The consulting cover letter. We get a lot of questions about it and you'd think that we would get more questions about the consulting resume which to be fair we get some, but we get so many questions about the consulting cover letter and I think there are two reasons for that. Number one, it's a very personal
experience to create a consulting cover letter. Second, and probably more importantly how firms use consulting cover letters are different and there's a lot of nuance to it and having an insider's opinion can be really helpful. I'm Jenny Rae Le Roux, the managing director of Management Consulted, and for over ten years I've been coaching people on how to get into consulting. In fact we get over 2500 people into consulting a year and we're the largest firm on consulting recruitment and consulting in general and we really really love working with y'all. As I talk today I want to just lay out a couple of things, What is the consulting cover letter and how is it different from other places, what the consulting firm view is of cover letters,
how the consulting cover letters screening process works, and then the top ten consultant cover letter tips. In addition, we have some cover letter samples that are available on our website so I just want to go ahead and tease that for you, I'll reference that a little bit more later, and then finally I'm gonna conclude with some common cover letter mistakes to avoid. So to begin with, what is the consulting cover letter and what should you do with it? The consulting cover letter serves three main purposes in the recruitment process and I'm not just saying that there are three because I'm an ex-consultant, I'm saying there are three because there are 3. Number one and probably most importantly, the consulting cover letter is an unofficial writing test. It's an open book writing test where I say just write me something and I get to see your voice and your style. As a consultant one of the things I do not want to train you on is how to write. I'll train you what to write, but not how to write. So communicating effectively will be incredibly critical and having this writing sample is one test for that. The second thing that I'm looking for is your ability to present yourself in a story format, in a qualitative manner. Are you able instead of just bullet points in your to pull it all together into a single cohesive story? Again, as a consultant with numbers and with presentations I'm going to ask you to do that, I'm
gonna ask you to pull a story together, so I want to make sure that you have the ability to do that in story format. Finally, I want to get to know you. I want you to tell me your story, so the cover letter is an opportunity for me to get a more personal look into not the what of what you did, which is what your resume says, but the why of why you did it, and this gives me great insight into what motivates you, what inspires you and if I want to get to know you better or not. Now, the consulting firm view of cover letters differs by firm. McKinsey does not require a cover letter, so there is really no such thing as a McKinsey
cover letter. Of course there are slight exceptions to this where McKinsey in some locations does ask for a cover letter. But honestly, when McKinsey says they don't want a cover letter, they don't want a cover letter so pretty much across the board you can assume there is no such thing as a McKinsey cover letter. For BCG, there is such a thing as a BCG cover letter. For Bain, there's such a thing as a Bain cover letter. For Deloitte there's a Deloitte cover letter. For Booz Allen Hamilton there's a Booz Allen Hamilton cover letter. So are their cover letters, yes. But BCG and Bain and Deloitte and LEK and all the other firms that look for cover letters look for only slightly different things in them, which is one of the secrets that we have when we're editing cover letters. Your cover letter can be 90% the same across different firms. Your resume can be 95% the same across different firms and we are super into efficiency. What needs to change? There's one paragraph inside the cover letter that is, what do you like about this firm? That paragraph needs to change and it needs to be as personal as possible
for each firm. Our top 10 consulting cover letter tips have to do with the way that we think about consulting in general and how you should therefore use your cover letter. Tip number one is that you need
to include five key components in every cover letter. Component number one is an introduction, just an overview of who you are, that's the first paragraph in every cover letter. Reason number two but not necessarily in this order, are the reasons or the story behind why you're interested in that specific consulting firm. Like I mentioned, that's the "why the firm?" Separate paragraph, that will be different by company. Why you're interested in consulting, so you're going to talk about what it is about consulting in particular that you're interested in. Why you're qualified, what you've done in your background and a conclusion. Now, why you're interested in consulting and why you're qualified is going to be woven into your story that could be told in two different ways. One way is a chronological format and the other way is bullet points. Everything else, those are separate paragraphs. Tip number two, is that you need to use anecdotes and details, story but specifics. Anecdotes
are when you're illustrating something, and so instead of saying I did this and this and this, I don't want a list in a cover letter. I want to hear about what you did, and how you did it and what the result was. I want to hear a hero story, a car story, the same that we would tell in the fit interview. Details mean that I want data, I want as much of it as you can give me. I want to know how many people were there, how long it took, what the key pieces were to get it right, I want to know everything about the anecdotes and details process. Tip number three is that you need to keep your cover letter to one page. I don't love to see cover letters that are shorter than one page, it's like a short resume is reflective of not having everything that you need to qualify for the job, but longer than one page is just an absolute no. So keep every cover letter to one page. The cover letter, tip number four, the cover letter is designed to show not tell. If your cover letter is not saying something that your resume isn't, it's not effective, so the two should complement one another, but
not be the same. So make sure that you're showing using story, using depth, not telling like you would on the resume. Tip number five is start writing your consulting cover letter ASAP. When people write them the night before, it shows. It comes across that you haven't finessed or thought through your entire cover letter process, and you didn't leave yourself time to get help with an edit. By the way,
we would love to help you edit your cover letter. Tip number six is do your research. I recommended in a number of our other videos, how to network effectively in consulting. Doing your research is one piece of the networking process. If you understand the firm and you've met with someone there, you can effectively tell a why the firm story inside your cover letter. Doing your research really doesn't involve online research. That's what you do before you network. Doing your research for the cover letter involves having at least one informational interview. Tip number seven is use a personal tone and short paragraphs. When you use a personal tone, it engages people, if you use an academic tone it distances people. So the personal tone
will seem like it's much more accessible and make you seem more vivid and alive. Tip number eight is get your cover letter reviewed by others. Not by 17 other people but by two. One person to see one part of it, another person to see another. It's actually really helpful to get your cover letter reviewed by somebody who knows you really well who can recommend if there are parts of your story that you didn't highlight in your cover letter that are valid, and somebody
who doesn't know you very well, who can distance themselves from you and say, this is amazing but this is missing, or this comes across oddly. Tip number nine is that when you submit your cover letter, you need to submit and send it as a PDF. Honestly, when we work with somebody for three hours on a cover letter back and forth, and then they submit it as a Word document and half of it shows up on the other side, it's the most painful thing. So, doesn't happen very often but when it does, it makes us cringe. Please please just submit it as a PDF. And the tip number 10 is double triple and quadruple check your spelling, and probably most importantly the firm name. The most common mistake that I saw when reviewing cover letters at Bain was that people would write me a Bain cover letter with Bain and six of the firm locations but McKinsey in one of them, and it would just stand out to me automatically.
Now, the consulting cover letter screening process. I want to tell you just a little bit about how I used consulting cover letters at Bain as a part of the screening process for the interview, and then I'll talk a little bit about how some of them are used in different firms as well. So at Bain, we have a lot of freedom in how we evaluated different people. At McKinsey they kind of give you rules, of course, but at Bain we had a lot of freedom and they would just say, hey here's a scoring chart 1 of 4, if you like them, put the number there, if you don't like them put the number there, right. So we would just go through and our number had to be comprehensive across if it was available.
Transcript, application, resume, and cover letter. So my method was to read one line of the cover letter first. If it came across as distant or academic or incorrect in any way I automatically gave people the lowest score. It was an easy filter for me where I knew that they wouldn't make it through the final process. But if I was engaged by their cover letter I would move over to the resume and I would begin at the bottom, the interests line to get a sense of how people are. Finally if people don't use it as an initial screen then they might use it at the end. So in other firms that we've talked to or from people that are on our team from McKinsey and BCG for example, remember McKinsey doesn't use these but at BCG they do. And at BCG often the cover letter is used as more of a second part of the process, so once the initial people have been screened
out through resumes, people will read the cover letters as a like a tiebreaker if you will. We're not totally sure about this person so let's get to know them a little bit more. Those are usually the two primary ways, either as an initial screen like I did it, or a get-to-know-you when somebody is on the fence about a specific candidate. Let me just end by saying that we have a bunch of cover letter samples available on our website. There is a link available here on the screen and some of the resumes that we cover. A McKinsey cover letter sample, an undergrad cover letter sample, an MBA cover letter sample and even an experienced hire cover letter sample. We have more cover letter samples available and we can do your cover letter edit for you, we'd really love to
help with that. Finally I'm just gonna end with some common cover letter mistakes to avoid. Number one if you just use a template that you find online without customizing it for consulting, you're gonna find yourself in very distant 1975 land, so don't go there. If you want templates use ours, if you want examples, use ours. Don't go over one page or make the cover letter too short. Just don't do that. Number three, use super small font if you want to make a mistake, use normal font size 11 or 12 if you don't. People don't want to feel like they're squinting to read your cover letter and they don't want to feel like it's long. So super small margins, super small font are out. Typos or grammatical errors, that's amateur hour. No no no. Don't name drop if you have never talked to or met the person that you're name dropping. It's not the very worst thing to do but it's not going to
get you what you want, which is a referral or recommendation, so ideally talk about somebody that you met with. Don't be overly enthusiastic, you should use zero exclamation points inside your cover letter. Number seven do not rely on yourself, do not do it alone, send your letter to others and receive suggestions. Once you do it, when we do our cover letter edits, we do one cover
letter edit and then we review, if necessary, a couple of other "why the firm" paragraphs. But you have a cover letter that you can use for a hundred jobs. The cover letter for consulting is going to be a top-of-the-line cover letter so if you want to do it once this is the way to do it. Number eight, don't rehash your resume. We already heard it on the resume, we want something different, new color, new showing. Number nine, don't sound overly confident or arrogant and don't sound under confident or not ready for the job. So don't use soft language like "I believe I would be a good fit." No. "I am confident," but not "I am the best fit you've ever seen." So, you're trying to find that balance between arrogance and confidence and incompetence, so
confidence is that middle range where you're trying to strike. Finally, don't list the wrong firm or position. This alone will ruin your chances. We hope that you've enjoyed this video on consulting cover letters and we would love love love to help you with your consulting cover letter. If you've got more questions about consulting resumes, cover letters, or anything in the application process, we're here to help. Find us at www.managementconsulted.com or on social.