The Rules of the Consulting Resume
Once you’ve set your sights on consulting as a career path—and figured out what type of firm you would like to work for—the next step is to get your resume ready.
By now, you have probably realized that consulting requires a more unique (and sometimes hard to describe skill set) than your regular marketing or accounting job. So it should come as no surprise that you’ll need to adjust your resume accordingly.
To help you prepare the most compelling application possible, I’ve broken down the differences between a general resume and one that’ll shine in the consulting world. Follow these tips and guidelines, and you’ll craft an application that shows off exactly what consulting firms want to see.
On Any Resume: Include Your Education
On a Consulting Resume: Be Specific About Your GPA
While you should include your degrees and institutions on any resume, listing your specific GPA generally isn’t advised. But on the consulting resume, it’s a must. In fact, it is standard practice to include your cumulative grade point average (not past semester or past two years) and class ranking if available.
So, make sure to stick your education and GPA somewhere prominent and easy to find on your resume—right at the top if you are a new or recent grad. Just make sure they don’t take up more than a line or two, so you have plenty of space to talk about the things that make you really stand out from the rest of the well-educated, highly achieved applicant pool. On that note:
On Any Resume: Highlight Your Skills
On a Consulting Resume: Focus on Your Soft Skills
For any job, showing off your abilities on your resume is important. But while most people highlight their functional or hard skills—like great financial modeling or project management experience—consulting prowess always comes down to the soft skills.
In other words, you can highlight your tangible skills, but don’t rely on them to get you through the process. Your resume (and cover letter) should demonstrate both your interest and competence at core consulting skills such as problem solving, communication, client management, and general high achievement. For advice on how to do this effectively, Lily Zhang has some great tips.
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On Any Resume: Talk About Your Achievements
On a Consulting Resume: Quantify Them as Much as Possible
It’s common resume knowledge that you should talk about not only what you did, but also the outcomes you achieved. In a consulting resume, you’ll want to take this a step further and quantity your experiences and accomplishments.
For example, if you won a business case competition, you should also include what you placed and how many teams you were up against (e.g., 2nd place out of 15 teams). The same goes for work or volunteer experience. If you managed a team, state how many members there were. If you implemented a cost-saving initiative, include the dollar or percentage savings that occurred as a result of your work. It’s this extra level of detail that will illustrate your impact as compared to other applicants—and bring your high achievement to life.
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On Any Resume: Be Succinct
On a Consulting Resume: Be Even More Succinct
Communication is one of the most important skills for consultants, and the best way for you to show this skill off before you get in the door for an interview is in how you write your resume.
While it’s always important not to be long-winded (that 8.5x11” sheet of paper may only be reviewed for a couple minutes, if that), it’s extra important on a consulting resume. Crafting short, compelling bullet points shows that you’re able to weed through a lot of information (your experiences and accomplishments) to pull out the most important tidbits, that you can quickly and clearly communicate, and that you’re able to make an effective and compelling case. If you can do it for yourself, you can certainly do it for client work!
On Any Resume: Don’t Be Humble
On a Consulting Resume: Blow Your Own Horn, Loudly
Consulting is a competitive field, which means everyone is doing their best to showcase themselves (and most of them are superstars). So, if you don’t use your resume as an opportunity to show how great you are, guaranteed someone else will—and will ultimately shine a bit brighter.
Here’s an example: Through my resume reviewing experience, I have seen people with similar backgrounds represent them in largely different ways. One candidate might provide a one-liner listing of the experience hoping it will speak for itself (e.g., “Lead volunteer team”), while others will use it to their advantage (e.g., Lead a volunteer team of 5 to provide consulting services to a nonprofit which ultimately led to a 20% increase in fundraising).
The lesson: For every statement you make on your resume, see how you can take it a few steps further to describe how awesome you are. While showing off can be difficult to do, it is really important for landing a job in consulting—as is putting in the work to make your resume stand out from the pack.
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Photo of hands writing courtesy of Shutterstock.
Alex Nuth is a Management Consultant at Accenture and has worked across a number of industries and functional areas helping clients solve some of their largest and most important challenges. She graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2011 where her courses focused on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She enjoys travelling and has worked in both China and Colombia.More from this Author