In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the role academic ability and leadership experience play in helping you write a consulting resume that gets your foot in the door at top-tier consulting firms.
The second half of this article focuses on the importance of securing and demonstrating the right work experience and well-rounded character. As with Part 1, I’ll list the ideal, average and less than ideal position for each.
Challenging work experience
You need good work experience to get good interviews in order to get better work experience. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Internships are absolutely key here; if you’re applying to consulting internship positions, make sure that you’ve got plans B, C, D, and E so that no matter what the outcome of your recruitment, you’ll have strong work experience to strengthen your application for full-time recruitment.
If you’ve had an internship at a top firm (doesn’t even have to be in consulting) then you immediately have a big advantage in the application process. While having less work experience won’t disqualify you, it means that you’ll need to impress in another category.
Of special mention is investment banks – consulting firms love investment bankers because if they’re interested in consulting and strategically-minded, then they’ve already proven their ability to work long hours.
It also means that they’re business-savvy and comfortable with numbers. A strong finance internship is a big plus for consulting recruitment, although you’ll have to convince the resume screener that you’re serious about consulting (having competed in case competitions, part of your school’s consulting association, etc.).
One last point – consulting firms love to see students who have international work experience. If you have worked on another continent, that’s a plus.
Ideal: A large, well-known firm that has a rigorous interview process. Preferably a position with analytics. If you had an internship overseas with a noted firm, then you’re golden!
Average: A large firm that is not as selective or a position that did not have as much responsibility.
Less than ideal: No work experience or work experience that is not position-relevant.
Well-roundedness and internationalism
This is probably the least quantifiable aspect of your CV, but it’s a fact that consulting firms are looking for candidates who have diverse interests, backgrounds and passions.
They want to see a student who’s well-rounded, strong in both academics and extracurricular involvement, with interests that extend beyond just grades. This is why it’s important to have a ‘personal interests’ section on your CV, to give you the chance to show the other sides of you.
A consulting firm will almost definitely give an interview to a candidate with a 3.5 GPA and interesting leadership experience over a candidate with a 3.9 GPA and minimal extracurricular involvement.
By the same token, that first student becomes a lot more interesting to recruiters when they mention that are a competitive swimmer, or that they climb mountains in their free time. Again, it goes back to the question that an interviewer will inevitably ask themselves – “If I was stuck on a plane with this person, would I actually want to talk to them?”
Being well-travelled is a great thing to note on your CV, but don’t just list ‘traveling’ – be specific about where you’ve traveled and where you plan to go in the future! A demonstrated interest in travel shows that you are curious about the world and are eager to have new experiences.
Traveling also shows that you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone. An internship in a foreign country looks great on your CV because it shows that you’re willing to pack up your bags and move to another country for the sake of an exciting opportunity, whether you speak the language, know the culture, or not.
Anything that you do that is out of the ordinary makes for an interesting application and can be a great conversation-starter at the beginning of your interviews, so be sure to note it on your CV! One student (who joined a top firm) listed underwater hockey as an interest, which never failed to generate questions. Another student listed ‘following startups’ – anytime he had an interviewer who was interested in startups (and many consultants are), he’d spend the first few minutes chatting about the startup community in Montreal. This was not only a relaxed and easy way to start an interview but it also gave him the chance to show his business savvy.
Ideal: Listing ‘unique’ (but relevant) interests, being well-traveled, working in another country, etc.
Average: Some experience outside of standard organizations on campus.
Less than ideal: No personal interests section at all, or having generic interests such as ‘reading’, ‘writing’, ‘sports’, etc. If you’re going to put those, at least be specific!
I hope this helps you improve and refine your consulting resume. Good luck with your applications!