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A Consulting Cover Letter that Lands Interviews: Our Complete Guide
- Last Updated February, 2023
Former McKinsey Engagement Manager
The recruiting season is approaching fast and there’s one thing you’ll need for a chance at getting your foot in the door for an interview at a top-tier consulting firm: an impressive cover letter.
What should you talk about in your consulting cover letter?
How do you distinguish yourself from the tons of other candidates applying to Bain, BCG, McKinsey and other top consulting firms this year?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, don’t worry!
In this complete guide to a writing consulting cover letter, we’ll tell you exactly what points you need to address in your cover letter to put your best foot forward and land that interview.
- What a cover letter is,
- The RIGHT way to structure one,
- The Red Flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them, and
- 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter.
We’ll also share:
- 2 consulting cover letter examples that landed candidates interviews at the top firms.
Let’s get started!
Consulting Cover Letter – Why It Matters
What is a consulting cover letter.
The consulting cover letter is a separate document from your resume; it puts the work experience you outline on your resume into context to show why you’re a great candidate.
The WRONG Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Most of the Internet articles on writing a cover letter talk about structuring them with the following sections:
- Why are you interested in consulting?
- Why are you interested in the firm you’re applying to?
- What makes you a good fit?
This is not the best way to approach writing your consulting cover letter. My Consulting Offer has helped hundreds of clients land interviews and then offers with top management consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey.
We’ve even helped people who faced an extra hurdle to land these jobs because they had low GPAs, majored in subjects other than economics or business, and/or attended non-core schools.
Our clients received interview invitations and job offers because our cover letter process works.
The RIGHT Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Want to know the best way to structure a cover letter that has statistically been shown to get more interviews?
Watch this video before proceeding.
Now that you watched the video (Watch now if you haven’t yet because the impact of the rest of the article is only 10% of what it could be if you watch it).
As you found in the video, the best way to structure your cover letter is to Google the characteristics the consulting firm you want to work for seeks in consulting candidates and then show you have those characteristics .
Yes, you read that right. Go to the Bain Careers page and read about what they’re looking for in candidates. You’ll find it on this page .
Every consulting firm has values they take very seriously and that drive the candidates they target, so you will want to know what they are for each firm you apply to.
As an example, Bain wants consultants with:
- Problem-solving skills,
- The ability to lead,
- Results delivered, and
You will use each of these to develop a paragraph or section of your consulting cover letter.
For each, choose a specific time from your professional or personal experiences that shows you possess that characteristic.
If you have more than one experience that shows you exemplifying a characteristic, pick the strongest example.
Then, create a story that briefly explains the context around your example, describes the action(s) you took, and shows concrete results.
Quantify the results of your actions whenever possible.
- Results delivered – When I took over as the leader of my sorority’s annual fundraising event for a local food bank, I wanted to make it even more successful than in prior years. Each year, we threw an event and asked people to bring packaged food products and/or a donation. I went beyond that by asking the college’s academic departments to collect donations from faculty and staff as well. Packaged good contributions to the food bank increased by 50% and financial donations increased by over 300%.
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Proof the My Consulting Offer Cover Letter Structure Works
This strategy of showing how you’ve exemplified the characteristics the firm is looking for in applicants works particularly well if you are applying to management consulting firms from a non-traditional background.
If you’re a student with a liberal arts major, a student with a non-MBA masters degree or doctorate degree, or a candidate from a non-core school, you should definitely use our approach.
Because you are showing the reader that you would be an asset to their team and have what it takes to be a successful consultant at their firm, they become less focused on your non-traditional background.
One of our early clients was an undergraduate who’d spent his summers interning in Michelin-star restaurants in New York City because he aspired to run a Michelin star restaurant as a career.
He didn’t have high-level positions in these internships; he worked in the kitchens. He cut the tomatoes for the tomato soup and did similar food prep.
He wasn’t even in charge of making the tomato soup!
As graduation approached, he decided that while he knew all about the kitchen side of the restaurant business, he wanted to learn about running the front of the house. To do that, he looked into consulting jobs.
But he had no business experience.
In his cover letter, we developed stories about:
- Managing the kitchen effectively even on hecticly-busy Saturday nights,
- Managing chefs with many years more experience than he had himself,
- Landing jobs at top-rated restaurants by showing up at the restaurants before they opened and networking his way in with perseverance.
These stories showed he had the leadership experience, people skills and drive needed in consulting, things that wouldn’t have been clear from his resume alone.
Why My Consulting Offer’s Approach to Writing Consulting Cover Letters Is So Effective
My Consulting Offer’s approach of highlighting the characteristics the consulting firms value in applicants to develop your cover letter works.
- You don’t need to explain “Why McKinsey/Bain/BCG/etc.?” because you’ve taken your bullet points from their firm career pages .
- Your stories explain why you’re a good fit.
- You can cover the question “Why consulting?” in just a sentence or 2 because you’ve demonstrated you understand what consulting firms look for in candidates through your stories. This question is especially important for applicants with non-traditional backgrounds or experienced hires.
Just add a short opening, 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” and a short conclusion to these paragraphs and your cover letter will be ready to submit.
Mistakes People Make with Their Consulting Cover Letter that Lead to Rejection
There are red flags that can get applicants’ resumes placed in the “no” pile. These are:
- A gap in their work history.
A low GPA can be a problem because
management consulting firms target people who can solve tough business problems. But if your GPA is low due to extenuating circumstances, such as a problem with your own or a family members’ health or if you needed to work many hours each week to finance your education, firms will often overlook this.
Small offices at top consulting firms often have a problem. People apply to them because they think they have a better shot at getting an offer from the firm if they apply through that office, but later, these same people want to move to a different office.
If you are applying to an office because you genuinely want to live in that city, tell the recruiters why you want to live in that city (examples: near family, proximity to outdoor activities, etc.) They need to see that you are not planning to try to transfer to another office or they won’t want to invest in you.
If you have a gap in your work history, a consulting firm might think you were fired and had difficulty finding another job. If health or another issue was the cause of the gap in your work history, it’s important to explain that.
If you have any of these or other red flags in your consulting application, take the time to explain them in your cover letter so that they don’t derail you from getting an interview.
Writing Your Management Consulting Cover Letter – a Step-by-Step Guide
- Opening – keep your opening short and sweet. Just introduce yourself and express interest in working for the firm you’re applying to, mentioning the specific position you want. Include your 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” here.
- Central paragraphs 1 – As explained above, find what the firm is looking for in consultants from their Careers page and dedicate one paragraph to each characteristic.
- Central paragraphs 2 – Create a story from your experience that shows you have that characteristic. You should include 3-4 stories in your cover letter.
- Central paragraphs 3 – Quantify results whenever possible.
- Central paragraphs 4 – Order these stories in the way that works to your advantage, with the strongest story first, the second-strongest last, and weaker (but still good) stories in the middle.
- Address any red flags.
- Express your interest again and close the letter.
That’s it! You now have an impressive cover letter.
5 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter that Lands the Interview
- Tip #1 – Start with the characteristics valued by the consulting firm you’re most interested in. You should tailor the cover letter for each firm to the characteristics they list on their Career page. You’ll find, however, that you can re-use stories because all consulting firms value leadership, drive, teamwork and creating impact.
- Tips #2 – Pick the most compelling stories from your experience. You probably have multiple stories you could use for some values. Choose just one story. If in doubt, the one where you solved the biggest problem or where you had the biggest impact is probably the best. Don’t worry, if you have another great story, you’ll get to talk about it in your consulting interviews.
- Tips #3 – Quantify results wherever possible. Showing that you increased revenue/ attendance/ donations by x% quickly and effectively displays you can get things done. Same with cost reductions or reduced time/effort to get work done.
- Tip #4 – Tighten your language to show your point as efficiently as possible. Never say more than you need to in order to make your point. Recruiters screen thousands of applications and they appreciate communications that get right to the point. Consulting partners will also appreciate this skill once you’re on their team and drafting PowerPoint slides for client meetings. Keep your cover letter to one page.
- Tip #5 -Use Fiverr or another service to ensure you have no grammatical or spelling mistakes. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don’t send a letter out with a big mistake in it especially if you can prevent it with $5.
Consulting Cover Letter Examples
The best way to get a sense of what an effective management cover letter looks like is to read one.
We’ve got 2 examples of letters that helped My Consulting Offer clients land interviews: one from an undergraduate student’s application to McKinsey and one from an experienced-hire candidate’s application to Bain.
Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Example
MONTH DAY, YEAR
RECRUITER’S NAME RECRUITER’S TITLE McKinsey & Company OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear [RECRUITER] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
Thank you for considering my application for Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s commitment to create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people by developing one another through apprenticeship, mentoring, and sustaining a caring meritocracy.
Given the opportunity to join McKinsey, I would bring to the firm my entrepreneurial drive, problem solving skills, and a collaborative approach.
- Entrepreneurial drive: I was a scholarship athlete on the [UNIVERSITY] football team and was expected to arrive on campus a month before classes started. This reduced summer availability left me at a disadvantage for traditional summer internships, so I founded my own landscaping business. It was grassroots, and I conducted business relationships built on trust and relied on word of mouth. To ensure superb deliverables, I taught myself Google Sketchup to model my projects before building them. I learned about drainage and construction techniques using YouTube videos and manufacturer websites so that I could build retaining walls and outdoor structures. Using self-taught skills, I netted $30,000 in profit over the course of 3 summers which was a major source of funding for my education.
- Problem solving: To increase the competitiveness of our off-season testing, the [UNIVERSITY] strength staff started an event called the “Tricolour Draft.” As a captain in this draft, I was responsible for drafting a team of my peers. Rather than relying on my perception of players, I took a more empirical approach. After seeking out the previous year’s testing numbers, I entered them into Excel and added projections for players who were new to the team. I was then able to rank all my teammates based on their average performance across all the tests. I drafted my team strictly according to the unbiased rankings on this list and let the opposing teams draft based on their subjective feelings. My team ended up winning the competition and, using the exact same approach, I won the following years Tricolour Draft as well.
- Collaborative: When I was 4, my parents took roles as expats and moved our family to Khartoum, Sudan. I went to an international school but lived among the locals. This resulted in a unique environment to grow up in and one where I developed some great relationships. One such relationship was with a company employed driver, for whom I was the best man at his wedding at the age of 7! I quickly realized that everyone, from my peers to the locals, brought something to the table. I learned that people from all walks of life possessed valuable perspective and input worth considering. This recognition of diversity and drive to collaborate has given me the skills to produce results on teams and to form meaningful relationships with people of varied backgrounds.
I hope to bring these same attributes to McKinsey. Thank you for your consideration.
Why Is This Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
This consulting industry cover letter written by an undergraduate is effective because it addresses key characteristics that McKinsey looks for in their applicants as you can see on their careers page :
- Personal Impact,
- Entrepreneurial drive,
- Problem Solving skills, and
While it only calls out 2 of the 4 characteristics McKinsey is looking for, entrepreneurial drive and problems solving, these stories also showcase the candidate’s personal impact.
The 3rd characteristic the cover letter calls out, teamwork/ collaboration, is also highly valued by McKinsey and other consulting firms.
The entrepreneurial drive paragraph is effective because it shows this candidate works hard and overcomes obstacles that would stand in the way of other candidates.
The problem solving paragraph is effective because it shows the candidate’s structured approach to solving a problem. It also shows this approach worked.
The collaborative story works because it shows that this candidate was able to make strong personal connections from a very young age, and that they respect people from all walks of life.
The candidate makes clear with his/her stories that they understand what McKinsey is looking for and that they’ve demonstrated those characteristics.
Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Example
NAME OF RECRUITER TITLE OF RECRUITER Bain & Company FIRM OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear Ms. LAST NAME and members of the Bain recruiting team,
Thank you for considering me for the position of Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my passion for results, drive and character, and ability to have a lasting impact, as the following outlines.
- Passion for Results: During a recent work-related project for COMPANY, I was placed in an innovative concept location for healthcare and lifestyle services, that had previously accounted for a monthly loss of $60,000 per month. I arrived as a transitionary replacement for the managing director with little time to adjust. Knowing that I had to turn around a loss-making business quickly, I began examining the most relevant products, services, costs and customers. After translating this analysis into a strategy, I convinced management through my presentation of recommendations to pursue a number of key steps in order to turn around the business. Three months later, we managed to create a business that generated $20,000 per month. Through the use of a structured analysis, combined with consistent execution of plans, I came to understand the value of an external consultant in a challenging business situation. Indeed, this project has motivated me to continue this type of result-driven work as a consultant at Bain & Company.
- Drive & Character: Before starting university, I worked as a paramedic in an ambulance, as part of Austrian mandatory civilian service. We worked in emergency teams, sometimes even throughout night shifts. This experience taught me a lot about first aid and human nature, and about working with colleagues amidst emergency situations. Moreover, I learned about my own performance, and how to stay calm and professional when it matters the most. Although handling emergencies became part of the daily business, I also developed professionally by performing services with great social impact, like taking care of disabled individuals several times a week. Regardless of the nature of the case, I learned to work diligently and always put the patient at the center of every action. As consulting also requires putting the interest of the client first at all times, I am confident that I can deliver value for Bain’s clients.
- Lasting Impact: At NAME OF UNIVERSITY, I was elected president of NAME OF ORGANIZATION, a residential community of internationally minded members with over 1000 members worldwide. Heading a board of six representatives, I developed valuable teamwork and delegation skills throughout our meetings. One day, a member of the board abruptly stopped communication. I saw it as my responsibility to ask for clarification and how I could support him. However, upon learning that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, I immediately and discreetly took steps to delegate his workflow to other board members and myself, so that he could focus on his family. As I led the other board members through a process of working overtime, we still managed to deliver results on time. This experience underlines my belief to always care for all members of a team and to be a leader by enabling them to perform.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
E-SIGNATURE PRINTED NAME
Why Is This Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
- Problem-solving skills (addressed in Passion for results and Lasting impact.)
- The ability to lead (addressed in all 3 stories.)
- Results delivered (addressed in Passion for results with quantified impact.)
- Passion (addressed in Drive and character)
Each of the 3 stories in this cover letter presents the applicant as someone who has the characteristics top management consulting firms look for.
Moreover, the 3 stories together demonstrate that he or she has “the whole package.” He or she isn’t smart but a poor team player or good at problem-solving but lacking the passion needed to get things done in a difficult, real-world environment.
The fact that the applicant could speak to all of the things Bain looks for helped them land interviews with multiple top firms and then their management consulting offers.
What About Firms Like McKinsey Which Don’t Require a Cover Letter?
Some management consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company have made submitting a consulting cover letter optional.
Should you bother to spend the time to write one if they don’t seem to care?
If your resume clearly shows you are a good fit for the consulting firm, then you don’t need to submit a cover letter. Things that would make you look like a good fit include:
- A high GPA,
- Attendance at or a degree from a core school that the firm recruits at through on-campus interviews and hires consultants from every year,
- An undergraduate degree in business or economics or an MBA,
- Leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills clearly demonstrated through work and volunteer experience on your resume.
If your resume doesn’t clearly communicate that you’re a good fit for the management consulting industry and their firm, in particular, your application will be strengthened by including a cover letter.
Also, you should also submit a cover letter if you have been previously rejected from that firm so that they know you have taken steps to improve your application since last applying.
You’ll want to think about stories to use in your behavioral interviews anyway, so if you’re not sure whether you need a cover letter or not, it’s safest to write one.
To see the power of an improved cover letter, watch this video on how My Consulting Offer helped Cynthia get invited for an interview at every consulting company she applied to.
Are you ready to write your management consulting cover letter?
We bet you are since you now know:
- What a consulting cover letter is,
- The red flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them,
- Our 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter, and you’ve got
- 2 Consulting cover letter examples that worked.
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about writing effective consulting cover letters, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s former MBB recruiters will answer them.
Other people who were writing their cover letter found the following pages helpful:
- Consulting Resumes ,
- BCG Cover Letter ,
- Consulting Networking ,
- Case Interview Prep : The Ultimate Guide,
- Our List of Top Consulting Firms and their company values , and
- The Non-MBA Master’s Student’s Guide to Landing a Consulting Job .
Do You Need Help Writing a Perfect Consulting Cover Letter?
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on writing your cover letter. We’ve helped over 600 people get offers in consulting and 89.6% of My Consulting Offer clients land interviews and offers with a consulting firm. Most land more than one. We want you to get that opportunity to interview with McKinsey, Bain, BCG and other top firms!
For example, here is how we helped Tao land interviews at Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.
2 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About the Consulting Cover Letter”
Thank you Davis for this powerful tool you shared. Really, I havent thought of cover letters telling stories or narrating how you used the needed skills and the value you added using them in your past roles. No wonder I have been getting rejections based on my red flags – not having to work with the big 4s or having multinational experience. All these does not matter as long you can demonstrate the skill set you used to add value in your previous roles which must be inline with what the prospective role needs. I really aporeciate this exposure and I look forward to getting calls from recruiters going forward as I apply your strategy to my cover letters subsequently. Thanks a lot. Esther.
Hey, Esther, We’re so glad the tips we discussed about writing your consulting cover letter were helpful! Good luck in your job search!
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Consulting Cover Letter: Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents:
What is the cover letter.
- Are Cover Letters Still Important? (Video)
Top 10 Consultant Cover Letter Tips
Mckinsey cover letter sample, undergrad cover letter sample, mba cover letter sample, sample consulting cover letter experienced hire, consulting firm view of cover letters, common cover letter mistakes to avoid.
The cover letter is undervalued by candidates because it is misunderstood. A good management consulting cover letter can give you a small edge over other candidates, particularly because firms use it as a writing sample. And don’t forget: a bad cover letter can do your application serious harm.
Here’s what a consulting cover letter is not: an opportunity for you to rehash your resume. In this ultimate guide to the consulting cover letter, we’re going to walk you through the elements of what makes a good cover letter, our best tips, share top mistakes to avoid, talk about how consulting firms view cover letters, and show you consulting cover letter samples.
Now, we know what some of you are thinking. Aren’t there some firms that no longer require a cover letter? (Here’s looking at you, McKinsey ). That’s true! However, many firms still require one, and it’s more than an afterthought in the review process. Creating an outstanding management consulting cover letter isn’t the most difficult thing you’ll do in the recruiting process, but it will take some work. The effort is well worth getting that edge you need to land an interview.
The management consulting cover letter serves as an unofficial writing test. As a consultant, communicating effectively over email and through presentations is a crucial skill.
In addition, the consulting cover letter also provides you with the opportunity to showcase your storytelling ability. The goal of the cover letter isn’t to communicate the breadth of your experience (that’s the job of the resume ). Instead, the goal is to communicate the depth of your experience through diving deeper into two of your most impressive accomplishments. The cover letter gives you the ability to SHOW what the resume TELLS.
Are Cover Letters Still Important?
Let’s next dive into our top 10 management consulting cover letter tips. We’ve amassed these over 10+ years of experience helping candidates write winning cover letters . Don’t worry, we include free consulting cover letter samples later on!
Cover Letter Structure: Include 5 Paragraphs
A good management consulting cover letter should include these five components:
The introduction should be a short paragraph that gives a brief overview of your background, the position you are applying for, and gives an overview of the skills you’ll highlight through the rest of the letter.
Two Paragraphs That Tell Two Stories
As mentioned earlier, the meat of your consulting cover letter consists of two stories. Each story should highlight your ability to drive impact by solving a specific problem. Start your story by sharing the context of the problem you faced, then talk about the specific actions you took, and finally end with the results you achieved.
Focus one story on your hard (read: analytical) skills, and one on your soft (ex: leadership) skills.
Why You’re A Good Fit For X Consulting Firm
This is where you tailor your cover letter to the specific firm you’re targeting. This 4th paragraph of your consulting cover letter should reference at least one person at the firm that you’ve spoken with, and expound upon what you learned about the firm in that conversation that draws you to apply.
Don’t focus on what you’ll get out of the experience. Focus on how you know you’ll be a good cultural fit. News flash: The only credible way to communicate this is by having talked to someone at the firm (and ideally the offices you’re targeting!).
Tie your previous professional experiences and extracurriculars together to reinforce why you’ll be a great consultant. End by thanking the reader for their time and consideration.
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Use Anecdotes and Details
Avoid sounding generic with the descriptions of your past experiences. Details will help you stand out amongst the sea of candidates.
For instance, here’s a bad example: “My previous experiences and projects have given me a strong set of leadership skills.”
Instead, say something like: “As a Business Development Analyst at Facebook, I led a team of five on an internal initiative that reduced our group’s budget by 25% over one quarter. Convincing key stakeholders to reduce their own budget for the sake of the greater good was not easy, but the project sharpened by ability to overcome conflicts and arrive at consensus.”
Keep It To One Page
Going over 1 page is the cardinal sin of consulting cover letters. Anything longer than one page will be automatically discarded.
Your management consulting cover letter should demonstrate that you’re able to communicate in a concise manner. Consulting firms receive thousands and thousands of cover letters, so the last thing they want to read is your entire life story.
Keep your consulting cover letter to one page, max.
Show Instead of Tell
The cover letter is the time for you to conduct a deeper dive into your 2-3 most impressive stories. Instead of explaining why you’re such a great fit for consulting and the passion you have for the field, pick and choose your strongest set of experiences and bring them to light. These stories are a lot more effective at driving home your point that you will be a great fit for Deloitte or BCG.
Of course, don’t come across as arrogant. How do you know if you are being arrogant? You talk about how much better you are than others at this skill or that ability – be honest about what you are skilled in, but don’t compare yourself to others.
Start Writing ASAP
Writing takes time. Good writing takes even longer. Yes, our consulting cover letter samples will give you a head start, but they still take a lot of customization to make them your own! We can help if you’re stuck .
Remember that you’ll be up against thousands of other qualified candidates who are vying for the same spots. You need to produce a high quality consulting cover letter, and that won’t come overnight.
If you don’t know which firms you’re applying to or haven’t spoken to people at the firm yet, write as much of the letter as you can now.
Do Your Research
Your cover letter for all consulting firms will become stronger and stronger over time as you speak with more consultants. By networking with current consultants at the level you are applying for, you’ll figure out which firm and office are the best fit for you. You’ll also gain nuanced knowledge about consulting that you just can’t get from online searches. No, a generic consulting cover letter sample just won’t do.
Use a Personal Tone
Your cover letter should adeptly showcase your unique skills and personality. This is one reason why using a generic consulting cover letter sample will get you into trouble! Remember that no one has your story except you. Own it, and never apologize for or focus on the negative aspects of your experience.
Get Your Cover Letter Reviewed by Others
Ask people you trust to review your cover letter in order to receive advice and suggestions. Ideally, your reviewers should be people who have previous consulting experience, since consulting firms have notoriously high standards.
Sometimes, even when you proofread multiple times, you will miss mistakes that others catch in their first reads. More importantly, they should be able to suggest edits that strengthen your letter to make it stand out. Work with our expert editing team if you don’t have this level of review available to you.
Submit and Send as a PDF
The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be ruined by computer formatting errors. Whether you are sending your cover letter to a consultant for networking or submitting it for an application, make sure your cover letter is in PDF format.
Sending in the file type (i.e., Microsoft Word or Pages) in which you created the cover letter is risky for two reasons. First, a lot of consultants will be looking at your cover letter on their smartphones, and most non-PDF files will ruin the formatting structure you have put into place. Second, even on desktop, if the cover letter reviewer doesn’t have the program you used or the same version, you can run into formatting issues. Or worse, they may not be able to open the file at all!
The extra step is totally worth it, and it’s best practice to send documents as PDFs anyways.
Double, Triple, Quadruple Check
Before you send your cover letter anywhere, make sure to proofread until you’ve almost memorized the document. Any mistakes will point to a lack of attention to detail. If this seems harsh, remember that there are thousands of candidates vying for the same spot as you. Don’t leave anything to chance!
Management Consulting Cover Letter Samples
Name Address Line 1 Address Line 2 Phone Email
McKinsey & Company Re: [Position Title] in [City] office
To Whom It May Concern:
As a junior majoring in [Major] at [College], I am excited to apply for a Summer Associate role in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York offices. I am confident my previous internship experience, analytical skills, and problem-solving ability will enable me to add quick value to the firm’s teams and clients.
My overwhelmingly positive experiences with McKinsey moved me to apply. From attending the McKinsey info session and speaking with several consultants including John Smith and Kate Doe, I learned about the distinguishing qualities that make McKinsey an ideal place to start a career. But beyond the obvious credentials of a top-notch client base, unmatched global network, and a platform to effect deep, large-scale change on business and society, it is the passion for business and true culture of collaboration I have seen exhibited in McKinsey consultants that sets the firm apart for me.
I have had an interest in consulting ever since middle school, when I first made recommendations to my parents on adjustments to make at the restaurant they owned. Seeing how my subtle suggestions delighted customers had me hooked, and problem-solving within a business context has been my aim ever since.
Since then, I have pursued this goal via multiple internship and project experiences. As a student consultant for a nonprofit organization, I led a team of four on a cost-reduction project. My research and analysis led to a successful recommendation of how our client could reduce costs by 15% while increasing payroll. Through a workstream I led as a Business Analyst at Dropbox, I led 10 focus groups and conducted a nationwide survey with 3,000+ responses to identify the top 5 millennial technology trends. These trends were then compiled in a report presented to senior leadership to inform decision-making.
Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Best regards, [Name]
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: cover letter sample McKinsey
Example Cover Letters for Undergrads, MBAs, and Experienced Hires
Depending on your background, your cover letter should sound different. Here are some additional example consulting cover letters whether you are recruiting as an undergraduate student, MBA student, or experienced hire.
firstname lastname Address Line 1 Address Line 2 (000) 111-2222 [email protected]
[name of company] Regarding: [name of position]
Dear [Mr./Ms. name of recipient; use To Whom It May Concern only as a last resort]:
I would like to express my sincere interest in becoming Associate Consultant with Bain & Company. I developed a passion for consulting as a result of my experience at Proctor & Gamble, where my strong work ethic, analytical strengths, and problem solving abilities enabled me to be an effective product manager. These characteristics, along with previous work experience at Genentech and Blue Cross, have positioned me to quickly become a highly effective Associate Consultant.
Throughout college, I was successful in two competitive internships while maintaining a strong academic record. Specifically, I believe my demonstrated ability to create solutions to tough problems will enable me to add value to clients. This past fall, I created and implemented a financial modeling training class for 100+ interns at P&G corporate headquarters. After seeing many of my fellow analysts struggling with basic Excel modeling skills, I pitched the idea to senior executives in human resources and product management. After the pitch was accepted, I systematically analyzed the training curriculum and summer program to see how my suggestion would fit into a packed agenda. I brought the training staff together to create a schedule and worked with 20+ P&G employees to develop a thorough curriculum. In November, we launched the first class, which received rave reviews from attendees and supervisors.
The experience I have had as a P&G Product Manager gives me confidence in my ability to create impact because of the similarities between product management and management consulting. Aside from the strong leadership responsibilities, they share a data-driven approach, a need to balance multiple projects, and the requirement of strong presentation skills. Based on my conversations with Darren Ronkowski, a former Associate Consultant, to my more recent conversation with Jeff Brazeal, a current Associate Consultant, I understand Bain is not only a place that cultivates strong leaders, but also a place where individual talents are recognized and strengthened. I would be honored to join your team.
I believe that the success I have achieved as an individual that is results-driven and works relentlessly will allow me to make substantial contributions to Bain and its clients. Please do not hesitate to contact me, as I would welcome the chance to discuss my qualifications. Thank you very much for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely, Firstname Lastname
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: Consulting-Cover-Letter-Template-Undergrad
January 15, 2012
Recruiter Name Firm Name Firm Address 1 Firm Address 2
Dear Mr. Recruiter Name,
I am applying for an XXX position at FIRM NAME. I am currently pursuing a double degree: a Master’s in Public Administration at Harvard, and my MBA from Dartmouth College. I am confident my passion, leadership experience and analytical insight will enable me to excel at FIRM NAME.
Before I began my graduate degree, I served as a consultant with a boutique firm providing M&A advisory services to clients including XXX, YYY and ZZZ (brand name firms) in the Middle East. Although many consultants became consumed with details, I structured large problems into addressable parts. In one situation, I created a model that identified inefficient actions, including an existing process that sent duplicate letters to mobile network customers. My solution, which I proposed, developed and implemented with my team of 12 technical experts, saved the client $2.6M per year. My efforts were recognized by the firm’s senior leadership team, and I received a quarterly achievement award from the client.
As an MBA intern, I was first exposed to consulting while preparing for a case interview competition with 5 teammates. Our task was to develop data-driven recommendations for a Japanese auto manufacturer trying to expand into Australia. We won the competition, placing first out of 60 teams, and were awarded the honor of presenting our recommendations to the client’s senior management team in Los Angeles. Five of our recommendations were implemented in the field. I am deeply satisfied when I can create meaningful impact for companies, and I am passionate about management consulting as a full time career; no other role will better enable me to pursue my love for problem solving and implementation.
I attended the FIRM NAME presentation at Harvard on DATE and met with members of the firm at NAME OF EVENT on DATE. The entire team came across as warm and welcoming; I was also extremely impressed by the mentorship culture at FIRM NAME, and by the investment FIRM NAME makes into the career development of its staff. Furthermore, I was inspired by the phenomenal pro-bono work being done by FIRM NAME for XXX. I am confident that I would thrive at FIRM NAME, and I would be honoured to join your team.
I would love to have the opportunity to discuss a career opportunity at FIRM NAME. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.
Download this free consulting cover letter sample pdf: Consulting-Cover-Letter-Template-MBA
Firm Name Re: (Position title) in (city) office
I am applying for the (Position) position with (Name of Firm) with interest in working in Boston, New York or Chicago.
My educational background is in finance with an emphasis on econometrics, game theory, and political economy. After graduating with honors from (name of university) with a B.A. in (name of degree), I joined (name of firm) as a Consultant for one year. At (name of 2 firms), the majority of my client engagements have been with large industry-leading consumer products firms including Kraft Foods, PepsiCo., and Johnson & Johnson.
For the past four years I have worked as a strategy consultant with (name of current firm). I was recruited to the fast-growing boutique consulting firm to lead consumer products client engagements, particularly those that required advanced analytics. I provide business unit turnaround and growth strategy predominantly for Fortune 500 clients including Unilever and Proctor and Gamble.
At (current role), I have served as both team leader and analytics guru. I lead our advanced analytics team and I’m incredibly familiar with (names of technical programs utilized). Over the past two years I have developed 16 financial models, testing sensitivities through scenario analysis, and providing clients with strategic guidance on how to utilize scenario optioning to improve their business process. I’ve also had advanced client-side exposure to senior management, developed and presented to C-level executives, mentored junior analysts, and drafted winning proposals. I look forward to offering the skills and experience I have gained to (name of firm) and its clients. I have also demonstrated leadership in non-traditional settings. At (first firm) I started the firm’s pro bono and diversity groups. At (second firm), I’ve mentored six analysts who have all gone on to attend top MBA programs. Beyond the workplace, I’ve led the (name of non-profit) to raise $XK to increase the educational standard in Tanzania.
Although I have been successful as a consultant and project leader, I’d like to broaden my global impact. (Firm’s) global consulting leadership and enthusiasm for using analytical frameworks and global best practices drives my desire to be a part of the company. My university colleague (name) is a consultant at (name of firm) and he has spoken at length about the potential for growth, the trust placed in consultants, and the fantastic experiences that he has had with (name of company). I believe (firm) offers unparalleled opportunities to grow as a consultant, and I would be honored to join the team.
I would enjoy speaking to you further about the possibility of working for (firm). Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Download this free sample consulting cover letter experienced hire pdf: Cover-Letter-Template-Experienced-Pro
We have many more sample cover letters available. If you’re interested in really knocking it out of the park, start with one of our templates and then work with our expert editing team to really make the cover letter your own. Our Resume + Cover Letter Edits package is the one you want. It gives you:
- Two Rounds of Line-by-Line edits for 1 Resume & 1 Cover Letter
- 30min application/networking strategy coaching session with MBB coach
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Just click here to get started.
Here’s the honest truth: A good cover letter is table stakes to be considered for a consulting role. It won’t earn you many extra points. However, a bad cover letter will disqualify you from consideration. So, the upside is limited but the downside is enormous.
Consulting firms ask you to write a cover letter for 3 reasons:
- It’s a writing sample. Firms will train you on many things when they hire you, but one thing they won’t teach you? How to write.
- It’s a chance for them to see if you truly know the firm – this is why referencing the folks you’ve spoken with is so important.
- It’s where they get a fuller view of your experience. So, spend some time crafting your stories to complement the bullet points on your resume.
Now that we’ve told you what you should do while writing your consulting cover letter, here is a list of what you shouldn’t do.
DO NOT do the following things:
- Use a template you find online without seriously customizing it for your situation.
- Go over one page OR make the cover letter too short. (i.e. 2 short paragraphs)
- Use small font or small margins to fit everything onto one page. Font should be no smaller than size 11 and margins should be 1″ all around.
- Have any typos or grammatical errors.
- Name drop if you’ve never talked or met the person.
- Be overly enthusiastic with too many exclamation points.
- Rely on yourself – send your letter to others and receive suggestions.
- Just rehash your resume.
- Sound overly confident or arrogant.
- List the wrong firm or position. (This will surely ruin your chances!)
A good consulting cover letter requires a lot of work, but we hope that this guide will make the writing process easier. Above all, remember that consultants expect a high quality deliverable. The cover letter is a small test that you can definitely pass with flying colors if you put in the time.
If you want help to make sure your first impression puts you in the best light possible, get help from our expert reviewers .
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Management Consultant Cover Letter Examples
Management Consultants help businesses improve performance and develop the specialist skills they may be lacking. The advice provided by Management Consultants may refer to various services, such as business strategy, management, financial controls, marketing, IT, and communication. Typical responsibilities of a Management Consultant include performing research, collecting and analyzing data, interviewing employees, organizing workshops, developing business proposals, and presenting their findings and recommendations to clients.
Not exactly what you are looking for? Check our complete library of over 1000 cover letter examples .
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A good cover letter can make you stand out from the rest. Learn how to create one in our Cover Letter guide .
Include These Management Consultant Skills
- Business management expertise
- Coaching and advisory skills
- Analytical thinking
- Problem-solving orientation
- Good listening and observational skills
- Being able to work under pressure and to cope with challenges
- Business acumen and familiarity with business environments
- Innovation and creativity
- Computer proficiency
The cover letter example displayed below presents comparable qualifications and experience.
Dear Mr. Finch:
Upon consideration of your posting for a strategic and visionary Management Consultant, I felt compelled to submit my resume for your review. With my proven experience driving financial and operational strategies, assessing company needs to develop optimal solutions, and leading and collaborating with productive teams, I feel confident that I would significantly benefit your firm.
From defining company goals and performing research to implementing strategic recommendations and building key relationships, my background has prepared me to excel in this role. With a solid foundation in leadership, business operations, and financial analysis, my additional strengths in communication, problem solving, and thought leadership prepare me to thrive in this position.
Highlights of my background include:
Orchestrating comprehensive responsibilities to drive the success of business operations, including financial and cash flow strategies, goal definition, training materials, social media / web outreach, and process improvements.
Identifying company needs and requirements and developing and implementing strategic solutions to propel organizational success and elevate performance.
Successfully established web presence of numerous locally owned businesses, including exposure on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Collaborating and communicating routinely with C-level staff to identify organizational deficiencies and implement pivotal adjustments to achieve measurable improvements.
Utilizing organizational, analytical, presentation, and motivational skills to propel projects and teams to peak results.
Earning a Master of Business Administration from Kentucky State University in 2008.
With my solid experience in business analysis, company needs assessment, and strategic planning and implementation—complemented by my inner drive and entrepreneurial spirit—I believe I could swiftly surpass your expectations for this role. I look forward to discussing the position in further detail.
Thank you for your consideration.
Larry K. Alvarenga
A professional cover letter is the first step toward your new job!
Table of content
Consulting cover letter – 2020 guide with samples
Consulting cover letters – the basics, what are cover letters for, cover letters vs resumes – what’s the difference, understanding your audience, the vibe inside the screening room, why they read your cover letter, consulting cover letter – step-by-step guide, step 1 – self-reflect for storylines.
Step 2 - Add and classify details
Step 3 – structure and enhance, step 4 – amplify consulting features, consulting cover letter – tips, tip 1: networking, tip 2: read consulting news, tip 3: build “cheat sheets”, consulting cover letter – visual format, spacing, margins, and alignment.
Replacement test, maintain formality, avoid short-term motivations, proofread and edit, cover letter file format, 1-on-1 coaching with top ex-mbb consultants.
Get personalized meetings with ex-consultants from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and other consulting firms to increase your chance of getting an offer.
Cover letter example
A consulting resume is a one-page document summarizing the applicant’s education, work experience, extra-curricular activities, and other skills suitable for a consulting job
Consulting Resume Toolkit
Get the fundamental of crafting a "consulting-like" resume with the most powerful secret toolkit.
Consulting Cover Letter: a comprehensive guide
- Understanding Consulting Cover Letters
- Practicalities of Writing Your Cover Letter
- Section-by-Section Breakdown
- Quality Control
An excellent cover letter is one of the first and most crucial steps towards a consulting job. More than half of consulting candidates are rejected before interviews , based on their applications alone. This means that, for all the emphasis on case interview prep, your resume and cover letter between them are the single greatest determinant as to whether you land your dream MBB job or not .
This being the case, you should be willing to put in the hours to make sure that these documents are absolutely the best they can be. Many candidates have some realization of the importance of applications, but make the mistake of devoting all their time to the resume alone as they assume it is the "important one". They assume that the accompanying cover letters are always fairly generic or are merely a formality.
Forget outdated, framework-based guides...
However, it is a total misconception to think that your cover letter is less important than your resume. If you want to get an interview, both have to be excellent. In this article, then, we'll explain the various demands on your consulting cover letter before going through how you should draft the document itself. Writing a good consulting cover letter is like playing chess. Once you know the rules you can play along, but it takes effort to be really good - and you need to be really good if you want an MBB role! Let's learn how...
1. Understanding Consulting Cover Letters
If you want to be a consultant, then, your cover letter is key. To write a good one we will first need to understand the demands it must meet. That is to say, we need to understand what exactly the function of the cover letter is and precisely how it will be assessed. Let's start by going through some important points:
1.1. Function of a Consulting Cover Letter
The basic function of a consulting cover letter, then, is to tell recruiters three things:
- Why you are worth employing
- Why consulting is a perfect fit for you
- Why you are interested in the target firm in particular
As we will see later, a standard management consultant cover letter is broken down into three paragraphs which address each of these issues more-or-less separately.
In many ways, the demands of your cover letter sit between your resume guide ) and your fit interview (which you will be invited to only if your resume and cover letter make the cut). A consulting cover letter has a function in demonstrating the same skillset as your resume and you will effectively be selecting a few of the key points from your resume to amplify in the cover letter.
However, the objective of this document is not simply restating the facts on your resume, but rather creating a persuasive link between your personal story and the job you are applying for. In effect, the main purpose of your cover letter is to show that you are well-matched to the job you are applying for in all aspects. As such, it must convey something of your personality and motivation to do the job - things that are not readily assessed via your resume alone. These are exactly the qualities that are also assessed in your fit interview. Indeed, a lot of the material covered in our article on the fit interview is also relevant here - worth a read!
Just as with the Additional Information section of your resume, the information in your cover letter is very likely to form the basis of questions in your fit interview - where your personality and motivation are assessed once more. This overlapping function once again means that our article on the fit interview is especially worth a read here. Certainly (and just as with the Additional Information section of your resume), when you are drafting your cover letter you should be keeping half an eye on how you would be able to work the items you select into compelling fit interview answers.
Consulting is a tough life and the average consulting recruit only stays in the industry for around two years - which means that many of those applicants who are lucky enough to land jobs will have left within 12 months. Beyond this, many of those who go into consulting only ever intend to stay in the profession for a couple of years before bailing out into another industry, where consulting experience will enhance their employability.
This constant loss of talent is a big problem for consulting firms, who don't want employees to disappear as soon as they have finally accrued the training and experience required to be genuinely useful to the company. As such, recruiters will be trying to identify candidates who are genuinely in it for the long haul - who want to make partner someday and who have the necessary motivation to do so necessary to push them through the years of long hours and tight deadlines on the way there.
Of course, we realize that you the reader might well be one of the candidates who only really plan to stick with consulting for two years before parachuting out into another industry. Realistically, this is a perfectly sensible career trajectory and we're certainly not going to tell you not to do so. However, if this is the case, your application and subsequent interview are really not the time to discuss it. If you have ever had any inkling that maybe you would perhaps consider sticking around and making a career in consulting, then this is the inclination to channel during the selection process. We return to discuss more your rationale for entering consulting in our section-by-section breakdown of the letter itself.
1.3. A Test in Itself
Your target firm uses your cover letter to learn more about you in a couple of different ways. Obviously, they receive all the information you communicate explicitly - all the achievements and experience and positive character traits you tell them about. However, your cover letter is also used by the target firm as an implicit (but very real) test of your writing skills and other qualities. It is important to realize this dual function and bear it in mind as you are drafting your document.
At a basic level, using correct, industry standard formatting, etc shows that you have the professionalism and diligence to find out and follow the rules. As we will discuss later, writing a letter specific to the firm you are applying to also demonstrates your commitment to that employer. More directly, though, your cover letter is used by consulting firms as a test of your writing skills. Writing consulting covers letters is not an easy business - if it were, you wouldn't be reading this guide! Composing a good cover letter requires you to assemble a body of information, synthesize it and present it in a compelling form. Importantly, this is a set of skills which consultants will use every day. Firms need to make sure you are capable in this regard, and your cover letter is one of the main ways they check for your competence in this area.
Similarly, your target firm will be very interested in your ability to use this letter to market yourself. In effect, consultants must constantly sell themselves, their firm, and their recommendations to clients. As such, the ability to communicate persuasively is a key management consulting skill.
1.4. The Reader
When actually composing any piece of writing, your first consideration should always be the identity of the intended reader. This is especially important when it comes to consulting cover letters. Your letter will be placed with one or two hundred others and passed to a junior consultant (often one who went to your university) to assess for HR. Generally, this will be in addition to the consultant's normal workload and often they will end up with very little time to get through this mound of letters. As such, your reader will be tired, possibly slightly grumpy and in a hurry - probably only skimming what you have written. You should keep this reader in mind at all times and write in a way that makes their life easier. This means making everything as clear, easy to read, and precise as possible.
2. Practicalities of writing a Consulting Cover Letter
So, we have a good idea of the basic job of a cover letter, what ground it needs to cover, and how it will be assessed. Now it's time to get down to business and actually get the thing written! To this end, we'll look at a few practical points about how to meet the requirements mentioned above, before focusing one-by-one on the five main segments of a management consultant cover letter.
2.1. Format - doing the same as everyone else
Just as with your resume, formatting a consulting cover letter is really not the time to embrace your creative side. Failing to stick to the standard rules of formatting risks being rejected immediately, without your letter even being read. The tired junior consultant tasked with plowing through a pile of cover letters is unlikely to be in the mood for a strange font or weird layout and will simply send your application directly to the bin.
As mentioned above, standard formatting shows that you are professional enough to take the application seriously and that you have bothered to find out what the expected form of the letter is. The best way to understand how you should format this document is simply to take a look at our examples below, which are formatted in a standard "safe" manner.
In particular, though, you should make sure your letter conforms to the following basic points:
- Standard typeface at a normal size
- No longer than one printable page
- Normal size margins etc - no extreme formatting to pack more words on the page!
- Name, contact information, and date at the top, in the manner of a traditional letter - you can include a postal address if you like, but an email address is sufficient nowadays (and will save space)
- Standard structure explained below - opening, three main paragraphs, closing
2.2. Content - Being Unique!
You might have to keep the format strictly in line with everyone else, but it is absolutely crucial that the actual content of your letter is unique! Always remember that your cover letter will be part of a stack of 1-200 deep. The content needs to really impress the reader if you are going to stand out from the pack and earn yourself an invitation to interview. To achieve this, you are going to have to both draw on your most impressive achievements and experiences and then portray them in the best possible fashion to really make your reader pause rather than toss your letter towards the bin with the others.
Content that is unusual can sometimes also be helpful in making your application memorable and might prompt interview questions that you can be well prepared for. During an application process with so many competitors, it pays to have something unique to you - a USP - to differentiate you from your peers. However, this will only add value if it is relevant to management consulting! In our discussion below on how to introduce yourself and your abilities, we will mention how you can emphasize your personal "spikes" - which help make your letter more unique.
2.3. Be Specific!
Your letter needs not only to be unique, but also specific. Many candidates think that they can save a bit of time by just writing a one really "good" cover letter and use that for all their applications. This might be true (or almost true) of a good resume. However, we can tell you now that, if you think that the letter you wrote for one firm will be able to be used without significant changes to for another, that letter wasn't good enough to get you a job with either company!
As we noted above, a major function of your cover letter is to gauge your motivation to stick with the company if you are lucky enough to be hired. Your recruiter wants to make sure that you are genuinely keen to work for their firm for the foreseeable future. Any suggestion that your cover letter is just a generic chunk of text sent out to everyone in scattergun fashion obviously makes this idea pretty difficult to maintain - and will see your application rapidly heading towards that bin.
To avoid this, then, you must take the time to write a separate letter for each firm you apply to. In these letters, you should include content that is specific to your particular target firm. What is more, this specific content should not be something generic or some kind of empty platitude. If the best you can come up with is an obvious truth - or even a common misconception - you will betray only a very shallow level of engagement, and will only succeed in vexing those who read your letter. Instead, you should be able to make specific remarks which show genuine insight. This will clearly demonstrate both your commitment to and knowledge of the firm.
These points will be particularly relevant to the section of the cover letter where you explain your decision to apply to your target firm, and we will pick up this discussion there. However, there is room for material specific to your target firm in all sections of the cover letter.
3. Section-by-Section Breakdown
Let's go through the different sections of a standard management consulting cover letter one-by-one. We will give examples as to how you might approach each section - however, it is imperative that you don't simply copy from specimens that we or anyone else have written. The examples here are only a guide as to how you should approach the different elements of a cover letter, not components to be lifted as-is. Your own letter needs to stand out from a very strong field. Think about it - how can you possibly stand out by copying others? Beyond this, though, any hint that you are just copying from another source will see your whole application rejected immediately.
As we noted earlier, there are three main questions that your cover letter must answer - why you, why consulting and why that firm in particular. The three main paragraphs of your letter will answer these three questions in sequence. Provided you are careful to link everything together properly, there is actually some flexibility to vary the ordering of these paragraphs. You will always introduce yourself first, of course, but you can then state why you are interested in the specific firm before you explain what drew you to consulting or deal with these in the reverse order. In the interests of simplicity here, though, we will just deal with why-consulting-in-general first, followed by why-that-firm-in-particular.
In the following, examples are taken as components from an entry-level cover letter sample from an applicant to Bain London - and the detailed content is obviously tailored to that office. In contrast to the relative ease with which a resume can be repurposed, you will have to significantly change the specifics of your cover letter as you apply for different offices and firms. Obviously, our candidate below can't just send this off to Bain New York without changing quite a lot of content. Similarly, this won't work as a McKinsey, Deloitte Consulting or BCG cover letter within London or otherwise without a wholesale rewrite.
With all this said, what is crucial is that the overall structure and format is maintained. This will be the case whether you are a recent graduate, Ph.D. or MBA. Even experienced hire cover letters will maintain the same fundamental format - though there will be (even) more expectation on the quality of the content.
3.1. Opening your Consulting Cover Letter
The opening to your letter is very straightforward and is pretty much impossible to mess up if you follow basic rules. First, you should record your name, email address, and the date of sending. You can include a postal address if you like, though this is no longer a strict requirement and takes up a lot of space. Your first sentence should state the specific position to which you are applying at the relevant office and firm.
The only issue which should give you any cause for concern here is who the letter is addressed to. Where possible, you should be addressing the letter to a named person - usually the recruiting manager of the office you are applying to. However, where you cannot find a name to address your cover letter, it is perfectly acceptable to begin "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam".
Jane Wu [email protected] 05/05/2019
Dear Ms Douglas,
I am writing to apply for the Associate Consultant position at Bain and Company's London office.
3.2. Introducing Yourself
After this brief opening, proceed straight to introducing yourself. Don't be shy - this is not the time for understatement or modesty! Top consulting firms are looking for exceptional individuals. Here, you need to leave the reader in no doubt that you are just such an exceptional individual.
To do this, looking at all the information you assembled for your resume, ideally, you should recount the three most impressive achievements in your life so far. Of course, do this with an eye to achievements that are particularly relevant to consulting (your golf handicap might be good, but nobody in the workplace cares). Also, realise that the things we are most proud of personally might not actually be the ones that are most impressive to others (your golfing probably isn't great anyway). Try to look at your resume as if you are reading one from someone else. Alternatively, ask a friend what stands out to them.
It is the job of your resume to paint a balanced picture of you as a well-rounded candidate with all the skills required to excel in consulting. However, in your cover letter, it can be beneficial to emphasize one or two particular strong suits, where you are exceptionally gifted. These are what consultants call "spikes". What recruiters are really looking for is well-rounded, generally capable candidates with a few "spikes" which might be especially useful.
I have recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first-class BA/MSci in Physics. At Cambridge, I was consistently near the top of my year academically and won a number of competitive scholarships and prizes; including the award for the best final year research project. During my third year, I was selected as the best of a very large field of applicants to take part in a prestigious summer research project at MIT. I was also elected as a Student Representative for two consecutive years.
3.3. Why Consulting is a Good Fit
Your job here is generally to provide a strong narrative demonstrating why consulting is a good fit for you and why it makes sense at this point in your career as a natural progression from what you have done before. This is much the same as what is required from your answers in any subsequent fit interviews you receive. As such, our article on the fit interview , as well as our more comprehensive fit interview course and/or lessons in the MCC Academy , are relevant here.
Now, as we noted above, it is important to remember that there are some reasons to get into consulting which your target firm will be happy to hear about and others which they will very definitely not be impressed by. We're not here to judge your reasons, whatever they are, for wanting a consulting job. However, there are certain reasons which you should probably not highlight if you would like to actually get that job.
Some candidates are not sure what career they actually want yet and think consulting would make a good first step, exposing them to different industries and keeping their options open for the future. The worry would be that these individuals will not be sufficiently motivated to actually stick with consulting when they are met with the realities of the high-stress levels and workload that come with the job. Alternatively, some applicants are fully intent from the start of bailing out into another industry after two years - when a sufficiently long stint in consulting has given them transferable skills and increased their employment opportunities elsewhere.
Many candidates actually state these kinds of intentions - though they will certainly not be hired! As we noted above, firms want to retain staff and are looking for candidates that are committed to consulting for the long term.
3.3.1. Proving You Know What You are Getting Into
Given how many recruits drop out, firms want to be sure that you know exactly what you are getting into when you apply . When you explain why you have decided that consulting is a great fit for you, you obviously need it to be clear that you are doing so with a real understanding of what the job entails.
Ideally, you will have done an internship in consulting or a closely related industry. Alternatively, you might be moving sideways from a parallel sector, such as finance or tech, having worked alongside consultants in past roles and observed what they do first hand. In either such case, it is clear that you understand the demands of the job. However, many of you will fall into neither of these camps and won't yet have any firsthand experience of the consulting world. If this describes you, be aware that there is a particular onus on you to demonstrate that you know what is required of a working consultant, whilst reassuring the reader that you do indeed have what it takes to meet those requirements.
Don't dismay, though, as this is definitely possible - it just requires a bit more thought from you. Really, you are limited to a strategy of identifying key consulting skills and showing that you have already had significant past experience (and ideally achievements) which demonstrate that you are already capable and comfortable in these areas - and importantly, that you enjoy this kind of work!
This is similar in principle to some of what you should have already done in bullet point form in your resume and you will find our article on that subject here useful here in listing the relevant consulting skills and giving examples which demonstrate them. However, your cover letter differs from the resume here in that the focus will be somewhat less on technical skills and more on matters of personal character. You also cannot be so schematic as in the resume but must weave everything into a compelling narrative that leaves your reader in no doubt that you are well suited to and prepared for the job.
3.3.2. Finding Things to Say
Some candidates feel the need to embroider their accounts when they explain why they want to be a consultant. Maybe they genuinely think that the only reason they have chosen consulting is for the high salary and good future employment possibilities in other industries. Since they can't include either of these (as discussed below), they then cobble together an insincere-sounding road-to-Damascus story about how they had an epiphany that they should work at BCG or Bain.
However, introspection on the reasons that informed your own decision making can actually be a very good source of material here. You might not be able to explicitly state them just now, but there is probably a more robust rationale than you think underpinning your own choices. Think about what exactly it was that led you to believe that you could do a consulting job and why have chosen to apply to jobs in that sector, rather than going into something else. If you want to be totally pragmatic, remember - something approximating the truth is a lot easier to answer questions on in an interview than a tissue of lies!
I believe that I would be particularly well suited to the Associate Consultant position as consulting would provide real intellectual challenges, but placed within contexts allowing me to make use of my strong interpersonal skills. As a student representative, I instigated "Student Week" in the Physics department. This was a week where time was given over so that students could organize their own conferences and workshops. In order to make this initiative a success, I faced two main challenges: creating a committed team and getting the academic staff's support. I began by offering all students a stake in shaping the week and created teams in charge of all aspects of an organization, delegating responsibilities to team leaders. Most of all, this experience taught me how to motivate people, leveraging their potential impact and the rewards to be gained from positive results. In the end, the teams were able to invite an outstanding line-up of speakers. Presenting the week as a chance to promote the school in the media enabled us to gain the final approval of academic staff. Understanding the perspectives of multiple stakeholders and identifying what they really cared about enabled me to transform an ambitious plan into reality. I loved this experience and would look forward to employing a similar skillset as an Associate Consultant.
3.4. Why that Firm?
Now finally, you need to show that you are committed to the particular firm you are applying to . This is a crucial part of demonstrating your motivation as well as a way of showing your general diligence in doing your research before applying. The need to address the question of why you want to work at your target firm in particular is ultimately why you can't just re-use the same letter for all your consulting applications.
So, how to go about this? In practice, there are three main ways to generate firm-specific content:
Whilst you might not have seen consultants at work first hand, there is nothing to prevent you from meeting them at career fairs, networking events, and the like. The very best cover letters will grow out of substantial networking with current or former employees of your target firm - ideally from the specific office to which you are applying.
The individuals you speak to might be in a position to recommend you to recruiters. Otherwise, though, they will definitely be very well placed to tell you what is really unique about the company generally or your target office in particular. This is a surefire way for you to be able to make your cover letter specific in a way that actually rings true to those who read it. Also, don't be afraid to drop in the names of your contacts where they are relevant (and where this is appropriate, of course). The recruiter might know the people in question and they will lend credence to your application in the same way we all tend to be pleasantly disposed to the friend of a friend.
Of course, this kind of networking will not always be feasible, and certainly not at short notice. If you don't have access to anyone who has worked for your target firm, you should be able to get access to some of their output in the form of reports and similar material. Being able to comment on these both demonstrate your enthusiasm to work at the target firm as well as showing your diligence. Indeed, mentioning report authors is a good way to shoehorn in the names of company employees whom you have not actually met in real life.
Of course, ideally, you would be able to write about the firsthand experience of working alongside consultants on a project at a company that had been a client of your target firm. More generally, though, if you have done your research, you will be able to discuss a successful project in which you have not been involved, but have taken a particular interest (possibly in an industry you have experience in, but not necessarily). This should convey genuine interest - and, at the very least, shows you really have done your homework.
An example of how to approach this paragraph is as follows:
Bain specifically appeals to me for a few reasons. At a more personal level, all of the individuals I have spoken to who have worked at Bain have loved their jobs and seemed like people I would relish working with. Recently, I spoke to Sarah McKinney and Benedict Philips from the London office at a networking event. Both were very helpful and encouraging of my application. In particular, I was very excited to be able to talk to Sarah about Bain's recent work with capacitor technology firm NuCell. This was a project I had become aware of via my physics background and was very impressed with the sophisticated but wonderfully elegant solutions which Bain implemented. This was a significant influence in my decision to move towards consulting in general and Bain in particular.
3.5. Closing You Cover Letter
As with the opening, it is easy to get the closing right simply by following a few standard rules. Closing a consulting cover letter really just follows the same rules as a standard formal letter. Note that technically the form of your sign off depends on whether the letter was addressed to a named recipient or not. If you did manage to address your cover letter to a specific individual at the target firm, you should sign off your letter "Yours Sincerely". However, if you addressed the letter "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern", then you should sign off "Yours faithfully". Not everyone will pick up on this, but some certainly will!
I very much hope that I can be considered for an interview. If you have any questions about my application or would like to know more, please do not hesitate to be in contact by email or on +44 7933023234. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely, Jane Wu
3.6. An Aside - Blurring Boundaries
For the sake of clarity, we have given quite a schematic picture of how a cover letter is structured. In particular, the separation between the content of the three main paragraphs is often not quite as clear in practice as might appear from what we have said so far. This is something to bear in mind as you are writing. Certainly, it is not a problem that the content of the three main paragraphs somewhat bleed into one another. Indeed, it might well be that the optimal version of your letter gives you more bang for your buck in including points with more than one positive function.
For example, you might make mention of people or reports from your specific target firm in explaining why you chose to enter consulting in general. Simultaneously you will likely be able to include some impressive achievements, relevant to your initial description of yourself, in that same explanation as to why consulting was for you.
4. Quality Control
By now, you should have a completed document in front of you. However, this does not mean you are finished! Just as with the resume, quality control should be taken very seriously when you are writing your cover letter, and will almost certainly take longer than writing your initial draft did.
First, you should make sure that you have followed all the rules which we set out above the formatting and structure of a consulting cover letter. This is the easy bit, after all, and you shouldn't be making mistakes here when it's something that you can easily control for yourself. The following checklist is useful to make sure that the major elements are in order. You must make sure that any management consultant cover letter:
- Does not exceed one page
- Is formatted sensibly
- Contains no spelling mistakes (double check names of the company, position, HR manager and your contact information)
- Mentions skills that are relevant to the job
- Has relevant examples to back up those skills
- Reinforces skills that are not adequately explained on your resume
- Explains how your skill set relates to the job you are applying for
- Is tailored to the target firm
Of course, to hammer the point home, it should go without saying that spelling, punctuation, and grammar should be perfect throughout. In particular, though, you should triple-check spelling around the opening of the letter, where you list your own contact information and state the name of the target firm and specific role. Imagine making the cut to for interview only to have your invitation dispatched to the wrong email address!
You would simply not believe how many candidates we see making mistakes here - indeed, outside consulting, the former Graduate Recruitment Manager at City law firm Mayer Brown found that 20% of applicants got the firm’s name wrong. If so many high-flying lawyers can make that kind of mistake, so can you - check!
As with any important piece of writing, you will want another set of eyes on your cover letter. However, a consulting cover letter is not quite the same as for a more "normal" job, and there is only so much that your classmate, your buddy, or your mum is going to be able to tell you. . These people might be able to help you with spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but not a great deal else.
If you have access to a careers adviser, they will certainly be more knowledgeable and be able to give you more specific feedback. That said, though, the very particular demands of consulting and how cover letters are assessed means there is no real replacement for someone with actual consulting experience .
As always though, real consultants are incredibly busy people and their time generally has a high price tag. You might be lucky enough to have access to a consultant who will help you out - perhaps a friend or relative or maybe one of your networking contacts who likes you enough to take the time to look at your application. However, for those who aren't so lucky, there are still ways to get top quality feedback. MyConsultingCoach offers cover letter review and feedback both alone on its own and in a package with resume review. This will give you very detailed feedback from an ex-MBB consultant with a minimum of two years. This is strictly optional, but it is the best way to make sure that your application in general is as good as it can be and to close the gap with those who have the advantage of pre-existing inside contacts .
It is easy to become attached to what you have written. Especially after you have poured a lot of time and energy into a document, constructive criticism can end up being taken personally and ignored. However, if you actually want to get a job in consulting, you need to swallow your pride and be prepared to make substantial changes if they are advised .
Once you have re-drafted the document, you need to cycle through the same stages of quality control again, always making sure that everything is formatted correctly with no typos and then getting decent feedback on what you have produced. To get the whole thing just right will likely take at least a couple of such iterations. This is precisely why MyConsultingCoach's review packages all include three rounds of feedback as standard .
Finally, then, you will have completed your cover letter and be ready to submit your application. You can give yourself a pat on the back for getting everything done so far. However, you will have a lot more work ahead of you if you are serious about making it into consulting!
If you are interested in getting an interview at McKinsey, KPMG, Bain, Deloitte Consulting, or any high-end consulting firm, it is absolutely crucial that your cover letter is the very best that it can be . To this end, we have given a detailed guide on how to ace a cover letter, breaking down all the relevant sections. Examples were provided from a sample cover letter for a Bain London application, though it was explained that you should not simply copy from such example cover letters.
We encourage you to read further - starting with our resume guide - and to consider editing from one of our ex-MBB consultant coaches. However, what we have given you here is a very good starting point for you to carve out a great draft letter. Hopefully rather better than vague ideas gleaned from browsing Reddit or similar!
If you have followed this guide and ideally found someone to provide decent feedback, you should have every chance of being invited to interview. However, nobody is going to do well if they prepare for a consulting interview the way they would for a more "normal" job. Consulting interviews are sufficiently difficult, and jobs so heavily contested, that most candidates - if they want to be successful - will have to do a fairly large volume of preparation before turning up . You might have thought that putting together your consulting resume or cover letter was arduous or time-consuming, but you have only experienced the tip of the iceberg so far! In particular, you will need to learn how to solve case studies. You can start with our article introducing case interviews , which links to other useful resources.
To make your preparation as effective and time efficient as possible MyConsultingCoach has developed a comprehensive consulting interview prep course . This teaches everything you need to give your best possible showing in an interview. Included are all the mental maths, business and finance theory and logical principles needed not only to solve cases but to do so in a way that will impress the interviewer - the way a real consultant would . Also included is a set of lessons on how to address "fit" questions about your motivation and character.
Find out about our resume editing services
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Consulting cover letter guide (for McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.)
Today we’re going to explain everything you need to know about writing consulting cover letters.
We’ll start by reviewing an example cover letter that got interview invitations from ALL the MBB firms (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain).
And then we’ll explain exactly how you should write your own cover letter to land consulting interviews. Here’s a full list of the topics in this guide:
- Example cover letter
How to write your consulting cover letter
Consulting cover letter tips.
- The skills consulting firms look for
Consulting cover letter screening process
- Get help with your cover letter
Let’s get to it!
Example cover letter (which got interviews at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain)
Below is an anonymised cover letter from a candidate who got interviews at McKinsey, BCG and Bain. So you can trust that this template works.
The image here highlights the different sections of the cover letter, but we’ll dive deeper into the text later, and you can also get a downloadable copy below.
And you can get a free downloadable copy by dropping your email in the form below.
In the next section, we’ll go step-by-step through each part of the cover letter and explain how to go about writing it. But before we dive in, please note the following points about the above template:
- A lot of people use this template. Get inspiration from it, but every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
- This cover letter might sound impressive. It's one of the best ones we’ve seen. But even if you have not achieved as much as this person, you can still get an interview.
With that said, let’s dig into the cover letter writing process!
As a starting point, this video provides a nice overview of the full writing process for a consulting cover letter.
Now let’s break things down further.
Example - Introduction
Mary Taylor - [email protected]
DD / MM / YYYY
Dear Sir / Madam,
I would like to apply for an Associate position at McKinsey in London.
This section is a formality. It should simply state the following information:
- Your name and email address. You can replace your email address with a postal address although those are not commonly used anymore.
- The date on which you are sending your letter
- The position, company, and office to which you are applying
Keep it short and sweet.
2. Why you?
Example - Why you?
I started working as an Analyst at Big Finance in New York in September 2020 and was quickly promoted to Associate in a year and a half instead of the average four years. While at Big Finance, I advised a broad range of clients who constantly gave me positive feedback and regularly asked to work with me again. Before joining Big Finance, I graduated as the top student of my MEng in Chemical Engineering at Prestigious University in the UK. While studying, I received two competitive scholarships and awards. In addition, I developed my leadership skills as the President of the Prestigious University Consulting Club. High energy was essential to lead a team of 5 managing the club and growing the number of members by 20%.
This is your "GOLD MEDALS" section. It is the first section of your cover letter and therefore the most important one.
It should state the TOP 3 achievements of your life to date that are relevant to consulting. These achievements should be as unique and as memorable as possible. When your reviewer reads them they should think "Wow, that's impressive. I want to know more about this person."
To write this section you need to step back and ask yourself "What are the most impressive things I've done with my life so far?" This is not an easy question to answer.
In our experience discussing this with a close friend can help. It's sometimes easier for them to quickly point out the impressive things you have done as they are an external observer.
In addition, notice how achievements are QUANTIFIED in the example above. Saying you have been promoted "in a year and a half instead of the average four years" is much more powerful than saying you have been promoted "quickly." You should quantify your achievements whenever possible.
This section is your chance to grab the reader's attention. If there's nothing impressive in it, they will stop reading and just scan the paragraphs. So don't miss your opportunity!
3. Why consulting?
Example - Why consulting?
There are several reasons why I want to pursue a consulting career. To start with, I know I will enjoy being a strategy consultant because I have already worked in a strategy team in the past. This was in summer 2019 when I was a Strategy Intern at Big Grocery Retailer in London. In addition, I think consulting is a unique opportunity to comprehensively learn about business management by working on a variety of company situations. Over the past two years, I have started building my business skills while advising clients on financial matters at Big Finance. I now look forward to learning more about companies’ management at McKinsey. Finally, I want to work in consulting because I truly enjoy interacting with clients. Throughout my work experiences I have built a successful track record of developing and maintaining relationships with clients including, for instance, the senior strategy team at Big Grocery Retailer.
Once you have convinced your reviewer that you have impressive achievements under your belt they'll be thinking: "Ok, this person is impressive. But do they REALLY want to be a consultant? Or are they just applying because they're not sure what to do with their career."
The third section of your letter should therefore answer the "Why consulting?" question . But here is the thing about this question: There are some reasons to go into consulting that you should tell your reviewer about. And some reasons that you should really keep to yourself.
For instance, one of the mistakes candidates commonly make in their cover letter is to write something along the lines of "I'd like to spend 2 or 3 years in consulting to learn more about business in general and then decide what I want to do." This is a HUGE mistake.
Consulting firms want to hire FUTURE PARTNERS. Not employees who will stay for a couple of years. You can watch the video below for more details about this.
The best approach for your "Why consulting?" section is to write about past experiences that really show you know what you are getting into. The perfect situation is if you have done an internship in consulting or in corporate strategy and have enjoyed it. If that's the case, this is the perfect section to write about it.
But even if you haven't done related internships, there are plenty of angles you can use to connect your past experiences to what you will do as a consultant. For instance:
- You might have enjoyed working with clients when you were in M&A or in Sales
- You might have enjoyed structuring and solving tough problems as an engineer
You should use these experiences to say that "working with clients" or "solving tough problems" is something you KNOW you enjoy doing; and you look forward to spending more time doing this as a consultant.
When they read this section, your reviewer should think: "Ok, this person is impressive AND they know what they are getting into."
4. Why McKinsey / BCG / Bain / Other?
Example - Why McKinsey?
McKinsey appeals to me for three reasons. To start with, the different people from the company I have met and worked with all told me they had truly enjoyed their time there. For the past two years, I have worked for Michael Smith, a former Engagement Manager from the London office, who now works for Big Finance. Additionally, I regularly read McKinsey’s reports on financial services and think the insights delivered by Sarah James and others in the Finance practice are truly superior to that of other consultancies. By joining McKinsey, I therefore think I would have an opportunity to work with and learn from the best consultants in the industry. Finally, the fact that McKinsey was selected by Finance Supercorp to shape its digital strategy also played an important role in my decision to apply. This was a first-of-its-kind contract in finance and it shows that while at McKinsey I could get the opportunity to work on truly unique projects.
If you have managed to convince your reviewer that you have an impressive background and that you really want to be a consultant, you have a VERY HIGH chance of getting an interview.
The only question that's left for you to answer is: " Why McKinsey / Why BCG? / Why Bain? "
Top consulting firms have a lot in common. In most regions, they cover the same industries and work for similar clients. They also pay similar salaries, and the career path is more or less the same from firm to firm. So what should you write about in this section?
In our experience, the most efficient way to set yourself apart in this section is to write about three specific elements:
When you write "I've met with Michael Smith," or "I've read report X," or "I've heard about project Y," you are making an argument that's SPECIFIC enough for your reviewer to think: "Ok they've done their homework."
If you stay too GENERIC, your argument will be much less credible. For instance, writing something like "While at McKinsey, I'll be exposed to a broad range of industries which I'm excited about" is a weak argument because you could swap McKinsey for BCG or Bain in that sentence.
In fact, this is the ultimate test. If you can swap McKinsey with another name in your "Why McKinsey?" section you are not being specific enough. You need to work on your paragraph again and mention SPECIFIC people, reports, or projects that you find interesting.
Example - Conclusion
For all these reasons, I am very enthusiastic about the chance to work at McKinsey. I am available for an interview at any time and look forward to hearing from you.
The last section of the cover letter is a formality again. It should include the following elements:
- A sentence or two saying that you are enthusiastic and available for interviews at any time
- Your final signature
So how do you make it easy for your reviewer to put your cover letter on the "Accept" pile? We have put together the 10 tips below to make sure you can achieve this and avoid common mistakes.
Tip #1 Don't use a template letter
Writing cover letters is painful. But trust us, reading hundreds of them can be at least as painful. That's why you should make every effort to make your letter interesting and genuine.
It's ok to get inspiration from templates such as the one we provide in this guide. But every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
Tip #2 Keep it to one page
One of the unwritten rules of consulting cover letters is that they should not be longer than one page. The trick to achieve this is to only select the MOST RELEVANT experiences from your resume and to summarise them.
The points you decide to highlight should clearly demonstrate that you would make a great consultant.
Tip #3 Standard format and font
It's tempting to use an eye-catching font and format. But that's actually a bad idea. You only risk your interviewer thinking: "I've never seen this font, it looks really weird. Who is this person?" Your cover letter should stand out because of its content, NOT because of its format.
Tip #4 Not the time to be shy
Your cover letter is not the time to be shy. If you went to Harvard and have three Olympic medals, now is the time to say it! Most of us don't, and that's fine. But the point is that you should really push yourself to bring your most impressive accomplishments forward.
Tip #5 Network, network, network
This might sound surprising, but a big part of the cover letter is how much networking you have done . Having networked with people from the firm you are applying for pays dividends for multiple reasons.
First, they might recommend you to the HR team. But most importantly, these people will give you insight into what makes their firm UNIQUE. Then you can quote what you've heard in your cover letter (and name drop the person you heard it from) to show that you really understand the firm you are applying for.
Tip #6 Read, read, read
Unfortunately, networking is not always easy or possible. In these cases, your second best option is to read as much as you can on the firms you are applying for. You should read about the firm's projects, reports, and partners and find pieces of information you are really interested in.
For instance, if you did your master thesis on electric vehicles, try to find who works in this area at the firm and what they have to say about it. And then mention what you have found in your cover letter.
Tip #7 One letter per firm
One question we often get is: "Should I write one letter per firm?" The answer is YES. But it's not as hard as it might sound.
Every cover letter needs to answer three questions: Why you? Why consulting? And why this firm? The only paragraph you will need to change in every letter is the one about "Why this firm?" For each firm, you will have to do the networking and reading mentioned above.
Tip #8 Start writing early
Writing an outstanding cover letter is VERY HARD. Most candidates underestimate how much time it takes and start this process too late. You'll need to take a step back and reflect on everything you have done to date to highlight your most relevant experiences.
This takes multiple iterations. Start early.
Tip #9 Get feedback
In our experience, great candidates all look for feedback and iterate on their cover letter until it's truly as good as it can get. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it.
It’s best to get feedback from peers or consultants. These people will be able to point out which parts of your letter they don't get or don't find impactful enough. If you’d like to have an expert review your cover letter, check out our team of ex-consultant coaches .
Tip #10 Proofread multiple times
Finally, you should check and double check your letter for typos and grammar mistakes - multiple times. A cover letter is (not so secretly) a writing test and you should really treat it like one.
What consulting firms look for
To get multiple interviews at top consulting firms , it’s extremely important to understand what those firms are actually looking for.
The good news is that most of the leading consultancies are looking for basically the same skills.
To illustrate this point, here’s what McKinsey and Bain say that they’re looking for in candidates, along with our own translation of what they mean:
There are also a few unofficial items that consulting firms will look for on your resume, and you can read about those in our consulting resume guide .
Next, let’s talk about the typical cover letter screening process.
Now let's talk about HOW your cover letter will be handled once you send it. Here's how it works.
Your application will be sent to a JUNIOR CONSULTANT who recently graduated from your University. They will score your documents based on a grid provided by the HR team.
Consultants usually have to score 200 to 400 applications in about 2 weeks. And this is sometimes on TOP of their normal project. It's not uncommon for them to leave the job to the last minute and to have to do it on a Friday night just before the deadline.
Why is this important? The point we are trying to make is your application is part of 100 other applications. And the person who will review it will be tired by the time they get to your cover letter. If they don't understand something, they won't Google it. It's your job to make their job easy.
Why consultancies ask for a cover letter
There are two main reasons why consulting firms ask for cover letters.
First, partners bill several thousand dollars per day to their clients. The opportunity cost of interviewing you is HUGE for the firm. Put yourself in the shoes of a consultancy for a second. What are the top 3 questions you want to answer before investing money in interviewing a candidate?
- Have they demonstrated the skills needed to be a consultant?
- Do they know what consulting is and what they are getting into?
- Are they genuinely interested in working for our firm?
If you don't answer these three questions in a structured and impactful way, your chances of getting past the screening process are very low. This is why every cover letter should be structured as follows:
- Why consulting?
- Why this firm?
The second reason consulting firms ask for a cover letter is to test your writing skills. Consultants write all the time: emails, PowerPoints, Word documents, etc. They spend about 50% of their day writing. And a lot of the time their job is to summarise very large quantities of information in a succinct way.
This is exactly what you have to do in your cover letter. You have to a) look back on all your past experiences, b) select the relevant experiences to convince the reviewer that you are the right person for the job and c) summarise all these experiences in a way that's easy to read and digest.
Cover letters are a disguised writing test. Candidates who end up getting invited for interviews recognise this early on. Making a good impression on paper is way harder than making a good impression in person.
Are many candidates ready to invest HOURS in writing the perfect cover letter? No. That's the whole point. That's how you can set yourself apart. If you spend enough time making sure that your letter is as impactful as it can be, you stand very high chances of getting invited for interviews.
Another reason that it can help to have a cover letter is to explain anything on your resume that may look unusual to a reviewer, such as a time gap or a non-traditional background for consulting.
Whatever your unique situation is, if you’re not confident in how your cover letter looks today, then we can help you.
Get an Ex-MBB consultant to review your cover letter
The guide above, in addition to our guide on consulting resumes , should go a long way in helping you craft documents that will get you interviews.
But if you still feel you need additional help, we have a team of ex-MBB recruiters and interviewers who would be happy to provide feedback on your cover letter.
You’ll get feedback on how to immediately improve your cover letter, including what experience to focus on, how to optimise your phrasing, formatting, etc.
Start by browsing profiles for available coaches.
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What is a Consulting Cover Letter?
A consulting cover letter is a document that introduces yourself to a recruiter or resume reviewer. In addition to your resume , cover letters are another component of your application that consulting firms use to determine whether or not you should receive an interview.
Cover letters are a quick way to screen out weak candidates. A cover letter that is generic and filled with errors leaves a negative impression on readers. Poor cover letters signal a lack of interest in consulting, poor writing skills, and a lack of attention to detail.
However, cover letters are also an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates. They can help get your foot into the door for a consulting job interview.
Through a cover letter, you can go beyond what is listed on your resume and provide further context and background on your work experiences. Additionally, you have the opportunity to tell readers who you are as a person, what your motivations are, and what makes you special.
Cover letters also give you an opportunity to explain potential red flags in your application or profile. Do you have a low GPA? Do you have a long gap in your work history? You can use part of your cover letter to address these concerns.
Overall, if your resume is on the borderline between receiving an interview and not receiving an interview, your cover letter will be the deciding factor. Candidates that don’t have the strongest resumes benefit the most from having outstanding cover letters.
While your resume is the most important component in getting consulting job interviews, your cover letter can still make a meaningful and significant difference.
What do Recruiters Look for in Consulting Cover Letters?
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of consulting recruiters. What would we want to see in a candidate’s cover letter?
Ideally, we would want to interview candidates that have the highest potential to become great consultants. In order to determine which candidates would make great future consultants, we need to look at their background and work experiences to determine if they have the right skills and qualities to succeed in consulting.
We would also want to interview candidates that are genuinely interested in a career in consulting. It is a huge waste of resources to interview candidates that applied last-minute because they are unsure of what kind of career they want to pursue.
Finally, we would only want to interview candidates that would likely accept a job offer if given one. Interviewing candidates that are applying to the firm as a backup choice is not ideal because it is a waste of resources since these candidates may not even accept the job offer if given one.
Therefore, recruiters look for three major things in consulting cover letters:
- Does the candidate have the skills, experiences, and background to become a great consultant?
- Does the candidate understand consulting and what they are getting into?
- Is the candidate genuinely interested in working for the firm?
To have an outstanding consulting cover letter, you will need to address all of these points and remove any doubt from the recruiter’s mind on whether you would be a great candidate to interview.
How to Write the Best Consulting Cover Letter
There are six components to a great consulting cover letter. We’ll go through each section and describe exactly how to best write each component.
Three body paragraphs
This section of the cover letter is a formality. You’ll want to include the following information in the header section:
- Phone Number
- Date you are sending the letter
Although your resume will already have this information, you want your cover letter to also have your contact information to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to contact you.
Keep the header short to give yourself more room to write your cover letter.
You should tailor your salutation to the consulting firm that you are applying for. Do not start your cover letter with “To whom it may concern.” This salutation is not personalized and feels cold.
Instead, identify which recruiter is the primary point of contact for you and address the cover letter to that recruiter and their team. If you can’t identify the head recruiter, address the cover letter to members of the consulting firm’s recruiting team.
Here are a few examples of salutations you can use:
- Dear [Recruiter] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
- To [Recruiter] and the Bain recruiting team,
- Dear members of the BCG recruiting team,
The first sentence of your opening paragraph should be a powerful statement that summarizes your areas of expertise and the number of years of experience. If you had to summarize your entire background and work experience into one sentence, what would it sound like?
This powerful opening sentence is used to grab the reader’s attention and introduce yourself in an impressive way.
The second sentence should state what specific role you are applying for at the consulting firm. Do you research to ensure that you are using the correct job title since many consulting firms have different job titles for similar positions.
For example, McKinsey’s entry level role is called “Business Analyst,” BCG’s entry level role is called “Associate,” and Bain’s entry level role is called “Associate Consultant.”
McKinsey’s post-MBA role is called “Associate” while BCG and Bain’s post-MBA role is called “Consultant.”
The next sentence should describe why you are interested in the consulting firm. Do your research on the consulting firm so that you are giving specific, compelling reasons why you are interested. You need to convince readers that their firm is your top choice.
Example : I am a marketing professional with four years of experience working on digital marketing projects that have generated over $100M in revenue at Amazon and Walmart. I am excited to be applying for McKinsey’s Associate position. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s leadership in their Marketing & Sales practice, unparalleled investment in mentoring and professional development, and commitment to delivering outstanding results to clients.
The next three body paragraphs should focus on why you would be a great fit for the consulting firm and what qualities you would bring to the firm. These body paragraphs should best highlight your qualities and experiences.
In order to tailor your cover letter to the specific consulting firm you are applying for, do research to identify what qualities each firm is looking for. Many firms explicitly state on their website the characteristics or things that they look for in candidates.
For example, McKinsey looks for leadership, entrepreneurial drive, personal impact, and problem solving. Bain looks for problem-solving skills, the ability to lead, results delivery, and passion.
Start this section of your consulting cover letter with a sentence that summarizes what three qualities you’ll be highlighting about yourself.
- I believe I would be a great fit for McKinsey because I have an entrepreneurial drive, adaptable leadership style, and an aspiration to make a meaningful impact on the world.
- If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my problem-solving skills, leadership, and passion.
In the following body paragraphs, go into more detail on each of these qualities or characteristics. The key is to show readers that you have these qualities, don’t just tell them.
Carefully pick what stories or experiences you want to share. Pick the stories and accomplishments that are the most impressive, impactful, and memorable.
Finally, keep your body paragraphs concise, which increases the likelihood that the reader will actually read through the full cover letter. You do not want to have three large, chunky paragraphs.
Below is an example of what a body paragraph could look like. You can start your body paragraph with the quality you are going to be talking about in bold to make it easier for readers to skim your cover letter.
Personal impact : While working at Amazon, I identified an opportunity to use customer data to determine if Amazon’s $50M investment in customer service initiatives generated positive returns on investment. I analyzed over 700K customer data points to create a model forecasting customer value. I collaborated with data science, customer experience, and finance teams to get their support and buy-in. In the end, I determined that Amazon’s investment had a negative 40% return on investment. I presented my findings to my thirty-person team and CFO and convinced them of my recommendation to stop the customer service initiatives. My work would save Amazon $50M per year moving forward.
The closing paragraph should be very short, typically just two sentences.
In the first sentence, you should reiterate that you would be a great fit for the consulting firm. In the second sentence, you want to thank the reader for their time and consideration.
Example : I believe that these qualities would make me a great fit for McKinsey. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Finish your cover letter with a professional closing phrase and your name. Appropriate closing phrases to use include:
- Best regards
Consulting Cover Letter Formatting
In addition to having great content in your consulting cover letter, you should also have great formatting. The goal in formatting your cover letter is to make it look professional and easy to read.
You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to see that you are a great candidate to interview. Follow the formatting tips below:
- Keep your cover letter to one page : Your cover letter needs to be no more than one page. If your cover letter is longer, you will need to find ways to make it more concise. No one likes reading long cover letters, which is why almost all cover letters are kept to a single page.
- Use 1-inch margins : Margins less than 1-inch make the text in your cover letter look cramped and small, which is not aesthetically pleasing. Using 1-inch margins ensures that you give yourself enough room to write, but also keeps enough white space around your text that makes it easier to read.
- Use standard fonts : Use a font that readers are used to seeing that are easy to read. You cannot go wrong with using Times New Roman, Arial, Courier New, Calibri, or Verdana. These are standard, professional fonts that have been used for many years.
- Use 12-point font : You don’t want readers to be straining their eyes while reviewing your consulting cover letter. Tiny font sizes make your cover letter difficult to read. Therefore, use a minimum 12-point font size.
- Submit your cover letter in a PDF format : Submitting your cover letter in a PDF format ensures readers will be able to open your cover letter file and that there will be no formatting issues. People have different versions of different word processors, so submitting your cover letter as a word document may lead to incompatibility issues.
Consulting Cover Letter Tips
Below are eight of the best consulting cover letter tips to help give your cover letter an edge over other candidates.
Tip #1: Research the specific qualities that the consulting firm is looking for
In order to tailor your cover letter, research the specific qualities that the consulting firm is looking for. Many consulting firms explicitly state what qualities or characteristics they look for in candidates on their websites.
This not only demonstrates why you would be a great fit for the firm, but also demonstrates that you are highly interested in the firm because you took the time to research the qualities that they care most about.
Tip #2: Avoid simply repeating things on your resume
Many candidates make the mistake of simply repeating achievements and accomplishments from their resume on their cover letter. This is a wasted opportunity because recruiters and resume reviewers will be looking at your resume anyways.
Providing redundant information in your cover letter does not help strengthen your application.
The cover letter provides an opportunity to go beyond what is listed on your resume. You should take advantage of this by telling readers who you are as a person, what your motivations are, and what makes you special.
You can include points from your resume, but make sure you provide further context on your achievements and accomplishments so that readers can learn something new about you.
Tip #3: Don’t use generic cover letter templates
As a recruiter, there is nothing worse than reading a generic cover letter. Recruiters read thousands of cover letters each year. They know when a cover letter is written using a generic template without much thought.
Do not fall into the trap of using a generic cover letter template and then inserting the name of the consulting firm that you are applying for.
If you really want your cover letter to stand out, you’ll need to invest the time to write a cover letter specific to each consulting firm that you are applying for.
To test if your cover letter is generic, swap the name of the consulting firm for another consulting firm. If the cover letter still works and makes sense, your cover letter is likely too generic.
Tip #4: Pick your best stories and accomplishments
Cover letters are meant to be short and sweet. You won’t have enough space to write about all of your accomplishments and experiences.
Therefore, you should carefully pick what you share in your cover letter. Pick the stories and accomplishments that are the most impressive, impactful, and memorable.
Tip #5: Quantify your results and impact
Just as you would do in your resume, quantify your results and impact that you share in your cover letter. Consultants think in terms of numbers, so the more you can quantify your achievements, the more impressive and credible they will be.
If you improved something at work, how much did you improve it by? If you helped increase sales, how much did revenues increase? If a project you worked on performed well, how much better did it perform compared to benchmarks?
Tip #6: Keep your cover letter concise and punchy
Recruiters sometimes read hundreds of cover letters over just a couple of days. Reading cover letters is highly repetitive and recruiters have short attention spans.
Therefore, keep your cover letter concise and punchy to increase the likelihood that the reader will get through the entire cover letter.
How do you make your cover letter punchy?
First, try to reduce the number of words needed to tell a story or explain an accomplishment. Second, focus on sharing only the most impressive and unique stories and accomplishments. This will make your cover letter more interesting to read.
Tip #7: Mention current or former employees you have talked to
If you’ve spoken with employees of the consulting firm that you are applying to, mention this in your cover letter. It is a simple, but effective way to demonstrate that you are interested in the firm.
However, don’t just mention names for the sake of name dropping. Go deeper and explain what you talked with these employees about and what you learned about the firm from these conversations.
Doing this signals to recruiters that you are genuinely interested in the firm because you took the time to learn about what it is like to work at the firm and what makes the firm great.
Tip #8: Double check that you are addressing the right firm or person
Finally, double check or triple check that you are addressing the cover letter to the right consulting firm or person.
If you were a recruiter for McKinsey, how would you feel if a candidate submitted a cover letter that is addressed to BCG or Bain?
There are many stories of candidates with strong resumes and backgrounds getting their applications rejected because they accidentally forgot to change the consulting firm’s name on their cover letters. Don’t let this happen to you.
Ideally, you will be writing customized cover letters that are tailored to each firm, so you will not need to be replacing a consulting firm’s name for another firm’s name for your cover letters.
What to do when Consulting Cover Letters are Optional?
Some consulting firms, such as McKinsey, make their cover letter optional to make it easier for candidates to apply. If a cover letter is optional, what should you do?
If you have a strong resume, you likely won’t need to submit a cover letter in order to get an interview.
If you were previously rejected from the consulting firm, it may be beneficial to submit a cover letter in order to explain how you have improved and grown since your last application. You will need to convince recruiters why you are a great candidate to interview this time around.
Finally, if you have any red flags on your resume, such as a low GPA or a long gap in work history, it will be beneficial to submit a cover letter to explain these circumstances. You will need to remove any doubt from recruiters’ minds that these red flags do not reflect your quality as a candidate.
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you should submit a cover letter if it adds incremental value to your application beyond what is listed on your resume. If you are just going to be submitting a generic cover letter, it may not help your application much.
However, if you are willing to take the time to research the consulting firm and write a customized cover letter, you should definitely do so. Outstanding cover letters can only help your overall application.
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