Consulting Cover Letter

by Victor Cheng

by 

As a former McKinsey resume screener, I’ve read a lot of consulting cover letters for consulting roles of all types.

Most applicants severely under-estimate the importance of the cover letter and end up paying more attention to the consulting resume/CV than they do the cover letter. I would argue the effort allocation should be reversed — much more time put into the cover letter than the resume or CV.

Here’s why.

Without a good cover letter it is 1) hard to stand out, and 2) easy to get overlooked by accident.

When someone like me screens cover letters and resumes, we usually do so in batches — dozens if not hundreds of applicants at the same time. When I was on the McKinsey Stanford recruiting team, I had to go through a stack of 400 resumes and consulting cover letters in a few hours.

Keep in mind these were 400 applicants ALL of whom were in the process of graduating from Stanford. So the applicant pool was already pretty strong.

From an resume screener’s point of view, reviewing that many cover letters is a very painful experience. All the cover letters look and sound the same.

It is VERY obvious that most of them are mail merge letters that look like this:


Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to apply for the with .

My background as a XYZ Position, I feel I would be a good fit for the position.

Blah, blah, blah… BORING.
—-

The reason boring is a problem is because it shows the reader that YOU DO NOT CARE about this role. It doesn’t show that you’ve done any homework about this company or role.

In other words, from an interest standpoint you have not distinguished yourself in the slightest.

This is both a problem and an opportunity. No matter how qualified you may or may not be (which is too late to change at this point), you CAN control how much interest you show to the resume / cover letter reader.

In addition, a good cover letter should pinpoint the SPECIFIC items on the resume or CV that DIRECTLY RELATES to what the employer is looking for in that role.

As a resume screener, I did not READ every resume submitted. I SCAN them looking for recognizable keywords. These keywords are basically brand names (universities and employers), Test Scores, GPAs.

The problem for you is that when a resume screener (note: I didn’t say resume “reader”) scans your resume he/she is prone to overlooking things you might want to emphasize. This is especially the case if what you have done is impressive, but not encapsulated in a brand name that is easily recognizable.

For example, lets say you started a company and sold it for $50 million… BUT your company’s name is not well known. If you simply put that on a resume, there’s a reasonable chance this accomplishment will be overlooked in a quick resume scan. BUT, if you EXPLAIN your accomplishment in a cover letter, it definitely will not.

When I screened applicants, even those just applying for a McKinsey internship, I ALWAYS read the first few paragraphs of EVERY cover letter. I usually did not read the whole cover letter, unless I read something intriguing in the first few paragraphs.

If the cover letter was mediocre, I would typically just scan the resume really quickly just to confirm my inclination to put the application in the reject pile.

If the cover letter was either impressive or interesting, I would definitely read the entire cover letter and read the entire resume very carefully.

In other words, the cover letter is the FIRST thing the employer sees and determines whether or not they will bother to learn more about you.

So what’s the big lesson here?

The perfect cover letter for a consulting job (or any job for that matter) is NOT A FORM LETTER!

Trust me on this one.

Every cover letter for each firm should be unique and different than the letters you write to other firms.

I’ve read thousands of cover letters in my career. It is torture to read them.

You must stand out.

There are a few things you can do to stand out, listed in no particular order:

1) Get your brand names into the first sentence or paragraph (You know… Harvard, your Olympic Medals, etc…:)

2) Show you did your homework about the firm (very important). Why do you want to work for that particular firm? What’s your unique reason? How sure are you of your preferences? Why?

3) Talk to people at the firm (google: informational interviews) to see what the firm is about. Do your homework. Then in the cover letter, name names… mention the names of people in the firm you’ve spoken to, what they said about the firm, and why what they said got you interested in the firm.

4) Explain why you’d bit a good fit for the firm. It’s not good enough to be qualified. There are lots of qualified people out there. Consulting firms and employers in general like to hire people who are both qualified and motivated by legitimate and sincere reasons.

A good phrase to use in your cover letter is something like this.

“Unlike other candidates you’re seeing that probably have XYZ trait, I have ABC trait because of my experience at XYZ company.”

Example:
Unlike other candidates you’re seeing who probably seem enthusiastic about consulting, I am certain of my interest in consulting because of my recent internship at ABC consulting firm.

The purpose of this kind of language is to make it EASY for the resume screener to figure out HOW YOU ARE DIFFERENT than the other applicants.

Don’t assume the person will figure it out by reading your resume. POINT OUT the difference and make it EASY for the person to tell.

This is especially true if you come from a non-traditional or non-business background. If going to consulting would be a big career shift for you, you’d better do a darn good job explaining why the shift makes sense.

Otherwise the assumption is a little bit, “he/she’s applying just for the heck of it.” And if your background is amazing, it’s possible you’ll get an interview with a lousy cover letter.

Personally, I had networked like crazy to meet people in consulting before I ever applied for real. I knew them. They knew me. I knew I wanted to do consulting… and I think it came across.

My resume wasn’t amazing. It was a B+.

Every cover letter I wrote was different from the other ones I wrote. I regularly quoted memorable things from specific people I spoke to from those firms and explained why I was impressed by them.

Even to this day, I still remember what impressed me about certain people at each firm… and what I thought it showed about the firm.

In short, I most definitely had my reasons for why I was applying and I was very deliberate in sharing those reasons. And, most importantly, my cover letters didn’t look like any of the other ones.

After consulting, for every job I got after consulting, I probably averaged applying to only two or three companies for each job offer I received. I was very selective in who I wanted to work for. I did my homework. I explained my reasons in a good cover letter and more often than not got a meeting with the CEO.

Is this a lot of work?

YES!

Do most people take this much effort?

Heck no!

Why does it work?

Precisely because most people aren’t willing to do the extra work to stand out.

If you found this post useful, you’ll find access to literally hundreds of posts like it in the members-only section of this website.

Membership is free and registered members get access to a 6 hour video workshop I gave to Harvard Business School students on how to pass the case interview — unique interview format that you will encounter after your cover letter and resume is accepted by the prospective employer.

Keep in mind when you get invited for an interview, you typically only have about a week’s notice. If you have never encountered a case interview before, it takes a LOT of preparation to do well.

Since the consulting field is so competitive, many of the applicants who end up being most successful end up preparing for the case interview MONTHS in advance of their actual interview with an employer.

To learn more about the case interview preparation process and how to best prepare, you should look at the extensive case interview video tutorials available for registered members-only. (Membership is free).

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{ 173 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria November 9, 2010 at 8:24 am

Hey,

Great help!! I was about to submit an application for a consulting firm that I would love to join and your text make me think and review my cover letter.
Thanksss

Maria

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jai June 24, 2013 at 5:15 am

me too, I had a cover letter written then re-wrote it after reading this and I like it a lot more now.
thank you

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Uday November 30, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Great advise! I’m in the process of trying to make a return to consulting and feel that the cover letter can be used as an asset (like you’ve described above), or can hurt you if its a generic form letter. This will definately make me rethink this part of the application!

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Pradeep March 16, 2011 at 8:50 am

great advice on reversing the weightage that a candidate gives to cv and that to a cover note.

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andre April 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Very nice ! Thanks a lot !!!

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Prof. Ashraf M. Samir May 25, 2011 at 3:21 am

It is very nice and very helpful since I am teaching (for free) soft skills including Presentaion Skills, Communication Skills, Body Language, Professional C.V. writing, and Interview Skills. I am Profesor in Geology, but I do like these soft skills and I certainly beleive they are more important for every graduate student. I really like and appreciate these informative materials.

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Hatem Tawfeek May 26, 2011 at 1:20 am

Really these are nice hints about the cover letter, Let me to thank you very so much

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Christina May 31, 2011 at 9:07 pm

This was very helpful. My resume was so-so, and my improved cover letter definitely landed me my interviews.

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Dan June 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Very helpful advice. I’m in the process of writing my cover letters and found the 4 items listed in the author’s post very helpful.

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Dickson August 20, 2013 at 8:55 am

I have written quite a good number of applications with same or similar cover letters. Now I know why I couldn’t be invited for interviews.

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Ben September 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Thanks for posting this. In the past I’ve put forth a lot of effort in my cover letters, however, I was wondering if you could comment on the importance of length vs content. For many firms, I’ve had quotable things from many of their representatives, and their are many things about their firms that I could write about that attract me. In the past, I’ve had 5 paragraphs – an opener with the basics+ someone I’ve talked to and what they said, 2 paragraphs detailing an experience and how that relates to what they’re looking for, 1 paragraph with three things about the firm I like, and then a sign off. Typically, I have to shrink the font to 11 to fit it on the page, but I’m worried that this is looked down upon/people won’t read something that long.

Is it better to keep it shorter and risk that they think it’s a form letter? Is the paragraph on why that particular firm too much, or is that a good thing? What do you suggest in general on balancing length and content?

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victor September 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Ben,

The “secret” is to make your cover letter unique, highly differentiated, and interesting. Length is secondary.

It is also VERY important to be concise. Do not use two words, when one will do. There’s no need to tell your life story, just focus on that which sets you apart.

However, I have seen hundreds of long and UNdifferentiate cover letters. This is the worst of all worlds.

-Victor

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Anna September 30, 2011 at 9:51 am

Victor,

How ‘unique’ is your cover letter allowed to be? I was also wondering how best to introduce the brands I have worked for in the first few sentences. Is it worth mentioning my high school job at McDonalds or is it best to leave that out? I was also wondering whether it’s vital to have a business background?

-Anna

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Pavan Karwa December 21, 2011 at 3:12 am

There should be a nobler cause why do you want do consulting. There should be a bigger picture which needs to be mentioned in your cover letter. “I knew I want to do consulting”……….the reason should be mentioned. Mere form letter just wont do !

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Anil January 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thank you Victor for the tips. They would of surely help to me since I am intending to apply to some companies now.

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Divya January 26, 2012 at 3:54 am

Hi! This resource was very helpful and enlightening….BTW, is it possible for you to provide for a sample cover letter for say, BAIN??
I shall be extremely grateful to you!!
Regards
Divya

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seo January 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful information specifically the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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Jay February 14, 2012 at 4:12 am

Thanks for your great post. I feel like you just opened my eyes on how to actually write a good CV. Definitely something to keep in mind that we all should do our researches and homework on why we want to work at the specific firms that we are applying for.

Thanks for the great post and I will look forward to other great eye-opening posts!

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kim February 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thank you for the amazing advice. I was actually thinking to start applying for consulting firms. However, I find my self midst of disqualifications. I got my degree from UW-Platteville in BSME and I didn’t even know of existence of consulting firms till few weeks ago after many failed attempts to find a job in my own field of study. Many job offers I got were in small manufacturing facilites and mostly hands on/get dirty type of jobs. When I learned about consulting firms where I can start work with the management, deal with international affairs, plus extensive international travel seemed like what I wanted all along. However, looking through many top consulting firm sites, they mainly hire honored Ivy League students with outstanding resumes. Even though I have highly developed analytical skills, as well as high passion in rapid growing global trade and economy, I found my self well under their cut off line. Should I even bother to apply for these companies?

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sad_john March 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Don’t bother.@kim:

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Dustin June 12, 2012 at 4:55 am

Don’t listen to sad john, if you can network your way in, anything is possible. Find someone at the firm who you can connect with and let THEM say if you can or cannot do it, not some internet random.

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Patrick August 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Kim, don’t bother. You have zero chance.

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Rich December 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Kim,

I work at a top consulting firm–listen to Dustin. Don’t get me wrong, it will not be easy, but if you network or go down the MBA route (get a high GMAT score) and go to a top 10 MBA, you can open many doors.

Good Luck.

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tran April 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

@kim: I would say you dont know until you try! Find a company that is suitable with your background and go for it. After all if you shoot for the moon you mite end up among the stars. good luck

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KAPIL April 28, 2012 at 2:00 am

sir, i like your unique approach of making cover letter. sir i am in 3rd year of engineering and i tried my best to get even unpaid internships in mc kinsey and other prestigious company but i dint succed. sir please if you could reply suggest me what should i do in my summer which would be fruitful to me to get in any of the prestigious and world’s best consultancy.!!

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weameptCase May 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Well , I really enjoyed reading your thoughts , but I think you should use figures from the site.
There are always a lot of information.
Froogle

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RP May 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Victor, I have read many book on “how to write cover letter,” but none touch on these important points like you do. Thank you so much for all of your generous help and advice.

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Raghu June 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Hello

Excellent information given.Could you pl send me some model cover letter for academic position like business managment professor. and few impressive sample CVs.
Graeful to you

Regards
Raghu

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Mansi Khatri June 15, 2012 at 7:23 am

Hi Victor,

I have been reading your posts, case interview tips, etc since long and it’s definitely a good read. It’s an eye opener and help us make an informed choice for every organization we are applying and the way we are applying/appearing for the interviews. Appreciation and thankfulness for sharing all your insights, success stories.

Regards,
Mansi

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John July 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Hey Victor,

For some reason I cannot access the videos in the back end.
Any tips?

Thanks!

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Victor Cheng July 8, 2012 at 4:39 am

John

Sorry about that. Our membership system is having technical problems. We have an engineering working on fixing it. Nothing to do on your end other than try again tomorrow.

Victor

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Victor Cheng July 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm

John – Videos are scheduled to be back on line end of day July 10.

-Victor

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Sumedh September 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

Hi Victor,

I have been a investment banking analyst at Citi for past 2 years and would like to shift to consulting. Job at Citi has helped me a lot in number crunching and analytical skills. I am planning to apply at LEK for 2013 intake as I am very much interested in their airline & aerospace consulting. I will be starting my preparations in few days, can you suggest a good starting point as after going through web I found that consulting interviews are way different than IB ones

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Victor Cheng September 14, 2012 at 4:26 am

Sumedh,

You’re correct that IB interviews are very different than the consulting “case” interview. There are two good places to start.

The first are the 6 hour video tutorials available for website members (membership is free). If you are already a member, just go to http://www.caseinteriew.com/login if you are not yet member, you can become one for free by visiting the home page at http://www.caseinterview.com

The second is my book Case Interview Secrets which is a little more current than the videos.

Good luck!

Victor

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Sumedh September 16, 2012 at 1:29 am

Victor,

Thanks…yeah I have just registered to become a member. Would want to know when does the recruitment season starts and is it only campus recruitment or people like me who have some experience can also apply and if I can apply then when would be right & best time to apply

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Victor Cheng September 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

Sumedh,

For most firms, there is a definite season for on campus recruiting. It will vary by type of school (e.g., undergrad vs MBA) and full time vs summer internship.

For experienced hires, the process is usually rolling – apply whenever you want. There is no universally best time to apply for experienced hires. However, for start dates big firms may ask you to start when campus hires start – usually summer to early fall (mirroring the start of an academic year). So they might interview you in February, but ask you to start in August — as many internal training programs are organized based on this cycle.

For smaller firms that don’t have a large training instructure and they’ll use experienced hires to recruit for roles where they want someone to start right away.

Victor

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Sumedh September 17, 2012 at 1:25 am

Victor,

Thank you so much, you have been very helpful. I have started my preparations and will apply by Mid-Nov. Except from Vault top 50 rankings, is there any other rankings available for consulting firms

Regards,
Sumedh

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Victor Cheng September 17, 2012 at 1:41 am

I’ve seen other ranking lists online before, but don’t recall their names or website address. They definitely exist.

Victor

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Trevor September 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Hi Victor,

I am coming from a trader support function at a major bank in Canada. It is much less prestigious than IB. I don’t think I would have a chance at MBB, so I am aiming for the second tiers.

Aside from networking (which I know is probably my best bet), how can I differentiate myself from my competitors through my cover letter to get that interview. I’ve got the brand name of a target school but only 3.3 gpa – I’m also applying as an experienced hire (should I not include GPA since it’s kind of low)

Thanks,
Trevor

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Victor Cheng September 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Trevor,

For a 2nd tier firm, you might be able to get away with excluding the gpa as an experienced hire provided:

1) you’ve had 5+ years of experience… if it’s 2 years, its a little close to graduation, most firms will want to see it.

2) you have say a GRE or GMAT score that is pretty high… you MIGHT get the benefit of the doubt initially… so target school + 800 GMAT + no gpa on resume + good work experience, might be enough to get a first round or to get a courtesy call from a recruiting coordinator to ask for the GPA.

The key is to use test score and work place accomplishment to compensate for missing gpa or low gpa.

I have a video on top 5 resume writing mistakes, located at: http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume , where one of the common mistakes is failing to compensate for weaknesses. The combination of your test scores and work accomplishments needs to be as good as it can possibly be.

Also, in my consulting resume writing toolkit, I have several hours of videos showing me rewriting other people’s resumes. If you happen to have the toolkit, you’ll want to look at those videos carefully and specifically apply the technique I use for writing resume bullets to writing descriptions of your work place accomplishments in your cover letter.

In other words, resume bullet on work experience = cover letter description of work experience.

Toolkit info appears at the bottom of this page:
http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume-video2

-Victor

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Trevor September 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I’ve been working for 3 years and it seems like they will want to know my GPA either way so I might as well put it on.

I read a piece of advice about cover letters and was wondering what your thoughts were regarding: “NEVER open your letter with Dear Sir or Madam or To Whom It May Concern”. Being specific is ideal, but in large consulting firms, the readers (scanners) of cover letters/resumes could be any of a large number of consultants. Who would you address a cover letter to?

Thanks for all your advice!

-Trevor

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Victor Cheng September 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Trevor,

If you have a specific contact at the firm, you should address the cover letter to that specific person. If you’re applying more generally, then a dear sir/madam, to whom it may concern is fine.

Unless the salutation is offensive (eg. Dear Sir — there by assuming the decision maker couldn’t possibly be a woman), the salutation is largely ignored. The reader focuses on the first paragraph to see if anything catches his or her eye. If yes, he or she will read the whole letter and resume carefully. If not, he or she will skim the rest of the cover letter and look to the resume.

If the top 20% of the resume looks interesting, the reader will read the whole resume carefully. If the top 20% is not interesting, he or she will skim the rest basically looking for keywords that stand out as interesting.

-Victor

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Mohit Srivastava September 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

Hi Victor,
I am trying to access the case interview preparation videos and
1. I am not able to login to the website
2. The link http://www.caseinteriew.com/login does not work
3. The link https://caseinterview.customerhub.net/session does not log us in but rather keeps looping us in without any effect!

Is there an alternate resource where i can access you videos.

Since our Summer Placements are just a month apart and the Consulting firms would be visiting us the first day, it would really help if i can access the resource.

Thanks in advance,
Mohit

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kirsten September 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

Mohit,

We have just checked and currently the login site is working so you may want to try emptying your cache and then try to log back into http://www.caseinterview.com/login or https://caseinterview.customerhub.net.

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Alessandro September 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Hi Victor,
I have recently completed my Master’s degree in economics, and I would like to enter the world of consulting (Mckinsey, Bcg, etc.). I have no experience in consulting (no work experience).
What should I write in my cover letter to catch the attention of recruiter’s eye?
Thanks a lot.

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Victor Cheng September 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Alessandro,

If the goal is a top 3 firm and you have no work experience, realistically the GRE, GPA and academic institution need to be extremely good. Assuming you have this, you’d want to lead your cover letter with your “stats” and school name.

-Victor

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Quicksilvr October 4, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks Victor. This put a few things in perspective for me now.

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Amarezza October 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi Victor,
I am trying to get into consulting without any prior related experience. I have a high GPA from a non-target but recently separated from the military where I was a Chinese translator and just wrapped up an internship at Goldman. Would these items be enough to make me stand out in a cover letter/resume, or are they still too irrelevant to consulting?
Thanks for your help,
Amarezza

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Victor Cheng October 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Amarezza,

Emphasize the internship at Goldman. The Goldman name opens doors. Not a guarantee, but with Goldman I’m fairly certain they will read your resume very carefully (as opposed to just skim and toss it).

The high GPA is useful, but its non-target so it is hard to gauge whether a high GPA at a non-target is better, same or worse, than say a 3.5 at Harvard. If you have high standardized test scores, especially in math, DEFINITELY include those. High math + Goldman will definitely be considered.

-Victor

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Emeka October 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Dear Victor,
Thank you for this amazing resource. I have just read the tips on writing a winning cover letter for consulting jobs. Very informative.
I have recently completed my PhD and also have two masters. I am drawn to work in consultancy. Without much work experience, do you think my educational qualifications give me any advantage?
Emeka

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Victor Cheng October 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Emeka,

I think the PhD is neutral in terms of qualification. In general, the firms are looking for the best at each level of education. So they’re looking for the top X% of the MBA’s, the top X% of the PhD’s, etc…

Of all the firms, McKinsey probably values PhD’s the most, followed by BCG. McKinsey in particular stared hiring PhD’s first and have a fairly large training infrastructure to train new PhD’s and postdocs in business.

The smaller firms tend not to prefer MBA’s unless its say a life sciences consulting firm where the PhD knowledge IS the main expertise being consulted on. If it’s a more general business strategy firm, the smaller firms often are setup to train someone with great raw talent but no actual business experience.

Amongst the PhD’s what the firms will look at are the selectivity of your schools (include masters and undergrad), the prestige level of the specific program you’re in, your GRE scores, and work history / publishing history.

-Victor

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Emeka October 14, 2012 at 11:02 am

Hi Victor,

Thanks for your feedback. Certainly informative.

Emeka

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Philipp October 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

Victor,

Thanks for the great first-hand experience.

I have a question regarding my own situation:

I entered consulting early building an own small consulting business selling my own knowledge and skills during my Bachelor and Master studies. Even though these were not large scale strategy projects with multi-million budgets, of course, I managed projects of increasing scale and complexity, including a project abroad in Asia, and the latest one at a MNC being part of a project directly under the group’s board and realizing a multi-million budget for execution of the strategy and roadmap we developed. At that time, I had just finished my Master’s.
While my career plan was to enter a consulting firm, I was offered the opportunity to build a new country from scratch for a well-known MNC. Within a couple of months I took the company to #2 in that market, before making the decision that I want to get back into consulting and build my career there.

While I believe that my professional experience qualifies me well for top-tier consulting firms, my weak points are my academic records. Even though I graduated from one of the top-tier universities in my country, my MSc GPA is just 3.6, and my BSc GPA is even lower, and having some ugly Fs in a few courses.

Is my professional experience enough to compensate for my weak academic results? Do you think it makes sense to study for a MBA first to get a better GPA and the degree on my resume before getting back into consulting?

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Victor Cheng October 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Philip,

Your experience sounds very strong. It’s a definite plus. The MsC GPA of 3.6 out of 4.0 is actually considered pretty good if it’s a target school in a quantitatively oriented program.

The F’s are a big problem. If they undergrad is substantially below a 3.5, you’ll need to include a an explanation of why they are so low. In addition, high standardized test scores like a GMAT would help paint the picture that your undergrad grades were due to a lack of focus as opposed to a lack of ability.

The more you work, the more degrees you get, the more the undergrad grades fall off in terms of relevance.

I wouldn’t recommend getting a MBA solely to apply for consulting jobs. But, if the MBA is in your plan regardless and you did well, it provides more data that undergrad grades were a lack of effort issue as opposed to lack of ability. Again, you’ll need to explain WHY you didn’t put much effort into undegrad studies.

Personally, I would try applying now and seeing what happens. Test the “market” and see what you’re up against. Applying as an experienced hire, they will look more at your professional accomplishments than the academic (relatively speaking), so you might have enough to get considered.

-Victor

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Joe October 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm

It is just so frustrating sometimes to write cover letters because everything you want to say has been said on the companies website! I genuinely want to join a management consulting firm due to my love for problem solving and also due to the fact that I have to opportunity to collaborate with other brilliant people but I was told that these reasons were bland if I were to put them in my cover letter.

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Victor Cheng October 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Joe,

Then say that, and then acknowledge you know they’ve probably heard it before, but its definitely why you’re interested. If you can include references to any people at the firm you know or have met or reference any prior work they’ve done or what you’ve read about the firm, those are worth doing to demonstrate serious thoughtful interest.

-Victor

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Claire October 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Hi Victor,

I’m a recent graduate from the University of Virginia and I recently realized that I might actually like consulting. I have a non-business undergrad degree but I got graduated with Honors in an Honors Program, I have a close to perfect math SAT score and A’s in the two calculus classes I took in college.

Is it too late to for me to apply in November of the fall recruitment cycle? Should I wait for next year instead? I want to get into a top consulting firm but I don’t want to risk jeopardizing my chances of getting in just because I applied off-cycle (in combination with applying out of campus and having a non-business background). If I get rejected by a firm once, does that hurt my chances when I apply for the next cycle? Also, how do I balance taking the time to network (and hence write a good cover letter) with trying to apply as soon as possible? I don’t want to keep putting off applying though because I still want to do either a JD or MBA degree after a 2-3 year stint at consulting.

Thanks!

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Victor Cheng October 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Claire,

If you’ve already graduated, you’ll most likely need to apply as an experienced hire (different recruiting team internally, different calendar — more rolling, not tied to campus generally). If in doubt, just call the firm in question and ask what the best way to apply is. They are a little busy this time of year, so try calling before 9am or after 5pm to catch someone live.

Applying off cycle is rarely a negative. At worst, they say we’re putting your resume in the pile for next cycle. With the exception of McKinsey, if you don’t get an offer it doesn’t negatively impact you in you apply again. At McKinsey, if you take the PST and/or get through one or more rounds, they ask you to wait 18 – 24 months before applying again.

Now if you don’t get selected for the PST or the interview, it doesn’t hurt to reapply again. This is more of a “you got lost in the shuffle” issue (happens all the time) as opposed to the firm evaluated you in person, didn’t think you were ready yet, and then rejected you (which is different).

You seemed very concerned about this issue, and in my opinion sure it’s an issue, but it’s a relatively minor, somewhat logistical, concern.

Since you’re most likely applying non-campus, take the time to network and find yourself an “in” at each firm you’re looking to reach.

If you apply online, that generally only works if your resume is awesome — target school, big name employers, high GPA and/or high test scores. You can do both. They are not mutually exclusive.

Online applications, where you are lumped in with the masses (e.g., the many unemployed people who apply to 10,000 firms in 30 days by blasting their resume indiscriminately everywhere), the initial screen is more or less a keyword search filter. It’s done by either an administrative type person or increasingly by a computer.

Harvard resumes get kicked out to a human reviewer. Local community college resumes don’t.

-Victor

Reply

Massimiliano November 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Hi Victor,

first of all THANK YOU for this article… currently one of the most interesting on internet.

I’m 23 from Italy with a bachelor and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (101/110 and 109/110 respectively) with a M.B.M. obtained in 2011. Moreover I have been working in one of the biggest firm about thermic comfort in the world since 2011 (March) and my role is Technology Analyst in Strategic Marketing Department.

I focused all my education course to become a McKinsey consultant, so:

1) how do you think I can emphasize my course through letter? (in particular my age… I did a lot of things at the same time to have my master’s degree 10 days ago!)

2) During my work I often ran into McKinsey’s reports, do you think this could be useful in order to emphasize my work experience?

3) I met a person who currently is a Business Analyst in McKinsey. You wrote this is a plus and I should report this info in my letter but do you think I should have his approval?

Ops, I wrote really much… sorry!

Thank you again!

-Massi

Reply

Victor Cheng November 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Massi,

For #1: write down all the things that make you different than your peers. Sort them from most unique to least, and then emphasize the first 1 – 3 items in your cover letter. You want to be both a) qualified and b) unique.

For #2 – it is fine to mention you ran into McKinsey reports in your work. It probably helps a little, but not enormously so

For #3 – it is not necessary to ask permission from the McKinsey BA you met to mention him or her in a cover letter provided your focus your comments on YOUR reactions to meeting this person. It is not a bad idea to ask for permission, but mostly to signal to this BA that you are applying. You might send your cover letter (when it is 110% ready to go) and resume to the BA for his or her “approval” on the off chance he or she might be impressed by it, and turn it into the recruiting department on your behalf with an explicit or implied endorsement.

Only do this if you felt you made a strong impression on this BA and that he or she remembers you. If it was just a passing interaction, then you probably want to avoid this and just mention your reaction to meeting him or her.

-Victor

Reply

Ay November 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Hi Victor,

Reading some of the previous comments here has been very educating. I have a background in geology, a postgraduate degree in geosciences and an MBA(Oil & Gas management) from a non-target school. However i’d like your views on some concerns.

1. my undergrad gpa is not very impressive (2.2)
2. during my MBA and post-graduate geoscience my grades changed significantly (on a scale of 5.0 i scored 3.9, this corresponds to a Postgraduate merit in UK system)
3. I also did take the GRE test and scored a 690 out of 800 (quantitative score) with an overall score of 1290.
4. I have 3+ years of work experience having brand names clients in Oil and gas industry.

i just finished my MBA and looking to go into consulting, what are your thoughts.

Regards

Reply

Victor Cheng November 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Hi Ay,

The undergrad GPA is pretty low by consulting standards. You might be able to get away with omitting it on your resume if you have enough work experience. If you get asked about it, you do have to disclose it and you should have a good explanation ready for why it was so low.

Your MBA and GRE scores puts you in the top 8 – 25+ firms. Your numbers are probably not strong enough for the top 7. This could be offset by having contacts in your target firm or if the caliber of your previous employers and the b-school is very strong.

It doesn’t hurt to apply, but definitely don’t only apply to the top 7.

-Victor

Reply

Ay November 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Hello Victor,

Many thanks for your reply and really appreciate the effort you have taken to respond. As you rightly stated, it doesn’t hurt applying to the top 7 alongside the other consulting firms.

I have consulted for the some of the major oil n gas companies (Shell & Chevron) in my previous jobs. How does the consulting industry perceive the companies?

Reply

Victor Cheng November 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Ay,

Shell and Chevron are well known F500 companies. As employer or client names, they are well respected. The more important factor will be looking at what kind of work you did for them and assessing the results of that work.

-Victor

Reply

Farah A December 4, 2012 at 10:48 am

Hi Victor,

Reading your post was a great insight. I am recent college graduate with a degree in Global public health from a small liberal arts school (under grad gpa +3.3). I have great work experience in the non profit and sound thesis research experience. I have plenty of extra curricular showing leadership, public speaking and I have a small independent entrepreneurship project on the side.
I am looking to join Mckinsey because I seek the extensive analytical and disciplined training.
I can probably even get some contacts.
Can you advise me on the best way to stand out and apply?

also, what if I got an email address for a former high level mckinsey consultant and sent him an email reinforcing my dedication and drive to get in? Would you advise that?

thanks

Reply

Victor Cheng December 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Farah,

Your background would be considered at the very low end amongst consultants working at McKinsey. The GPA is low (especially for a non target school, if you had a 3.8+ at a non target school that would a different all together, the prestige factor of your school probably isn’t on the target school list, and your experience isn’t one normally seems as compensating for the other areas of your background (for example if you had the above and was currently working at Goldman, that would give the recruiter pause and prompt him or her to say maybe we should take a closer look).

So as starting point, this would be a long shot (but not impossible) situation. Here are a list of offsetting factors:

1) 95% tile or higher on a GRE or GMAT or SAT especially in math

2) knowing someone who has had a chance to evaluate your analytical skills via a case and is willing to endorse you

3) truly exceptional case interview performance. Given your background, merely good performance isn’t sufficient. You need to do it measurable better than the Harvard grads.

In terms of your contact, emphasizing your drive and determination will have very little impact. Instead, you need to explain how strong a candidate you are even though your resume doesn’t convey this (at least by the very high McKinsey standards).

You will need to realistically do a LOT of networking and expect to face skepticism at every turn. Expect an informal case, mainly so the (being honest here) the other person can confirm your skills aren’t strong enough and discourage you from applying.

BUT, if you blow them away on the case, THAT will get noticed. Keep in mind this is not the case interview, this is the case they give you in the middle of lunch or during a networking phone call that determines where they will endorse your resume and request to get a real case interview.

I received a note from a FFY with a very similar background as yours who got offers at Bain, BCG, and McKinsey. He did 400 practice cases and tried calling close to 2,000 people (i think that was the number) working at MBB to get considered.

The process evolved as I describe above. BCG and McK refused to interview him, but BCG changed their minds once he showed them the Bain offer. And McKinsey changed their mind once he showed them both the Bain and BCG offers. All in, I would estimate it took him 600 – 1,000 hours to get it all done. Clearly he was VERY determined to both get considered and be good enough to be worth considering.

Victor

Reply

anna December 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Dear Victor,
I would appreciate if you didn’t publish my website (I included it in my previous comment).
Thanks

Reply

Anna December 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Hi Victor,
I am reading your book on case-interviews and the information on your website, and find it very helpful, motivating, and inspiring!
I have a phd in one of the social sciences disciplines from NYU (my department and subfield are ranked top 10 in my field). My undergraduate GPA is 4 and my graduate GPA is 3.87. I have a publication in one of the leading journals in my field, and some papers under review. I have extensive training in quantitative data analysis, experience with several statistical software packages, and some knowledge of programming for data analysis. I also have training and work experience in applied game theory. In addition, prior to grad school I gained professional experience in public sector. Non-academic jobs, and especially consulting, are appealing to me for two main reasons: 1) opportunity to work on real-world problems, and see the impact of my work; 2) team work, or at least frequent interaction with other people. I also know 3 foreign languages, in addition to English.
Given my background, do you think I have a high chance of getting an interview if I apply online? How would you suggest that I maximize my chances of being interviewed? Do you think there are any weak spots or questions that application readers might have, and that I should address in my cover-letter?
Thanks a lot,
Anna

Reply

Victor Cheng December 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Anna,

Your background is pretty good, but the perception of yur background will be negatively biased based on prestige of undergrad and grad institutions. You could very much fit in at a top firm – certainly top 10 if not top 3, but you’re going to need to get the attention of somebody inside the firm to more closely evaluate your background.

I think the odds of getting an interview via online application (given your background) will be substantially lower than if you apply via networking. The online application favors the qualified a candidate hitting the target criteria exactly – Ivy, 3.5+ GPA, big firm internship, test scores in 95%+.

There are many, many exceptions to the target critters, but they usually have a hard time getting noticed via online applications.

See my articles on networking and email my assistant Kirsten (at) caseinterview.com for details on a new program on this topic I’m pilot testing next week.

Victor

Reply

Martin December 11, 2012 at 6:15 am

Hi Victor,
Thank you for the article and website!

Actually I have a question about you: How can you be so energetic and productive (as far as I know, you run two websites, wrote many books and articles, and had TV interviews).

I will be a FFY next year and I heard the consulting life is tough. So I want to keep energetic as well, like you.

Could you share some secrets about how to do that, if any? Thank you!

Rgs
Martin

Reply

Victor Cheng December 14, 2012 at 1:50 am

Martin,

I’m not sure I’m all that energetic, though I do get a fair amount done with whatever energy that I do have.

In terms of what I do that is transferable to consulting, there are two things:

1) For the long-term important stuff, carve out X minutes per day to focus on that. Time goes by and if you’re making daily progress, you eventually get better.

2) Delegate to others whenever possible (your assistant, the graphic design person, your client team members) and focus on the activities where you add the most value per hour spent.

-Victor

Reply

Victor Cheng December 14, 2012 at 1:54 am

For example, on this website, I’ve written 425 articles. When I actually count, I’m amazed by how many articles there are — all of you have a lot of questions!

BUT, when I break it down to a daily level — say spending 1 hour per day writing which for me is about one article. The micro level time investment is imminently achievable by anyone.

When I write articles, I imagine writing an email to a friend. So the question is could you spend an hour a day writing one really good email to a friend? I’m sure you already come pretty close to that (though it’s probably an hour on several smaller emails).

The only difference between what you already are able to do on an hourly basis and what I’ve done on this website, is I just did it every weekday for two years or so.

In short, the little daily things really add up over time.

-Victor

Reply

Raver December 17, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hi Victor,

Thanks for the wonderful tips on website and in the newsletter.

I am from India and have around 9 years of IT-consulting experience (6 years for a top-tier IB of which 3 years in London). I’m about to finish my 1 yr MBA from a top-2 school in India and currently my GPA is 2.5/4. My GMAT was 730 (Q48,V37) and I finished my Comp. Sci. undergrad with Honors from a well-known engineering school (non-IIT).

I’m interested in BTO Consulting roles and need your help regarding :
a. I just turned 30. Does that or my 9 yrs of experience count against me ?
b. Is my low GPA a big problem for MBB ? Or should I give it a shot ?
c. Which consulting companies should I realistically target ?

Thanks for your time !

Best,
Raver

Reply

Victor Cheng December 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Raver,

a) Age and experience isn’t a major issue.
b) The GPA is an issue. It doesn’t hurt to try, but that GPA relatively to everything else in your “package” sticks out. I don’t know BTO that well — so it is possible your work experience will compensate for the GPA, but I somewhat doubt it will be enough to help.

I wouldn’t only rely on BTO and would suggest going after other firms as well. In terms of competitiveness in the IT consulting market, I don’t know it well enough to suggest specific firms to target.

-Victor

Reply

Victor December 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hello Victor!

The resources in your site and the ideas it pools really are very enlightening. It really gives an insight as to the nature of the industry .
I’m a recent graduate (chemical technology and Biotechnology) from a non-brand university in Moscow. My GPA is low by consulting standards, 3.45 and 3.9 out of 5 for my BEng and MEng respectively (though there is a reason). I didn’t undergo any internship because up until about a few months ago, students were not allowed to work here. The only work experience I have is that of teaching business and financial English to members of staff (including managerial) working for international companies here. Of course I have acquired a lot of transferable skills and a general knowledge of the business and financial sectors. Considering the aforementioned, do I stand a chance with any of the consulting firms and would taking any of the specialized tests (GRE, SAT, GMAT) enhance my chances. I contacted the office here and was told resumes are to be sent only through the global site.

Thanks for your time.
Best regards,
Victor.

Reply

Victor Cheng December 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

Victor,

A consulting firm might be interested in your background, but most likely not a top firm – perhaps a smaller boutique. A GMAT or GRE score that’s higher than your GPA would normally suggest would help. It might also take working in industry for a few years and getting an MBA to pull it off.

The problem is between the non-brand university, lower gpa, and limited work experience, any one of those three areas can be compensated for, but generally not all three at the same time.

It’s possible to compensate for one of the three and maybe if you’re lucky, 2 out of 3. But 3 of 3 its very difficult, so getting to consulting might be limited to smaller firms or might necessitate an intermediate step (in work experience or going to a brand mba program usually by working in industry first) to get to your goal.

Best wishes,
-Victor

Reply

River December 28, 2012 at 4:01 am

Hello Victor,

I know you have emphasized in the above posts the significance of GMAT, GPA and the stellar work exp. Even then, I would like to once confirm with you about my candidature for consulting career.

– I have an MBA from a target B school (ranked well globally – below 20) however with a low GPA – 2.84
– My GMAT is average – 680
– However I have about 7 years of work experience in the best Market Research firms and have proven my analytical skills. Through these firms I have been involved in consulting for major FMCG firms, involved in global launch of green products, managed groups of people and enormous projects all over the country.
I am very passionate about green consulting and would want to help solve business concerns in this field. Do you think I can aspire for say tier 2 consulting companies?

Reply

Carrie December 31, 2012 at 1:40 am

Hello Victor,

The article and your thoughtful comments are inspiring me to craft strong cover letters. I am applying for summer internships at MMB. I am third year undergrad at a target business school. I have a GPA of 3.84, but average math scores on the SAT of 680. I have interned for the Department of Commerce and have worked in retail. I also hold a number of executive roles in school organizations (many business related clubs). I have asked several consultants in MMB questions and I hope to include my reaction to some of their responses as well.

Are there any suggested differences in crafting a cover letter for internship opportunities? At this level, how critical is past work experiences versus grades?

Thank you!

-Carrie

Reply

Alice January 10, 2013 at 1:49 am

Hi Victor,

I am an undergraduate from a target school looking to get into the top consulting firms. I was wondering that to better position myself for a full-time consulting job, is it more helpful to do a banking internship (I had an offer from Morgan Stanley) or a second tier consulting internship? I know that it is a trade off between big names and relevant experience, and I have been struggling to make a decision.

Thank you very much!

Alice

Reply

Victor Cheng January 10, 2013 at 7:54 am

Alice,

Both are very good – with a slight edge to Morgan Stanley.

Victor

Reply

Tony January 10, 2013 at 2:09 am

Hello Victor,

I am an undergraduate student at UCLA with a GPA of 3.7 and SAT scores of 2200. My resume highlights are that I have over 15 weeks worth of experience working in a small consulting firm in the Los Angeles area, two other small internships that involved computer science and accounting. I also hold a couple officer positions for medium size clubs.

Because I feel that my resume doesn’t set me apart as the best of the best (which I am!), I wanted my cover letter to accomplish that. Would you say an unique cover letter can include a rather frank tone or a few jokes?

Thanks for ALL your information. It really has made a significant difference in my confidence for case interviews.

Sincerely,
Tony

Reply

Victor Cheng January 10, 2013 at 7:58 am

Tony,

For cover letters, jokes are risky. The effectiveness totally depends on the person and you have absolutely no data on the person. In person, you can kind of tell if someone has a sense of humor or if they are ice cold. I’d stay away from jokes and simply logically argue your case and present your most relevant resume assets.

For UCLA, it would help if you knew or met someone in the firm that you can reference in your letter… Someone they know or can contact internally that can say, “Yeah, I met Tony in person. Seems like a personable guy. We can definitely put him in front of a client.”

Victor

Reply

Tony January 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Thank you Victor for the quick and informative reply.

Reply

Venkat January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

Hi Victor,

I’m doing 1st year MBA from non target school with GMAT 670 and GPA 3.75. School is ranked in late 20’s. I’ve 8 years of work experience in IT consulting.

I’m an international student. With these credentials, Can I aspire to become an management/BT consultant in US?

Your response is greatly appreciated.

Reply

Viet January 15, 2013 at 2:58 am

Hi Victor,

I have been your reader for a while, but only interested in consulting recently. I have a quick question for you. I noticed that firms really care about SAT scores since they ask to put that in the application. My SAT score is pretty low I guess (around 2000 with CR 580 and Math 770). Would I not be able to get interview (especially with MBB) just because of a low SAT score?

Thank you for your help and all the stuffs on this website.

Viet

Reply

Victor Cheng January 15, 2013 at 8:44 am

Viet,

The short answer is yes, it is entirely possible to not get an interview (especially with MBB) due to a low SAT score.

They generally tend to care more about the math score than the rest, but they do consider it.

The reason is when the firms analyze the consultants they hire and then 2 years later promote (or fire), those that are promoted tend to have a SAT score (or other standardized test) in a particular range. Also, in the past, a percentage of the consultants that don’t get promoted, had scores below that range.

I know it seems very superficial — especially for experienced hires (and I know you’re probably a potential campus hire) who are asked about their SAT scores from 10 – 15 years ago.

However, I have seen in person that some people just do not have the logical thinking and critical reasoning power that’s needed to go head to head with a CEO client with 30 years industry experience (vs the consultant’s 1 year experience), and to diplomatically prove the client wrong.

THAT is not easy to do.

So a high math test score doesn’t guarantee success in consulting, but a low one does predict struggles (at least by MBB standards. The standards for the rest of the top 10 is lower, but they still look at the scores too).

-Victor

Reply

Nav January 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

Hi Victor,

I recently completed my MEng in Mechanical engineering (4 year undergrad master’s program) in 2012 from the University of Bristol, UK. I got a first class degree, which places me in the top 10%-15% of the class (we don’t have a GPA system at our university).

After my degree, I took a few months off due to some personal commitments and am now looking for jobs, back in my home country of India. Through my interactions with quite a few consultants, I am quite certain that I want to pursue management consulting as a career. However, I do not have any prior work experience in consulting.

I have really enjoyed reading through your book and am trying to practice case interviews using your techniques.

I would be grateful if you could help me with the following areas:

1. How do I make sure that my cover letter stands out since I do not have any consulting experience?

2. I do not have a partner to practice. So, how do you think would be the best way to practice? I have been reading businessweek and trying to analyse cases on my own, but is this the best way to do it?

Thank you.

Regards,
Nav

Reply

Victor Cheng February 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Nav,

1) It’s not necessary to have consulting experience to get a consulting job. In fact, the majority of new hires do not have prior consulting experience.

In your cover letter, you want to emphasize the types of skills that consulting firms look for in candidates.

* Ability to do math / think logically (in any context — science, business, engineering, math, non-profits, medicine)

* Ability to work with very diverse people (in any setting — CEO’s, 6 year old children in grade school, men, women, blue collar workers, white collar professionals, multi-cultural groups, students, etc.. )

Basically the same skills you want to highlight in a resume, you want to highlight on your cover letter. For more info on resume skills to highlight, see below:
http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume

For case partner practice, take a look at http://www.CaseInterviewPartner.com – this helps you find partners to practice with via Skype. Should be accessible in a few days.

-Victor

Reply

Brian January 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hey Victor!

First off, thank you for all your hard work and educating me about all you know in consulting. I’ve been a long-time reader and have always wanted to break in, but haven’t had things go my way since I graduated in 2011.

A quick breakdown, non-target 3.3/4.0 gpa (which I know isn’t great), but I believe I have great work experience. Interned at start-up PE firm, temp-job at JPM, and have been working for a year at Morgan Stanley in a very analytical role. I have known since my Junior year in college that I wanted to get into consulting and want to get in even more now because I have been miserable in the industry work I cover.

I don’t have my eyes set on MBB as I really just want to get into consulting and enjoy the work. I’ve networked a bit and have a few close contacts at a few Big4 firms. What do you think my chances are to break into tier-2/tier-3 firms?

Thank you :)

Brian

Reply

Victor Cheng February 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Brian,

I think give your work experiences and notable employers, I think tier 2 or 3 is a distinct possibility. Morgan Stanley carries a lot of weight.

It will depend on

1) the prestige level of your non-target school. If it’s a 3.3 at a community college that’s one thing, if it’s at say UCLA that’s different.

2) test scores – if your test scores are much higher than your gpa would suggest, that suggests high ability but perhaps not applied while in school. This would be a favorable interpretation that you want to hope for.

If the non-target school were well known and the test scores were pretty good, combined with Morgan Stanley, I think at least some (but probably not all) of the firms would consider taking a look.

It will help a LOT if you have contacts in these firms. Relationships can overcome resume “deficits”.

Good luck,
-Victor

Reply

Jacob February 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Think there is some trouble again to access the videos, am I correct?

Cheers
Jacob

Reply

Victor Cheng February 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Jacob,

The videos should all be working. However, they are often not viewable from China due to firewall issues.

-Victor

Reply

Luca February 17, 2013 at 5:05 am

Thank you for this post. It has helped to change my semi-standard cv and covers,in something very tailored to my skills, experience, Today is Sunday but i have spent more than 3 hours to create a CV +Cover that replace myself for this Job that i love.

Reply

Victor Cheng February 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Luca,

Great. Good luck!

-Victor

Reply

Firdaus February 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Dear Victor,
I have bachelors and masters degrees in engineering (from 2 of the best University’s in the UK) and a year’s experience of working with the internal sustainability advisory of a large MNC. I am considering moving to a role in consulting. What should I highlight in my cover letter to consulting firms.

Reply

Victor Cheng February 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Degrees, university brand name, any kind of standard test score (especially one that’s good) + name of the large MNC (assuming its well known). But all the above in the first paragraph.

The general rule of thumb — the most impressive, most credible, most universally recognizable things FIRST to ensure nobody misses it.

Don’t assume the read the whole cover letter. Assume they SCAN the cover letter to see if any keywords jump out, and if they see something interesting they slow down to read the cover letter, and then the resume with much greater care.

-Victor

-Victor

Reply

Raj March 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Hi Victor,

I have recently completed my MBA and also hold an MS in Electrical Engineering. Having worked in engineering for about 15 years with really strong background in Operations, I want to get into Technology/Business Strategy consulting. How receptive you think consulting firms would be toward a profile like mine? Meaning, do they see having both Engineering and Business skills much differently then just Business?

Regards,
Raj

Reply

Victor Cheng March 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Raj,

It is very difficult to say given the limited information you provided. It depends on the caliber of the school where you got your MBA and MS, your grades, your test scores, what you specifically accomplished during the 15 years in engineering (e.g., were you an exceptional engineer or did you just show up everyday for 15 years — big difference).

Those factors aside I don’t see anything that would disqualify you from being considered. The operationally oriented consulting firms tend to value industry experience more than the strategy one. The strategy ones are biased a little more towards pedigree and achievement levels within industry (slightly less so on what you were successful at).

You might also take a look at my “Do I qualify?” self assessment matrix in my consulting resume toolkit. I think it’s as http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume

Good luck,
-Victor

Reply

Sarah March 20, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Hi Victor,
I have found your advice and materials provided on http://www.caseinterview to be very helpful in my job search. Recently, I purchased your series on consulting resumes and it has really opened my eyes to what recruiters are looking for in a resume. It also gave me an idea of whether I am even competitive in a candidate pool and where I would have more chances of getting an interview.

As a University of Michigan College of Engineering graduate, I am pursuing a career in consulting. After graduation in April 2012, I worked for Schlumberger (World’s largest oilfield service company) as a Field Engineer for 6 months. I have also been a very active member of Society of Women Engineers on collegiate and professional level. The problem is that I am no longer a ‘recent graduate’ and I am also switching careers at a very early stage in my career from engineering to consulting. What would you recommend would be key points to bring up in my resume?
Thank you,
Sarah

Reply

Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 10:00 am

Sarah,

In your cover letter, you’re going to have to explain the “elephant in the room” question as to why you’re changing fields so early in your career. I’m going to assume what you’re doing now is not a good fit for you, but you will need to explain that in a little more detail… And explain why consulting doesn’t have any of these drawbacks.

Your employer is well known so that’s not a big issue. If your Michigan stats were pretty solid, you want to mention yor GPA and scores in your cover letter as well.

The tricky part will be your work experience, have you worked long enough to have accomplished anything meaningful? If yes, definitely include that. If not, that’s not a deal breaker. It just means there will be more weight placed on your Michigan experiences and any internships while you were there.

Good luck,
Victor

Reply

Sarah March 20, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I meant to say, what would you recommend would be key points to bring up in my cover letter?

Reply

prateek March 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

Hi Victor

Trust you are doing good. I am regular visitor at your website and have been reading your book. I am a second year analyst with a big 4 audit firm in their strategy consulting practice. Before I put across my query, I would sincerely like to acknowledge the fact that the insights you share in your book / emails are extremely relevant and helpful for a aspiring strategy consultant and I have greatly benefited from them.

I seek your advise to help me evaluate my profile for strategy consulting at MBB and the approach to target the same.

My post is a bit longer than the average post on the website. I apologise for the length /detail and appreciate all the assistance

My background

Positives
Strong undergraduate degree in finance with honours from a top commerce college in India ( equivalent to 3.7 GPA)

Two years of experience in strategy Consulting : 12+ assignments( market entry, feasibility study, commercial due diligence , business plan/business plan review, financial modelling, sales and pricing strategy) with exposure to sectors such as media, healthcare, logistics, automobile and hospitality

Well versed with strategy consulting frameworks : both corporate strategy and m&a and advised bulge bracket PE funds on deals that have gone live

I would be joining university of Cambridge (target school) for a post experience master degree in finance in september

Perceived negatives

No standardised test score ( admission to Cambridge was profile based)

Transition to MBB

Though my masters degree is a post experience degree in finance (technically an MBA equivalent) its not an MBA

Areas of concern

How I should structure my covering letter.How do I state the obvious shift from top 8 to top 3.

what position should I apply for ( associate/consultant level or junior associate/junior consultant)

Would my work experience make case interviews harder for me in terms of expectations of the interviewer since I have done something similar in past.

Once again I appreciate all the assistance that you have been providing

Many thanks in advance

Prateek

Reply

Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

Prateek,

This is a tough one as you are right on the borderline for applying to the undergrad vs post MBA roles. You could really go either way. If it were me, I’d aim for the more junior role. The post MBA’s have more experience. Better to aim a little lower and get in the door somehow and work from there. If you opted to target the post MBA role, it’s definitely not a mistake and you would definitely have a shot at it.

Do you have college entrance exam scores? If so I Clyde those in lieu of GRE scores. An undergrad % rank would work as well.

The Cambridge experience is a very good transition opportunity. No need to explain the desire to move for big 4 to MBB. Nobody is going to think you are crazy or anything, the Cambridge name as a transition point is really ideal. It “upgrades” your status somewhat and improves your odds of being considered.

In your cover letter explain, you’ve had a good experience at your firm, you have been invited back (assuming that is true) and you’re looking at other options in a field you really like… Use the Cambridge experience as your excuse for taking a look at your options.

Cases are cases period. The standard is largely similar. They will however expect you to be able to know the projects listed on your resume forwards and backwards, so be sure you can explain what you did two years ago, key insights, the approach you took, why you did what you did, etc.. Sometimes the stuff from a few years ago is hard to explain if you haven’t had to do so in a while. If it is on the resume, be prepared to be grilled on it.

Good luck,
Victor

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Bastos March 25, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Hi Victor,

I have been reading your posts and case interview tips, and they are very helpful. I would really appreciate if you could help me with some questions regarding my profile.

I earned a law degree from a Brazilian University in 2005. In addition, I’ve completed a post-graduate Certificate in Business Administration with concentration in Finance and a post-graduate specialization course in Tax Law from two well known schools in Brazil. I worked for 3 years in PwC Brazil as a tax consultant. In 2011, I obtained an LL.M. degree in International Taxation at University of Florida (it is ranked top 3 in international taxation), where I graduated with a GPA of 3.80/4.00 (top 7%). For the last 1.5 years I have been working as an international tax consultant in the NY office of a Big4 audit firm. I am 33 years old and decided that I want to work with strategic consulting and build my career there.

Do you think my age and/or background can be viewed as a problem? Do you have any suggestions that could maximize my chances of being interviewed? Do you think there are any weak spots or issues that I should address in my cover-letter? What do you think my chances are to break into the top3 firms?

Thanks for your time.
Best regards,
Bastos

Reply

Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:24 am

Bastos,

Your age is not a problem. The background however isn’t typical for top 3 firms. In the US, the university of florida will be seen as a negative (not selective enough) and tax work isn’t seen as highly prestigious or selective incomparison to investment banking.

If your Braziliian educational track record was exceptional, applying to a Brazil office might increase your chances. Your sweet spot will most likely be the top 25 firms, think the strategy groups of the big 4 firms.

The other issue is that tax people tend to get type cast as only able to do tax work. So you want to somehow convey that your perspective is much broader than just tax and ideally convincingly back up this assertion.

Good luck,
Victor

Reply

LC April 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Hi Victor,

I found this article to be extremely informative. I will definitely take a hard and careful look at my cover letter from now on. I’m hoping you can give me some of your wisdom as I’m at a crossroads right now in my career. I’m currently in boutique consulting (pharma/life sciences) and feeling a little bit unchallenged as I’m wondering about what other industries/business problems could be out there. So I’d like to branch out and try my hand at general management consulting.

I started working July of last year after I graduated with my Master’s from University of Pennsylvania. So I’ve only worked in consulting for about 10 months as a Senior Analyst. My biggest concern is that I don’t have the experience to jump ship to the top general consulting firms. In addition, most of my work experiences are R&D internships/co-ops I’ve held in pharma companies (J&J and Pfizer). I’m afraid that with my heavy technical, scientific background (both my bachelor’s and master’s are in the sciences), I will not be able to be screened through. From your POV, would my background even be attractive to McKinsey or any of the top firms? Additionally, is jumping to another consulting firm this early on a bad idea?

Thanks in advance for your insight!
LC

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

LC,

A strong technical background is usually seen as favorable amongst top consulting firms, provided you have the client skills and interpersonal maturity to work with senior clients.

Analytical + Personable = what consulting firms like.

Switching firms now is a tad early, but if your are unchallenged, bored and your job performance is going to suffer, then better to jump now than after your performance or mood deteriorates. Just make sure the next move is what you want, because three employers in 2 years would be yellow flag to the fourth employer.

With your background, you could try applying directly, but I would also recommend networking too. You can see all my articles on networking at http://www.caseinterview.com/search

Reply

Beth April 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hi there Victor,

I’m currently working on wrapping up my PhD in neuroscience, and am planning to apply to MBB. Though my degrees are from target schools, and my GPAs fairly strong (over 3.7), I don’t have any standardized test scores. Admissions didn’t require that I write either the SAT or GRE, so I never did. You’ve mentioned on several occasions that the absence of standardized test scores on a resume is conspicuous; should I state that I never took any of these tests in my cover letter? Perhaps include a note on the resume itself? Or do I just say nothing?

Thanks in advance!

–Beth

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I suggest writing note on either the cover letter or resume. It just makes the process more efficient and clearer for everyone involved.

Victor

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Aysal April 5, 2013 at 5:10 am

Hi Victor,

I’m currently studying at Management Engineering in ITU, which is ranked in the top 250 universities in the field of engineering/technology and ranked 1st in nationwide , with a 3.4 GPA out of 4. Also, I’m working as a risk analysis intern at the Royal Bank of Scotland since Sep,2012. I don’t have any test scores yet but I want to get GMAT in a year before I finish the university. I’m planning to apply consulting firms like McKinsey,BCG,Kearney that located in Turkey. In addition to this, I participated in lots of EU Project, and also I managed 2 social projects in Turkey. My question is What should I do to get the job from McKinsey,BCG,Kearney ? because we don’t have a lot of consulting firms in Turkey, and it is really hard to get in these firms.

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Aysal,

To oversimplify and state the obvious, the process is 1) get the interview, 2) pass the interview. The challenge is trying to assess how difficult story #1 will be for you and how much time to devote to it. Step 2 is difficult for everyone and it takes a lot of practice and preparation (I’d budget at least 50 hours and preferably 100 hours for learning and practice). The specifics are covered in my book Case Interview Secres and Look Over My Shoulder.

If getting the interview proves challenging, then networking to compensate for any resume shortfalls can help (though there are limits and networking works best for either borderline applicants or strong applicants with unusual / non-standard backgrounds).

All above topics have articles about them findable at caseinterview.cm/search

Victor

Reply

Aysal April 8, 2013 at 2:18 am

Sorry I forgot to say, thank you for your time
Best Regards

Aysal

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Jeffrey April 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you for all your wonderful advice!

I am a recent graduate from a non-target but well recognized Business School (Top 30 nationally ranked Business School according to Bloomberg/Businessweek).

I have had internship experience at UBS as well as at a Big 4 firm within their Advisory service line.

I am currently employed with the Big 4 firm I interned with and have been fortunate enough to have gained project experience on some high profile Fortune 500 firms in my first year with the firm.

I have always been highly interested in MBB but understood there were barriers from attending a non-target school and graduating with only a mediocre GPA (3.55/4).

Although Big 4 Advisory services are certainly not as high level or well recognized as the MBB or other top tier consulting firms, do you believe my experience (along with networking) would be able to help me land an interview?

Regards,

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Jeffrey,

Given your situation, moving to a top firm would be difficult. The natural transition point to “upgrade” employers is at business school. For lateral and experienced hires, most are people who’ve worked in industry as opposed to other consulting firms.

The prevailing interpretation of your application would be if he was that good, we would have got him after his MBA. Fair or not, that’s probably going to be the most common perception.

Nothing is impossible, but I can’t think of any prior precedent of someone of a background similar to yours “upgrading” to a top 3 strategy firm.

Victor

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Leena April 22, 2013 at 6:18 am

Hi Victor,

Thank you for this article. I got a call from Bain and I know this article helped for sure, because a year before I had applied to Bain but the phone never rang.
I can say I am a year richer, experienec wise, however speaking to people, getting a feel of the company through these conversations, quoting them, etc., definitely works. I realized that after 2-3 months of networking I could actually write my cover letter with ease.
My initial problem was, I wanted to point out (in bold letters , sometimes literally) everything that I have done and said. So I ended up creating a 1 1/2 page long cover letter (which probably bored the resume scanner to death). After I met a few people from Bain, I could sit down and look at all my achievements and segregate them into those that ‘Bain has to know’, ‘would be good if they knew’ and ‘ that’s not getting mentioned’. Then I worked on just re-phrasing them so that there’s a story to it and its interesting (without sounding exaggerated) and at the same time I could point-out why (through quotes from the people I spoke to) would I be a good fit. Took me time (and lots of paper) until I arrived at a cover letter I was satisfied with.
And now I am happy I read this blog before I sent out my cover letter because, after all the case interveiw preperation, I just wasn’t ready for the ‘reject’ pile.. :D

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Leena,

Nice job on all the revisions. It’s an awful lot of work for a mere 400 words, but it’s what it takes to be competitive. It’s not a guarantee of success, but it does maximize your odds of success. Good luck.

Victor

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Martin May 11, 2013 at 6:29 am

Firstly, great site with priceless advice. The book has also been a fantastic guide into the mind-set and process for interviews.

Though I do have one major concern. It has been 15 years since I left university and I am attempting to make a career change from IT service management into the world of strategic consulting. I am happy with the CV I have put together and I am up for the challenge of the interview process. The issue is getting there as I am not straight out of a top university and I have no formal experience with ‘consultancy’. Regardless I believe consultancy is the most natural career for me and I wish I had taken this path earlier.

Can you provide some advice and tips on how best to approach this path in a cover letter and also provide some views on how firms see people coming into the industry from other areas?

Many thanks in advance

Martin

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Martin,

For a lateral hire, it is best if you network to meet someone who works as a consultant in your target firm and have them endorse your application rather than applying online. See my many articles on networking http://www.caseinterview.com/search

The bias you will need to overcome is the perception that technology consultants aren’t strategic and big picture enough. They can think in terms of computer systems, but don’t naturally think about customer segments, competitive differentiation, pricing strategies, and numerous cross functional issues that go beyond technology and the kinds of issues that get discussed at the board level.

You will have to work really hard to convey that you don’t fit into that stereotype. It’s a very strong bias within the strategy firms. The bias is tech consultant come in after the strategy consultants do the “hard” work.

This is of course not true and the argument could be made for the exact opposite, but that’s the perception. Also by hard, I mean analytically and strategically challenging.

Victor

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HSS June 3, 2013 at 5:19 am

Hi Victor

Really practical information. I have an engineering background. Completed my MBA with an okay GPA of 3.54 from Hult International Business School formerly Arthur D’ Little School of Management.

My GMAT score is just about okay at 760. I have pre MBA experience of 6 years with a construction firm and a fortune 500 firm in assets management. I did get good grades in strategy & project management during MBA. I did prove my analytic & logical skills on job to get things done by suggesting & implementing out of the box ideas. I have two queries:
1. With these credentials which tier of firms shall I apply to?
2. Shall I put examples of out of the box thinking in cover letter?

Thanks

Reply

Tim June 20, 2013 at 12:13 am

Hi Victor,

Off the top, I thank you for opening the doorway for MBB aspirants like me, into the expected standard and the required effort to make it. This is an invaluable service to us all, so I hope you know we are indebted to you.

I am a Bachelor of Engineering (Honors) graduate with First Class Honors in Australia (GPA of 8.2 out of 9.0). Subsequently, I have worked 2 years in EY’s MC practice across a variety of operations and customer-focused areas. My projects have included several Top 50 companies which have strong brands in Australia. In addition, I have provided independent consulting to an e-commerce start-up on their supply chain and logistics.

I am motivated to take the next step work and work alongside the best management consultants at the MBB firms. I was knocked back at undergraduate level without an interview. Thereafter, I have started creating relationships with a handful of MBB consultants, in the attempt to work my way in via networking.

I acknowledge my lack of strategy consulting experience, and limited breadth in work experience. But I have built strong relationships with clients on the back of my consulting work, robust data analytics skills, a real passion for corporate strategy.

Victor, how would you suggest I present myself, so that is stands out from other applicants?

Many thanks in advance.

Regards,
Tim

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Patrice Johnson July 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hi Victor,

I am new to your website and have been learning so much in these past few days. Your comments about the cover letter are excellent and respected.

I am a U.S. diplomat looking to transition into a MBB firm. I have almost eight years of service with the Department of State. I’ve served in Latin America, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe. My career has taken me from general entry level work to promotions of greater and greater responsibility, such as, running a large section, to a multi-million dollar program.

As far as my education, I have a BA in International Relations and a MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. My GPAs were high in both. (Not sure if that matters now with the number of years of work experience I have).

I’m looking to transition into consulting because my personal mission is to help people and organizations be successful at their endeavors and play a part in that impact on society. Unfortunately, the bureacratic process has been insufferable and stalled my abilities to fulfill my goals.

I will need to seriously brush up on quant. I am new to case interview from a consulting perspective (our interview process is similar yet qualitative approach is used to answer case questions) and have been reviewing a book that has complete case interview preparation. Outside your book, the book I am reviewing now, and your videos what do you recommend?

Thanks,

Patrice

Reply

Victor Cheng July 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hi Patrice,

You’re the second person out of the State Dept who has contacted me. If my memory is correct, the last person ended up at McKinsey.

Your background is interesting. If you do enough networking (www.caseinterview.com/search keywords: networking) you should be able to get an interview.

In the process of INFORMAL networking, do not be surprised if you are given an impromptu case interview. This is often done by the other person to see if your case skills are strong enough to not embarrass the person if they were to personally recommend you be officially interviewed.

The two resources I would strong recommend in your case are:

1) My Look Over My Shoulder program http://www.caseinterview.com/loms — it has recordings of about 22 live case interviews of varying performance levels, and a minute-by-minute voice over analysis from me of what each candidate did, why they did it, how an interviewer would rate what they did, and what the person could have done instead. It’s my signature training program. Budget 50 – 100 hours of time to listen to it 2 – 4 times, to internalize the tempo, dynamic, and overall approach.

2) After you’ve had some time to work with LOMS, I would suggest working with one of my coaches to get a few practice interviews. They are all former MBB consultants and interviewers, and they can give you an objective read of any lingering bad habits. It is better to know early what you tend to do wrong, so you have time to improve it before any real interviews occur.

I find that experienced hire candidates (that’s what they would call you) that come out of a field very different from consulting are often TOO good at what worked in their prior field, and by default tend to use what worked in their prior career. Consulting has a different thinking and communication process. There’s a transition period to get used to it. You want to make sure the transition period has started and finished BEFORE your first official interview.

Best example I can think of is a candidate who came out of the advertising industry. Consulting firms have a HUGE bias against people coming out of creative fields. It is assumed that such people are not analytical. And in fact it is rare to find someone who is brilliant left brain (logical) and deeply gifted right brain (creative). So it is a bias with some truth to it.

So the women I’m thinking of had to completely unlearn what made her successful in the advertising field, go back to her raw talent, and rebuild skills more compatible with management consulting.

She ended up at McKinsey (or it might have been BCG) and it worked, but it was definitely a long multi-month process for her. (She also had to do a lot of networking to create the interview opportunity).

Also, I want to thank you for your service to your country. I personally really appreciate it.

Good luck,
-Victor

Reply

Patrice August 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you for your comments and advice. I definitely will work with one of your coaches after I review the material on LOMS.

Best,

Patrice

Reply

DD July 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Any Suggestions for Non-Prestigious School Graduates?

Hi Victor,

Thanks for making this blog! I found it is a great platform for whom had no background in consulting but wish to pursue a career in related field.

I am graduating next year with a bachelor’s degree in Math and Accounting. I found myself so passionate about a career marketing/strategic planning over the past few months. I solved real marketing problems and enjoyed it. Therefore, I hope to become a marketing manager eventually. I think going into a consulting firm would be a great start. I believe I have the potential to make a good candidate for a consulting job because I am insightful and analytical. However, my school is not a top-tier school in business (the big consulting firms don’t even come to our career fairs), and I don’t have any consulting work experience either, which makes it much more difficult for me to compete with Ivy students for a same position. Would you recommend me to go to a prestigious graduate school first or get a job at a small consulting firm first or try apply to big consulting firms right away anyway? Any career path suggestions?

Thank you in advance!

Sincerely,
DD

Reply

Victor Cheng July 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm

DD,

If your goal is to work for one of the top 5 firms, then given your background you will need a ivy-caliber graduate degree (pref a MBA) as a stepping stone. Choose a career path that 1) interests you, 2) you’re willing to do what it takes to excel. It is not hard to be exceptional in any career field. You just need to be willing to do what the average is unwilling to do. It helps enormously if what you do is fun and enjoyable for you as you will be more likely to work harder, work smarter, and take on more challenges.

If you have the time and energy, it doesn’t hurt to apply now because you can get a better feel for the process, can meet contacts that might be helpful a few years from now, and see if you will actually like the work as you get exposed to it through the people you meet.

If you goal is to working in consulting at any caliber firm, then apply now. The field is great for learning all kinds of skills at an early age that’s hard to learn in industry in short period of time.

Good luck,
-Victor

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Anu July 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hi victor

Firstly, an incredible help your website is to people like me as it instills confidence in you. Thank you SO much.

See i am a 2012 graduate in bachelor of business studies, my resume is very weak in terms of the score(54%) but my college is one from where Bain,McKinsey,A T kearny recruit from.
Its very hard to get an interview at even the start up consulting firms coz i had a medical condition & am sitting at home since graduation & that is what is bothering me.I have managed to get a job at HDFC bank for the time being but my heart lies in management consulting. Should i wait and apply more aggressively to consulting firms(the newer ones as the top 3 or even top 20 won’t consider me coz of the score) or should i take the banking job prepare side by side for the next year or two & apply to all the top 20 firms? Will this make my chances better than starting with a newer consulting firm?

A reply will be much appreciated.

Thank you
Anu

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Kevin August 2, 2013 at 12:42 am

Hi Victor,

Thanks for your insights!

I have been working in the NGO and Social Enterprise sector for the past few years. (Primarily in South Asia)

Having graduated with a bachelors in Economics, I’ve applied these skills to FairTrade and MicroCredit projects, but now I would like to take a new direction in heading back towards the private sector. The challenging and dynamic nature of consulting really appeals to me. Furthermore, I have seen that the NGO/social sector could really create more lasting and scalable impact through improved strategy, efficiency and innovation.

I’m now basing myself in Nepal to seriously focus on applications for top tier consulting firms based in Australia.

In addition to case prep, I thought that it might be a good idea to do pro bono consulting with local NGO’s, social enterprises and tourism companies, to simulate “mini client engagements” (giving myself a set time frame, using case tools and forming recommendations)

Is this something I could write in my cover letter and do you think the recruiter will see value in this?

Thanks again!
Kevin

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Kris August 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi Victor,
I am interested in applying for consulting jobs in McK, BCG and Bain. I have good academic credentials -Undergrad from IIT (GPA 8.9/10), PhD from Georgia Tech (GPA 4/4) and 5 years of experience working at IBM. I also did couple of internships at other companies and I did some consulting for few months while at Grad School. I took GRE back in 2000 and had good scores (800/800 in Quant and 730/800 in verbal). I have many publications (15+), authored a book and have 2 patents. But, I am currently 34. Considering my age and other factors I have mentioned above, do you think I have a fairly good chance getting an interview if I apply for an Associate position? I have zero contacts at any of the consulting firms. So my only option would be to apply online as an experienced hire.
Would greatly appreciate any suggestions you can offer. Thanks for all the free videos by the way. I enjoyed watching every one of them!

Kris

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John August 31, 2013 at 11:28 am

Thanks for the cover letter advice, it is very helpful. I have a question for not only my cover letter, but also my resume. I am a rising junior at HPY (3.8 GPA) and just took the GMAT. I scored a 770 which it state puts me in the 99th%. I am going to be applying for an internship for summer 2014 in either consulting or finance. Should I update my resume to include the GMAT score? I don’t want come across in an obnoxious manner and also don’t want to make it seem like I would not be committed to a position, because I absolutely would be. However I’ve read that consulting (and finance) firms look for very strong analytical types and value test scores so it might be helpful to list it. What do you advise? Thank you. John

Reply

Victor Cheng December 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm

John,

When you’re in the 99% for anything intellectual (,GMAT, GRE, scholarship, award, Olympic medals – I’m being serious) include it on the resume. Consulting firms LOVE top 1 pecent-ers.

Victor

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TH September 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Hi Victor,

Major respects and thanks to you for everything on this site, incredible stuff. Been truly helpful helping me gauge my prospects for top firms. Some insight would be great.

Bit of background:
Graduated from top tier target university in Canada with a 3.18 CGPA ( Lack of focus/drive explains the relatively low grade) though I’m capable of scoring well (GPA 3.8 final year). I’ve just graduated, and and have become serious a month ago.

I have great extracurriculars (international development work, exec/director of NGO, other leadership etc.), 3.18 GPA @ top tier target school, but no GMAT (though I’m confident I could score well, if necessary), and no big name work experience.

With recruitment right around the corner, I’m signed up to go to all the info sessions to all career events and network as much as possible (also, though linkedin by arranging info interviews).

Would you recommend going for the GMAT and applying later? Do you think I even stand a shot with the top 10 and MBB now?

Thank you in Advance!

TH

Reply

Victor Cheng December 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

TH,

The 3.2 GPA is probably a deal breaker. The issue for the resume screener is this. Why would I pick your resume to fill 10 interview slots when I have 300 resumes with a higher GPA than yours and more experience as well. Now, if you have a good reason to that question, by all means include it in your cover letter. But that is THE question in the back of the resume readers mind.

While most firms have some sort of a GPA cut off, (you can see my best approximation of the cutoffs in my consulting resume toolkit http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume-toolkit ), you generally need some compensating factor to offset a low GPA.

If you low GPA was due to say a life threatening illness while in school for 1 year, and the others were 4.0 that’s worth mentioning in the cover letter – especially if the work experiences are strong.

Victor

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Lee Angelia September 5, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hello Victor, I had previously applied at BCG (almost a month ago). I may need to re-structure my cover letter (haven’t heard back yet). I just ordered your book, which will be here tomorrow. I have a Ph.D in Organization & Management with specialization in Leadership and I am really interested in working for BCG. Do you recommend me updating my cover letter now & how can I assure myself an interview SOON. I’m willing to do what it takes to land a job there or at any other management consulting company. Thanks

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Matteo September 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Victor,

I recently graduated from an online Executive MBA program with a Finance focus. My GPA is 3.7….undergrad was a bit lower with a History/Social Studies major. However, I have been directing operations for many years in the insurance and real estate industries. Managing multi-million dollar companies across regions for the past 8-9 years, would any firms consider me for employment in the consultant field? I am having trouble figuring out how or if my skills would qualify me. Your website has been very interesting to say the least.

Thank you for any additional advice you may be able to provide.

Matteo

Reply

Victor Cheng December 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Matteo,

It is a possibility but it depends on the selectivity of your under grad and grad institutions. In general online MBA’s are looked down upon, but if you went to say. Harvard undergrad and your work experiences were exceptional it’s a possibility.

The other factor is how much responsibility you have in your current career relative to how many years you’ve been in the work force. The firms like to hire rising stars.

In my consulting resume toolkit, I have a resume scoring calculator which helps answer your question in a little detail.

Reply

Arno October 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Victor,

I am currently a 2nd year MBA/MSF (Master of Science in Finance) candidate at Northeastern University with concentration in Corporate Finance. My current GPA is 3.4 and I still have 2 semesters left until my graduation in August of 2014.

I previously had worked at financial services firm as working in management position and later as district operations specialist. I am currently interning at telecommunication firm in sales operations department (finance heavy role).

I have two questions for you. Firstly, with my professional and educational background would be worth trying my hand in consulting which I am interested in. Secondly, since I am not graduating until August of this coming year, is it too early to apply since its only mid of October?

Thank You

Arno

Reply

Victor Cheng November 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Arno,

First it is not too early to apply and may be too late. Campus recruiting typically starts 6-12 months prior to the start date,

Second, if consulting appeals to you, I encourage you to apply, with your background, the elite tier of firms will likely be out of reach but there are many, many firms out there. If the kind of work is interesting to you, by all means apply. Your background shouldn’t keep you out of the industry, though some firms will likely be out of reach.

Victor

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Linda December 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Great post Victor! It helps a lot because I tend to start my cover letter along the lines “I am applying for xyz position at your firm…”. I was under the impression that this was the standard format for cover letter and dared not become too creative in writing it. You’ve opened my eyes and I’ll change my approach in the future.

I’d be very grateful if you could give me some advise here. I am a mother of two girls and I’m based in Toronto. I understand how demanding MC career is, but I still would like to pursue it because 1) I like problem solving that involves math; 2) I love talking to people, especially when I get to explain/teach a concept/idea; 3) I want to broaden my knowledge in as many areas as possible; it’s simply exciting to learn something new. And I believe I have what it takes to excel as a consultant (750GMAT, 3.7 undergrad GPA in life science, won many sales/service campaigns while working at a brokerage house, very detail oriented/organized/logical). My questions are: 1) do I HAVE to do an MBA to get into consulting? (I can only do Rotman because I’m in Toronto, and very few Rotman graduates get in top consulting firms. But I can’t leave my kids to do MBA elsewhere). 2) Would consulting firms see mother-of-two as an disadvantage for new hires? 3) In terms of networking, should I focus on people in Toronto or should I also talk with people in the states?

Thank you for your time Victor, and happy holidays to you and your family (especially the girls)!

Linda

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Victor Cheng December 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Linda,

I encourage you to apply, especially if your undergrad was a target school. Female applicants with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) backgrounds are highly soft after by the consulting firms.

The MBA is not necessary. The bigger issue is what you’ve been doing with your time since undergrad. That’s the big factor. If you’ve been a stay at home mom since undergrad, that’s a tough one. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but I’d target the post college role + networking as your best bet.

In terms of networking, any contact in a target firm in any city will do. You just need someone on the inside to informally give you a case by phone, you blow them away, and then they email the Toronto recruiting coordinator and say , “you should interview. Not the standard resume, but geez she sure can nail a case”. That internal endorsement is the key to getting your foot in the door for someone with a non traditional background.

Victor

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Rebecca December 7, 2013 at 2:18 am

Hi Victor,

Two questions:

1. What exactly is considered a high GPA – hear different numbers thrown out all the time. My GPA is a 3.82/4.0 at a top-tier brand name school. I am a liberal arts major hoping to score an internship at MBB.

2. If my end game goal is consulting at a top tier consulting firm and I don’t get the summer internship this time around, what type of experience should I aim for to boost my candidacy next time around – IB at a Goldman or Morgan Stanley? Start-up? Other? I have one internship at a prestigious hedge fund under my belt but I’m not sure how great that is or where to go from there…

Looking forward to hearing from you, thanks!!

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Victor Cheng December 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Rebecca,

Your GPA is high enough. For ivy schools it’s 3.5 or higher, especially in math oriented fields. I have a GPA cut off for other tier schools in my consulting resume toolkit http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume-toolkit for others who want to self assess their own GPAs and have a different academic background than you).

For a pre full time non consulting internship, the consulting firms will value a big brand name company hiring for an at least somewhat analytical role. Goldman certainly works, though you want to be careful to not be typecast as only Wall Street bound (so okay to look for non Wall Street internships too if they genuinely interest you)

Victor

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Sara January 8, 2014 at 2:54 am

Hi Victor,

I have a 3.5+ gpa from Claremont McKenna College. Is this high enough or does it have to be closer to a 3.8+ for the Big Three?

Given the competitive nature of these firms, how necessary is it that I have a consulting related internship the summer before my senior year? In other words, would I be at a disadvantage if I spend the summer doing pro bono consulting in a developing country (a big area of interest for me).

I would appreciate your input. Thanks in advance!

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Sara,

A consulting summer internship is definitely not required. As for your GPA, it is hard to say. At an ivy, 3.5+ on the GPA combined with a strong resume would be enough to get considered. I don’t in know what the specific guideline or target would be for Claremont McKenna. I could definitely see you being competitive if you did the Africa thing (which would be a differentiator particularly if you don’t have familial ties to Africa otherwise) + did networking to get internal referrals and recommendations from employees at the top firms.

Anytime you have a non standard “package” it really helps a lot to get an gentle endorsement from someone who works in the consulting firm already.

I have numerous articles on “networking” and ” non target school” recruiting that you can find at http://www.caseinterview.com/search

Victor

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David January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Hi Victor,
Thanks so much for the posts! I aspire to work in MBB and I’d be very grateful if you could give me some advise here.
1. I am currently a senior at the University of Rochester, majoring in political science with a minor in economics. Though Rochester is non-Ivy, it is getting up in the ranking – late 20s/early 30s. Political science is also deemed as a famous major in Rochester. I was wondering what the GPA cutoff would be in this case?

2. Do recruiters/MBB pay attention to major GPA? My political science major GPA is 3.94 and my cumulative GPA is around 3.7 (as I had a family issue in my sophomore year, I had to withdraw for a semester and got bad grades for that semester). I will probably get a referral from an alumnus working in Bain, but should I just put my major GPA on the resume when I apply to MBB?

3. I will most probably be an unpaid intern at Merrill Lynch wealth management at Rochester (doing cold calling to customers and fundamental analysis). I was also a student analyst for the business school. I helped a local big data analytics firm and BASF (the world’s largest chemical firm) to develop pricing strategies and background market research. I have also done an independent study on pricing and brand strategy on the aviation industry, using statistical softwares such as R and VBA to conduct regression. Do these make my candidacy a lot more appealing?

4. Given my personal background above, do you have any advice for me to get into MBB?

Thank you for any additional advice you may be able to provide!

David

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Victor Cheng January 16, 2014 at 2:49 am

David,

For a non target school, as close to a 4.0 GPA overall would be ideal. Include both your major and overall GPA. Other than that, multiple referrals would be key to getting considered. Most likely across all three firms, they might take 1 person from your school every 3 years (it’s on that order of magnitude)

Victor

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Jose January 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hello Victor,
I very much appreciate your advises.
I’m a foreign MD with several years of experience in medical (non-patient care) research at a top university in the US. I’m writing a cover letter to a consulting company where I am saying the following:
-) I’m interested in transitioning from the lab environment to consulting because besides the professional expertise I can bring to it, on the personal side, I truly enjoy working with people in an environment where the common goal is to provide service, where professional growth is highly encouraged, where coworkers perform as a team, sharing knowledge with each other instead of keeping it for themselves for competitiveness,
-) I heard that the firm in mention brings all these together, I heard Mr. XXX talk at a webinar led by Ms. XXX, he has spoken highly of the firm, and I have also read what the employees at different levels say about how this firm tries to do its best to meet their needs for instance a consultant who had to move due family reasons to another state, she could continue working for the same consulting firm in the other region and when she needed to return to the original place, she could again continue working at her previous office. I have also seen how the firm has been rated among the 100 top for this and that.
-) I strongly believe I am the right fit for a consulting position because I am a problem solver, a thinker; etc etc.

Please, I know it sounds like what every body says, but I am just trying to be honest, say and show the best I have, I wanted to transmit them that giving ideas to find solutions for obstacles that we encounter is part of our duties in science and medicine.
Could you please let me know your opinion? should I omit something? Thank you very much for taking the time to read and respond.

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Jose,

I would write with shorter sentences to make it easier to read. I would keep the references to the specific people you mentioned. I would exclude the part about transferring to another office. That is not always easy to do and it may signal that you would be difficult to keep happy as an employee.

While your answers are common, one way to make them more unique is to link your reasons more closely to your background and current career choices. So say what you like about consulting, then explain how you aren’t getting that in your current field. Also say what you do like about your current field, and show how that particular aspect does exist in consulting.

Finally, anytime you can mention specific people employed by your target firms that have influenced you, be sure to mention them by name (and reference their title and office)

Good luck

Victor

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Jose January 31, 2014 at 10:01 am

Victor,

I very much appreciate your advises, and for free!

Thanks a lot

Jose

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Lili January 23, 2014 at 8:47 am

Hi Victor,

Great website! Thanks so much for all the tips. I also think is boring writing “standardised cover letters” and I am just wondering if you can give me some advice. I am a 32 and just finished a master degree in business informatics in Germany, and not with a good score. ( My father was sick, my husband traveling a lot, so I was left with my child alone he was born in the middle of the master studies) and was doing a internship and studying and being a mom at the same time. So even I had so many issues during my studies, I still feel lucky I was able to complete it. BUT the recruiters who will be reading my cover letter don’t know about that. How honest can I be in my cover letter?! Yes I don’t have a good GPA but I have worked for big companies here as an intern… siemens, Puma, adidas… so honest can I be and how can I address this in my cover letters?!
Thanks a lot!
Lili

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 11:40 am

Lili,

I’m sorry to hear your father was sick and congratulations on motherhood. Children are such a wonderful gift.

As for your cover letter, I think you are in tough spot as far as the top consulting firms go. They are extremely sensitive to academic scores. From their point of view, why take a risk on someone with low marks when there are 100 other applicants most with higher marks.

If the marks are really poor, I think you will need to explain them in your cover letter to top consulting firms. For lower tier consulting firms and internal consulting positions in industry that may not require disclosing your grades, I would not mention your scores in your cover letter . In terms of targeting, I think the lower tier firms and internal consulting roles are going to be a significantly higher probability opportunity for you. So I would recommend that you apply to these kinds of opportunities in addition to the top firms.

Victor

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Ashish January 29, 2014 at 5:50 am

Hi Victor,

Just need your suggestions on some points.
I do have an experience of 4+ years in testing backgroud currently working with the Accenture. I wanted to make my career as a consultant like in field oil and gas or as a buisness anlyst etc. So how can I start my career in these fields ? I am looking for a change.

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Sam February 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hi Victor

Thank you for all your guidance within the materials, as well as within the comments section! Had a question for you, which I’ve been struggling to find on the web thusfar.

I work in London, am a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) with one of the Big 4 for over five years, currently a manager with the advisory department advising on finance function improvement and on divestments/carve-outs/IPOs from a financial reporting perspective. My background is having a BsC economics degree from Oxbridge. I’ve been wanting to get into management consultancy with the likes of AT Kearney or (dare to dream( BCG or McKenzie – but I’m not sure what the best way is to do this. I’m not sure if they’d take someone with my background (without an MBA) into their strategy departments – what would be the best way to go about this? Do I need an MBA to successfully go up the ranks in a company like this – can I survive without one?

Many thanks,
Sam

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Victor Cheng February 10, 2014 at 2:00 am

Sam,

The Oxbridge background is good. Within the top 3 there’s a bit of a bias against accountants that are perceived to not be big picture thinkers. ATK is a possibility, MBB would be tougher and I think would depend a lot on your undergrad grades or marks. In addition, it would help a lot if you got an internal endorsement or referral from someone who already works at one of the firms you are applying for.

See my many articles on “networking” at http://www.caseinterview.com/search for tips on how to do that. Also, for anyone with a a slightly weaker resume it’s vital that your case performance be exceptional not only in official interviews but surprise, informal cases you might be given by people you network with at these firms.

Bottom line – your profile isn’t one with the highest probability of being considered, so 1) you have to work hard via networking to get someone to pay attention, 2) once you do manage to get their attention, you really need to wow them on your case performance.

Again, I’m not just referring to the official interview, but the unofficial one that someone at the firm gives you before they decide to stake their personal reputation on referring you to the recruiting department with a “we must interview Sam” note attached to your resume.

Victor

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Arjun March 7, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you for creating such a useful resource for aspiring consultants. I’ve almost half way through your book “Case Interview Secrets” and find it very helpful.

However, I have a question regarding a specific suggestion you made on cover letters- “Unlike other candidates you’re seeing that probably have XYZ trait, I have ABC trait because of my experience at XYZ company.”

Do you think it would reflect positively on a candidate when he explicitly compares himself to the rest of the applicant pool?

Best,
Arjun

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Victor Cheng March 10, 2014 at 2:34 am

Arjun,

If there is a genuine difference, I think there is a net benefit to explicitly referencing the difference. You would want to be careful in the phrasing to suggest there “may” be a difference since you may not have an accurate perception of the competitive pool. If your not sure if what you have actually is that different, than just state what it is and let the read make the determination.

When I read cover letters and skim resume, I am looking for anomalies that can be detected in 20 seconds or less. I am looking for something glaringly good that puts the candidate into the A pile or something glaring badly, so I can quickly put them in the reject pile.

If you got something good to say, put it in the cover letter and make it prominent to minimize the risk of the reader inadvertently overlooking it.

Victor

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http://www.scratchmap.org/ April 3, 2014 at 3:08 am

Thank you for creating such a useful resource for aspiring consultants. I’ve almost half way through your book “Case Interview Secrets” and find it very helpful.

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Arun April 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Hi Victor,

I am a final year engineering student at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. I got placed in a decent internet firm in India as a product manager after trying by best to get into management consulting roles at MBB and failing to crack the interviews. Now, I am a little perplexed because my firm doesn’t have a big brand name and a year’s work experience at such firm might not help my profile inspite of the fact that my work involves lot of effort from my side.

Therefore, I am planning to get into Masters of engineering management program at some good university in US which might be my last chance to get into an MBB. How should I justify my work experience in the cover letter to turn things in my favor? I have a decent GPA(3.6/4), a few national level math/science olympiad ranks, sports, minors in management, a research paper etc.

Any other suggestions will be helpful

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Saurabh May 18, 2014 at 6:54 am

Hi Victor,

I am an alumnus of India’s best universities;’ IIT and IIM. Post my MBA in 2003, I joined Citibank and later quit to start my own venture in retail. I recently sold off my majority stake and wish to utilize my entrepreneurial experience in emerging markets to help a management consulting firm’s clients in becoming successful.

My questions are :
1. Given that I have a 9 year experience, what position is suitable for me in a consulting firm.
2. Do I need to necessarily get back to do an executive MBA to get-in or will my IIM MBA suffice?
3. Do consultanting firms value entrepreneurial experience ?
4. Should I forward my resume through some contacs or is it a good idea to apply online?

I shall be grateful if you can advise me on the above.

Regards

Saurabh

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Astha August 12, 2014 at 11:01 am

Great Help!! Thanks a lot.

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Mark August 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Hi Victor,

I’ve been scanning your website heavily for info for the last week now, and have watched almost all your videos from the Harvard Business case study seminar. It is all great info, and your site offers a knowledge that is really unparalleled on the web.

With that being said, I’m trying to gauge if I have a shot at McKinsey. If I don’t, I don’t want to waste too much valuable time on an app and cover letter.

I go to Columbia, and will be graduating in spring 2015 with a Master’s of Public Health, specializing in Health Policy and Practice and Epidemiology. My GPA is a 3.22, I’ve been interning at a large health insurance company for the last 4 months (doing product and process improvement), interned at a health policy research startup for 4 months prior, and worked as a data manager at a non-profit research institute for a year and change before that.

My BA is in a social science at a non-target school with around a 3.3 gpa, and my SAT scores are crap, around the 50-60th percentile. My GRE scores are ok, 156;162;5/6 for math,verbal, analytical.

My strategy is to write a unique cover letter to stand out, then ace the case interview. Will my efforts be in vain?

Thanks Victor, appreciate your content!

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Victor Cheng August 18, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Mark,

Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re close to the McKinsey cut off. Mainly your GPA and scores are too low. My consulting resume toolkit has a self scoring calculator to figure out if your resume is competitive and includes 100 actual resumes from other candidates – each resume scored with accompanying information as to why each score was given. It isn’t the exact process McKinsey uses but is generally reflective of it.

http://www.caseinterview.com/consulting-resume-toolkit

The toolkit does have a fee so it may not be worth it given your situation. But if you are curious, it should shed greater light on your situation and also explains how to write a compelling resume for consulting and/or industry (within the constraints of the facts of your career history)

Victor

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Neil August 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi Victor,

Great website. I am a fourth year medical student currently (at a state medical school) but am in the process of applying to consulting firms. I graduated from Northwestern in 3 years with an economics degree and a 3.7 GPA, have high standardized test scores, and just passed Level 1 of the CFA exam. Do you think the big 3 (Bain/BCG/McKinsey) would consider interviewing me or should I focus my efforts on health care consulting firms like Huron, ZS Associates, IMS, etc

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Maggie August 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Hi Victor,
I have completed my PhD degree in biology, and I would like to enter the world of consulting (Mckinsey, Bcg, etc.). I have no experience in consulting (but have work experience in sales, hospital, research).
What should I write in my cover letter to catch the attention of recruiter’s eye?
Thanks a lot.

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James August 29, 2014 at 1:59 am

Hi Victor,
Thanks so much for the wonderful resources on the website. I’ve been recommending the LOMS and Case Interview Secret book to members of the Consulting Club at my school.
I’m an undergrad Senior from ivy school with a 3.8 GPA, 2300 SAT, looking to MBB full-time. I interned at BCG in Asia and at UN in NYC these past two summers.
Given the background, I’m wondering if my time would be best spent starting a new internship with a boutique investment firm or VC in NYC to maximize the chances of getting interviewed (interviews are in Oct.) or focus exclusively on case interview prep. Would you have an advice? Thanks so much!

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Victor Cheng August 29, 2014 at 3:45 am

James,

Prep. Definitely prep. Ivy + good scores + good GPA + 2 big brand name internships = very competitive resume. Ideally you want to empathize both analytical and people skills in your internship experiences. Also MBB interns very often get interviewed by the other consulting firms. You have a very high probability of getting interview opportunities. Put the time into case prep + attending recruiter events on campus + getting to know the consultants who come on campus for recruiting events. So case prep is first priority, second priority is networking / relationship building.

Victor

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Niki August 29, 2014 at 9:19 am

Hi Victor

Your website is really informative and it’s been indispensable as a tool. I’ve been practicing for a full month now in anticipation of the November 2014 recruitment season.

My question concerns the resume actually – I have an undergrad from a non-target school but I came out top of my class and was awarded best MA thesis in a class of 150+ student. I’m now doing a science PhD at Oxford University in the UK and looking to go into the MBB and/or next top 7 London offices. I have worked part time for an unknown consultancy, but for big clients like a UK Government agency, and two global pharma companies and presented in corporate workshops to the COO and board members (actually flying out of the UK to continental Europe to present at the client HQ). In my resume I’ve put UK Government and global pharmaceuticals instead of naming names. I’ve received mixed advice from people – some agree with this approach since they feel it is unprofessional to list client names in the resume while others feel that the names are so big that they would draw a lot of attention and as such, I should capitalise on it. What would your advice be (when you factor in my non-target undergrad and current target post-grad) to maximise my chances? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this sensitive topic as I don’t want to ruffle any feathers in the first step of a long process!

Thanks so much,

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Victor Cheng August 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Niki,

With cover letters and resumes recognizable brand names are VERY important. If your firm is not well known, but your clients are, it is to your benefit to list client names. However, if your employment agreement with the firm prohibits you from disclosing client names (my agreement with McKinsey from years ago considers client names confidential, so even to this day I can not disclose the clients I served) you should honor those agreements and not disclose information you are contractually obligated to not disclose.

Of course, I am not an attorney and you should check with one for a reliable legal opinion. Purely from a resume or cover letter standpoint, recognizable names are better than non-recognizable ones.

Victor

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Rash Jain August 30, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Hi Victor,

Truly amazing and valuable input out there. Looking at all the comments you have covered most of the common doubts. I wanted to know if McKinsey (or any top tier consulting firm) has any team dedicated to Business Consulting Associate for helping top pharmaceutical companies in vendor selection for selecting IT systems (Manufacturing Intelligence is what I am hinting at).

I wanted to ask and may be you might be familiar to it or may be not but McKinsey as a top notch consulting firm must be assisting global pharma / biotech companies in vendor selection or for that instance solving current business needs of customers

Any insights into this Victor would be highly appreciated

Thanks

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Philip September 17, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Victor,

Firstly thank you for a fantastic website and Case Interview Secrets book.

Most of the comments I’ve read tend to refer to GPAs and North American Universities. I’m wondering if you could shed any light on the UK system.

I graduated 2 years ago with a 2:1 undergrad from Manchester Business School (seems to be a fairly well respected university but non-target). Did internships at BoA Merrill Lynch during university and at Citi (S&T) following graduation. Some interesting extra curriculars (DJed at a fairly high level, committee positions) Now working on my 2nd early stage (non-VC backed) entrepreneurial venture. I haven’t done any standardised tests.

– How do you feel this type of background is viewed among the different tiers of consultancy firms. Possible to get an interview for MBB or more looking at 4-10, 10+?

– In a cover letter, what would you say is a well-regarded way to market a background in finance and entrepreneurship for pursuing a career in strategy consulting?

Thanks very much for your time.

Philip

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Victor Cheng September 17, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Philip,

The challenge with your background is there isn’t an objective numerical comparison that can be made between you and other candidates. If your GPA is well understood in the UK, than there is no need to do anything differently in how you present it

When applicants are educated in one country and apply in another, I recommend they attempt to covert all of their grades in percentile rank. If you’re in the top 5% of your class, that’s understood across all countries and cultures.

Your previous employers are competitive with other candidates. The small company employer as the latest employer is a negative, as is the non target school. It can be offset with networking + exceptional case performance. I don’t know how well respected Manchester is but at McK most of the consultants are Oxbridge folks, a few LSE and equivalents if that provides any reference.

I would say the top 3 firms would be difficult for you. The top 4 – 10 may be within easier reach for you.

-Victor

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Alex October 26, 2014 at 11:47 am

Dear Victor,

Thank you so much for this informative blog, access to your videos, and case interview samples. This has been very enlightening and I’ve become very interested in consulting, specifically in management and strategic consulting. I was wondering if you could give me some advice based on my track record?

I currently hold a PhD in Chemistry from a mid-range University, and have post-doc’ed for 4 years at a world-ranked 40s University. My undergrad GPA was only 3.0 but I graduated with first class honours because of a high mark in a major research project component. Other achievements in my track records include:

1. I achieved a perfect thesis score for my PhD, with direct degree conferral.

2. In my Post-doc role, I also worked as a technical consultant, and had the fortune to work with several clients in the manufacturing industry. I was able to conduct process optimization and commercial due diligence for these clients and improved their product performance by 20%.
I also coordinated and managed a research team of 12 researchers, conducted big-data analytics by writing custom codes in python and visual basic to deliver rapid analysis, which completed 5 months ahead of schedule.
I’ve had to coordinate and manage finances within our research team, which is approximately USD $200,000 per annum, and also assisted in securing USD $600,000 in funding from competitive sources.

3. During my post-doc role, I also had a hand in expanding a company that specializes in developing educational material for students preparing for GAMSAT and GMAT exams. I was coordinating a team of 8 members to develop and implement new national curricula.

4. Volunteer work: I’ve done a bit of volunteering work during my undergrad and PhD, which includes:
– 5 years as a first aid responder for St John Ambulance, during which I was promoted to Corporal rank within the first 12 months, and was responsible for coordinating first aid posts, and managing teams of first aid providers in major events (10,000+ participants).
– 3 years as the student representative of the department’s safety committee, during which I devised safe working procedures for the entire department in compliance to national regulations. I also coordinated and maintained safe practices in the entire department for 200+ students.

The issues I am facing is that I am changing fields from an academic one to a consulting one. I decided to change simply because I realized my passion is in the ability to solve real-life problems, rather than just scientific ones. I want to see real results and real impact on lives.

Victor, would you be able to give me your honest opinion whether I am suitable for any consulting firms, and which tier do I fit in? I am also not certain how many of the above 4 points is applicable to consulting. I am currently 31 years of age.

Many thanks for your time,
Alex.

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Fernando November 20, 2014 at 2:44 am

Hi Victor,

I have a 1st class honors Masters (& Bachelors) degree in Biomedical & Mechanical engineering from Imperial College London.

For the past 3 years I’ve been working as a project engineer in R&D in top 3 orthopedic device company (based in Switzerland). This is a project management-heavy role that basically supervises a device (i.e. implant) development from intiail conception all the way through regulatory clearance and launch.

I am currently looking to broaden my experience and experience a new challenge. I think that Management Consulting at one of the top firms would be a good fit. My aim is to stay in the Switzerland.

I’m a little confused as to what level I should be applying for given my work experience and background? Associate-level or Felllow-level at McK?

Thanks!

Fernando

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Victor Cheng November 20, 2014 at 10:45 am

Fernando,

If you have more than 2 years work experience, you are supposed to apply as an Associate. For McKinsey in particular, I tend to advise people who are borderline to apply for the more junior position. In your case at 3 years, you could apply for either and they probably wouldn’t object. Strategically, I’d probably aim or the fellow role as I think you will be more competitive.

Victor

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