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With resumes, there are more than one ways to be correct. There are a number of different styles, formats, and contents, that is difficult to make an absolute decision as to what will be appropriate. Choosing the best style, format, or content sometimes relies on specific situations, specific screeners, and specific candidates. (See simple consulting terminology that you should include in your resume)

However, there are a set of generally accepted standards that all consulting resume screeners agree on. The following guidelines will help your resume conform to those standards. We will show them to you in the form of the most common mistakes or misunderstandings in consulting resumes.

Mistake #1: What you have vs. How you present it

I have seen candidates work really hard to gain experience here and there, hoping to add some “impressive bullets” to their resumes, yet do not get called in for interviews.

On the other hand, I have seen many other people who do not pay enough attention to meeting requirements for their resume.

No matter how well you present your resume, it is difficult to land interviews without good content (background, work experience, etc.). It turns out that building a resume is a long and balanced process of both strengthening your background & experience and aptly presenting all of them in one page.

Simply put: start early and finish strong!

Mistake #2: Complicated and unclean language

As mentioned earlier, most screeners are not seniors and do not have too much time for your resume. Your language should be as simple and clean as possible. Let’s look at some examples of real resumes we have been helping.

Examples of complicated language:

– “Determined the biogeochemical processes involved in the cycling of sulfur, iron and carbon in three acidic metal-contaminated lakes in southwestern, Spain.”

A more effective way is to convert all complicated terminologies into simple words that even people without technical knowledge can understand:

– “Determined the scientific processes combining biology, geography, and chemicals that scientists have been questioning for over a decade.”

Example of un-clean English:

– “Perform in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for patients seeking operations uncovered by health insurance.”

This description can be cleaned up as follows:

– “Researched financial companies with financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations.”

Mistake #3: Resume is not specific

If you were able to be a consultant for a day, you would be surprised by how many times you are asked to be specific. It is the culture that runs deeply in a consultant’s blood and bones. Your resume will be reviewed by those who spend years in that culture. You just can’t be generic in your resume.

Let’s look at the same example for illustration:

– “Performed in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking for operations”

A few questions immediately pop up in my head:
– What kind of “in-depth research” was it?
– How was the research conducted?
– What role did you take?
– What did you do specifically?

A better way to convey this:

– “Performed competitiveness and liquidity research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations through press search, interviewing experts, and analyzing published data

Mistake #4: Resume is not result-oriented

The core of every consulting project is to create impact. You will not find a lot of consulting team meetings that don’t mention the word “impact”. Every line, every description on a good consulting resume must show the “impact” or the “result” of the candidate’s input.

Let’s continue with the same example:

– “Performed in-depth research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations.”

This description is not result-oriented. Questions that most screeners will have about the above description are:

– So what? How do I know if those researches shifted the company’s thinking or if most of them ended up in the trash basket?

– Every college student can do research, how is this candidate special?

A better way to put this description:

– “Led and published critical research on financial companies that offer financing options for uncovered patients seeking operations leading to a major shift of the company’s target market.”

Mistake #5: Resume does not show your well-rounded set of consulting skills

A typical mindset in writing a resume is to firstly list out your background, then on each point, try to make it look as good as possible.

While the above method can sometimes work, there is a far better and more systematic approach when it comes to consulting resumes. That is: to identify comprehensively upfront all skills and qualities screeners want to see, and to match your background with every skill and quality.

By doing this, your resume will show all of what they need, NOT all of what you have to offer.

Mistake #6: Resume with grammar and spelling mistakes

This sounds trivial but it is the fastest way to get your resume thrown out. It shows that either you are a careless candidate (how does the screener expect you to make perfect slides at 2-3 am in the morning?) or that you don’t take the application seriously.

Proof-read your resume! Spell-check it! Make someone review it! You have all the time in the world for your resume, there is no excuse.

Mistake #7: Resume with bad formatting

I talked to many different McKinsey screeners from many different offices. A very common complaint is about applications using different formats, and some are very hard to read. An effective format should always be clear and easy to read.

If you are concerned about whether your current format is clean and clear enough, use one of our commonly-accepted formats attached below!

This is a simple issue and yet so many people are having it. Don’t let it keep you from your future dreams.

Get the most commonly-accepted format for a consulting resume.

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  • Linh

    Very helpful and enlightening instructions. Just want to know if your team provide resume feedback service? Thanks

  • Ada

    The sample resume links are dead. Please fix! Thank you