All the sources online talk about case interviews, their importance, and how to prepare for them. A ton of content awaits those who’re in need of solid case interview advice, and for good reason. But you won’t get to do a case interview unless you write a persuasive consulting cover letter in the first place.
Yes, case interviews are challenging, and yes, you’ll need to spend way too many hours preparing. But you need to get to the interview in the first place before you begin worrying about cracking cases. And you won’t get that far unless your cover letter is outstanding.
It seems that almost everyone overlooks the actual formal application for a job in consulting. Some websites even go as far as to claim that consulting candidates don’t need to send a cover letter, only a resume. That’s just plain wrong.
Luckily, there are still people out there who write elaborate guides on how to write consulting letters and who are willing to coach others. My Consulting Coach cover letter guide is quite an elaborate piece on the subject if you ever need more information.
Now, without further ado, lets’ fix you up with a cover letter that’s guaranteed to land you that interview (and the subsequent case interview).
Resume and Cover Letter
It’s true that different jobs have varying requirements, and that resume and cover letter are not always equally important. Sometimes, the resume will speak for itself, and sometimes, you’ll need to reinforce it with a high-quality cover letter.
In consulting? Both are equally important.
When applying for a management consulting job in one of the MBB companies or The Big Four, a cover letter is an absolute must. It’s not just a useful addition to your resume that highlights some key points for the recruiter.
One thing that you don’t get to hear often is that more than half of the candidates applying for a job in consulting don’t make it to the interview. That’s a huge deal.
We blame the case interviews. They tend to overshadow pretty much every other aspect of getting a job in consulting, the cover letter included.
Today, you’ll learn why the cover letter is a crucial part of the process and how to write a perfect one.
Why Is the Consulting Cover Letter So Important?
The cover letter for a job in consulting serves a similar purpose that it does otherwise — to amplify the items from your resume and personalize it.
Highlighting a couple of your qualities is one-third of an excellent cover letter. You need to show why you’re worth the position in a consulting firm, and emphasizing your experience and skillset will get you exactly that.
But that’s only one part of the cover letter. The other two-thirds of it need to explain the following: Why consulting, and why that firm in particular?
This is where you need to connect your personal story with the demands of a management consulting job. It’s where you make yourself stand out from hundreds, if not thousands of applications that consulting firms receive on daily basis.
If you pass the initial screening period, you get a callback for a fit interview. During the fit interview, you’ll be hearing a lot of similar questions, “why consulting” in particular. That’s what makes your consulting cover letter even more important. It’s your basis (and practice) for what to say during the interview.
Think about that as you’re writing your cover letter. “Am I going to be able to translate this in a digestible manner?”
Now, here’s what the recruiter is going to be looking for in your letter.
Is there such a thing as improper motivation? Sure there is!
Consulting is a lucrative career that opens so many doors afterward. You’ll be making head-spinning amounts of money and have endless options for a career change. Recruiters know this, and they also know that employee turnover is a huge problem for consulting firms.
That’s why they’ll be looking to eliminate those who’re after short-term personal gain. Consulting companies are far more interested in candidates who plan on staying for the long haul. Especially in those who’re interested in becoming partners themselves one day.
It’s alright if you have different aspirations and want to use consulting as a jumping board. But neither the consulting cover letter nor the fit interview is a place to mention something like that.
Consultants thrive on structure and organization. Your cover letter should reflect that.
You need to be able to research what the proper writing format for a cover letter is and apply it. After all, that’s what you’ll be doing as a consultant one day yourself. You’ll need to learn constantly, and then structure all the knowledge you attained in a useful, practical manner.
Recruiters will be very much interested in how you organize and format the letter.
Some of the general rules to follow include:
- Limit the cover letter to one printable page.
- Standard font and size.
- Contact information at the top of the page
- Normal margins (default settings will suffice)
- Follow a standard consulting letter structure (opening, three paragraphs, closing).
Think About the Reader
It’s quite possible that one of the junior consultants will be reading your cover letter.
And that’s important for one reason — it’s highly likely they have myriad other tasks to complete besides this one. Make the cover letter skimmable for them. It will save them a lot of time, and they’ll be very grateful. And they’re the person you want to please.
The Content of a Consulting Cover Letter
We already mentioned what the structure should look like. You need to make a small introduction, work your way through three important points (why you, why consulting, and why that particular company), and then conclude the cover letter.
Make sure that everything you write is unique. It should reflect your personal achievements, thoughts, and ideas, not somebody else’s.
For that reason, you have to select only the most outstanding achievements of yours. Amazing feats and successes that are unique will grab the attention of the reader. You can also write any unusual experiences you’ve had for the same reason — you don’t want the reader to skip your application. But do keep in mind that you should use unusual achievements only if they somehow relate to management consulting.
Now, on to your introduction. The most important rule here is — don’t be shy. Now’s the time to show what your strong suits are.
The answers to “why consulting” and “why this company” can be similar. They both need to show you know what you’re getting yourself into and that you’ve done the homework. Show that you care about consulting and that you know how challenging it is.
Writing a consulting cover letter is a crucial step in getting to an interview, so don’t neglect it. Spend some time coming up with an amazing cover letter that’s going to show who you are, what you know, and why you want to become a consultant. Prepare a well-thought-out answer to that last question, because you’ll be repeating it many times throughout the process.