A consulting covering letter must show that you have thought about the job and know about the organisation, and should briefly outline the qualities that make you the perfect candidate. In your cover letter, Roland Berger advises its applicants, you should explain 'what makes you our next consultant'. Remember, for many consultancies, such as Credo, which do not ask for an application form, your covering letter is the first impression you will make and formatting the letter properly is essential.
Here are our seven top tips for writing a covering letter that will get you noticed (in a good way):
1. Make your covering letter memorable and to the point. Memorable means that recruiters can remember key things about you by the end of the letter. It’s not about adding a shock factor statement or something kooky.
Parthenon-EY, for example, looks for candidates who are intellectually curious. Therefore, a covering letter to this firm should demonstrate your intellectual curiosity as much as possible through descriptions of your achievements, motivations and experiences (not through stating ‘I am curious’!).
2. Write a new tailor-made cover letter for each position. This avoids the risk of leaving the wrong firm or recruiter name on there! It also allows recruiters to see how motivated you are to join their particular firm instead of just any consulting firm.
3. Open with style. Get a named contact to address – most firms will provide this on their website. If in doubt, use any contact numbers provided to phone and ask. Introduce yourself and explain which position you’re applying for and where you saw it advertised.
4. Demonstrate your interest in the firm to which you’re applying. Devote a paragraph to explaining why you are interested in the job and the firm. Show you’ve done your research by referencing some of the firm’s recent projects and explaining why they interest you. If you're applying to Alfa, for example, show that you know what asset finance is.
Roland Berger puts it succinctly: you need to submit a cover letter which should make a convincing case why you want to be a part of Roland Berger – and no other consulting firm.
5. Show them why they want you. Use the next paragraph or two to explain why you’re the right candidate – but don’t just repeat the content of your CV. PwC stresses: ‘Throughout the process, we'll be looking for you to show awareness and evidence of the skills and qualities you need to succeed in our business. Wherever possible, you should be able to demonstrate and highlight how you match our requirements.’
6. End well. The closing paragraph of your letter should be strong and clear. Reaffirm your suitability for the role and your enthusiasm about the prospect of working for the employer. If you are really keen, you can add a line saying that you’ll give them a call to see how your application is progressing, but if you say it you must do it! State that you look forward to hearing from them and are happy to provide any further information they need. ‘Aim for clarity,’ says OC&C Strategy Consultants, ‘and make it easy for us to distinguish you from other applicants.’
7. Check spelling, grammar and sense very carefully. Elegant formatting won’t make up for poor spelling and grammar. Consulting recruiters will be reviewing your attention to detail and your ability to communicate in writing. Read through your covering letter out loud. This will help you identify verbose sentences that can be rewritten and will help you check the sense of your writing.
The cover letter is a required component of any job application – but often the biggest headache for applicants. In this post, I discuss the top 10 tips for consulting cover letters (from content to structure to syntax) that will avoid embarrassing mistakes and strengthen your candidacy.
For the complete guide to consulting cover letters, click here!
1) Your opening paragraph should include:
- The position you’re applying for.
- Qualities that make you a good fit (e.g., leadership experience, analytical thinking skills).
- Optional: very brief highlights on work experience.
2) Your body paragraphs (no more than 2) should include:
- Work highlights if not in the opening paragraph.
- A section to describe one experience in detail (work, student group, etc). Focus on the impact you had and the skills you learned that would make you a good consultant. This should be your “star” experience and the one you want every reader to remember
- A section or paragraph on your interest in the job, your career goals, the research you’ve done to learn more about the firm.
3) The closing paragraph should be brief and restate why you’d make a good consultant. Include your contact information here as well:
Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions. I can be reached at (123) 456-7890 or via email at email@example.com.
4) Avoid an elaborate discussion of your educational background. A sentence about your school and major should suffice. It’s OK to expand this section if you have a very high GPA, nationally-recognized scholarships, and fellowships, etc.
5) It’s OK to drop names of current firm employees – but integrate them well.
Here’s a poor example:
I had a conversation with Sarah Foster, a current case team leader at Bain, at the on-campus presentation. I learned a lot from her about consulting and gained a deeper appreciation for the company.
Why is this a poor example? It doesn’t make a point. The interaction was generic, and it feels like a setup to name-drop.
Here’s a good example:
Bain is not only a prestigious firm, but one that really invests in the development of its consultants. My conversations with Sarah Foster, a current case team leader, reinforced my belief that this separates Bain from the other firms, and is my central reason for applying.
Why is this a good example? The name-dropping occurs in the context of a broader point – that Bain focuses on the development of its people.
6) Use anecdotes in consulting cover letters. Instead of saying “my past experiences have allowed me to become a strong leader of teams,” say this:
My projects at Oracle – where I led groups of up to 5 analysts on implementation projects – have made me a strong team leader and partner for my colleagues.
7) Include current contact information at the top. Don’t assume it’s unnecessary because the information is on your resume.
8) Never use more than one page and use PDF format when possible. In the words of Consultant99 (a kind commenter):
Resumes and cover letters should be submitted in PDF whenever allowed. Every resume screen finds us holding a half-dozen resumes where the font isn’t found, the margins are messed-up, it’s set for A4 rather than 8.5 x 11, or any of a million other problems that wreak havoc on your careful formatting. Worst of all, “track changes” might be turned on! Putting it in PDF avoids all these problems.
9) If it doesn’t fit with size 12 font and 1″ margins, it’s too long. This is not an iron-clad rule but a guiding principle. Cover letters with size 10 font, 0.5″ margins, and minute paragraph spacing hurt the reader’s eyes and hurt your candidacy.
10) Make sure the consulting cover letter is addressed to the right firm and person. Back to my initial thought – the risk is greater of messing up than standing out, and this is mistake number one. Label and save each cover letter by a firm, and double-check to ensure the firm name, address, and position applied for (eg, Associate vs Senior Consultant) is correct.
The last thing you want to happen is for an Accenture recruiter or consultant open your cover letter and see that it’s addressed to Deloitte HR. At best, you’re incompetent. At worst, your application may not see the light of day.
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