… or what you should know before applying to the Big Three.
Before you begin working on your application for the consulting industry, we suggest you read this article and get an idea of how an ideal consulting candidate looks like. Once you learn what kind of person HRs are looking for, it’ll be easier to write your CV and cover letter or to set goals for yourself in career development. Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter and consider this as a list of check-points which you need to reflect in your profile to pass screening and get invited for an interview.
This article will also help you set clear goals for self-development if you’re only starting your career path at university, or to work on your self-presentation if you’re an experienced hire.
NB. All examples in this article are real and taken from resumes of Flessibilità students.
What do recruiters want to see in a future consultant?
1. High achievers.
Recruiters want to see candidates that are the best at anything they do and in any field. To be successful in consulting, you must be result-oriented and your results should be measurable.
Recruiters like to see top students with high GPAs, test scores, ratings (top 5-10% of the class or year), diplomas with honors, scientific publications etc. They want to see proof you’re a high achiever and want to see validation from trusted third parties, such as universities, schools, company courses etc. with prominent brand names. Also make sure your message to the recruiter is clear, because he/she might not be familiar with the specific award or fully understand the importance of your achievement. Convert achievements into %. For example, “top 5% of my year” gives a better understanding of your success than stating your GPA as 3,6 out of 4. Don’t forget to mention scholarships and other grants.
- Example. Ranked 3rd out of 200 students in the 1st year. Selected participant to Advanced Economics Exchange Program.
Show the impact you brought with your work: how much money you saved for your company, how many clients you attracted, how significantly you reduced costs etc. Make sure to evaluate your impact in numbers. This allows the recruiter to weigh and visualize your role. Promotions, awards, progressions to major projects can also give the recruiter an idea of how successful you were in your efforts. Again, don’t underestimate the importance of brands. Recruiters seek candidates with experience working in top companies or top positions.
- Example. Through model mix planning discovered special model preferences across regions in Russia. Developed new regional strategy that resulted in sales stock decrease on average by 15%.
- Example. Initiated and launched a loyalty program. Conducted more than 20 trainings for dealers. After the program launch, our product X became the top selling product on Russian market.
Extracurricular activities and hobbies.
Mention prizes or achievements in sports, competitions, championships etc., that do not fit in the first two categories. Hard workers and high achievers usually try to be best at anything they do, so don’t underestimate the importance of hobbies in the reflection of your personal skills (leadership, teamwork, etc.). For example, if you’ve had experience leading or participating in a start-up which you later sold, this will show your active leadership skills, as well as creative thinking and entrepreneurial drive.
- Example. Created an e-commerce start-up; managed a team of 4. Was responsible for market analysis, pricing policy, product design. Launched a pilot version and sold it for 2,7 thousand euros to an independent investor.
- Example. 1st place in philosophy of economics essay contest in Russian among 5000 CIS students, Georgia, 2014”.
Head of the debate club at university, 4-time champion in sprinting. Whatever it is you’re inspired by, be the best at it. Play your role.
For more information on high achievers in consulting read Victor’s articles.
2. Soft skills.
The goal of your application is to deliver the best explanation of your character and personality to the recruiter. Most importantly, you need to fit in the company and work successfully. Your education and experience prove you have hard skills, but it is up to soft skills to make you a successful consultant. What soft skills do recruiters want to see?
Recruiters need to make sure you will be able to work in a team or manage communicating with clients. To show experience working with diverse groups of people with different functionality, level of expertise and authority as well as with people from different age groups or cultural backgrounds. Communicating with fellow interns or CEOs, sales specialists of finance directors, Asian or European colleagues – as a consultant you must practice your communication skills in advance to show you will manage this very important task. Make sure to have experience working in a team. Pay attention to the role you play in the team and state the number of people you’ve worked with.
- Example. Managed a team of 40 volunteers and 2 supervisors. Organized and conducted 4 training session for 1286 volunteers of the Olympic Park.
To work in a competitive environment such as consulting you need to stand firmly on your feet. Mature and in control of all aspects of your life, the consulting candidate should have clear motivations and clear career goals set ahead of him/her. This is the number one problem for many professionals, not just postgraduates, when writing their CL. Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you have other motivations other than money or pride. Convince the recruiter your employment will be mutually beneficial for you and your future employer. Easier said than done.
- Example. View the “After” example of a student’s undergraduate cover letter, where you can see clearly his thought process, his growing motivation to become a consultant and the respective steps he took to develop his skills and find grounding proof for this motivation.
Leaders take initiative and motivate others to follow in their steps. Leaders can see the roots of the problem, they can see the bigger picture and know how to organize their work and work of others to solve them. Working in consulting in a starting position, you will have mentors that will advise you from time to time, teammates that will give advice, but otherwise you should count on your own strengths. If you are not confident you can carry out the task from start to end, take responsibility for the result, persuade your teammates of your decision, persuade the client your decision is right for them – you will have a hard time. The sooner you start developing your leadership skills, the easier it will be for you to work in consulting or achieve a top managing position in any other sphere. Gather a team to pass a sports competition; motivate people to participate in your debate club; engage students at your university to recycle. There are many problems around us that you can solve. Find out what they are and bring people together to solve them.
- Example. Initiated & executed an internal campaign roadshow to increase motivation of the regional sales teams. Initiated and launched a loyalty program. Conducted more than 20 trainings for dealers. After the program launch, our product X became the top selling product on Russian market.
- Example. Created and promoted with a teammate an initiative to launch a bus transfer between the university and its remote campus.
3. Analytical skills
To become a consultant, you need to develop an analytical mindset. This means you should have the ability to apply logical thinking to breaking complex problems into component parts. What are traits of analytical thinkers and how to show them in your resume?
- Analytical thinkers look at things in a holistic way.
- They base their choices on realism and sound processes, supported by precision, accuracy, and detail. Their decisions have a great deal of validity.
- They are strongly oriented towards policy and procedure.
- From a leadership perspective, they are highly organized and extremely knowledgeable about their work.
The first evidence of an analytical mindset is the ability to provide structure to anything. This can be clearly seen in the candidate’s resume which is well organized, and written in a concise and logical manner. Every experience or project is also executed in a very structured and organized manner, whether it is organizing an event at university, or completing a routine job at work.
There are many ways you can learn to think in a structured manner. First, you can read about structured interview methods such as STAR, PARLA, PARADE which will teach you to communicate any message logically in a way that is understandable to the listener or reader. We will publish separate materials dedicated to structured interview methods soon. Another method is to master consulting case interviews. Hence, our respective course on structuring.
Again, referring to your experience, a person with an analytical mindset always sees problems and solves them in a calculated and structured manner. Contrary to following intuition, an analytical mindset will take very clear and calculated steps to achieve an end goal. This requires seeing the anticipated result in advance and structuring your way step by step to reach it. Just like a mathematician, who needs to visualize his steps before attempting at solving the math problem. This brings us to the next important skill: math.
- Example. Solving the problem of manual data processing, launched an integrated database which could accept all external & internal information in its original form adapting it to the system landscape and making accessible for further use upon demand. This allowed to automatize all standard reports which reached 100% accuracy and time consumption decrease of 50%
Analytical skills are highly correlated with math. If you have any experience of analytical work, such as work in IB or audit, for example, or a degree in science or math, you don’t need to provide additional proof. If you have a degree in liberal arts, you might need to test your analytical skills before attempting at screening. This doesn’t mean you should be a calculus major to become a consultant. Consulting companies are known to have musicians and teachers among their employees. However, the best way to show analytical skills on your resume is through GMAT. If your result is 700+, that will be sufficient. You will only need to make sure you pass internal tests such as PST and case interviews. For those who have not passed GMAT or cannot reach the threshold of 700, we offer our preparatory math course to prepare yourself for tests and interviews.
NB: GMAT is not a must and candidates can pass screening without it. If you have a strong profile, simply concentrate on preparing for tests and interviews.