Consulting Cover Letter Template & Tips to Writing the Perfect Cover Letter (2019 Update)

Between a resume and cover letter, most job applicants will tell you that the resume is more important. While your resume provides a more complete summary of your education, skills, and experiences, the cover letter also plays a very important role during the application process.

Your cover letter can make a big difference when applying for a management consulting position. Because the cover letter is typically read before your resume, it plays an essential chronological role during the application process.

Consulting firms will typically read your cover letter to quickly identify what makes you different from thousands of other applicants. Therefore, writing a strong and unique cover letter can make you stand out from the competition and ensure that your achievements aren’t overlooked.

A strong cover letter presents an excellent opportunity for you to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the job, and to plead your case as to why the firm should hire you over other applicants.

This guide will cover 11 essential steps towards writing the perfect consulting cover letter.

Tip 1 — Know What Consulting Firms Are Looking For

The top consulting firms receive hundreds of thousands of applications each year. For example, McKinsey receives approximately 200,000 applications annually, of which only 2,000 applicants receive an offer. Consulting firms are faced with the arduous task of narrowing down the candidate pool to include only the best.

Interviewing candidates is not a cheap process. The firm wants to ensure that any candidate they interview is qualified for the position, is prepared for management consulting as a career, and is a good fit for the firm.

Therefore, top consulting firms look for four essential elements in a cover letter.

  1. Evidence of why you’re the right person for the position
  2. An explanation of why you wish to enter the consulting field
  3. Reasons why you’re a good fit for their particular firm
  4. Your ability to write in a clear, concise, and compelling manner

Elements to a Perfect Consulting Cover Letter

When reading cover letters, screeners will often ask,“Did the applicant spend enough time preparing a strong letter? Have they done their homework regarding the firm and the position in question? Do they have adequate writing skills to prepare compelling emails, reports, and presentations? “

A cover letter is a challenging document to prepare. You may feel worn out after spending hours on your resume, only to realize that you also need to spend as much time (if not more) on your cover letter.

Rather than looking at your consulting cover letter as an annoying extra step, think of it as an excellent opportunity to emphasize your skills and experiences and to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Tip 2 — Make Sure the Letter Has TheseFiveDistinct Sections

While your cover letter doesn’t need to take a formulaic approach, there are five distinct sections that should be covered. They are:

  1. An Introduction

The introduction should contain which position you’re applying for, your name, address, and contact information. It should also be short, sweet, and entertaining. Write it in such a way that the screener will want to keep reading into the second paragraph.

  1. Why You’re a Great Candidate

This is the section where you should blow your own horn. Each sentence should speak to your skills, education, and experiences — tying everything back to why you’re a great candidate. Ideally, this section should include your top three achievements to date (relevant to consulting, of course).

  1. Why Consulting is the Right Fit for You

Remember that the top priority of most consulting firms is to find out whether you’ll become a great consultant if hired. Even with memorable and unique qualifications, a recruiter may not be convinced that these skills will make you a good management consultant.

To leave no doubt in their mind, dedicate a section towards explaining why you’re the right person for the job. You can use previous experiences (such as internships, jobs, or academic courses) to tie your career goals to the position in question.

  1. Why You’re Applying for the Position

The next section should cover why you chose to apply for this exact position in this firm. When laying out your case, identify unique reasons as to why you think McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, or any other firm is your firm of choice.

To make a compelling argument, identify specific people, reports, or projects that make your story believable. Don’t hesitate to mention specific employees or projects that caught your eye and sparked your interest.

  1. A Solid Conclusion

Finalize the letter by restating why you believe you’re a great candidate and how you can be of value to the company.

Tip 3 — LinkYour Cover Letter to Your Resume

Link your cover letter to your resume

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

A consulting cover letter is essentially an opportunity for you to expound on the information you wrote in your resume. What does this mean? It means that your cover letter should highlight the unique achievements, skills, and experiences (relevant to the position) that make you stand out from other applicants.

Your resume and cover letter should work hand in hand to strengthen your application further and demonstrate what makes you stand out.

Start off by identifying what you want the consulting firm to know about you. Draw attention to your career achievements. Maybe you started a business and sold it for a significant profit, or you worked overseas for a few years and have a diverse skillset.

Make sure that unique experiences are mentioned in the first few paragraphs of your cover letter to pique the interest of the resume screener.

Many resume screeners don’t actually read your entire resume.They simply scan it to identify specific items that make you stand out. Because resume screeners scan through hundreds of resumes at a time, they can easily overlook your unique achievements.

The cover letter is your opportunity to prevent this from happening. When you go into detail about achievements in your cover letter, you essentially draw the attention of screeners (and thus give yourself a better chance to land an interview).

Tip 4 — Don’t Forget About Your Resume

Even after referencing the unique skills you have in your cover letter, you need a strong consulting resume to back up your claims. A consulting resume is different from other standard template resumes, as it needs to emphasize a combination of skills that can make you successful as a consultant.

Here are resources that can help you prepare a strong consulting resume. A quality consulting resume will take just as much attention to detail as writing a strong cover letter will. In a nutshell, writing a consulting resume requires you to reflect on your past experiences, select the ones that are most relevant to consulting, and summarize them in a manner that resume screeners can easily scan and digest.

Top consulting firms typically look for the following in your resume:

  1. Big brand names (employers and schools)
  2. Strong academic performance (high GPA)
  3. Strong analytical skills (demonstrated in high standardized test scores)
  4. Strong leadership and communication skills
  5. Achievements versus career years (the longer your career is, the more achievements that screeners expect to see)

What top consulting firms look for in a cover letterAlso, refer to this resource to identify the top five mistakes that applicants make when writing a consulting resume.

Tip 5 — Avoid Using a Standard Template for Your Cover Letter

It’s no secret that it can be a pain to write a strong cover letter. It takes a lot of time and reflection. You’ll have to revise and edit the piece multiple times before submitting it. But, to truly stand out from other applicants, your letter needs to be interesting, personal, and unique.

The biggest mistake you can make is to copy a standard cover letter template and simply plug in your name and skillset. Screeners hate standard form letters because they’re boring to read, and they show that you’re unwilling to put in the necessary time and effort to write something unique. Because recruiters read thousands of cover letters, they can easily tell when a cover letter is written from a template.

When writing your consulting cover letter, make sure that every sentence is unique. While you may draw inspiration from various templates, add your personal twist to each word and modify it in a manner that emphasizes your unique skillset. For example, instead of starting with the usual format:

“Dear Sir/Madam, I write to apply for a consulting position….”

You can make things more interesting by starting off with what makes you different. Here’s an example:

“After attending Harvard for both my undergraduate and MBA education, I am confident in my ability to become successful as a [insert job position here] at McKinsey.”

Another example:

“My experiences overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer put me in a position to be successful as a [insert job position here] at BCG.”

The idea is to make every sentence in your cover letter count. Add a personal twist to all ofyour skills and experiences and tie them to the job responsibilities of the open position.

Tip 6 Highlight Your Skills and Experiences via Evidence-Based Storytelling

In your cover letter, the goal should be to tell your story. Rather than simply listing your skills and abilities, demonstrate how various experiences have molded you into the perfect candidate for the position in question. Strive to show that you have what it takes, instead of telling.

For instance, instead of simply stating that you can lead, give a specific example of an experience where you showed leadership qualities. This evidence-based approach shows recruiters that your prior experiences have equipped you with the necessary skills to be successful.

Telling a story makes your cover letter much easier to read. It also makes you stand out from thousands of other applicants who may simply state “I’m a leader,” or, “I’m a hard worker.”

As you use this evidence-based approach, tailor every experience you mention to a specific skillset that is required for the job. If the position requires a candidate with strong interpersonal skills, explain a time when you worked within a team to achieve tangible results. Also, list out any challenges and how you overcame them.

It’s not simply about telling a story. Rather, it’s about telling a story that highlights why you’re a good fit for the job, as well as what makes you stand out from the competition.

Tip 7 Show Your Value

A common mistake that many applicants make is to only think about personal achievements when applying for consulting positions. Recruiters often read through cover letters that have lots of “me meme” in them.

This is to say that many applicants focus on how they can benefit personally from the position in question, instead of demonstrating how they can become valuable employees (and eventually partners).

Many cover letters talk only about how the candidate will be able to elevate his/her career, experiences, and skills. Such letters only focus on personal goals instead of demonstrating how you can help the company become better. Remember that screeners are looking for candidates who will be of benefit to the firm, not those who are simply using this as an opportunity to enrich themselves and their careers.

When writing your cover letter, emphasize how your skillset will be of benefit to the company. To do this successfully, you need to do your research with regards to what the short-term and long-term goals of the firm are. You can then use these goals and relate them to your unique abilities and experiences.

Tip 8 One Page Is the Perfect Length

It can be tempting to write a long cover letter, especially if you have a diverse skillset that you feel should be highlighted. However, being concise and keeping it relevant to the position is a much better strategy.

Aim to select only the most relevant experiences that apply directly to the position you’re seeking. You can typically fit these experiences in only one page.

Being concise also makes it easier for recruiters to read through your cover letter quickly without overlooking anything. Edit it down to a concise letter by re-reading and adjusting your original cover letter. The more you read it, the more unnecessary words and content you will find to take out.

Start early so that you can give yourself plenty of time to adjust your cover letter accordingly.

Tip 9 Be Specific About the Position You’re Applying To

While this may sound obvious, many applicants tend to go off on a tangent about their skills and abilities without first mentioning the job they’re applying for. You should always state the position and office of the job you intend to apply for within the first sentence.

Remember that this information can still be included as you emphasize what makes you different. Here’s an example of an opening sentence that was used earlier in this guide:

“My experiences overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer put me in a position to be successful as a [insert job position here] at BCG.”

Being specific and concise about the job you’re applying for will make it easier for screeners to quickly recognize which position you are interested in.

Tip 10 Give Yourself Time to Write a Quality Letter

Similar to consulting resumes, writing a strong consulting cover letter takes time. To be successful, you need to consider everything you’ve accomplished as well as what makes you different from everyone else. Don’t think that you can write a strong cover letter in one night. It requires multiple iterations, careful re-reading, and timely feedback.

You also need to make sure that the cover letter blends seamlessly with your resume, and it expounds on the outstanding skills and experiences contained in the resume itself.

Tip 11 — Proofread Thoroughly

Proofread Throughly

And finally, make sure you eliminate any grammatical or spelling mistakes from the final cover letter. These mistakes make you appear careless and can result in being disqualified in the screening process. Don’t let something so simple be your downfall.

Take time to proofread. Ask peers and fellow professionals review your cover letter and give you feedback as well.


Here is an example cover letter that highlights the tips I’ve mentioned. Reference this example as you write your cover letter to make sure that you hit all of the important sections. These items do not necessarily need to appear in the order I have them listed. But, make sure that they are all represented in your cover letter.

Below is an example consulting cover letter you can download the example as well by clicking here

Example Consulting Cover LetterWith these 11 tips, you can craft a strong, unique, and compelling consulting cover letter to go along with your resume.

More Resources:

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217 comments… add one
  • Maria Nov 9, 2010, 8:24 am


    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.


    • jai Jun 24, 2013, 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

  • Uday Nov 30, 2010, 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!

  • Pradeep Mar 16, 2011, 8:50 am

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

  • andre Apr 18, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Very nice ! Thanks a lot !!!

  • Prof. Ashraf M. Samir May 25, 2011, 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.

  • Hatem Tawfeek May 26, 2011, 1:20 am

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

  • Christina May 31, 2011, 9:07 pm

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

  • Dan Jun 25, 2011, 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.

    • Dickson Aug 20, 2013, 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.

  • Ben Sep 24, 2011, 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?

  • victor Sep 24, 2011, 11:01 pm


    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.


  • Anna Sep 30, 2011, 9:51 am


    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?


  • Pavan Karwa Dec 21, 2011, 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 !

  • Anil Jan 10, 2012, 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.

  • Divya Jan 26, 2012, 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!!

  • seo Jan 31, 2012, 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.

  • Jay Feb 14, 2012, 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!

  • kim Feb 26, 2012, 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?

    • sad_john Mar 5, 2012, 6:57 pm
      • Dustin Jun 12, 2012, 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.

        • Patrick Aug 31, 2012, 4:45 pm

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

    • Rich Dec 6, 2012, 8:04 pm


      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.

  • tran Apr 10, 2012, 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

  • KAPIL Apr 28, 2012, 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.!!

  • weameptCase May 11, 2012, 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.

  • RP May 15, 2012, 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.

  • Raghu Jun 3, 2012, 12:55 pm


    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


  • Mansi Khatri Jun 15, 2012, 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.


  • John Jul 7, 2012, 11:53 pm

    Hey Victor,

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


    • Victor Cheng Jul 8, 2012, 4:39 am


      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 Cheng Jul 9, 2012, 7:57 pm

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


  • Sumedh Sep 14, 2012, 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

    • Victor Cheng Sep 14, 2012, 4:26 am


      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 if you are not yet member, you can become one for free by visiting the home page at

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

      Good luck!


  • Sumedh Sep 16, 2012, 1:29 am


    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

    • Victor Cheng Sep 16, 2012, 2:12 am


      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.


  • Sumedh Sep 17, 2012, 1:25 am


    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


    • Victor Cheng Sep 17, 2012, 1:41 am

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


      • Trevor Sep 18, 2012, 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)


        • Victor Cheng Sep 18, 2012, 5:33 pm


          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: , 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:


  • Trevor Sep 19, 2012, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Sep 19, 2012, 2:05 pm


      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.


  • Mohit Srivastava Sep 25, 2012, 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 does not work
    3. The link 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,

  • Alessandro Sep 28, 2012, 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.

    • Victor Cheng Sep 28, 2012, 12:29 pm


      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.


  • Quicksilvr Oct 4, 2012, 4:25 am

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

  • Amarezza Oct 4, 2012, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Oct 4, 2012, 12:36 pm


      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.


  • Emeka Oct 7, 2012, 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?

    • Victor Cheng Oct 8, 2012, 8:04 pm


      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.


      • Emeka Oct 14, 2012, 11:02 am

        Hi Victor,

        Thanks for your feedback. Certainly informative.


  • Philipp Oct 28, 2012, 10:13 am


    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?

    • Victor Cheng Oct 29, 2012, 7:08 pm


      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.


  • Joe Oct 29, 2012, 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.

    • Victor Cheng Oct 29, 2012, 6:56 pm


      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.


  • Claire Oct 30, 2012, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Oct 31, 2012, 3:16 pm


      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.


  • Massimiliano Nov 3, 2012, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Nov 5, 2012, 2:04 pm


      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.


  • Ay Nov 20, 2012, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Nov 27, 2012, 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.


      • Ay Nov 27, 2012, 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?

        • Victor Cheng Nov 28, 2012, 2:51 pm


          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.


  • Farah A Dec 4, 2012, 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?


    • Victor Cheng Dec 4, 2012, 12:43 pm


      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.


  • anna Dec 7, 2012, 4:38 pm

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

  • Anna Dec 7, 2012, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Dec 7, 2012, 6:42 pm


      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) for details on a new program on this topic I’m pilot testing next week.


  • Martin Dec 11, 2012, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Dec 14, 2012, 1:50 am


      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 Cheng Dec 14, 2012, 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.


  • Raver Dec 17, 2012, 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 !


    • Victor Cheng Dec 18, 2012, 2:52 pm


      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 Dec 23, 2012, 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 Cheng Dec 24, 2012, 11:25 am


    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,

  • River Dec 28, 2012, 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?

  • Carrie Dec 31, 2012, 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!


  • Alice Jan 10, 2013, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Jan 10, 2013, 7:54 am


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


  • Tony Jan 10, 2013, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Jan 10, 2013, 7:58 am


      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.”


      • Tony Jan 10, 2013, 4:42 pm

        Thank you Victor for the quick and informative reply.

  • Venkat Jan 10, 2013, 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.

  • Viet Jan 15, 2013, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Jan 15, 2013, 8:44 am


      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).


  • Nav Jan 26, 2013, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Feb 26, 2013, 7:24 pm


      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:

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


  • Brian Jan 29, 2013, 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 🙂


    • Victor Cheng Feb 26, 2013, 7:16 pm


      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,

  • Jacob Feb 10, 2013, 2:20 pm

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


    • Victor Cheng Feb 22, 2013, 9:04 pm


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


  • Luca Feb 17, 2013, 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.

    • Victor Cheng Feb 22, 2013, 9:05 pm


      Great. Good luck!


  • Firdaus Feb 20, 2013, 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.

    • Victor Cheng Feb 22, 2013, 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.



  • Raj Mar 4, 2013, 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?


    • Victor Cheng Mar 6, 2013, 4:49 pm


      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

      Good luck,

  • Sarah Mar 20, 2013, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Mar 26, 2013, 10:00 am


      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,

  • Sarah Mar 20, 2013, 10:28 pm

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

  • prateek Mar 25, 2013, 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

    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


    • Victor Cheng Mar 26, 2013, 9:17 am


      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,

  • Bastos Mar 25, 2013, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Mar 26, 2013, 9:24 am


      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,

  • LC Apr 4, 2013, 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!

    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 2:45 pm


      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

  • Beth Apr 4, 2013, 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!


    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 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.


  • Aysal Apr 5, 2013, 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.

    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 2:30 pm


      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


  • Aysal Apr 8, 2013, 2:18 am

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


  • Jeffrey Apr 13, 2013, 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?


    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 2:50 pm


      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.


  • Leena Apr 22, 2013, 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.. 😀

    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 2:51 pm


      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.


  • Martin May 11, 2013, 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


    • Victor Cheng May 29, 2013, 2:55 pm


      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

      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.


  • HSS Jun 3, 2013, 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?


  • Tim Jun 20, 2013, 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.


  • Patrice Johnson Jul 11, 2013, 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?



    • Victor Cheng Jul 24, 2013, 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 ( 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 — 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,

      • Patrice Aug 1, 2013, 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.



  • DD Jul 12, 2013, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Jul 24, 2013, 2:12 pm


      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,

  • Anu Jul 24, 2013, 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

  • Kevin Aug 2, 2013, 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!

  • Kris Aug 18, 2013, 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!


  • John Aug 31, 2013, 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

    • Victor Cheng Dec 15, 2013, 12:50 pm


      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.


  • TH Sep 1, 2013, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Dec 15, 2013, 12:55 pm


      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 ), 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.


  • Lee Angelia Sep 5, 2013, 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

  • Matteo Sep 18, 2013, 5:55 pm


    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.


    • Victor Cheng Dec 15, 2013, 1:01 pm


      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.

  • Arno Oct 27, 2013, 5:38 pm


    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


    • Victor Cheng Nov 7, 2013, 6:32 pm


      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.


  • Linda Dec 5, 2013, 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)!


    • Victor Cheng Dec 15, 2013, 1:07 pm


      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.


  • Rebecca Dec 7, 2013, 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!!

    • Victor Cheng Dec 15, 2013, 1:13 pm


      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 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)


  • Sara Jan 8, 2014, 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!

    • Victor Cheng Jan 27, 2014, 12:13 pm


      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


  • David Jan 9, 2014, 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!


    • Victor Cheng Jan 16, 2014, 2:49 am


      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)


  • Jose Jan 16, 2014, 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.

    • Victor Cheng Jan 27, 2014, 12:07 pm


      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


      • Jose Jan 31, 2014, 10:01 am


        I very much appreciate your advises, and for free!

        Thanks a lot


  • Lili Jan 23, 2014, 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!

    • Victor Cheng Jan 27, 2014, 11:40 am


      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.


  • Ashish Jan 29, 2014, 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.

  • Sam Feb 2, 2014, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Feb 10, 2014, 2:00 am


      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 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.


  • Arjun Mar 7, 2014, 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?


    • Victor Cheng Mar 10, 2014, 2:34 am


      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.


  • Apr 3, 2014, 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.

  • Arun Apr 28, 2014, 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

  • Saurabh May 18, 2014, 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.



  • Astha Aug 12, 2014, 11:01 am

    Great Help!! Thanks a lot.

  • Mark Aug 18, 2014, 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!

    • Victor Cheng Aug 18, 2014, 11:19 pm


      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.

      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)


  • Neil Aug 23, 2014, 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

  • Maggie Aug 27, 2014, 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.

  • James Aug 29, 2014, 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!

    • Victor Cheng Aug 29, 2014, 3:45 am


      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.


  • Niki Aug 29, 2014, 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,

    • Victor Cheng Aug 29, 2014, 3:44 pm


      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.


  • Rash Jain Aug 30, 2014, 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


  • Philip Sep 17, 2014, 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.


    • Victor Cheng Sep 17, 2014, 8:11 pm


      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.


  • Alex Oct 26, 2014, 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,

  • Fernando Nov 20, 2014, 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?



    • Victor Cheng Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 am


      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.


  • Kailas Dec 16, 2014, 2:36 am

    Hi Victor,

    I would like to thankyou for this great site, After reading all the question’s related to consulting i thought to tag my query here.I am a engineer graduate with 5+ yr. of IT work experience , now i want to move in Can u plz suggest me how my preparation should be and what are the areas i have to focus mainly to get in to consulting job.

    And, i appeared for CMC (Certified Mgmt. Consultant) from india board , not sure how much weight this certification (if i clear) will give me in consulting job hunting.

    Please advice me, awaiting for your reply.


  • Harry Jan 5, 2015, 4:02 pm

    Hi Victor,

    Your article was really informative. I have done my Phd in Neuroscience along with postdoc experience in UPenn and SUNY with several publications and served in editorial boards of some scientific journals. I am interested in consulting but do not have any experience. I applied for internships /volunteering in some consulting firms but couldn’t get through because of lack of any experience/background.

    Please advice me how I should go about with this. How should I frame my resume /cover letter to better fit to these positions?



  • Sammy Feb 5, 2015, 8:32 pm

    I have a interesting background. After graduating and working as a Business analyst, I had an opportunity to travel abroad and work with an early stage startup as a development consultant , which did great! Secured seed funding, got a lot of media and press coverage, doubled the user base. We then used the same team to form a second, small company(web development) in cooperation with the startup. After a year 1 year I came back to the states and now I’m applying to BA S&O roles. Do I have a shot? How do I formulate all this into a cover letter?

    • Victor Cheng Feb 8, 2015, 1:15 pm


      I think you just explain your situation much like you did to me. The one question the resume reader will have in the back of their minds that you want to proactively address is how serious you are about consulting. Most people who leave consulting to work in startups generally don’t return to consulting. If you can address this question that would be really helpful. Your prior business analyst role will be seen favorably. Also the time to do other business things is also useful to them. What they are worried about is that you might join for 6 months, and then leave again for a startup. If you can reassure them you want to work in consulting for at least 2 years that will help address that issue.


      • Sammy Feb 13, 2015, 5:34 pm


        Thanks for the reply! After reading your reply as well as this post, I have made the necessary adjustments to my cover letter. For example, I have stated things such as,
        “I believe these skills will enable me to help xyz’s clients attain profitable growth, strategically manage costs, and intelligently navigate risk through bridging the gap between vision and execution.”

        “With my penchant for producing tangible results as well as my enthusiasm to grow with your firm, I am confident that I can make significant contributions to xyz’s Strategy & Operations team(or technology team)”

        As well as,

        “I look forward to the opportunity to interview and learn more about consulting career opportunities at xyz”.

        In my opening sentence, I really wanted to use “Unlike other candidates you’re seeing who probably seem enthusiastic about consulting, I am certain of my interest in (technology)consulting because of my leadership and professional experiences as a recent graduate” but I’m not sure if thats over doing it?

        • Victor Cheng Feb 14, 2015, 4:50 am


          As for your last sentence that you’re contemplating, it’s overdoing it because you do know for certain that it’s true. You are certain of your interest, but factually speaking you don’t appear to have access to everyone else’s cover letter or their backgrounds. You’re guessing, but you are phrasing the statement as a fact. In consulting, that’s over reaching. A client could say, “Oh really, what data source did you use to come to that conclusion?” and you’d have to justify it.

          If you weed to be a bit more on the aggressive side, you could say, “unlike other candidates you MAY be seeing…” In the case, the phrasing is much more defensible. It’s doesn’t say unlike 100% of the other candidates that are not certain of their interest in consulting….

          Good luck,

  • Tia Feb 17, 2015, 3:03 am

    Hi Victor

    Firstly, let me say that your website is very informative – I feel it is very relevant when applying to any job. I’ve been reading pages for hours now. However, I’ve completed my MBA earlier this month and I feel that I could use my skills and knowledge “for the better” in consulting.

    My issues are that I don’t fall in a “target school” – in fact most consulting offices are based overseas with the exception of BCG and the Big 4 accounting firms. I have a well rounded profile – solid work experience with a Big 4 and some work with a start-up as well as good academics and extra-curricular activities.

    End of the day, I don’t have a drool-worthy resume, but I have my share of enviable accomplishments which I am proud of. So should I continue working on networking through LinkedIn which seems to be my best shot given the scenario, take the chance and apply online or look at a Plan B?

    • Victor Cheng Feb 19, 2015, 11:39 am


      You can try applying online, but I don’t think it will be successful. The feedback and trends I’ve noticed from those who apply online successfully is they are all had drool worth resumes rich in keywords like “Harvard” “GMAT 700+”, etc…

      Strong standard profile candidates from target schools can apply online successfully. If your background is strong but not easily characterized by keywords, networking via linked in or other means (friends, family, alumni connections) is your next best bet.

      I don’t know your full background, so I can’t assess your odds of success. Based on what you did disclose, I would split your time between networking for consulting and plan B.

      In my case, investment banking was my plan A and I totally struck put. Despite much networking, I didn’t get a single interview. Consulting was my plan B (I know hard to imagine given what has transpired since), and I did quite well. Although I was disappointed plan A did not work out for me, in hindsight, I was glad it did not. My plan B ended up being a better fit for me in the end (though not obvious to me at the time).

      Also, I have found that networking even if I didn’t achieve the specific goal I had in mind was still quite useful. I got a better feel for my various career choices, made contact with some notable individuals some of whom are quite famous today, and more. So networking is rarely a waste of time. Just stay in touch with the people you make contact with even after the immediate focus is over. Offer to be a resource to them over the next few years. Let them know what career you ended up pursuing. Successful people appreciating having contacts in other firms and outside of their field.


  • Tina Feb 18, 2015, 6:25 am

    Dear Victor,

    Thank you for all the useful data and advice on your site. I would have a question for your, if I even have any chances to get into top 3 Consulting firms. I have 6+ years of marketing experience as product and brand manager in renowned FMCG companies (Danone, Lindt & Sprungli). I would love to switch to consulting, as I am best in analysis and strategies (I also like this side of marketing the most). Also I would like to work in different industries, to get broader knowledge. I will be taking GMAT next month. I am European (currently living in Switzerland), and also looking for a position here. Is it even worth trying with my background to get into consulting, or would MBA be mandatory? I am afraid to leave permanent job for a year to get MBA degree and then not get into consulting, as for “normal” marketing career, I don’t need an MBA.

    Thank you for your help in advance,

    • Victor Cheng Feb 19, 2015, 11:30 am


      Without the MBA, I think you have a shot. It would depend on your most recently attended university, it’s prestige level, and how well you did there academically. A high GMAT score (even without the MBA) would help.

      You would be known as a lateral hire from industry. When looking at your background, the resume reader is asking him or herself, did this person have the background we would have selected for coming out of university. If the answer is yes, but for whatever reason we missed this candidate or they weren’t interested in consulting at the time, that’s a good candidate for a lateral hire.

      It also helps enormously if in addition to working a recognized FMCG companies that you did really well there. That helps a LOT. Your achievements need to be conveyed in you cover letter. In addition, the best chance to get in is via extensive networking and much case practice. Budget 50-100 hours on each. You ideally want your resume passed into the recruiting department by someone who is already working at the firm you’re targeting, where they have had coffee, lunch or a phone call with you, and they hand in the resume or email it in with the note “Spoke to Tina by phone. Seems like a very strong candidate. Definitely worth interviewing.”

      These endorsements are not handed out easily. Don’t be surprised if your contact gives you an informal case over a lunch meeting. If you don’t do well, they will no risk their personal reputation endorsing you. Be PREPARED.

      From others who have successfully gone down this path, the feedback is it’s totally possible but it is a lot of work to make contact with the right person. You have to balance making contact to get the lunch meeting with being prepared for an informal case should you get one over lunch. I recommend putting in at least 25 hours of case practice before a lunch meeting, if not 50 hours. The meetings or phone calls are hard to come by. they are definitely doable, but you won’t get more than a handful 2 – 5 meetings from 50 – 100 hours of focused networking, so you want to be prepared before the first meeting.

      In general, I do not recommend a MBA if the value of the MBA is contingent on getting a specific job offer after the MBA. An MBA is worth it when you go, get value out of it even if say you don’t get a job offer in consulting. Since that does not seem to be the case for you, and since applying without a MBA is a possibility for you (again depending on your grades, gray scores, undergrad university and on the job accomplishments), I would suggest attempting to apply without the MBA first.


  • Sergio Feb 19, 2015, 2:03 am


    Great information thank you very much!

    In you experience, what should I put if I do not know the name of the person that will review my cover letter?


    • Victor Cheng Feb 19, 2015, 11:15 am


      Use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern”

      Either is fine. They are standard salutations that the reader will basically ignore unless a non standard one is used.


  • Tolga Feb 19, 2015, 5:43 pm

    Greetings Victor,

    First of all thank you for such an amazing website and book. I have a question regarding to my condition as well:

    I study mechanical engineering and started my studies firstly in Turkey. First I went to the USA to do a summer internship and then through an exchange program I came to Germany, to the best university in engineering field here. During that year I made my mind to stay and could stay as a regular student. Now I am at the end of my bachelor, and submitting my thesis in a month. I did also my internship at Bosch. Despite of lots of applications to McKinsey, BCG, RolandBerger and Bain, I haven’t got any positive response so far, even for an interview! That makes me sick because, my GPA is also about 3.2, which is good note at RWTH Aachen University. Junior Associate, Business Analyst even graduate program. None of them worked. Based on my profile (which you can also find at the link), where do you see the problem or where could it be devoted from?

    If I cannot find any consulting jobs in a couple months, then I am going to start my master’s degree, again in mechanical engineering (already accepted). Is it really a “must” to be in management or economics area to go into consulting? What would be the reciept that you would write for me to be able to get a position in those big firms? I really would like to work in this field instead of being in technical field. I appreciate your help.

    “Grüße” from Munich,

    • Victor Cheng Apr 7, 2015, 9:11 pm


      I don’t know the German education system so it’s very hard for me to even speculate on your situation.

      The two questions that jump out in my mind are:

      1) is your university a target school for MBB? (If not search on this website for “non target school” and read those articles)

      2) What % of students have a 3.2 GPA or higher? In general the top firms recruit the top 5% – 10% from a university. This is not always in terms of GPA, but it gives you a rough idea.

      For example, when I was at Stanford, there were I think 400- 600 students who applied. My guess is 40 – 60 got a first round interview, and only 6 got offers.

      If you want more precise guidance on evaluating your resume, see my resume scoring calculator which is a part of my Consulting Resume Toolkit

      It is not necessary to have a degree or background in business to get a job offer in consulting. Consulting firms routinely hire engineers and really like the mathematical rigor these candidates possess and are accustomed to. So that really is not a concern and many would consider it an asset. It is easier to teach an engineer business math, than it is to teach a business major how to think logically, analytically, and mathematically.

      Good luck

  • Steven Mar 20, 2015, 11:38 pm

    Hey Victor,

    I graduated form a T3 U and do not have a good GPA (due to some family issue), and I was working as a consulting role for my family issue . Do you think I can emphasize that experience to compensate my weak GPA.
    I also have two job experiences (4 months for the first job and 1 year for the second job), and some internships (which are not in a big firm or anything).
    My second job is working as a CS in a MNC.
    All in all, my record is extremely bad.
    Any idea you can share? with my situation?

    • Victor Cheng Apr 7, 2015, 9:18 pm


      Does T3 U stand for “Top 3 University”? If so what country?

      When you say you do not have a good GPA, how bad is it? What % level or actual GPA number?

      When you say CS, do you mean customer service or do you mean computer scientist?

      I’m presuming MNC = multi-national company. Is it well known?

      I’m making some assumptions as to what you mean by these terms, to be candid nothing jumps out as super compelling as to why a consulting firm would want to pick your resume.

      Do you have extremely high standardized test scores (especially in math)? That would help somewhat.

      Are you objectively in the top 10% of your graduating class in terms of overall skills/experiences/talent?

      The top consulting firms generally try to interview the top 10% of a top 3 university in a country, and try to extend offers to the top 1%. For certain highly competitive schools, like Harvard, the % would be higher. For less competitive schools, the ratios would be lower.

      In my consulting resume toolkit, I mention that if you are mission one key aspect of the ideal candidate you can sometimes compensate for that if the other factors are strong and you do some serious networking.

      If you are missing multiple factors, that’s generally too much of a setback to overcome in such a competitive field.

      Without specifics, I can’t be certain as to whether my thoughts above apply to you. But those are my preliminary thoughts.


  • Manish Gupta Jun 5, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Dear Victor,

    Nothing can be a better source of information on how to get into BIG consultancy firms than your website.. Hats off ! for this wonderful website. I am also going to order your book via Amazon.

    Victor, I have few queries w.r.t my resume. Since, you are the best person to advice on this, as you said you were also CV screener.

    I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering at the KU Leuven, Belgium. I have done Masters in chemical engineering from top Indian school (IIT Madras). I also have 2 years working experience in a petrochemical plant as plant engineer at Reliance Industries Ltd. India.

    I am willing to have my career in consultancy firm where I can work on diverse varieties of projects. I have 8 months in hand before to prepare myself for McKinsey or BCG, before I could graduate.

    I was wondering, what is the possibility of getting my resume selected. How can I improve my resume ? At the moment I have one research publication from my Master thesis and I will have two more from my PhD.

    1. Do I need my GMAT or GRE score ?
    2. Since I am planning to live in Europe, is knowing local language is mandatory ?
    3.Also do you think that even if my resume is good, preference will be given to local student since I am not European ?

    I look forward to your answers. I will be kind of you, if you can answer my queries.

    Thank you in advance.

    Kind regards,

  • SOhil Rana Jun 10, 2015, 1:22 pm

    Hi Victor,

    I am a Chartered Accountant from India and want to pursue career in business consulting. I was not very much intelligent in school days but with the time I have improved my self and improving day by day.

    You are requested to suggest me way to get into business consulting and what is my probability to successfully enter into business consulting.

    Thanks in Advance

    Sohil Rana

  • Maria Jun 16, 2015, 6:34 pm

    Hi Victor,

    I am a rising junior engineer at a semi-target school. I’m a little late to the game as far as learning about and realizing consulting is something I really want to do, and as I work for a tech startup this summer, I’m working to set up a few informational interview to build my network.

    I contacted a manager at Deloitte whom I have met before but is not located in my city and he gave me the contact information for a local manager and head of campus recruiting at my school. He recommended I reach out to her and include my resume. Based on my research, I wouldn’t ordinarily include my resume at the first contact but in following his advice, would it be overkill to include a cover letter as well, if just for an informational interview? What are the instances where just a resume is sufficient and is this one of them?

  • Andre Jul 13, 2015, 12:47 pm

    Thanks so much for all the material, it has helped me understand the mindset of these firms substantially. I am soon to apply to a range of firms, from the MBB to through firms that would be considered in the top 20. I got a batchelors in Mechanical Engineering at Duke University with a GPA of 3.3, a major GPA of 3.7, and I am in the Master of Engineering Program with a 3.5. I’ve spent 1.5 years doing research with a well known professor in her field of engineering on an R&D project for Ferrari (the Italian sports car company to avoid confusion) where I daily dealt with equations estimation and calculation. I also have experience teaching English in Serbia and am currently doing an internship at a small consulting company in Jordan (the country) leading a feasibility study. I’ve been using your Resume Toolkit and it’s phenomenal, but as I’ve gone through it, I’ve wanted to ask: will my lower undergrad GPA hurt how my Master’s GPA is seen? I started college out slow and then really picked it up the last 2 years (evident in the major GPA including all the ME classes I took).

    Secondly, I have exceptional verbal test scores but only above average Math. How detrimental will not having the math scores be and how can I compensate for that on my resume/ cover letter? Thank you so much for all your help

    • Victor Cheng Jul 14, 2015, 3:17 am


      Oh this is a tough one. Reading your background, I wouldn’t reject you right away. I also wouldn’t automatically say yes either. You’re a borderline case. The masters GPA and in major GPA are good indicators, and if your math test scores were high I would tend to ignore your undergrad major gpa. I would automatically tend to skew towards the more recent GPA’s. So for me the math score is a bigger issue than the overall undergrad GPA (given recency indicators are favorable).

      I would look to your work experienced and cover letter. Definitely mention BBN (big brand names) on your resume… especially Ferrari. That’s kind of different and we don’t see that everyday. It would really, really, really help if you had an endorsement from someone else employed at the firm you’re applying to. If you were applying to McKinsey and you mentioned a McKinsey consultants name in your cover letter, that would help. If that person actually emailed me your resume and said, “Hey we should definitely interview Andre”, I would definitely grant you an interview.

      If you have the time to network, I would definitely recommend doing that to meet people in these firms. If you’re still at Duke, I’d absolutely recommend you go to all relevant information sessions, meet people there that work at the firms (consultants, not just recruiters), make contact outside of the info sessions (emails, phone call, coffee), and try to get somebody there to get to know you a little.

      For more info on how to do this go to — and search for networking.

      Good luck,

  • Maria Aug 5, 2015, 10:13 pm

    Hello Victor,

    First of all i have to congratulate you for the webpage. It’s very useful with a lot of resources.

    I’m an international economic student from DR . Even though I’m attending one of the best universities in my country, it is if far from an Ivy League. I’m in my third year economics undergrad. Under the global program offered by my university, I was able to get an associated degree in international business from an average community college in NY (is the only international program offered here, so it was basically that or nothing). I have a 4.0 GPA in the associated degree and a current 3.94 in my undergrad’s bachelor.

    I’ve been working for 6 months now in an economic firm in my country and I’m very interesting in the consulting industry. Considering my little experience (I’m still a student for what matters), what are my chances to get a summer internship at one of the 7 or 20 top forms? I’m really seriously about it, already bought all the books and material and I’m willing to give my 101%. I speak several languages like Spanish, Portuguese and English. However, I know i don’t have much time to apply so I can’t take any big test like the GRE or MATT and get the scores before applying (the complete process takes like 6 moths if you live in a developing country) . We usually take those tests after graduation here, for MBA or PHD application purposes. Would they expect me to have already taken those tests? Again, does a profile like mine have any chances to get an interview?

    Thank you in advance for your time and any advice would be very much appreciated.

    • Victor Cheng Aug 5, 2015, 11:32 pm


      In the U.S. a candidate with an Associates degree from a community college would not qualify to get an interview with a top 20 consulting firm.

      Your best bet would be to work in industry for a few years, do well, apply to a top business school based on the strength of your work place achievements and then apply to consulting firms.


    • Victor Cheng Aug 5, 2015, 11:35 pm


      My prior comment was for applying to a U.S. office. If you are in a country where a major consulting firm has an office and that firm recruits on your universities campus, that’s a different matter. The associate degree does not carry weight with consulting firms, but your undergrad degree from the top school in your country would carry weight with firms doing business in and recruiting in your country.


  • Shehryar Hamid Aug 21, 2015, 5:38 am

    Hi Victor,

    First of all, I just recently started reading your book (Case Interview Secrets) and it is brilliant! You’ve made everything so very clear and simple to understand.

    I have an interesting situation and I would really appreciate your guidance.

    I am an international candidate and I completely my bachelors (Majors in Marketing and Minors in Media studies) from a top tier university in my home country (in South East Asia). I graduated with a CGPA of 3.62 (Majors GPA: Above 3.9 & Finance GPA: 4.0) and I held three undergraduate merit scholarships for scoring a 4.0 (perfect) GPA in three semesters. However my university is not a target school.

    I am extremely passionate about a career in Strategy Consulting at a top tier firm such as Bain, McKinsey or Strategy& (formerly Booz and Company) and I have been invested in preparing myself for a role in one of those firms.

    Since my graduation last august (2014) I’ve completed six months of Project Internship at Nestle in the Marketing and Nestle Continuous Excellence departments. I wanted to focus on achieving results and building my strategy developing and leadership skills hence during my experience I ended up leading several initiatives such as forming, training and leading a team of Management trainees in a highly successful internal recruitment campaign (0 to 135 members in just three days of campaigning). I proposed and implemented a social media strategy which saw my brand acquire more than 130k followers within 4 weeks. I delivered presentations to the top management at Nestle in review meetings (the ONLY project intern to do so) and I worked very closely with business heads directly. I even led meetings where I represented my business dept. Since analytical skills are essential too, I spent a lot of analyzing customer engagement surveys and delivering presentations and recommendations to agency partners and my business head. I had responsibilities that people seldom have in such an early stage in their careers.

    I also interned at Maxus Global (Media planning company) for six weeks during my third year where based on my research and analysis I proposed how to allocate TV spots to the Media head at Nestle.

    Professionally, I have worked extensively in preparing myself for a role in a top tier management consultancy, and it’s been two to three months since I’ve been engaged in online study to complement my professional experiences. I even studied the complete GMAT veritas course just to better prepare myself even though I haven’t sat for the exam.

    The point is, I am very passionate about consultancy and I am as committed as probably anyone you have ever come across. I have had job offers (Assistant Brand Manager positions) from top notch local firms but I have turned them down just because I didn’t want to put an unknown corporate entity on my CV.

    Please advise me on how to proceed and how to approach the application process? I am targeting an entry level position (Business Analyst or Associate consultant). Currently I am also emailing people working in these firms asking for their advice and trying to build conversations. I just recently got an email from someone from Bain (Singapore) who said “It is so great to hear from someone who is so passionate about the industry and Bain in particular” and then she referred me to the global website (

    Another option that I may have is to work at a local firm for now, go for a masters next year in the UK from UCL (MSC management) or University of Edinburgh or Warwick or from any other well reputed university and then apply for a role in these firms.

    Your guidance and advice will be much appreciated! I am willing to do whatever it takes. This is my goal and I am 100% committed to achieving it.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Shehryar Hamid Aug 21, 2015, 5:40 am


  • Christa Sep 5, 2015, 11:43 am

    Hi Victor,

    As many others I have a question too. Maybe it’s not really in your field, but I’ll give it a try. I’ve got my bachelor in 2004, finished my research master in developmental psychology in 2006 and from 2007 to 2011 I have worked as researcher at a University (in the Netherlands). While working there I have almost (and the key word here is almost) completed a phd. For a series of personal reasons after my last appointment I abandoned the academic scene for a few years, I have quite a gap on my cv, and now I want to go back and either find another phd position, or at least a research position in my field. In the past years I had a few other jobs that have no relevance at all, and actually could be seen as pretty low status in the eye of some snobbish academic professors. Now I’m applying to this type of positions and I’m likely running against fresh out of master candidates, with less experience than me, but with a more linear curriculum and work/life trajectory.
    My question is: Do I address the elephant in the room? Shall I say something about my “lost” years? And in case I should, how exactly? I keep on hearing suggestions on how to avoid mentioning anything even remotely negative, but in this way I feel the gap on my curriculum will speak louder than anything else I have actually accomplished. I’m afraid that with no explanation they would just assume the worse.
    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Victor Cheng Sep 5, 2015, 12:07 pm


      If more than 90% of readers would notice the gap, and more than 90% would wonder about it or think negatively about it, I recommend proactively addressing it in a cover letter. You can frame it in as positive a light as possible. When we resume readers see something missing of a resume or CV, we tend to assume the worst. We have very good imaginations. In most cases, you reality will make you look better (or less worse depending on your perspective) that our imaginations.


  • Kevin Sep 28, 2015, 4:17 pm

    Hey Victor,

    That was a very insightful article! Thanks for sharing the inside knowledge!

    I just got rejected from a top boutique European Strategy Consulting firm (Dubai Office) after an interview with the MD and a case study. I am currently working as a Business Development Manager for a SME in Dubai. I have close to 2 years of experience in Business Development, Sales and Strategy.
    I have an executive Master’s degree (not MBA) with a 3.1 GPA from a top tier B-School in Europe. I also have a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering (Second Class Honours) from a top ranked university in the United Kingdom.

    I have been casually applying for jobs in consulting. After the rejection, I am seriously considering to get my hands dirty and land a consulting job by the beginning of 2016.

    What firms do you think I should target in the Middle East and Canada ? What kind of firms would be interested in my profile? What type of consulting?

    I have work permits for both these regions. I am 23 years old, and have no gaps on my CV. I am targeting mainly experienced roles due to my low academic scores. I have had big clients in the Middle East, and have worked on 2 relevant academic projects such as a Big data Analysis of Brain Signals and a Cyber Security Strategy project.

    My language skills are limited to English, French and Hindi. I have also been a Competitive Swimmer at the regional level in the Middle East.
    I am also working on certifications in Cloud Computing and Cryptography. I have pretty decent computing language skills (JAVA, C++, Matlab) and relevant IT & BI skills except open source coding (Python, R), which I am planning to develop soon.

    Sorry for the questions, but, I need some pro advice at the moment to set me in the right direction.

    Have a great day,


  • Danielle Oct 6, 2015, 6:27 pm

    Hi Victor,

    You and your website are awesome; thank you for all you provide the community.

    I graduated in the top 5% of my class at a small college (degree in chemistry; gpa 3.97/4.0). I worked in IT consulting for a MNC, that’s recognized for IT consulting but not general management consulting. Then I worked at a dynamic healthcare startup doing analytics and business analysis work. I’m finishing my MSc in Public Health Research at one of the best health/medical schools in the world, and I’m applying for a Mckinsey Healthcare Analytics position in the London and DC offices.

    I keep see you mentioning strong quant skills- i.e. gmat scores and SAT scores. As I didn’t go to business school (but still aspire to at some point!), I didn’t take the GMAT; my university, while prestigious, didn’t require the GRE either, as it’s European.

    Q: I did well on my SAT math section (720-760 or something… would have to check). Is this something I should list on my resume and/or cover letter? While it’s a good score, I’ve been working nearly 5 years since my undergrad and also am now completing my MSc…


    • Victor Cheng Oct 7, 2015, 1:16 am


      Yes include you SAT scores and be sure to split out the math sub score as well.


  • gizem Oct 15, 2015, 2:35 pm

    First of all, you have amazing resources helped me a see big picture’
    l ‘m from Istanbul, Turkey, and l have graduated last year, l am working at PwC as Analyst but my position is not consulting division,mostly includes process analysis and application developmental stuffs also l had internship exprience at Deloitte Enterprise Risk. l have not graduated from a top undergrad schools in Turkey, but l have started my Financial Engineering master degree at best school in Turkey, my undergrad degree is Mathematical Engineering, So, basically l want to switch my career with consulting , really want to do , l have no GRE, GMAT so l havenot good test score, l have Toefl which is 85 is not high grade, but l really want to make true consulting, l feel it is the best job suits me, what should l do, which strategy l should follow, l thought prepare for Toefl again but l takes time, and applicatipon season has already come, so l need suggestions from you including cv- cover letter writing to most importantly could you see me as strong candidate?
    All the best,

  • Katie Oct 15, 2015, 10:10 pm


    Thank you for all of the resources you provide to those of us interested in the Consulting field. My ‘story’ is different, so I would love some feedback from someone who knows the ins and outs of the Consulting field.

    I have a MS in Speech-Language Pathology. I have been working as a Speech Pathologist in hospital settings since graduation, first for a SNF (skilled nursing facility) and for the past 3 years for the one of the top-5 largest Children’s hospitals in the nation. I work in critical care areas (ICU settings, etc.) with sick kids and deal with a lot of difficult cases.

    Because of financial commitments (already have a masters), I am currently enrolled in a part-time MBA program (just started this fall). I have grown more and more interested in consulting as a career change, particularly healthcare consulting.

    I had a 4.0 in my masters program, my job is highly respected in my field, and I have a large number of qualifications that would make me succeed as a healthcare consultant (job requires a lot of flexibility, complex problem solving, and difficult conversations with a wide variety of people- from doctors to parents).

    Is there any chance that I would be even considered for a job as a healthcare consultant? Not necessarily with Bain, McKinsey, etc…somewhere ‘middle of the road’ in the top 50 firms. Would you suggest that I apply now with just a Masters or wait until I have both a masters and MBA (when the MBA is not from a top-tier school)? Or am I way out of my league here?

    What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    • Victor Cheng Oct 16, 2015, 2:27 am


      Your situation is a tough one to assess. For the top 10 firms, I don’t think you would be competitive. They usually take MD’s or MD+MBAs. For the middle of the pack firms, that’s tougher to say. I don’t know those firms that well, and when you further focus on health care exclusively, I have even less knowledge.

      I would say it is worth testing the waters now by networking and meeting people in the kinds of firms you intend to target. I don’t think your competitiveness will change by much by being enrolled in your MBA program versus having graduated. If you are competitive, you should be able to connect with people. If you are not or will not be competitive when you graduate, you would get shut out now. I would recommend testing the waters to see where you stand.

      One thing you will need to work on is your story as to why your prior background would give you an advantage as a consultant. For the MDs turned consultant, the standard story was the clients (all MDs) would take them more seriously than an MBA with no medical background.

      So you’ll need a good story as well. Also the response you get may vary significantly by firm depending on their area of focus within healthcare. For example, if a firm mostly did pediatric healthcare the fact that you have clinical experience of any kind with kids could be seen as a major plus. Or maybe a general health care firm has a children’s hospital as a major client – they might value your background more than another firm that mostly works with pharma.

      Just something to keep in mind.

      Good luck,

  • Mark Oct 21, 2015, 8:37 pm

    Hi Victor,

    I am about to apply for McK. I have two MSc degrees, one in management Engineering, one in Finance and Management, a one-year consulting experience in KPMG Advisory and now working for a consulting boutique in supply chain London. My girlfriend works for McKinsey Italy, however I would like to apply to the London office and I know it is much more difficult. I went to the “retreat” this year with the mcKinsey guys, and learnt a lot about their culture etc etc. However, how would you advice me to behave (in a cover letter / interview) about my girlfriend working there? And what about the Retreat? Should I mention I’ve been there? Thanks a lot

    • Victor Cheng Oct 24, 2015, 10:16 am


      I’d suggest saying something like “as a McKinsey significant other and retreat attendee, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know several people in the firm’s Italy office. What I like about the firm’s culture and people is ___________, and that’s what I’m applying, etc….”

      Mention it, but don’t over emphasize it. It will help them realize that you have had a chance to get to know the firm. So when you say you are interested, it is because you have done some homework and your interest should be considered well researched.

      If at all possible, you should try to build a contact in the UK office and mention that person’s name in the cover letter. Ideally you would want that person to forward your cover letter and resume to the UK recruiting contact rather than sending it directly.


  • O.B. Roi Oct 27, 2015, 9:53 pm


    Thank you very much for your website–it has a tremendous amount of info on it. My question is this. I was in a phd program that I completed a year of and then I dropped out due to a family emergency. Should I include that in my resume?

    O.B. Roi

    • Victor Cheng Oct 28, 2015, 2:34 am


      Most likely yes, otherwise it would be hard to account for the time. If the program is a well known one, then definitely yes. You will need to explain why you dropped out in your cover letter.


  • Neel Oct 30, 2015, 9:32 am

    Dear Victor,
    I would like some advise on my chances and best method of working for one of the big management consulting firms.
    I am switching career paths after achieving an MD degree and completing some post graduate clinical training (medical residency). I am not coming straight out of medical school and I mostly have clinical work experience. I do have a BBA undergraduate Honors degree from UT Mccombs school of Business. Please advise.


  • Miaomiao Dec 6, 2015, 9:50 pm


    Thank you very much for your website. I am a senior student in Beijing. I want to apply for the Business Analyst Intern. My question is this. I don’t have much intern experience , but I took part in many academic competitions, like national model negotiation competition during the last three years. Should I stress this in my cover letter ?

  • Patrick Dec 16, 2016, 1:02 am


    I have a few clarifying questions regarding cover letters/resumes for experienced hire MBB applicants from non-target universities. I hope the general situation will be helpful for other readers.


    1.) I have an undergraduate engineering degree (3.4 GPA), a minor in business (3.8 GPA), and an M.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering (4.0 GPA – top 1% – funded by Shell) all from non-target school Texas A&M; however, the petroleum program is the top in the nation (along with Stanford) and is well respected worldwide within the upstream oil and gas industry.

    2.) I have just under 4 years of experience with a worldwide upstream technical consulting firm working on and managing engagements with quite a few domestic and international BBNs which I am able to include in my cover letter/resume (thank you for clarifying my confidentiality question in the archived emails).

    3.) I am applying for positions specifically seeking Oil & Gas – Associates outside of the United States for MBB.


    1.) How much credence, if any, do algorithms and administrative recruiters put into individual program prestige at non-target schools?

    2.) Is it worth emphasizing early in a cover letter the credentials of the academic program over domestic and international BBNs with whom I have been entrusted to independently travel to and engage with in my current consulting position?

    I am less concerned with academic program credentials in the hands of an oil & gas domain expertise recruiter but want to have the best chance of it getting there.

    Thank you in advance.


    • Victor Cheng Dec 16, 2016, 3:38 am

      Hi Patrick,

      In general lead with the BBN’s first. Assume recruiters are generalists that know recruiting, but don’t know oil & gas. One day a recruiter is recruiting for oil & gas, next day financial services, next day retail — or depending on the firm, they recruit purely for a general associate pool. For example at McKinsey, vast majority of Associate hires are for general consulting roles. The decision to specialize in Oil & Gas would be made after 1 – 3 years at the firm.

      Program specific prestige is less impressive to generalists. Assume your application gets to a generalist before it ever gets to a specialist (Assuming it ever gets to specialist at all).


  • Jack Apr 26, 2019, 11:46 am

    Hello Victor,

    I graduated from Politecnico di Milano, Italy with a 74.5% average. Since it is not an amazing score, I am confused if I should include it in my resume and Cover letter or not. My reasoning for low marks would be the fact that I come from an application-oriented background while PoliMi has a very strong theoretical approach to the curriculum.

    Do you think this reason would justify? Or should I just ignore my average?


    • Victor Cheng Jul 19, 2019, 8:52 pm


      In your case, I would leave out the score. Don’t be surprised if they contact you to ask for the score. If you’re applying to a top 3 firm, the score will be a problem and you likely won’t make the resume screen. If you’re applying to a smaller firm, you’ll have a better chance of getting an interview.


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