skills You Want To Emphasize In Your Consulting Cover Letter
Choose the three skills you want to emphasize in your cover letter .
For instance :
- Problem-solving : how you used your analytical and quantitative skills to solve a problem and had an impact
- Leadership skills : how you got something done while working with someone or a group of people
- Personal impact : how you influenced people to act upon your recommendations
Another cover letter tip:
Do NOT put three achievements in your cover letter that illustrate the same skills twice or thrice.
If you do so, you will undermine your profile…
And lose an opportunity to show that you are a well-rounded professional .
Step 4.3: Select The 3 Achievements That Best Illustrate How You Used Those Skills
You now must have a great list of achievements and an outstanding resume.
Now, it’s time to select which achievements you will highlight in your cover letter.
To do so, select which achievements best illustrate your experience in three chosen skills .
To do so, choose three achievements you feel are your strong suits to focus on.
For instance, you can ask yourself :
- Which achievements are you most proud of?
- Where did you have the biggest impact?
- Which achievements were the most challenging?
Step 4.4: Highlight These 3 Achievements In Your Cover Letter. But Do NOT Repeat Your CV Word-By-Word; Show Your Personality Instead
Finally, highlight these three achievements in your cover letter.
However, your cover letter shouldn’t just rehash your resume .
In other words, do not repeat your word-by-word resume.
Because this will give a weak impression.
Instead, use the letter to tell a brief story , such as “my toughest sale” or “my biggest technical challenge,” and show your personality .
That’s how you will stand out from the rest .
It will make a HUGE difference if you show your personality when highlighting your achievements in your cover letter.
The secret to showing your personality is to tell the readers WHY these achievements matter to YOU .
- WHY this achievement was important for you
- WHY this achievement, in particular, was challenging
- Why did you enjoy this achievement
- WHY this achievement left a positive (or negative) mark on you
Do you see the pattern here?
To make it personal, explain WHY a particular achievement is important for YOU .
There are four reasons why a particular achievement can be important for you :
- You had to manage (or you were part of a team managing) something critical for your company. In other words, you had a huge impact.
- The situation you had to handle was very challenging : you had to deal with a tight schedule, you had few resources to reach your objectives, you were in the middle of stakeholders who were not aligned, etc. In other words, it was tough ! Think of these long hours spent at the office 🙂
- You had to do something for the first time : present something in front of the leadership team for the first time, face a specific problem for the first time, have to handle a crisis for the first time, have to manage a team for the first time, etc. In other words, you learned a lot.
- Or a combination of these 3 things : critical x challenging x first time (I can imagine how stressful it was!!)
So, to conclude, when describing your achievements in your cover letter, make sure to cover these four critical elements:
- The problem you had to solve
- How you solve this problem (your action)
- The outcome (the results of your action)
- Why was this achievement important for you
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Step 5: explain why you want to join this firm (mandatory)
A well-written cover letter highlights your credentials for a job and proves your desire to work for this company in particular.
The golden rule of applying to a job is showing interest in the firm you apply to .
Explaining your motivation to join a company is what is most important for recruiters, according to a recent survey of 200 recruiters.
Why is explaining your motivations to join this specific firm so important?
Think of it from the consulting firm’s perspective: they want to hire someone who will positively impact the firm and its customers and someone who is a good fit.
The hiring process is very costly and time-consuming.
Therefore, they don’t want to hire someone who will leave the company after 12 months .
Being specific when you express your motivations to join a consultancy is key.
It won’t impress the readers if you give general reasons that can be applied to other consultancies.
Even worse, it shows that you haven’t done your homework and haven’t done any research about the company .
Thus, do not write, “I want to work for McKinsey because it’s the market leader” or “I want to join the Boston Consulting Group because I’ll be able to work with smart people.”
Note: I’ll show you how to use these two (good) reasons yet sound specific .
So, now let’s see how to express your motivation to join this firm in particular .
To begin with, let’s see what Paul wrote in his McKinsey cover letter.
Paul gave two reasons why he is interested in joining McKinsey & Company.
Each of his reasons follows this formula :
Step 5.1: Start By Giving A Reason Why You Want To Join This Company
You want to join a top consulting firm for many good reasons .
So if you are asking yourself, “Why McKinsey?”, “Why BCG?”, “Why Bain?”, “Why Deloitte?”, Why Accenture?” or “Why any other firms,” you should consider the following reasons :
- The company’s culture : you think you’ll be a good fit with the company’s culture. For instance, the culture of excellence at McKinsey. Or the collaborative culture at Bain & Company. Another example: the diversity of profiles promoted by the Boston Consulting Group
- Its reputation : you want to work for a company recognized as a global market leader, such as McKinsey & Company. Or do you want to join a well-known advisor in a specific geography like Bain & Company in the Middle East?
- The company’s specialization : you can have a special interest in a topic or an industry and join a firm with expertise in that topic or industry. For instance, Simon Kucher & Partners for pricing, or Bain & Company for Private Equity. Or maybe McKinsey is the only consulting firm working with public entities in your region
- Smart colleagues : you want to be inspired and work with people inside and outside the firm who will challenge your work and how you think. For instance, McKinsey is obsessed with working mainly at the CEO level
- The company’s size : you want to join a new (or a small) office and be part of the teams that will help develop that office. Or the office can be well established, but you want to join a newly created practice and want to help develop it
- The company’s international footprint : you want to have the opportunity to work in an international environment or to be relocated to an office abroad in a couple of years. For instance, some consulting firms have international staffing rules, whereas others offer only local staffing opportunities
- The career progression opportunity : you want to join a company that invests a significant amount each year to train their consultants. For instance, Bain is known to put a high value on training their employees
So, think of “Why do you want to work for this company?” or “What attracts you to work for this company?” and check which reasons make sense.
However, if your cover letter mentions some of the previous reasons without any more explanations, your answer will sound very generic (and weak).
For instance, if you write, “I want to work for a prestigious company and be surrounded by smart colleagues,” this can be applied to most consulting firms.
That’s why you need to add evidence that you know what you are discussing .
In other words, you must show that you did your homework and researched the company.
That’s step 5.2.
Step 5.2: Then, Back-Up Your Reason With A Persuasive Source Of Information
To make your answer convincing, you must back up your reason with a good source of information.
Thus, you will show the readers that you are not applying to this firm for random but thoughtful reasons.
To do so, there are three persuasive sources of information that you should consider::
- Consultants who work at the company you are applying to . Your interviewer wants to know if you have done your homework and have talked to anyone from the office you are applying to, or at least from the firm in general. In other words, networking is super important.
- Reports produced by the company, such as the McKinsey Quarterly or the BCG Insight. Tell them you read and found interesting a report or an article about a topic you like.
- Alumni with whom you have worked with . If you had the opportunity to work with alumni from the firm you are applying to, mention it. This shows that you have an idea of what working there looks like.
To conclude, back up the reasons why you want to join a company with one of these sources of information, and you’ll show the readers that you researched the company and thus demonstrate real interest .
Step 5.3: Finally, Explain Why This Reason Is Important For You
Now, it’s time to make it personal.
As for your skills (read again writing tip 6, “Show your personality in your cover letter” if necessary), explain why this particular reason is important for you .
For instance, you can explain why working for a global market leader such as McKinsey is important:
You are excited by the opportunity to work on impactful projects.
You can explain why the focus of Bain & Company on having an impact is important for you: you need to have tangible results from your work.
Step 5.4: Repeat The Previous Steps 1 Or 2 Times
Try to give a minimum of 2 (and a maximum of 3) reasons why you want to join a particular firm.
Therefore, repeat the previous steps 1 or 2 times.
Step 6: say why you want to pursue a career in consulting (optional)
This section is optional.
90% of the time, your management consulting cover letter should NOT include this section .
If you need to include this section, keep it short.
My recommendation is a maximum of 3 or 4 lines.
And to do so, the process is simple.
First, select one or two reasons you want to pursue a career in consulting.
Here are some examples of reasons to pursue a career in consulting:
Second, explain why this reason is important for you .
For instance, why is having an impact important for you?
Or why is working in an environment with a strong learning curve important for you?
Again, keep your answers concise.
Step 7: end with a call to action (mandatory)
This is your call to action.
Thank the readers for their time, and let them know you’re excited to be interviewed.
I would welcome the chance to discuss further your expectations and how my analytical, leadership, and communication skills can bring value to McKinsey.
Always be polite and respectful in your close.
Let them know how eager you are to be interviewed, but never make demands.
Step 8: add your consulting cover letter signature
Sign off your letter with a “Best” or “Best regards” (remember to include a comma), followed by your name.
You can use other phrases like “Yours sincerely,” “Kind regards,” or “Best wishes,” but “Best” or “Best regards” are the safest options.
Step 9: proofread and check typos
Now it’s time to polish your consulting cover letter to ensure it stands out.
Like your resume, your cover letter is one of the few things in your life that needs to be perfect .
Thus, you must put the same attention to detail in your cover letter as Consultants do with their slide deck presentations.
In other words, perfection is the minimum standard your cover letter must pass to keep it out of the rejection pile.
Pay close attention to the following areas to make your cover letter bulletproof.
Imagine finding out that your application — the one you spent hours working on — was dismissed because of a few small spelling or grammar errors.
That would be tough to take.
But it happens.
Hiring managers must review hundreds of resumes and cover letters.
And typos are one of the easiest ways to narrow applicants down .
So, double or triple-check your cover letter.
When you’ve done that, have someone else read over it.
#2: Formatting Errors
Large blocks of text are hard work on the eyes, especially on a screen.
Therefore, keep sentences short and limit paragraphs to three or four sentences.
Moreover, I recommend using bullet points when describing your most critical skills and achievements .
Another thing to remember is that your cover letter and resume will be read together, so the two should be consistent in how they look.
Thus, match the style of your cover letter to your consulting resume .
To help you, I have put a cover letter template at the end of this article.
In addition, you can find a resume template in this article .
#3: Any Trace of Copy And Paste
The “I am writing to apply for the role of [job] at [company] ” example from a previous cover letter is classic copy-and-paste.
Anything non-specific or generic immediately has the hiring manager wondering how many other people you’ve tried to impress with your robotic writing .
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use copy-and-paste templates.
It just means you shouldn’t make it obvious that you do.
#4: Too Many Words
According to a survey by Saddleback College, almost 70% of employers want a cover letter to be less than one page.
24% say that the shorter, the better.
Generally, your consulting cover letter should be less than 500 words and fit on a single page .
Let me repeat because it’s important:
Your consulting cover letter must be on one page.
#5: File Name And Type
First, use the PDF format when submitting your cover letter to a consulting firm unless otherwise specified by the company or recruiter.
Besides, when assigning a file name to your cover letter, include your first and last name along with the name of the company you’re applying to in the name of the file, like “Sébastien Ritter Cover Letter McKinsey.”
Step 10: get your cover letter reviewed by an expert
To ensure your consulting cover letter is error-free, share it (with this article 😉) with your friends and ask for feedback.
But do not ask all your friends.
Instead, focus on these three people: a grammar champion, an HR person (preferably in the consulting industry, but non-consulting HR is fine, too), and a Consultant.
Step 11: complement your cover letter with a great CV
I recommend focusing your time and energy on your consulting resume before writing your cover letter.
Because recruiters say they spend a maximum of 60 seconds deciding whether a candidate should be invited for an interview, they probably start by figuring out whether you have the skillset and education required for the job.
And that’s the purpose of the resume .
For instance, I recommend spending 80% of your time writing your CV and 20% writing your cover letter.
Check this article that will help you craft your CV .
You’ll find a step-by-step guide, templates, and examples to help you craft a perfect consulting resume.
My best consulting cover letter tips
In 2023, I analyzed 147 management consulting cover letters .
As a result, here are my 7 best cover letter tips.
And here is the best part:
You’ll also learn the most common mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Consulting cover letter tip 1: Personalize your letter for each firm
Never send a generic cover letter.
This implies that you must create a new one for each firm.
Consulting cover letter tip 2: Simplify your letter
Clarify and condense your message.
Using complicated words and sentences would almost certainly fail to convey your intentions to the company, and the person reading the letter probably won’t bother with the rest of your application.
Consulting cover letter tip 3: Be specific when needed
Make sure to quantify your accomplishments.
For instance, elaborate on your marketing expertise in your cover letter by stating that you increased revenue to $10,000 while bringing in 200 more clients monthly.
Having specific personal information can help you stand out from other applicants.
Consulting cover letter tip 4: Omit unnecessary details
Let’s state the obvious:
You don’t need to mention your graphic design experience.
Personal information like accomplishments in leisure activities, interests, and hobbies are best left out.
Consulting cover letter tip 5: Show Your Value
When applying for consulting positions, it’s a common error for candidates to focus only on their individual accomplishments.
Cover letters with many “me memes” are frequently read by recruiters.
This means that rather than emphasizing how they can contribute to the company (and eventually become partners), many applicants concentrate on how they will personally benefit from the position in question.
In your cover letter, highlight how your skills will help the company.
Consulting cover letter tip 6: Remember that spelling counts
Grammar and spelling mistakes can indicate that you neglected to proofread your own letter.
Additionally, be consistent—do not represent a dash with “—” in one location and “–” in another.
Consulting cover letter tip 7: Give Yourself Time to Write a Quality Letter
A strong consulting cover letter takes time to write, just like consulting resumes do.
It’s important to consider your accomplishments and what sets you apart from others if you want to be successful.
Think twice before assuming you can create a quality cover letter in a single evening.
It necessitates numerous revisions, careful rereading, and prompt feedback.
Additionally, you must ensure that the cover letter complements your resume flawlessly and elaborates on your impressive abilities and experiences.
Four consulting cover letter examples
In the next 4 sections, you can find sample cover letters for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain & Company.
McKinsey cover letter (Undergraduate)
Now, you can see a first consulting cover letter sample.
That’s the McKinsey cover letter used by Paul.
Please note that this Junior Consultant cover letter (or a cover letter for the Associate Consultant position) can also work for other positions.
BCG cover letter (experienced hire)
Here is now a BCG cover letter from an experienced hire.
Bain cover letter (Undergraduate)
Here is now a Bain & Company cover letter from an undergraduate student.
Bonus: McKinsey cover letter from FirmLearning
Here is another McKinsey cover letter example from the YouTube channel Firm learning:
Do you want more consulting cover letter samples?
Then sign up for our free training !
In this free training, you’ll find consulting cover letter samples and tips on acing your consulting interviews at top management consulting firms.
And you’ll improve your problem-solving skills!
Consulting cover letter templates
Do not reinvent the wheel.
Thus, you can download free consulting cover letter Word or PDF templates to fasten the writing process .
These detailed templates will help you correctly outline your management consulting cover letter.
You can use these templates to apply to any top-tier consulting firms, including the following:
- Bain & Company
- Oliver Wyman
- Roland Berger
- Deloitte Monitor
- E&Y Parthenon
- And many more.
If you need help writing your resume, these templates will help you.
Here is the Word template .
And here is the PDF template .
Besides, check this article to download consulting resume templates and examples.
Frequently asked questions
How long should a cover letter be.
Aim at 2–4 paragraphs within one page.
Do I need a cover letter?
I ALWAYS recommend adding a cover letter to your application .
Because a well-written cover letter will always distinguish your application.
If a resume shows your Skills and Accomplishments, a consulting cover letter must show your Personality and Motivation.
In other words, a great cover letter is your chance to say something about yourself that you can not put in your resume.
And for securing your dream consulting job, any advantage you can gain over other candidates to land an interview is worth taking.
A good consulting cover letter is one such advantage.
This article helps showcase your personality and motivation in your consulting cover letter.
Also, here is what recruiters say will get an application rejected (source: careerbuilder.com ):
Not submitting a consulting cover letter is a risk of rejection .
How to organize your consulting cover letter sections?
Short answer: the order of the sections does not matter much.
For instance, you can organize your management consulting cover letter like this:
- Why consulting
Or you can organize the sections of your management cover letter differently.
There is no one-size-fits-all management consulting cover letter winning order.
Consulting cover letter: final words
I hope you found this new guide to writing a persuasive, customized cover letter for consulting jobs helpful.
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Which tip from today’s post was the most helpful for you?
Is it how to show your personality?
Or maybe it is how to express your motivation for a particular firm.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
P.S. Are you looking for help?
If you want a team of experts by your side throughout the entire consulting recruitment process, check if we would be a good fit by clicking here .
Besides, check our clients’ success stories .
We’ve helped hundreds of candidates get offers at top consulting firms around the globe.
The best part?
Those candidates had various backgrounds: MBAs, Engineers, PhDs, experienced professionals, etc.
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18 thoughts on “Consulting Cover Letter: a step-by-step guide (2023)”
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The only useful and structured cover letter writing article on the whole internet!
Happy that you enjoyed the article, Anthony 🙂
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I didnt realise how much i need this article, till i read it . Truly helpful , Thanks Sebastien 🙂
Thanks! glad you found it helpful!
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Brilliant brilliant work, Sebastien! Thank you very much. The best I have come across so far.
Thank you very much Samuel!
Wow, this paragraph is pleasant, my sister is analyzing such things, so I am going to inform her.
Great article to read, all the tips are great….
Thanks! I’m glad you like it
Ththank you very much for the article which was very interesting, just like the one about the CV!
However, I was wondering if following this structure in 3 adjectives and form could not be penalizing since many people have already followed your article?
Thanks in advance for your feedback!
Hi Thomas. Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad you’ve liked this article! Regarding your question, besides the structure described in this article, the content (the reasons why you are interested in a firm and why these reasons are important for you) will make your CL unique. Hope this helps, Sébastien
I never write comments like this on the internet but felt compelled to express my gratitude. This, and the resume writing article, are the most thoughtful and helpful guides I have ever read on this topic. Although I am a teacher in England (not an American consultant!) I found all the advice to be completely transferrable and have done a major overhaul on my CV. Thank you for being so clear and thorough in your advice – I have shared it with my colleagues and will continue to spread the word to anyone who needs CV writing advice in any profession.
Thank you Emily for the nice comment
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Consulting Cover Letter: a comprehensive guide
- Understanding Consulting Cover Letters
- Practicalities of Writing Your Cover Letter
- Section-by-Section Breakdown
- Quality Control
A stellar cover letter is going to be a basic pre-requisite if you want to land a top-tier consulting job at the likes of the MBB’s, Kearney, LEK, Deloitte etc.
More than half of consulting candidates are rejected based on their applications alone , before they ever make it to interview. This means that, for all the emphasis on case interview prep, your resume and cover letter between them are the single greatest determinant as to whether you land your dream MBB job or not .
Candidates typically have some realisation of the importance of applications, but make the mistake of devoting all their time to the resume alone as they assume it is the "important one". They assume that the accompanying cover letters are always fairly generic and/or are merely a formality that don't actually get read.
However, the idea that your cover letter is any less important than your resume is a hugely damaging misconception.
In fact, speaking to consultants currently involved with recruitment at MBB firms, we are told that cover letters have been becoming more and more important recently. This is for a couple of reasons:
- More and more resumes are coming in basically perfect (the proliferation of material like our excellent free resume guide has a part to play here). This means that cover letters are increasingly being focussed on as a way to differentiate top candidates.
- Cover letters are more indicative of your soft skills and personal fit with the office culture than a resume. Since firms are having particular difficulty finding candidates with the right social skills (especially post-Covid), cover letters become more and more salient in the filtering process.
To up the ante even more, add to this the fact that applications are increasingly read by AI tools as well. Whilst a human reader working in a hurry and skimming a document in a hurry might have simply missed an error, you can be sure the computer will pick up on any mistakes you make.
So, how do you get things right?
Putting together a decent consulting cover letter can be tricky and will probably take longer than you think. The demands are different and quite a bit more rigorous than for cover letters you might have written for other industries.
Luckily though, the strict demands on consulting cover letters mean that there is an equally strict set of rules to follow when writing them - as long as you follow these and put the time in to do things properly, you can reliably turn out an excellent document.
This guide will help you understand what it is recruiters want to see in a good cover letter and take you through the steps to draft your best possible offering. To make things as clear as possible, we discuss a template cover letter section-by-section.
Help is at hand!
Writing applications can be pretty daunting, especially with a dream job on the line.
Before we dive into all the complex nitty-gritty of how to turn out your cover letter, we should let you know that we have an editing service where a 5+ year experienced MBB consultant helps you draft your best possible resume and/or cover letter. You can read more here:
Explore Professional Editing
This isn't obligatory, but is a great option for those who feel overwhelmed and want some help to get things right, as well as for those who want the inside track in terms of optimising something that is already close to the mark.
This application editing can also be done as part of a broader mentoring package, where that same experienced mentor helps you through the whole consulting selection process, from networking, through to case interview prep. You can find out more here:
Learn More About Comprehensive Mentoring
1. Understanding Consulting Cover Letters
To write a good one we will first need to understand the demands it must meet. That is to say, we need to understand the function of the cover letter and precisely how it will be assessed.
Let's start by going through some important points:
1.1. Function of a Consulting Cover Letter
The basic function of a consulting cover letter is to tell recruiters three things:
- Why you are worth employing
- Why consulting is a perfect fit for you
- Why you are interested in the target firm in particular
As we will see later, a standard management consulting cover letter is broken down into three paragraphs, addressing each of these issues more-or-less separately.
In many ways, the demands of your cover letter sit between your resume ) and your fit interview (which you will be invited to only if your resume and cover letter make the cut).
A consulting cover letter helps demonstrate the same skillset as your resume and you will effectively be selecting a few of the key points from your resume to amplify in the cover letter.
However, the objective of this document is not simply restating the facts on your resume, but rather creating a persuasive link between your personal story and the job you are applying for. In effect, the main purpose of your cover letter is to show that you are a great fit for the job you are applying for across the board. As such, you need to convey your personality and your motivation to do the job - things that are not readily assessed via your resume alone.
These are exactly the qualities that are also assessed in your fit interview. Indeed, just as with the Additional Information section of your resume, the information in your cover letter is very likely to form the basis of questions in your fit interview - where your personality and motivation are assessed again. Thus, just as with the Additional Information section of your resume, when you are drafting your cover letter you should be keeping half an eye on how you would be able to work the items you select into compelling fit interview answers.
All this means that our article on the fit interview is especially worth a read as you get started on cover letter writing!
Consulting is a tough life and the average consulting recruit only stays in the industry for around two years - which means that many of those applicants who are lucky enough to land jobs will have left within 12 months.
Beyond this, many of those entering consulting only ever intend to stay for a couple of years before bailing out into roles in private equity or internal strategy, becoming a start-up founder, or any of the other typical roles where consulting experience will enhance their career chances.
This constant loss of talent is a big problem for consulting firms, who don't want employees to disappear as soon as they have accrued the training and experience required to be genuinely useful to the company. In effect, firms want to ensure they get a positive return on investment on training you.
As such, recruiters will be trying to identify candidates who are genuinely in it for the long haul - who want to make partner someday and who have the necessary motivation to push them through the years of long hours and tight deadlines en route.
Of course, we realise that you the reader might well be one of the candidates who only really plan to stick with consulting for two years before parachuting out into another industry. Realistically, this is a perfectly sensible career trajectory and we're certainly not going to tell you not to do so.
However , if this is the case, your application and subsequent interview are really not the time to discuss it. If you have ever had any inkling that you might consider sticking around and making a long-term career in consulting, then this is the inclination to channel during the selection process.
We return to discuss your rationale for entering consulting in our section-by-section breakdown of the letter itself.
1.3. A Test in Itself
Your target firm uses your cover letter to learn more about you in a couple of ways. Obviously, they receive all the information you communicate explicitly - all the achievements and experience and positive character traits you tell them about. However, your cover letter is also used by the target firm as an implicit (but very real) test of your writing skills and other qualities. It is important to realise this dual function and keep it in mind during drafting.
At a basic level, using correct, industry standard formatting etc shows that you have the professionalism and diligence to find out and follow the rules. As we will discuss later, writing a letter specific to the firm you are applying to also demonstrates your commitment to that employer.
More directly, though, your cover letter is used by consulting firms as a test of your writing skills. Writing consulting cover letters is not an easy business - if it were, you wouldn't be reading this guide! Composing a good cover letter requires you to assemble a body of information, synthesise it and present it in a compelling form.
Importantly, this is a set of skills - summarising complex information into compelling prose and extracting key points in data - that consultants use every day. Your cover letter is one of the main ways firms check for your competence here.
Similarly, readers will be very interested in your ability to use your cover letter to market yourself. In effect, consultants must constantly sell themselves, their firm, and their recommendations to clients. Indeed, this is becoming a larger and larger part of the job as more of the analytic side of consulting work is automated. As such, the ability to communicate persuasively is a key management consulting skill.
1.4. The Reader
With any piece of writing, the first thing you need to consider is who the intended reader is. This is especially important for consulting cover letters.
During the application screen, as well as filtering by AI tools and HR staff, your cover letter will be placed with one or two hundred others and passed to a junior consultant (often a recent alum from your university) to assess. Generally, this will be piled on top of that consultant's normal workload and often they will end up with very little time to get through this mound of applications. As such, your reader will be tired, possibly slightly grumpy and in a hurry - probably only skimming what you have written.
Keep this reader in mind at all times and write in a way that makes their life easier. This means making everything as clear, easy to read and precise as possible!
2. PRACTICALITIES OF WRITING A CONSULTING COVER LETTER
So, we have a good idea of the basic job of a cover letter needs to do, what ground it needs to cover, and how it will be assessed. Now it's time to get down to business and actually get the thing written!
To this end, we'll look at a few practical points about how to meet the requirements mentioned above, before focusing one-by-one on the five main segments of a management consulting cover letter.
2.1. FORMAT - DOING THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE
Just as with your resume, formatting a consulting cover letter is really not the time to embrace your creative side. Failing to stick to the standard rules of formatting risks being rejected immediately, without your letter even being read.
The tired junior consultant tasked with plowing through a pile of cover letters is unlikely to be in the mood for a strange font or weird layout and will simply send your application directly to the bin.
As noted above, standard formatting shows that you are professional enough to take the application seriously and that you have bothered to find out what is expected from your cover letter. The best way to understand how you should format this document is simply to take a look at our examples below, which are formatted in a standard "safe" manner.
In particular, though, you should make sure your letter conforms to the following basic standard:
- Standard typeface at a normal size
- No longer than one printable page
- Normal size margins etc - no extreme formatting to pack more words on the page!
- Name, contact information, and date at the top, in the manner of a traditional letter - you can include a postal address if you like, but an email address is perfectly sufficient nowadays - and will save space
- Standard structure explained below - opening, three main paragraphs, closing
2.2. Content - Being Unique!
You might have to keep the format strictly in line with everyone else, but it is absolutely crucial that the actual content of your letter is unique!
Always remember that your cover letter will be part of a stack of 1-200 deep. The content needs to really impress the reader if you are going to stand out from the pack and earn yourself an invitation to interview.
To achieve this, you are going to have to draw on your most impressive achievements and experiences and then portray them in the best possible fashion, to really make your reader pause and take note, rather than toss your letter towards the bin with the others.
Content that is unusual is also helpful in making your application memorable and might prompt interview questions where you can be well prepared to shine. During an application process with so many competitors, it pays to have something unique to you - a USP - to differentiate you from your peers.
However, this will only add value if it is relevant to management consulting!
In our discussion below on how to introduce yourself and your abilities, we'll discuss how you can emphasize your personal "spikes" - which help make your cover letter more unique.
2.3. Be Specific!
Your letter needs not only to be unique, but also highly specific .
Many candidates think that they can save a bit of time by just writing a one really "good" cover letter and using that for all their applications without any modifications. This might be true (or almost true) of a good resume. However, if you think that the cover letter you wrote for McKinsey will be able to be used without any changes to for Bain and BCG as well, we can tell you now that that letter wasn't good enough to get you a job with any of those firms!
As noted previously, a major function of your cover letter is to gauge your motivation to stick with the company if you are lucky enough to be hired. Your recruiter wants to make sure that you are genuinely keen to work for their specific firm for the foreseeable future. Any suggestion that your cover letter is just a generic chunk of text sent out to everyone in scattergun fashion obviously makes this idea pretty difficult to maintain - and will see your application heading towards that bin in short order.
To avoid this, then, take the time to write a separate letter for each firm you apply to. In these letters, you should include content that is specific to your particular target firm. What is more, this specific content should not be something generic or some kind of empty platitude.
If the best you can come up with is an obvious truth - or even worse, a common misconception - you will betray only a very shallow level of engagement, and will only succeed in vexing your reader.
Instead, you should be able to make specific remarks which show genuine insight. This will clearly demonstrate both your commitment to and knowledge of the firm.
These points will be particularly relevant to the section of the cover letter where you explain your decision to apply to your target firm, and we will pick up this discussion again later in this guide. However, there is room for material specific to your target firm in all sections of your cover letter.
3. Section-by-Section Breakdown
Let's go through the different sections of a standard management consulting cover letter one-by-one.
We will give examples as to how you might approach each section - however, it is imperative that you don't simply copy from specimens that we or anyone else have written. The examples here are only a guide as to how you should approach the different elements of a cover letter, not components to be lifted as-is.
Your own cover letter needs to stand out from a very strong field. Think about it - how can you possibly stand out by copying others? Beyond this, though, any hint that you are just copying from another source will see your whole application rejected immediately.
On a similar note here, we strongly advise against using an AI chatbot like ChatGPT to write your cover letter. Aside from that tool not knowing enough about your own life experiences, interests etc to say something with the correct degree of specificity, you run the risk of sending in a cover with the same writing style - or possibly even the same turns of phrase - as everyone else who did the same thing. Indeed, recruiters across many industries are already getting used to spotting AI-generated applications .
As we noted earlier, there are three main questions your cover letter must answer - why you, why consulting and why that firm in particular. The three main paragraphs of your cover letter will answer these three questions in sequence.
Provided you are careful to link everything together properly, there is actually some flexibility to vary the ordering of these paragraphs. You will always introduce yourself first, of course, but you can then state why you are interested in the specific firm before you explain what drew you to consulting, or deal with these in the reverse order.
In the interests of simplicity here, though, we will just deal with why-consulting-in-general first, followed by why-that-firm-in-particular.
The following examples are taken from an entry-level cover letter from an applicant to Bain London - and the detailed content is obviously tailored to that office.
In contrast to the relative ease with which a resume can be repurposed, you will have to significantly change the specifics of your cover letter as you apply for different offices and firms. Obviously, our candidate below can't just send this off to Bain New York without changing quite a lot of content. Similarly, this won't work as a cover letter for the London offices of McKinsey, BCG or Deloitte a wholesale rewrite.
With all this said, what is crucial is that the overall structure and format is maintained. This will be the case whether you are a recent graduate, Ph.D. or MBA. Even experienced hire cover letters will maintain the same fundamental format - though there will be (even) more expectation on the quality of the content.
3.1. OPENING YOUR CONSULTING COVER LETTER
The opening to your cover letter is very straightforward and is pretty much impossible to mess up if you follow basic rules.
First, you should record your name, email address, and the date of sending. You can include a postal address if you like, though this is no longer a strict requirement and takes up a lot of space. Your first sentence should state the specific position to which you are applying at the relevant office and firm.
The only issue that should give you any cause for concern here is to Whom the letter is addressed. Where possible, you should be addressing the letter to a named person - usually the recruiting manager of the office to which you are applying. However, where you cannot find a name to address your cover letter to, it is perfectly acceptable to begin "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam".
Jane Wu [email protected] 05/05/2019
Dear Ms Douglas,
I am writing to apply for the Associate Consultant position at Bain and Company's London office.
3.2. Introducing Yourself
After this brief opening, proceed straight to introducing yourself. Don't be shy - this is not the time for understatement or modesty! Top consulting firms are looking for exceptional individuals. Here, you need to leave the reader in no doubt that you are just such an exceptional individual!
To do this, looking at all the information you assembled for your resume, ideally, you should recount the three most impressive achievements in your life so far.
Of course, do this with an eye to achievements that are particularly relevant to consulting (your golf handicap might be good, but nobody in the workplace cares). Also, realise that the things we are most proud of personally might not actually be the ones that are most impressive to others (your golfing probably isn't great anyway). Try to look at your resume as if you are reading one from someone else. Alternatively, ask a friend what stands out to them.
It's your resume's job to paint a balanced picture of you as a well-rounded candidate with all the skills required to excel in consulting. However, in your cover letter, it can be beneficial to emphasise one or two particular strong suits, where you are exceptionally gifted. These are what consultants call "spikes". What recruiters are really looking for is well-rounded, generally capable candidates with a few "spikes" that might be especially useful.
I have recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first-class BA/MSci in Physics. At Cambridge, I was consistently near the top of my year academically and won a number of competitive scholarships and prizes; including the award for the best final year research project. During my third year, I was selected as the best of a very large field of applicants to take part in a prestigious summer research project at MIT. I was also elected as a Student Representative for two consecutive years.
3.3. Why Consulting is a Good Fit
Your job here is to provide a strong narrative demonstrating why consulting is a good fit for you and why it makes sense at this point in your career as a natural progression from what you have done before.
This is much the same as what is required from your answers in any subsequent fit interviews you receive. As such, our article on the fit interview , as well as our more comprehensive fit interview course and/or lessons in the MCC Academy , are highly relevant here.
Now, as we noted above, it is important to remember that there are some reasons to get into consulting that your target firm will be happy to hear about and others that will very definitely not impress.
We're not here to judge your reasons, whatever they are, for wanting a consulting job. However, there are certain reasons that you should probably not highlight if you would like to actually get that job.
Some candidates are not sure what career they actually want yet and think consulting would make a good first step, exposing them to different industries and keeping their options open for the future. The worry, from a firm's point of view, is that these individuals will not be sufficiently motivated to actually stick with consulting when they come up against the stress and high workload that come with the job.
Alternatively, some applicants are fully intent, right from the start, on bailing out into another industry after two years - when a sufficiently long stint in consulting has given them transferable skills and boosted their opportunities elsewhere.
Many candidates actually state these kinds of intentions - though they will certainly not be hired! As we noted above, firms want to retain staff and are looking for candidates who are committed to consulting for the long term.
3.3.1. Proving You Know What You are Getting Into
Given how many recruits drop out, firms want to be sure that you know exactly what you are getting into when you apply . When you explain why you have decided that consulting is a great fit for you, you obviously need it to be clear that you are doing so with a real understanding of what the job entails.
Ideally, you will have done an internship in consulting or a closely related industry. Alternatively, you might be moving sideways from a parallel sector, such as finance or tech, having worked alongside consultants in past roles and observed what they do first hand. In either such case, it is clear that you understand the demands of the job.
However, many of you will fall into neither of these camps and won't yet have any first hand experience of the consulting world. If this describes you, be aware that there is a particular onus on you to demonstrate that you know what is required of a working consultant - and that you have what it takes to meet those requirements.
Don't dismay, though, as this is definitely possible - it just requires a bit more thought from you. Really, you are limited to a strategy of identifying key consulting skills and showing that you have already had significant past experience (and ideally achievements) demonstrating that you are capable and comfortable in these areas - and, importantly, that you enjoy this kind of work!
This is similar in principle to some of what you should have already done in bullet point form in your resume. Our resume guide is useful here in listing the relevant consulting skills and giving examples that demonstrate them. However, your cover letter differs from the resume here in that the focus will be less on technical skills and more on personal character. You also can't be so schematic as in your resume, but must weave everything into a compelling narrative that leaves your reader in no doubt that you are well suited to, and prepared for, the job.
3.3.2. Finding Things to Say
Some candidates feel the need to embroider their accounts when they explain why they want to be a consultant. Maybe they genuinely think that the only reason they have chosen consulting is for the high salary and exit opportunities. Since they can't include either of these (as discussed below), they then cobble together an insincere-sounding road-to-Damascus story about how they had an epiphany that they should work at BCG or Bain.
However, introspection on the reasons that informed your own decision making can actually be a great source of material here. You might not be able to explicitly state them just now, but there are probably better reasons than you think for your choices.
Think about what exactly it was that led you to believe that you could do a consulting job and why have chosen to apply to jobs in that sector, rather than going into something else. If you want to be totally pragmatic, remember - it's a lot easier to answer interview questions on something approximating the truth than a tissue of lies!
I believe that I would be particularly well suited to the Associate Consultant position as consulting would provide real intellectual challenges, but placed within contexts allowing me to make use of my strong interpersonal skills. As a student representative, I instigated "Student Week" in the Physics department. This was a week where time was given over so that students could organise their own conferences and workshops. In order to make this initiative a success, I faced two main challenges: creating a committed team and getting the academic staff's support. I began by offering all students a stake in shaping the week and created teams in charge of all aspects of an organisation, delegating responsibilities to team leaders. Most of all, this experience taught me how to motivate people, leveraging their potential impact and the rewards to be gained from positive results. In the end, the teams were able to invite an outstanding line-up of speakers. Presenting the week as a chance to promote the school in the media enabled us to gain the final approval of academic staff. Understanding the perspectives of multiple stakeholders and identifying what they really cared about enabled me to transform an ambitious plan into reality. I loved this experience and would look forward to employing a similar skillset as an Associate Consultant.
3.4. Why that Firm?
Now finally, you need to show that you are committed to the particular firm to which you are applying . This is a crucial part of demonstrating your motivation as well as a way of showing your diligence in doing your research before applying. Needing to address why you want to work at your target firm in particular is why you fundamentally can't just re-use the same letter for all your consulting applications.
So, how should you do this?
In practice, there are three main ways to generate firm-specific content:
3.4.1. Contacts and networking
Whilst you might not have seen consultants at work first hand, there is nothing to prevent you from meeting them at career fairs, networking events, and the like.
You can also reach out to consultants in your target office via LinkedIn and potentially even schedule calls with them. You can do this from anywhere in the world. An experienced consultant can also guide you in this process within one of our mentoring programmes
The very best cover letters will grow out of substantial networking with current or former employees from your target firm - ideally from the specific office to which you are applying.
The individuals you speak to might be in a position to recommend you to recruiters. Otherwise, though, they will definitely be very well placed to tell you what is really unique about the company in general or your target office in particular. This is a surefire way for you to be able to make your cover letter specific in a way that actually rings true to those who read it.#
Also, don't be afraid to drop in the names of your contacts where they are relevant (and where this is appropriate, of course). The recruiter might know the people in question and they will lend credence to your application.
Of course, this kind of networking will not always be feasible, and certainly not at short notice. If you don't have access to anyone who has worked for your target firm, you should be able to get access to some of their output in the form of reports and similar material. Being able to comment on these demonstrates your enthusiasm to work at the target firm, as well as your diligence and intelligence. Indeed, mentioning report authors is a good way to shoehorn in the names of company employees whom you have not actually met in real life.
Of course, you would ideally be able to write about the first hand experience of working alongside consultants at a company that was a client of your target firm. Otherwise, if you have done your research, you will be able to discuss a successful project in which you have not been involved, but have taken a particular interest (possibly in an industry in which you have experience). This should convey genuine interest and, at the very least, shows you really have done your homework.
An example of how to approach this paragraph is as follows:
Bain specifically appeals to me for a few reasons. At a more personal level, all of the individuals I have spoken to who have worked at Bain have loved their jobs and seemed like people I would relish working with. Recently, I spoke to Sarah McKinney and Benedict Philips from the London office at a networking event. Both were very helpful and encouraging of my application. In particular, I was very excited to be able to talk to Sarah about Bain's recent work with capacitor technology firm NuCell. This was a project I had become aware of via my physics background and was very impressed with the sophisticated but wonderfully elegant solutions that Bain implemented. This was a significant influence in my decision to move towards consulting in general and Bain in particular.
3.5. Closing You Cover Letter
As with the opening, it is easy to get your cover letter's closing right simply by following a few standard rules.
Closing a consulting cover letter really just follows the same rules as a standard formal letter. Note that technically the form of your sign off depends on whether the letter was addressed to a named recipient or not. If you did manage to address your cover letter to a specific individual at the target firm, you should sign off your letter "Yours Sincerely". However, if you addressed the letter "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern", then you should sign off "Yours faithfully".
Not everyone will pick up on this, but some certainly will!
I very much hope that I can be considered for an interview. If you have any questions about my application or would like to know more, please do not hesitate to be in contact by email or on +44 7933023234. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely, Jane Wu
3.6. An Aside - Blurring Boundaries
For the sake of clarity, we have given quite a schematic picture of how a cover letter is structured. In practice, the separation between the content of the three main paragraphs is often not quite as clear as has been shown so far.
This is something to bear in mind as you are writing. Certainly, it is not a problem that the content of the three main paragraphs somewhat bleed into one another. Indeed, it might well be that the optimal version of your letter gives you more bang for your buck in including points with more than one positive function.
For example, you might make mention of people or reports from your specific target firm in explaining why you chose to enter consulting in general. Simultaneously you will likely be able to include some impressive achievements, relevant to your initial description of yourself, in that same explanation as to why consulting was for you.
4. Quality Control
By now, you should have a completed document in front of you. However, this doesn't mean that you're finished!
Just as with the resume, quality control should be taken very seriously when you are writing your cover letter, and will almost certainly take longer than did writing your initial draft.
First, you should make sure you have followed all the rules we set out for formatting and structuring a consulting cover letter. This is the easy bit, after all, and you shouldn't be making mistakes here when it's something you can easily control for yourself.
The following checklist is useful to make sure that the major elements are in order. Thus, you must make sure that any management consulting cover letter:
- Does not exceed one page
- Is formatted sensibly
- Contains no spelling mistakes (double check names of the company, position, HR manager and your contact information)
- Mentions skills that are relevant to the job
- Has relevant examples to back up those skills
- Reinforces skills that are not adequately explained in your resume
- Explains how your skill set relates to the job you are applying for
- Is tailored to the target firm
Of course, to hammer the point home, it should go without saying that spelling, punctuation, and grammar should be perfect throughout - especially these days, where AIs will be reading applications thoroughly, besides harried humans skimming them.
In particular, though, you should triple-check spelling around the opening where you list your own contact information and state the name of the target firm and specific role. Imagine making the cut to for interview only to have your invitation dispatched to the wrong email address!
You wouldn't believe how many candidates we see making mistakes here - indeed, outside consulting, the former Graduate Recruitment Manager at City law firm Mayer Brown found that 20% of applicants got the firm’s name wrong. If so many high-end, detail-oriented lawyers can make that kind of mistake, so can you - check!
As with any important piece of writing, you will want another set of eyes on your cover letter. However, a consulting cover letter is not quite the same as for a more "normal" job, and there is only so much that your classmate, your buddy or your mum is going to be able to tell you . These people might be able to help you with spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but not a great deal else.
If you have access to a careers adviser, they will certainly be more knowledgeable and be able to give you more specific feedback. That said, the very particular demands of consulting and how cover letters are assessed means there is no real replacement for someone with actual consulting experience .
As always though, real consultants are incredibly busy people and their time has a high price tag. You might be lucky enough to have access to a consultant who will help you out - perhaps a friend or relative or maybe one of your networking contacts who likes you enough to take the time to look at your application.
However, for those who aren't so lucky, there are still ways to get top quality feedback. MyConsultingCoach offers cover letter review and feedback , both alone on its own and in a package with resume review.
With this service, a deeply experienced MBB consultant mentor, with a minimum of five years at McKinsey, Bain or BCG, will provide the kind of granular, nuanced feedback you simply can't find elsewhere. You can read more here:
Explore Application Review
You can also have the same kind of 5+ year experienced MBB consultant do this kind of editing for you as part of a wider personal mentoring programme. Find out more here:
Of course, none of these services are strictly necessary, and this guide is here to help everyone. However, professional editing will help you close the gap with your competitors who have the advantage of pre-existing inside contacts.
It is easy to become attached to what you have written. Especially after pouring time and energy into a document, constructive criticism can end up being taken personally and ignored. However, if you actually want to get a job in consulting, you need to swallow your pride and be prepared to make substantial changes if they are advised .
Once you have re-drafted the document, you need to cycle through the same stages of quality control again, always making sure that everything is formatted correctly with no typos and then getting decent feedback on what you have produced. To get the whole thing just right will likely take at least a couple of these iterations. Indeed, this is precisely why MyConsultingCoach's review packages all include three rounds of feedback as standard .
Finally, then, you will have completed your cover letter and be ready to submit your application. You can give yourself a pat on the back for getting everything so far done. However, you still have a lot more work ahead of you if you are serious about making it into consulting!
If you are interested in getting an interview at the likes of the MBBs, Kearney, LEK, Deloitte, or any high-end consulting firm, it is absolutely crucial that your cover letter is the very best that it can be .
To this end, we have given a detailed guide on how to optimise a cover letter, breaking down all the relevant sections. Examples were provided from a sample cover letter for a Bain London application, though it was explained that you should never simply copy from such example cover letters.
We encourage you to read further - starting with our resume guide - and to consider editing from one of our ex-MBB consultant coaches. However, what we have given you here is a very good starting point for you to carve out a great draft cover letter.
If you have followed this guide and ideally found someone to provide decent feedback, you should have every chance of being invited to interview. However, nobody is going to do well if they prepare for a consulting interview the way they would for a more "normal" job.
Management consulting interviews area very different beast to what you might be accustomed to elsewhere. You can read more about the characteristic consulting case interviews here here . Suffice to say, though, that a large volume of preparation is both necessary to so well and explicitly expected by the firms themselves . Putting together your consulting resume or cover letter might have seemed arduous or time-consuming, but what was just the tip of the iceberg!
In particular, you will need to learn how to solve case studies. You can start with our intro to case interviews , which links to other useful resources.
It's important to learn to tackle case studies the right way if you want to perform in the more demanding interviews at higher-end firms. The old-fashioned frameworks you will often find promoted online can be dysfunctional in more complex case studies. By contrast, we recommend the slightly more demanding, but much more capable, from-first-principles method used in real consulting work. You can find out more in the followng video:
To make your preparation as effective and time efficient as possible MyConsultingCoach has developed a comprehensive consulting interview prep course . This teaches everything you need to give your best possible showing in an interview. Included are all the mental maths, business and finance theory and logical principles needed not only to solve cases but to do so in a way that will impress the interviewer - the way a real consultant would . Also included is a set of lessons on how to address "fit" questions about your character and motivation to enter consulting.
Find out about our resume editing services
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Consulting cover letter guide (for McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.)
Today we’re going to explain everything you need to know about writing consulting cover letters.
We’ll start by reviewing an example cover letter that got interview invitations from ALL the MBB firms (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain).
And then we’ll explain exactly how you should write your own cover letter to land consulting interviews. Here’s a full list of the topics in this guide:
- Example cover letter
How to write your consulting cover letter
Consulting cover letter tips.
- The skills consulting firms look for
Consulting cover letter screening process
- Get help with your cover letter
Let’s get to it!
Click here for a consulting letter/resume review with an ex-MBB consultant
Example cover letter (which got interviews at mckinsey, bcg, and bain).
Below is an anonymised cover letter from a candidate who got interviews at McKinsey, BCG and Bain. So you can trust that this template works.
The image here highlights the different sections of the cover letter, but we’ll dive deeper into the text later, and you can also get a downloadable copy below.
Free download of the consulting cover letter example, here.
In the next section, we’ll go step-by-step through each part of the cover letter and explain how to go about writing it. But before we dive in, please note the following points about the above template:
- A lot of people use this template. Get inspiration from it, but every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
- This cover letter might sound impressive. It's one of the best ones we’ve seen. But even if you have not achieved as much as this person, you can still get an interview.
With that said, let’s dig into the cover letter writing process!
As a starting point, this video provides a nice overview of the full writing process for a consulting cover letter.
Now let’s break things down further.
Example - Introduction
Mary Taylor - [email protected]
DD / MM / YYYY
Dear Sir / Madam,
I would like to apply for an Associate position at McKinsey in London.
This section is a formality. It should simply state the following information:
- Your name and email address. You can replace your email address with a postal address although those are not commonly used anymore.
- The date on which you are sending your letter
- The position, company, and office to which you are applying
Keep it short and sweet.
2. Why you?
Example - Why you?
I started working as an Analyst at Big Finance in New York in September 2020 and was quickly promoted to Associate in a year and a half instead of the average four years. While at Big Finance, I advised a broad range of clients who constantly gave me positive feedback and regularly asked to work with me again. Before joining Big Finance, I graduated as the top student of my MEng in Chemical Engineering at Prestigious University in the UK. While studying, I received two competitive scholarships and awards. In addition, I developed my leadership skills as the President of the Prestigious University Consulting Club. High energy was essential to lead a team of 5 managing the club and growing the number of members by 20%.
This is your "GOLD MEDALS" section. It is the first section of your cover letter and therefore the most important one.
It should state the TOP 3 achievements of your life to date that are relevant to consulting. These achievements should be as unique and as memorable as possible. When your reviewer reads them they should think "Wow, that's impressive. I want to know more about this person."
To write this section you need to step back and ask yourself "What are the most impressive things I've done with my life so far?" This is not an easy question to answer.
In our experience discussing this with a close friend can help. It's sometimes easier for them to quickly point out the impressive things you have done as they are an external observer.
In addition, notice how achievements are QUANTIFIED in the example above. Saying you have been promoted "in a year and a half instead of the average four years" is much more powerful than saying you have been promoted "quickly." You should quantify your achievements whenever possible.
This section is your chance to grab the reader's attention. If there's nothing impressive in it, they will stop reading and just scan the paragraphs. So don't miss your opportunity!
3. Why consulting?
Example - Why consulting?
There are several reasons why I want to pursue a consulting career. To start with, I know I will enjoy being a strategy consultant because I have already worked in a strategy team in the past. This was in summer 2019 when I was a Strategy Intern at Big Grocery Retailer in London. In addition, I think consulting is a unique opportunity to comprehensively learn about business management by working on a variety of company situations. Over the past two years, I have started building my business skills while advising clients on financial matters at Big Finance. I now look forward to learning more about companies’ management at McKinsey. Finally, I want to work in consulting because I truly enjoy interacting with clients. Throughout my work experiences I have built a successful track record of developing and maintaining relationships with clients including, for instance, the senior strategy team at Big Grocery Retailer.
Once you have convinced your reviewer that you have impressive achievements under your belt they'll be thinking: "Ok, this person is impressive. But do they REALLY want to be a consultant? Or are they just applying because they're not sure what to do with their career."
The third section of your letter should therefore answer the "Why consulting?" question . But here is the thing about this question: There are some reasons to go into consulting that you should tell your reviewer about. And some reasons that you should really keep to yourself.
For instance, one of the mistakes candidates commonly make in their cover letter is to write something along the lines of "I'd like to spend 2 or 3 years in consulting to learn more about business in general and then decide what I want to do." This is a HUGE mistake.
Consulting firms want to hire FUTURE PARTNERS. Not employees who will stay for a couple of years. You can watch the video below for more details about this.
The best approach for your "Why consulting?" section is to write about past experiences that really show you know what you are getting into. The perfect situation is if you have done an internship in consulting or in corporate strategy and have enjoyed it. If that's the case, this is the perfect section to write about it.
But even if you haven't done related internships, there are plenty of angles you can use to connect your past experiences to what you will do as a consultant. For instance:
- You might have enjoyed working with clients when you were in M&A or in Sales
- You might have enjoyed structuring and solving tough problems as an engineer
You should use these experiences to say that "working with clients" or "solving tough problems" is something you KNOW you enjoy doing; and you look forward to spending more time doing this as a consultant.
When they read this section, your reviewer should think: "Ok, this person is impressive AND they know what they are getting into."
4. Why McKinsey / BCG / Bain / Other?
Example - Why McKinsey?
McKinsey appeals to me for three reasons. To start with, the different people from the company I have met and worked with all told me they had truly enjoyed their time there. For the past two years, I have worked for Michael Smith, a former Engagement Manager from the London office, who now works for Big Finance. Additionally, I regularly read McKinsey’s reports on financial services and think the insights delivered by Sarah James and others in the Finance practice are truly superior to that of other consultancies. By joining McKinsey, I therefore think I would have an opportunity to work with and learn from the best consultants in the industry. Finally, the fact that McKinsey was selected by Finance Supercorp to shape its digital strategy also played an important role in my decision to apply. This was a first-of-its-kind contract in finance and it shows that while at McKinsey I could get the opportunity to work on truly unique projects.
If you have managed to convince your reviewer that you have an impressive background and that you really want to be a consultant, you have a VERY HIGH chance of getting an interview.
The only question that's left for you to answer is: " Why McKinsey / Why BCG? / Why Bain? "
Top consulting firms have a lot in common. In most regions, they cover the same industries and work for similar clients. They also pay similar salaries, and the career path is more or less the same from firm to firm. So what should you write about in this section?
In our experience, the most efficient way to set yourself apart in this section is to write about three specific elements:
When you write "I've met with Michael Smith," or "I've read report X," or "I've heard about project Y," you are making an argument that's SPECIFIC enough for your reviewer to think: "Ok they've done their homework."
If you stay too GENERIC, your argument will be much less credible. For instance, writing something like "While at McKinsey, I'll be exposed to a broad range of industries which I'm excited about" is a weak argument because you could swap McKinsey for BCG or Bain in that sentence.
In fact, this is the ultimate test. If you can swap McKinsey with another name in your "Why McKinsey?" section you are not being specific enough. You need to work on your paragraph again and mention SPECIFIC people, reports, or projects that you find interesting.
Example - Conclusion
For all these reasons, I am very enthusiastic about the chance to work at McKinsey. I am available for an interview at any time and look forward to hearing from you.
The last section of the cover letter is a formality again. It should include the following elements:
- A sentence or two saying that you are enthusiastic and available for interviews at any time
- Your final signature
So how do you make it easy for your reviewer to put your cover letter on the "Accept" pile? We have put together the 10 tips below to make sure you can achieve this and avoid common mistakes.
Tip #1 Don't use a template letter
Writing cover letters is painful. But trust us, reading hundreds of them can be at least as painful. That's why you should make every effort to make your letter interesting and genuine.
It's ok to get inspiration from templates such as the one we provide in this guide. But every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
Tip #2 Keep it to one page
One of the unwritten rules of consulting cover letters is that they should not be longer than one page. The trick to achieve this is to only select the MOST RELEVANT experiences from your resume and to summarise them.
The points you decide to highlight should clearly demonstrate that you would make a great consultant.
Tip #3 Standard format and font
It's tempting to use an eye-catching font and format. But that's actually a bad idea. You only risk your interviewer thinking: "I've never seen this font, it looks really weird. Who is this person?" Your cover letter should stand out because of its content, NOT because of its format.
Tip #4 Not the time to be shy
Your cover letter is not the time to be shy. If you went to Harvard and have three Olympic medals, now is the time to say it! Most of us don't, and that's fine. But the point is that you should really push yourself to bring your most impressive accomplishments forward.
Tip #5 Network, network, network
This might sound surprising, but a big part of the cover letter is how much networking you have done . Having networked with people from the firm you are applying for pays dividends for multiple reasons.
First, they might recommend you to the HR team. But most importantly, these people will give you insight into what makes their firm UNIQUE. Then you can quote what you've heard in your cover letter (and name drop the person you heard it from) to show that you really understand the firm you are applying for.
Tip #6 Read, read, read
Unfortunately, networking is not always easy or possible. In these cases, your second best option is to read as much as you can on the firms you are applying for. You should read about the firm's projects, reports, and partners and find pieces of information you are really interested in.
For instance, if you did your master thesis on electric vehicles, try to find who works in this area at the firm and what they have to say about it. And then mention what you have found in your cover letter.
Tip #7 One letter per firm
One question we often get is: "Should I write one letter per firm?" The answer is YES. But it's not as hard as it might sound.
Every cover letter needs to answer three questions: Why you? Why consulting? And why this firm? The only paragraph you will need to change in every letter is the one about "Why this firm?" For each firm, you will have to do the networking and reading mentioned above.
Tip #8 Start writing early
Writing an outstanding cover letter is VERY HARD. Most candidates underestimate how much time it takes and start this process too late. You'll need to take a step back and reflect on everything you have done to date to highlight your most relevant experiences.
This takes multiple iterations. Start early.
Tip #9 Get feedback
In our experience, great candidates all look for feedback and iterate on their cover letter until it's truly as good as it can get. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it.
It’s best to get feedback from peers or consultants. These people will be able to point out which parts of your letter they don't get or don't find impactful enough. If you’d like to have an expert review your cover letter, check out our team of ex-consultant coaches .
Tip #10 Proofread multiple times
Finally, you should check and double check your letter for typos and grammar mistakes - multiple times. A cover letter is (not so secretly) a writing test and you should really treat it like one.
What consulting firms look for
To get multiple interviews at top consulting firms , it’s extremely important to understand what those firms are actually looking for.
The good news is that most of the leading consultancies are looking for basically the same skills.
To illustrate this point, here’s what McKinsey and Bain say that they’re looking for in candidates, along with our own translation of what they mean:
There are also a few unofficial items that consulting firms will look for on your resume, and you can read about those in our consulting resume guide .
Next, let’s talk about the typical cover letter screening process.
Now let's talk about HOW your cover letter will be handled once you send it. Here's how it works.
Your application will be sent to a JUNIOR CONSULTANT who recently graduated from your University. They will score your documents based on a grid provided by the HR team.
Consultants usually have to score 200 to 400 applications in about 2 weeks. And this is sometimes on TOP of their normal project. It's not uncommon for them to leave the job to the last minute and to have to do it on a Friday night just before the deadline.
Why is this important? The point we are trying to make is your application is part of 100 other applications. And the person who will review it will be tired by the time they get to your cover letter. If they don't understand something, they won't Google it. It's your job to make their job easy.
Why consultancies ask for a cover letter
There are two main reasons why consulting firms ask for cover letters.
First, partners bill several thousand dollars per day to their clients. The opportunity cost of interviewing you is HUGE for the firm. Put yourself in the shoes of a consultancy for a second. What are the top 3 questions you want to answer before investing money in interviewing a candidate?
- Have they demonstrated the skills needed to be a consultant?
- Do they know what consulting is and what they are getting into?
- Are they genuinely interested in working for our firm?
If you don't answer these three questions in a structured and impactful way, your chances of getting past the screening process are very low. This is why every cover letter should be structured as follows:
- Why consulting?
- Why this firm?
The second reason consulting firms ask for a cover letter is to test your writing skills. Consultants write all the time: emails, PowerPoints, Word documents, etc. They spend about 50% of their day writing. And a lot of the time their job is to summarise very large quantities of information in a succinct way.
This is exactly what you have to do in your cover letter. You have to a) look back on all your past experiences, b) select the relevant experiences to convince the reviewer that you are the right person for the job and c) summarise all these experiences in a way that's easy to read and digest.
Cover letters are a disguised writing test. Candidates who end up getting invited for interviews recognise this early on. Making a good impression on paper is way harder than making a good impression in person.
Are many candidates ready to invest HOURS in writing the perfect cover letter? No. That's the whole point. That's how you can set yourself apart. If you spend enough time making sure that your letter is as impactful as it can be, you stand very high chances of getting invited for interviews.
Another reason that it can help to have a cover letter is to explain anything on your resume that may look unusual to a reviewer, such as a time gap or a non-traditional background for consulting.
Whatever your unique situation is, if you’re not confident in how your cover letter looks today, then we can help you.
Get an Ex-MBB consultant to review your cover letter
The guide above, in addition to our guide on consulting resumes , should go a long way in helping you craft documents that will get you interviews.
But if you still feel you need additional help, we have a team of ex-MBB recruiters and interviewers who would be happy to provide feedback on your cover letter.
You’ll get feedback on how to immediately improve your cover letter, including what experience to focus on, how to optimise your phrasing, formatting, etc.
Start by browsing profiles for available coaches.
Table of content
Consulting Cover Letter: What You Actually Need to Know
The key to effective cover-letters is story-telling. Most people write cover letters like resumes, with cold, hard facts, and that’s the problem.
Cover letters are much more effective if they contain stories capturing the burning spirits of candidates. In this article, I’ll tell you how to install such stories seamlessly into your consulting cover letters, and land a case interview yourself.
Consulting cover letters – The basics
What are cover letters for.
Cover letters are documents accompanying resumes, to provide further insights into the qualities and motivations of a candidate, as well as portray who he/she is as a person .
In consulting cover letters, there are three essential qualities you must always display:
- Leadership skills: the ability to influence people’s decisions.
- Achieving mindset : the continuous, relentless push for the best results.
- Analytical problem-solving: the ability to solve problems in a structured, methodical manner.
Regarding motivations, there are two questions you need to answer:
- “Why consulting?”: Do you really understand the consulting world, and how it fits with your long-term plans? Is there something unique in the consulting track to explain your choice?
- “Why this firm?”: Out of all the consulting firms, why ours? There should be something uniquely attractive about this firm to you, isn’t there?
And last but not least, don’t forget to show that you have an interesting personality that fits with the firm’s culture.
Cover letters vs Resumes – What’s the difference?
Because so many candidates confuse between the two, then end up writing boring cover letters resembling “paragraph versions” of their resumes, I feed the need to differentiate.
There are four marked differences:
Cover letters go deep, resumes go wide
In cover letters, you should select one or a few most notable achievements, and describe them in detail to reflect your three defining aspects (values, competencies, motivations).
This stands in contrast with resumes, where you cram as many relevant achievements as possible into the space of one or two A4 pages.
Cover letters are “soft” stories, resumes are “hard” bullet lists
The content format of cover letters is much less defined, leaving room for a lot of creativity, unlike resumes which are almost always bullet lists of cold, hard facts.
Your goal as the candidate is to fully utilize that loosely-defined format and make your cover letter as attractive and memorable as possible.
Cover letters describe personality, resumes do not
A crucial role of the cover letter is to portray who you are as a person. Resumes don’t do that, they focus on your achievements.
Your personality does not only come directly through the contents, but also reflected in the style of the letter – so take time to make your cover letter more attractive, and you’ll make a better impression with the screener.
Cover letters touch on future plans, resume concerns mostly the past
In cover letters, you have to answer the motivation questions (why consulting, why this firm). In resumes, that aspect is barely mentioned.
The most credible answers to those questions connect the job with your future plans – as such, the cover letter is not confined to the past like resumes.
Understanding your audience
The vibe inside the screening room.
Busy, tiring, and boring – that’s the vibe inside the screening room.”
Picture this in your mind:
A junior consultant is in the office on a Friday night, going through hundreds of applications. He has to do this as a form of goodwill for the company, on top of his ongoing project.
Everyone’s application looks the same, following one set format; a somewhat extraordinary resume catches his attention, so he checks the cover letter to see if there’s anything interesting, only to be disappointed because the letter is an exact recital of the resume.
If you want to grab the screener’s attention and make memorable impressions, you have to break that negative vibe, using an unordinary cover letter.
Most cover letters are just listings of achievement and cliched motivation statements – they feel like unoriginal walls-of-text that offer nothing new – and that’s the exact reason why many screeners don’t like cover letters. Write an exciting story instead – the screener will love it.
Why they read your cover letter
There are two main reasons why the screener reads your consulting cover letter:
- He wants to know more about your motivations and personality because your resume is both impressive and interesting/unordinary at the same time.
- He wants to clarify some ambiguous points in your resume – this happens if you appear highly competent, but your writing is not clear enough.
In both cases, there’s no excuse to repeat your resume in a paragraph format and disappoint the screener. You have all the reasons in the world to present an attractive, detailed, focused narrative – tell a story and get your interview.
Both the background and the purpose of cover-letter-screening suggest that an innovative story-telling approach is much more beneficial than the common, formulaic, overly-formal cover letters.
Such an approach will definitely make your cover letter stand out from the heap of some 200 other applications. It helps you grab the screener’s attention, and impress him in a memorable way.
Additionally, it makes reading the cover letter easier and more enjoyable. The screener is already tired, so there’s no point in making his life harder.
Whatever the reason, as the cover letter is opened AFTER the resume, the implication is that you need to perfect your consulting resume first!
If you haven’t read it, here’s an A-to-Z guide to writing the perfect consulting resume , from a former McKinsey consultant and resume screener!
Consulting cover letter – Step-by-step guide
All these elements must be presented in a coherent storyline and concise language.
Keep in mind this is a consulting cover letter – as such, your story should be backed up by impactful, specific, verifiable results.
To write impressive, fact-based stories that demonstrate all three necessary aspects of the candidate, I advise you to follow these four steps:
Step 1 – Self-reflect for storylines
Search your memory for events, experiences, ideas… that can serve as a basic storyline – the backbone of your cover letter. For each storyline, consider the following six criteria :
- Uniqueness: The base story should be something unique to you. If it’s something common or universal, you won’t have the screener’s attention.
- Attractiveness: Your story should be attractive and entertaining – only then can you trigger the screener’s curiosity. Usually, it’s something “big” and impactful, but not controversial
- Positiveness: The story should have a positive “vibe” to it. If it’s something sad or negative, don’t include it in your cover letter.
- Qualities: All three consulting qualities (leadership, achieving, analytical problem-solving) should be illustrated in your story. Otherwise, consider that story irrelevant.
- Motivations: Your story should at least help explain why you’re applying, if not providing direct answers to that question. Firms don’t like to hire candidates without clear motivations.
- Personality: Make sure you exhibit a likable personality. On the other hand, if that story suggests negative traits (pessimism, short temper, cynicism, etc.) you have to modify it.
Let’s see if these storylines of my own could match the requirements:
“I escaped from a near-death experience during a paragliding session using my gliding skills.”
This is not something you hear every day, and near-death stories are often quite attractive, so you have those two boxes checked; and for now, there’s no sign of “bad” personality traits.
However, it’s a near-death experience, so it does have a negative vibe. Additionally, it shows neither consulting qualities nor relevant motivations.
=> This story only meets 3 out of 6 criteria. Out!
“I founded an entertainment business which attracted lots of attention, but ultimately failed.”
Not everyone is a startup entrepreneur, so this story does meet the “uniqueness” criterion. It’s relatively easy to draw attention with startup stories, and it’s easy to explain a consulting career choice from a former entrepreneur perspective, too. No negative personality trait is visible.
While being a business owner suggests some leadership and problem-solving experience, as well as an achieving mindset, a failure story like this might raise some questions on the “qualities” aspect; it also creates a negative vibe.
=> Overall, 4.5 to 5 out of 6. Not really the best storyline for a consulting cover letter, but usable with some modifications.
“I broke McKinsey’s code of conduct, convinced a client to pay their long-overdue service fees, and was celebrated for it.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t like those “breaking rules” stories? I’m quite confident this experience is quite unique and attractive. Because this is actual consulting work, it’s undoubtedly easy to point out all the important consulting qualities, as well as to provide a basis for my motivations.
However, this “breaking the rules” story may suggest rebellious tendencies, so if I’m going to use it I’ll again need some modifications.
=> This story scores 5.5 / 6. Quite good but I do need to be careful with it.
Step 2 - Add and classify details
Rack your memory and jot down everything related to your storyline; don’t worry about having too many details, you will be trimming the story later.
Pay special attention to the details best illustrating relevant qualities , motivations , and personality , because you will need to emphasize them.
Step 3 – Structure and enhance
Arrange the details of your story in a logical, intuitive structure; the most common method is:
1. Describe a notable, relevant experience using the problem-action-result structure to impress the interviewer with your qualities first.
2. Try to link it up with the present/future parts of your story (ideas, philosophies, plans) to explain your motivations.
Trim all non-essential and technical details, they do nothing but confuse the reader and bore them to death. Your story should be told in a way even your grandmother can understand.
Then, arrange and enhance the remaining details so that the story feels more dramatic, i.e the uniqueness and difficulty of the problem should be emphasized.
On a related note, consultants dislike lengthy cover letters – in fact, one A4 page is the maximum length – so there’s one more reason to start trimming.
Step 4 – Amplify consulting features
First, make all three key consulting traits stand out from your story – leadership, achieving mindset, and analytical problem-solving.
Then, make subtle references to consulting work using the industry’s terminology and concepts. Most screeners, being consultants themselves, will subconsciously appreciate this. However, avoid buzzwords and slangs found on the Internet, or you’ll appear superficial and unprofessional.
Consulting cover letter – Tips
To write the best cover letter, you must thoroughly understand the industry, its major firms, and even the very office you’re applying into.
To achieve such an understanding, there is quite a bit of research to do – and here are three tips for you to ease that process!
Tip 1: Networking
Successful networking goes a long way in the consulting recruitment process and in cover letters.
Firstly, management consulting firms are relatively publicity-shy, so having a connection within these firms allow you to gain very specific and authentic insights about the firm, the job, as well as the consulting world in general, helping you make better choices and deliver more convincing reasons.
Secondly, you may earn a referral ! The screening stage is harsh – it’s where most candidates are filtered out, both in absolute and proportional terms – and referrals help a great deal with that.
Remember to show your networking efforts by mentioning the names of consultants at the office you’re applying into, as well as their projects. The screener will know you really do care about the job, and you’ve done your homework.
Tip 2: Read consulting news
The websites of major consulting firms all have countless articles on current affairs as well as their own projects – read them frequently and regularly .
For one thing, those articles will deepen your understanding of management consultants and their work, helping you make better choices and explain them more effectively to the screener.
Additionally, reading consulting articles regularly will help you know more about the specific projects of each firm, which you can bring up in cover letters.
Tip 3: Build “cheat sheets”
A few ready-to-use “cheat sheets” containing all the important details on the consulting industry and major firms will significantly ease the writing process.
I recommend making three different groups of sheets – one for the consulting world in general, one for the firms, and the last one about the specific offices you’re applying into.
Be implicit and “smooth” when using these sheets. Make sure to sound as natural and seamless as possible when mentioning your references; avoid putting them at the focus of your sentences, but to use them as supplements to the main idea (e.g: I was awed by the network of experts supporting our project with McKinsey back in 2016).
Consulting cover letter – Visual format
Consulting cover letters are not the place for creative, colorful designs. Format your letters in a conservative, text-dense, black-and-white fashion – that’s how actual consultants do it.
One A4 page is the maximum length for consulting cover letters.
Inside the busy screening room, nobody has the time and energy to read a two-page worth of story, no matter how attractive it is.
If your cover letter exceeds that maximum length, trim away the less important details and shorten your expressions; you can also tweak your font size, spacing, and margins to squeeze the most content into one page.
Use formal, conservative fonts, such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, etc.
Keep your font size at 10-12. Larger text tends to feel somewhat “messy”, and they’re space-consuming. Smaller text, on the other hand, feels difficult and tiring to read.
Additionally, the typeface in your cover letter should match that on the resume.
Spacing, margins, and alignment
Use spacings of 1.15 between lines and 1.50-2.00 between paragraphs. Consulting cover letters are quite text-dense, so it’s important to use these white spaces to ease the visual strain.
Always align your text on the left side. Left-aligning is the standard in the United States, where most major consulting firms are based; additionally, left-aligning keeps the horizontal spacing between words even, unlike justified where that spacing varies considerably between each line.
All four margins should be equal at 1 inch. That should keep your letter neat and tidy while maximizing the amount of text on one page.
If you know who’s screening, address them by name. Otherwise, generic salutations are fine.
I’ve come across pages claiming it’s no longer acceptable to write generic salutations (“ To whom it may concern ”); however, in consulting firms where the screening process is assigned to junior consultants on an availability basis, you don’t always know who’s reading your letter, so such salutations are okay.
On the other hand, if you happen to be applying into a small, new office, and your networking efforts are successful, you may know your screener. In that case, refer them by name for a greater impact.
If you can replace the industry and the firm in your letter with something similar and it still makes sense, your tailoring is not enough.
Your motivations should be based on unique and defining descriptions – for example, McKinsey having the largest support network for consultants, or Bain being the frattiest among MBB consulting firms.
Non-unique reasons, such as “prestigious brand name” or “interesting projects” can apply to basically every major consulting firm out there, so they’re not strong bases for your choices.
Use formal language throughout, and keep standard your heading and salutation.
Show your uniqueness and creativity only through the main content sections. Other “procedural” parts of the cover letter should always remain formulaic – see the sample section.
The language in the main paragraph should also remain formal, i.e no slang, no contraction, no overuse of exclamations.
Avoid short-term motivations
Don’t say you’re in for a 2-year learning experience, or your application will be heading for the bin very, very quickly.
It’s costly to turn fresh graduates into effective consultants, so firms don’t want candidates who will bail out just after they’ve become useful. They want people who will stay in the firm for as long as they can – they want future partners.
You might include long-term plans concerning other industries, but don’t give the impression that you’re bailing out in a few years. If that’s your plan, don’t even mention it.
Proofread and edit
Writing cover letters should be a long process of continuous proofreading, feedback, and editing.
It’s best to find a former/working consultant or at least someone who’s knowledgeable about the industry to help you out. Consulting cover letters differ from normal ones quite considerably, so generic guidelines won’t be of much use.
It’s also very helpful to allow intervals of at least a few days between writing and proofreading sessions; you will find it easier to spot errors if you proofread with a “fresh” mind.
Try to avoid format, spelling, and grammar mistakes at all costs. In consulting cover letters, such mistakes are much less tolerated.
Cover letter file format
Always send your cover letters in the PDF format (most screeners expect you to do so).
This file format will make sure your cover letter appears the same on every computer, and it minimizes the damage that may occur in the file transfer process (by contrast, DOC files are vulnerable to numerous errors).
Depending on the computer, PDFs may look cleaner than DOCs – one possible bonus point for appearance.
Still not sure whether your cover letter is good enough? Book a meeting with former consultants. Our coaches will show you how to make your resume stand out among thousands of candidates.
Cover letter example
Now that you’ve learned the secrets to the best story-telling cover letter, let’s have a little exercise and help the First President write one to McKinsey, shall we?
(The content in this sample letter is largely fictional for illustration purposes)
George Washington [email protected] Mount Vernon Plantation, Fairfax County, Virginia, U.S.A July 4, 1789
To whom it may concern,
My purpose in life is to liberate the American people and lead them to prosperity. The revolution of the Thirteen Colonies was up against the largest military force in the world – the British Empire – at a four-to-one disadvantage – few if any country had come up against such odds victoriously. And that was the situation I was in, as the leader of the revolution.
Under my lead, the revolutionaries mobilized internal support from 2.4 million soon-to-be American citizens and external support from allies in France. This support allowed us to remain operational even after severe defeats, which would otherwise put an end to the revolution. After six years, the Colonies came out victorious and was recognized as the new United States of America. War is over, so my new task is to steer the newfound States towards economic prosperity – and consulting experience at McKinsey will help a great deal with that.
I happen to also run a plantation business – Mount Vernon by name – which was McKinsey’s client during our expansion project in 1785. I was extremely impressed by the highly structured and data-based approach that McKinsey consultants took to deliver their solutions, and even more impressed by the incredible network of experts that was backing our project.
Through Ms. E.M – the Engagement Manager for our project from McKinsey’s DC Office – I came to be aware of the firm’s expertise in the public sector – which was recognized as being the overall best among major consulting firms.
And for that reason, I realized a consultant position at McKinsey DC will give me invaluable exposure in the public sector, both from its projects and its vicinity to the country’s capital.
I will be looking forward to speaking with you in person, about how I can put my experience as a former head-of-state and an entrepreneur to work at McKinsey.
Sincerely yours, George Washington
Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment
The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment
Consulting Resume Toolkit
Get the fundamental of crafting a "consulting-like" resume with the most powerful secret toolkit.
You can refer on guides, tips, examples & templates in this article to build a excellent resume rely on the necessary criteria of a Management Consulting Firms
Hacking the Case Interview
Are you struggling to write your consulting cover letter? Don't worry, because we'll walk you through step-by-step how to write the perfect consulting cover letter that will capture the attention of the reader, tell your story, and help you land multiple consulting interviews.
In this article, we'll cover in detail:
- What is a consulting cover letter?
- What do recruiters look for in consulting cover letters?
- How to write the best consulting cover letter
- How to format your consulting cover letter
- Consulting cover letter tips
- What to do when consulting cover letters are optional
While you are preparing your cover letters, you should also be preparing for your consulting case interviews. You will need to ace every single case interview in order to land a consulting job offer.
If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course . These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.
What is a Consulting Cover Letter?
A consulting cover letter is a document that introduces yourself to a recruiter or resume reviewer. In addition to your resume, cover letters are another component of your application that consulting firms use to determine whether or not you should receive an interview.
Cover letters are a quick way to screen out weak candidates. A cover letter that is generic and filled with errors leaves a negative impression on readers. Poor cover letters signal a lack of interest in consulting, poor writing skills, and a lack of attention to detail.
However, cover letters are also an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates. They can help get your foot into the door for a consulting job interview.
Through a cover letter, you can go beyond what is listed on your resume and provide further context and background on your work experiences. Additionally, you have the opportunity to tell readers who you are as a person, what your motivations are, and what makes you special.
Cover letters also give you an opportunity to explain potential red flags in your application or profile. Do you have a low GPA? Do you have a long gap in your work history? You can use part of your cover letter to address these concerns.
Overall, if your resume is on the borderline between receiving an interview and not receiving an interview, your cover letter will be the deciding factor. Candidates that don’t have the strongest resumes benefit the most from having outstanding cover letters.
While your resume is the most important component in getting consulting job interviews, your cover letter can still make a meaningful and significant difference.
What do Recruiters Look for in Consulting Cover Letters?
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of consulting recruiters. What would we want to see in a candidate’s cover letter?
Ideally, we would want to interview candidates that have the highest potential to become great consultants. In order to determine which candidates would make great future consultants, we need to look at their background and work experiences to determine if they have the right skills and qualities to succeed in consulting.
We would also want to interview candidates that are genuinely interested in a career in consulting. It is a huge waste of resources to interview candidates that applied last-minute because they are unsure of what kind of career they want to pursue.
Finally, we would only want to interview candidates that would likely accept a job offer if given one. Interviewing candidates that are applying to the firm as a backup choice is not ideal because it is a waste of resources since these candidates may not even accept the job offer if given one.
Therefore, recruiters look for three major things in consulting cover letters:
- Does the candidate have the skills, experiences, and background to become a great consultant?
- Does the candidate understand consulting and what they are getting into?
- Is the candidate genuinely interested in working for the firm?
To have an outstanding consulting cover letter, you will need to address all of these points and remove any doubt from the recruiter’s mind on whether you would be a great candidate to interview.
How to Write the Best Consulting Cover Letter
There are six components to a great consulting cover letter. We’ll go through each section and describe exactly how to best write each component.
Three body paragraphs
This section of the cover letter is a formality. You’ll want to include the following information in the header section:
- Phone Number
- Date you are sending the letter
Although your resume will already have this information, you want your cover letter to also have your contact information to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to contact you.
Keep the header short to give yourself more room to write your cover letter.
You should tailor your salutation to the consulting firm that you are applying for. Do not start your cover letter with “To whom it may concern.” This salutation is not personalized and feels cold.
Instead, identify which recruiter is the primary point of contact for you and address the cover letter to that recruiter and their team. If you can’t identify the head recruiter, address the cover letter to members of the consulting firm’s recruiting team.
Here are a few examples of salutations you can use:
- Dear [Recruiter] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
- To [Recruiter] and the Bain recruiting team,
- Dear members of the BCG recruiting team,
The first sentence of your opening paragraph should be a powerful statement that summarizes your areas of expertise and the number of years of experience. If you had to summarize your entire background and work experience into one sentence, what would it sound like?
This powerful opening sentence is used to grab the reader’s attention and introduce yourself in an impressive way.
The second sentence should state what specific role you are applying for at the consulting firm. Do you research to ensure that you are using the correct job title since many consulting firms have different job titles for similar positions.
For example, McKinsey’s entry level role is called “Business Analyst,” BCG’s entry level role is called “Associate,” and Bain’s entry level role is called “Associate Consultant.”
McKinsey’s post-MBA role is called “Associate” while BCG and Bain’s post-MBA role is called “Consultant.”
The next sentence should describe why you are interested in the consulting firm. Do your research on the consulting firm so that you are giving specific, compelling reasons why you are interested. You need to convince readers that their firm is your top choice.
Example : I am a marketing professional with four years of experience working on digital marketing projects that have generated over $100M in revenue at Amazon and Walmart. I am excited to be applying for McKinsey’s Associate position. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s leadership in their Marketing & Sales practice, unparalleled investment in mentoring and professional development, and commitment to delivering outstanding results to clients.
The next three body paragraphs should focus on why you would be a great fit for the consulting firm and what qualities you would bring to the firm. These body paragraphs should best highlight your qualities and experiences.
In order to tailor your cover letter to the specific consulting firm you are applying for, do research to identify what qualities each firm is looking for. Many firms explicitly state on their website the characteristics or things that they look for in candidates.
For example, McKinsey looks for leadership, entrepreneurial drive, personal impact, and problem solving. Bain looks for problem-solving skills, the ability to lead, results delivery, and passion.
Start this section of your consulting cover letter with a sentence that summarizes what three qualities you’ll be highlighting about yourself.
- I believe I would be a great fit for McKinsey because I have an entrepreneurial drive, adaptable leadership style, and an aspiration to make a meaningful impact on the world.
- If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my problem-solving skills, leadership, and passion.
In the following body paragraphs, go into more detail on each of these qualities or characteristics. The key is to show readers that you have these qualities, don’t just tell them.
Carefully pick what stories or experiences you want to share. Pick the stories and accomplishments that are the most impressive, impactful, and memorable.
Finally, keep your body paragraphs concise, which increases the likelihood that the reader will actually read through the full cover letter. You do not want to have three large, chunky paragraphs.
Below is an example of what a body paragraph could look like. You can start your body paragraph with the quality you are going to be talking about in bold to make it easier for readers to skim your cover letter.
Personal impact : While working at Amazon, I identified an opportunity to use customer data to determine if Amazon’s $50M investment in customer service initiatives generated positive returns on investment. I analyzed over 700K customer data points to create a model forecasting customer value. I collaborated with data science, customer experience, and finance teams to get their support and buy-in. In the end, I determined that Amazon’s investment had a negative 40% return on investment. I presented my findings to my thirty-person team and CFO and convinced them of my recommendation to stop the customer service initiatives. My work would save Amazon $50M per year moving forward.
The closing paragraph should be very short, typically just two sentences.
In the first sentence, you should reiterate that you would be a great fit for the consulting firm. In the second sentence, you want to thank the reader for their time and consideration.
Example : I believe that these qualities would make me a great fit for McKinsey. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Finish your cover letter with a professional closing phrase and your name. Appropriate closing phrases to use include:
- Best regards
How to format your Consulting Cover Letter
In addition to having great content in your consulting cover letter, you should also have great formatting. The goal in formatting your cover letter is to make it look professional and easy to read.
You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to see that you are a great candidate to interview. Follow the formatting tips below:
- Keep your cover letter to one page : Your cover letter needs to be no more than one page. If your cover letter is longer, you will need to find ways to make it more concise. No one likes reading long cover letters, which is why almost all cover letters are kept to a single page.
- Use 1-inch margins : Margins less than 1-inch make the text in your cover letter look cramped and small, which is not aesthetically pleasing. Using 1-inch margins ensures that you give yourself enough room to write, but also keeps enough white space around your text that makes it easier to read.
- Use standard fonts : Use a font that readers are used to seeing that are easy to read. You cannot go wrong with using Times New Roman, Arial, Courier New, Calibri, or Verdana. These are standard, professional fonts that have been used for many years.
- Use 12-point font : You don’t want readers to be straining their eyes while reviewing your consulting cover letter. Tiny font sizes make your cover letter difficult to read. Therefore, use a minimum 12-point font size.
- Submit your cover letter in a PDF format : Submitting your cover letter in a PDF format ensures readers will be able to open your cover letter file and that there will be no formatting issues. People have different versions of different word processors, so submitting your cover letter as a word document may lead to incompatibility issues.
Consulting Cover Letter Tips
Below are eight of the best consulting cover letter tips to help give your cover letter an edge over other candidates.
If you are finding this consulting cover letter guide helpful, we also have a step-by-step guide to writing the perfect consulting resume .
Tip #1: Research the specific qualities that the consulting firm is looking for
In order to tailor your cover letter, research the specific qualities that the consulting firm is looking for. Many consulting firms explicitly state what qualities or characteristics they look for in candidates on their websites.
This not only demonstrates why you would be a great fit for the firm, but also demonstrates that you are highly interested in the firm because you took the time to research the qualities that they care most about.
Tip #2: Avoid simply repeating things on your resume
Many candidates make the mistake of simply repeating achievements and accomplishments from their resume on their cover letter. This is a wasted opportunity because recruiters and resume reviewers will be looking at your resume anyways.
Providing redundant information in your cover letter does not help strengthen your application.
The cover letter provides an opportunity to go beyond what is listed on your resume. You should take advantage of this by telling readers who you are as a person, what your motivations are, and what makes you special.
You can include points from your resume, but make sure you provide further context on your achievements and accomplishments so that readers can learn something new about you.
Tip #3: Don’t use generic cover letter templates
As a recruiter, there is nothing worse than reading a generic cover letter. Recruiters read thousands of cover letters each year. They know when a cover letter is written using a generic template without much thought.
Do not fall into the trap of using a generic cover letter template and then inserting the name of the consulting firm that you are applying for.
If you really want your cover letter to stand out, you’ll need to invest the time to write a cover letter specific to each consulting firm that you are applying for.
To test if your cover letter is generic, swap the name of the consulting firm for another consulting firm. If the cover letter still works and makes sense, your cover letter is likely too generic.
Tip #4: Pick your best stories and accomplishments
Cover letters are meant to be short and sweet. You won’t have enough space to write about all of your accomplishments and experiences.
Therefore, you should carefully pick what you share in your cover letter. Pick the stories and accomplishments that are the most impressive, impactful, and memorable.
Tip #5: Quantify your results and impact
Just as you would do in your resume, quantify your results and impact that you share in your cover letter. Consultants think in terms of numbers, so the more you can quantify your achievements, the more impressive and credible they will be.
If you improved something at work, how much did you improve it by? If you helped increase sales, how much did revenues increase? If a project you worked on performed well, how much better did it perform compared to benchmarks?
Tip #6: Keep your cover letter concise and punchy
Recruiters sometimes read hundreds of cover letters over just a couple of days. Reading cover letters is highly repetitive and recruiters have short attention spans.
Therefore, keep your cover letter concise and punchy to increase the likelihood that the reader will get through the entire cover letter.
How do you make your cover letter punchy?
First, try to reduce the number of words needed to tell a story or explain an accomplishment. Second, focus on sharing only the most impressive and unique stories and accomplishments. This will make your cover letter more interesting to read.
Tip #7: Mention current or former employees you have talked to
If you’ve spoken with employees of the consulting firm that you are applying to, mention this in your cover letter. It is a simple, but effective way to demonstrate that you are interested in the firm.
However, don’t just mention names for the sake of name dropping. Go deeper and explain what you talked with these employees about and what you learned about the firm from these conversations.
Doing this signals to recruiters that you are genuinely interested in the firm because you took the time to learn about what it is like to work at the firm and what makes the firm great.
Tip #8: Double check that you are addressing the right firm or person
Finally, double check or triple check that you are addressing the cover letter to the right consulting firm or person.
If you were a recruiter for McKinsey, how would you feel if a candidate submitted a cover letter that is addressed to BCG or Bain?
There are many stories of candidates with strong resumes and backgrounds getting their applications rejected because they accidentally forgot to change the consulting firm’s name on their cover letters. Don’t let this happen to you.
Ideally, you will be writing customized cover letters that are tailored to each firm, so you will not need to be replacing a consulting firm’s name for another firm’s name for your cover letters.
What to do when Consulting Cover Letters are Optional?
Some consulting firms, such as McKinsey, make their cover letter optional to make it easier for candidates to apply. If a cover letter is optional, what should you do?
If you have a strong resume, you likely won’t need to submit a cover letter in order to get an interview.
If you were previously rejected from the consulting firm, it may be beneficial to submit a cover letter in order to explain how you have improved and grown since your last application. You will need to convince recruiters why you are a great candidate to interview this time around.
Finally, if you have any red flags on your resume, such as a low GPA or a long gap in work history, it will be beneficial to submit a cover letter to explain these circumstances. You will need to remove any doubt from recruiters’ minds that these red flags do not reflect your quality as a candidate.
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you should submit a cover letter if it adds incremental value to your application beyond what is listed on your resume. If you are just going to be submitting a generic cover letter, it may not help your application much.
However, if you are willing to take the time to research the consulting firm and write a customized cover letter, you should definitely do so. Outstanding cover letters can only help your overall application.
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Consulting Cover Letter Samples and Writing Tips
- Cover Letters
- Skills & Keywords
- Salary & Benefits
- Letters & Emails
- Job Listings
- Job Interviews
- Career Advice
- Work-From-Home Jobs
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
- Tips for a Successful Cover Letter
Consulting Cover Letter Samples
How to send an email cover letter.
When applying for a job as a consultant , your cover letter should include your career history and key accomplishments, as well as providing a glimpse into your personality. If you do not have previous consulting experience, highlight relevant projects completed in college or graduate school.
By its nature, consulting positions call for flexibility. Not only do consultants frequently travel for work, visiting businesses around the world, but they need to be able to quickly understand how companies do business, identifying problems, and proposing recommended improvements.
Before you start writing, read the job description carefully to learn which types of skills, experience, and expertise the employer wants in a job candidate. For example, consulting jobs often require statistical analysis, research, interview skills, public speaking and presenting, as well as job-specific software knowledge and experience.
Take the time to match your qualifications to the job to increase your chances of landing an interview.
Research has shown that hiring managers spend seconds reviewing application materials. If you have a contact at the company, mention them right up front so that the reader can’t miss it.
Demonstrate Your Flexibility
Make sure your cover letter demonstrates your flexibility, along with other skills that are essential for consultants, such as communication and leadership skills .
Tell a Story
Your cover letter should go beyond the resume to tell the story of why you’re the ideal candidate for the job. Think of it as a sales pitch: you’re trying to get the hiring manager interested enough to read your resume.
Reference Your Relevant Experience and Skills
But don't just write a list of positions and responsibilities (that's what your resume is for) or make statements about your abilities and skills. Instead, tell a story—follow the classic writing advice of "show, don't tell."
Share an Example
Instead of saying, "I'm a hard worker and good with the details," provide a specific example of a time when you demonstrated grit and follow-through with a project. Employers are most impressed by measurable results. So, if you’ve made or saved a company money, or increased an important metric by a certain percent, be sure to mention it.
Tips for Writing a Successful Consulting Cover Letter
In your cover letter, as in any cover letter, you are making a case for your candidacy. Follow these strategies to make an effective case:
Personalize the Letter You Send
While it may seem like a timesaver, avoid creating a generic form letter and sending it off with every consultant application. Your cover letter will be more persuasive if it's targeted to the specific company and job at hand. In your letter, explain why you are eager to work for this company in particular. For instance, maybe the company specializes in helping businesses based in Asia expand to the United States, and you wrote a thesis on that very topic.
If you have a connection at the company, you can mention the person's name (with permission) to strengthen your cover letter.
Proofread Your Writing
Check and double-check your cover letter for grammar and wording. Before you hit the send button on your email or place your letter in an envelope, read through it carefully. Make sure it follows the correct cover letter format. Proofread carefully, checking for typos and grammatical errors .
Check Your Attachments
Confirm that any attachments mentioned in the email are indeed attached and that the recipient's name and the company name are spelled correctly.
The following is an example of a cover letter for a graduate-level consulting job. Also, see below for an entry-level cover letter sample. Use these sample cover letters as a guide, but remember to adjust the details to fit your situation and the specific position you are applying for. You'll find more advice on how to craft an effective, successful consultant cover letter below the examples.
Consultant Cover Letter Template
You can use this cover letter sample as a model. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.
Consultant Cover Letter Sample
John Applicant 123 Main Street Anytown, CA 12345 555-555-1234 email@example.com
February 22, 2021
Sean Lee Manager ABC Consulting Group 123 Business Rd. Business City, NY 54321
Dear Mr. Lee,
I am a second-year Smith Business School student interested in interviewing for a full-time consultant position with The ABC Consulting Group. I believe that the ABC Consulting Group has the ideal culture in which to pursue my goal of becoming a strategic business leader and thinker.
My professional experience and Smith Business School education have prepared me to be successful at The ABC Consulting Group. Leading a high-level project to develop a China entry and growth strategy in the new media industry for Television Networks Asia gave me invaluable global strategy experience.
Furthermore, interviewing senior executives and entrepreneurs of top media and technology companies gave me the unique opportunity to engage in high-level business discussions with leaders of the industry.
While at DEF Consulting as a consultant, I managed global information security projects, which gave me experience in the consultative and client service approach. As a joint-degree student (MBA/MA International Studies), I have the flexibility in both language and culture to operate successfully in many different contexts.
Finally, as a musician and producer of my own record, I have developed the capacity to think creatively and entrepreneurially.
I firmly believe that I will be a good fit in The ABC Consulting Group's collaborative, entrepreneurial, and intellectual culture. I am excited at the prospect of working for The ABC Consulting Group upon graduation and have enclosed my resume for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Signature (hard copy letter)
Entry-Level Consulting Cover Letter Example
Louise Jones 123 Main Street Anytown, CA 12345 555-555-1234 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. John Doe A.T. Killen 222 West Dover Street Chicago, IL 60606
Dear Mr. Doe:
I had the opportunity to work closely with Jane Smith, an A.T. Killen consultant in the Higher Education Practice, as a member of XYZ University's Presidential Search Committee. This was my first exposure to the consulting profession, and it was a perfect match for someone with my academic record, communication and leadership skills, and drive to succeed.
I have shown initiative, creativity in problem-solving, and a commitment to building consensus and excellence throughout our college community during the last four years. As an intern in the Office of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, I worked with the Senior Advising team to provide accurate, effective, and concise statistical and anecdotal data to a variety of constituents in order to support legislative proposals. I combined the written and oral skills I have gained from courses in American Studies and Government with quantitative and analytical training in a high-intensity environment.
As Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Student Government Association and a student representative on several college committees (including the one which nominated the sixth President of XYZ University), I have learned:
- to use language precisely and effectively
- to articulate well to a range of audiences
- the value of integrity and persistence in working toward short- and long-term personal and institutional goals
The opportunity to effect positive change for a range of institutions is the most attractive aspect of consulting for me. Employees have described A.T. Killen as "down to earth" and as having an "open culture."
I feel lucky to have been part of a college community whose openness has allowed for measured risks and the candor necessary to achieve its goals, and I hope to begin my career in a similarly rigorous and collegial environment where I can learn from industry leaders. I look forward to exploring further my opportunities at A.T. Killen and will call next week to see if it is possible to arrange an interview.
Signature (hard copy letter)
If you're sending a cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message. Include your contact information in your email signature, and don't list the employer's contact information. Start your email message with the salutation.
Subject Line Example
Consultant Position - John Doe
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