Resume tips for consulting candidates

Kenton Kivestu, ex-Google, ex-BCG, Founder at RocketBlocks
Published: December 12, 2018 | Last updated: April 3, 2019

Competition for consulting jobs is fierce. McKinsey & Company alone receives over 200K applicants per year for roughly 2K openings1.

Given the sheer volume of applicants, each resume can only expect a brief glance at most. That means that if your resume doesn't catch the recruiter's attention immediately, it will likely end up in the discard pile. And unfortunately, graduating from a top school and having great potential is not enough, since there are literally thousands of candidates with similar qualifications.

pink lemon stands out

Your goal: make the recruiter sit up and pay attention.

In the post below, we're going to show real life examples of how you can find opportunities for this in three key resume sections.

  1. Education
  2. Experience
  3. Extracurriculars

Ultimately, you want the recruiter to say "hey - that's cool". Let's look at three ways to make that happen.

#1: The Education section

In the example below, you can see the difference between a "typical" education section and one that's been enhanced with a unique addition that could catch a recruiter's attention (highlighted in yellow).

Notice that the standard content isn't bad but it likely won't jump off the page either. However, the unique, third bullet helps to grab attention.

Why does this work? Three things help:

  1. Unique: It's highly likely this will be the first time anyone has seen a similar bullet
  2. Relatable: Everyone recognizes the game Monopoly
  3. Interesting: Demonstrates initiative and an interesting way to engage on the value of games

If you're not 100% clear on this, don't worry. We'll give a slightly different example for each resume section, which will help clarify the underlying thought process. Let's jump into work experience.

#2: Work Experience Section

Now let's look at how we can apply a similar strategy to amp up the work experience section.

A helpful starting point is a quick thought exercise: ask yourself a few questions to trigger ideas.

  1. What's something fun I've done in a professional environment?
  2. Which of my odd skills/hobbies have I been able to utilize at work?
  3. What do I like telling stories about?
  4. What experiences have I dismissed too quickly?
  5. What clubs or interest groups am I involved in? Why?

In our example, after brainstorming, the candidate comes up with the unique bullet point highlighted in yellow.

It's interesting. It demonstrates leadership, and the "Travel Hack" language could pique interest. As a bonus, it's topically on point as well, since nearly all consultants love to discuss travel reward point strategies and assoicated hacks.

Again, there is nothing wrong with the default section but given the level of competition, it isn't likely to garner much attention. The unique bullet point draws the reader in and creates an opportunity for extra consideration - which is exactly what you want as a candidate!

#3: The Extracurriculars Section

The extracurriculars section is the most underestimated section. Sometimes people will skimp on this section, adding extra content in the Work Experience section instead. Don't make that mistake!

Let's do a compare and contrast of two different options.

Example A

Example B

There is nothing wrong with example A.

But, let's be honest: it's a bit boring. On the other hand, example B jumps off the page. TED has high name recognition and obviously Bob Dylan needs no introduction. Even if the TEDx role was a relatively small commitment compared to the Book club, it makes a stronger statement on paper.

Here's the insight: sometimes experiences which required more time and effort, are actually worse on your resume.

In this case, Example B took less time from the candidate but is a more effective resume tidbit. It sounds exciting and it has name recognition, both the TED brand and some of the specific speakers it attracted (e.g. Bob Dylan).

Summary

In conclusion, writing a resume isn't as straightforward as listing your educational credentials and key work experience. Even if you attended elite Ivy league schools and have a great GPA, the reality is there are thousands of candidates that look really similar to you on paper.

To surmount this obstacle, you need to make your unique talents and experiences jump off the page. They must grab attention if you want to make it past the resume screen. Ultimately, if you catch a recruiter's attention, your chances of them reviewing your resume more carefully go up dramatically. And that's the key


This post was a collaboration between the RocketBlocks team and Jonathon Yarde, an entreprenuer and former Accenture Consultant who runs the Consultant Essentials blog. Jonathon enjoys fly-fishing, backpacking and once held the Indiana state record for most decorated Boy Scout.

P.S. Are you preparing for consulting interviews?

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Sources
1. Management Today, McKinsey head Dominic Barton: 'We don't dominate the brain pool'