Consulting CV - Full Guide & Free Templates
When you submit your application for graduate consulting roles it is highly likely that your application will sit alongside thousands of other candidates and for top tier consultants it is a certainty. Of the thousands of applications that are received the majority will not be invited to begin the process, this makes your CV one of the most critical parts of the process.
It is common for graduates to apply for jobs in more than one industry, and that is expected by employers but for consulting roles it is important to not re-use a CV that has been used for another industry such as investment banking. This is because successful consulting candidates are able to demonstrate the skills and characteristics that are valued more highly in consulting than other industries.
What makes a good consultant?
To be able to write a CV that is appealing to your reviewer it is important to understand what it is they are looking for. The firm is looking to hire graduates that not only have strong academic records but that have the underlying potential to grow into the role of a consultant.
Junior consultants are never expected to be industry experts however, they are expected to possess a good balance between IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient), these should be complimented by any relevant work experience you have gained.
The skills that fall under IQ for a consultant are predominantly problem solving and analysis. This is because the nature of consulting projects is to solve a problem the client is facing and a robust strategy must be built on sound analysis.
Demonstrating your problem solving and analytical abilities on your CV can be easier for candidates that studied subject such as engineering, computer science and economics at university as these subjects exercise both skill sets. However, even if you did study a subject that involves problem solving and analysis then it is still just as important to highlight when you have demonstrated these skills in any prior work experience.
Emotional intelligence is highly regarded in consulting for multiple reasons. The first reason is that a lot of the work is client facing and so being able to build strong working relationships is important, senior partners and directors need to be confident that you are ‘safe’ to put in front of a client. Another reason that social skills are valued is that you will often work on small teams (3 or 4 people) and potentially work away with that team meaning you not only work together but socialise together. Being easy to get on with makes everyone’s lives easier.
To communicate EQ on your CV include examples of working within a team successfully (sports teams included), volunteering work, extra curricular activities and highlight any work experience that involved client facing elements.
Relevant work experience
You are not expected to have loads of experience as a graduate applying for a consultancy job but any relevant experience is taken into consideration. They hold value because it can display your motivations to pursue a career in consulting, the working environments you have been exposed to so far and allow you to demonstrate your IQ and EQ.
Of course, the most relevant experience you can have is a prior consulting internship, for the majority of applicants they won’t have this experience so what experience is valued?
Experience at big brands and investment banks are looked upon favourably by CV reviewers for a couple of reasons. One is that they have extensive application processes so the reviewer can be confident that any candidates with experience at big brands and investment banks are probably going to be high achievers. Another reason is that in these roles applicants will have been exposed to similar tools to those required for the job such as Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint etc.
Increasingly consultancies are looking favourably upon entrepreneurial activities and experiences. This is partly because industry incumbents (clients) are becoming increasingly aware of the threat of rapid changes in their industries due to smaller competitors but also because this is a clear signal of favourable characteristics for consulting such as work ethic and creative problem solving skills.
Whilst big brands and entrepreneurial efforts are beneficial, they do not carry as much value as your EQ and IQ. You also cannot control the names and experiences on your CV at this point but you can control how you portray those experiences on the page. Use any components involved in the experience in which you can highlight your IQ and EQ clearly and concisely.
6 Tips for a great CV
1) Remove all pronouns
Whilst writing your CV in the first person is acceptable, the absent first-person style allows you to avoid repetition (“I did this”, “I did that”) and be more concise.
I worked in a team of three and we managed to successfully reduce the number of outstanding customer requests.
Worked in a team of three to reduce the outstanding customer service requests.
2) Communicate your value via qualitative statements
As you may have noticed the addition of the 27% figure above added real punchiness to the line. Consultants are results-orientated and promote the use of qualitative analysis so you should use it too.
Made multiple sales using a mix of telephone and email sales methods.
Contributed to average monthly sales growth of 24%, personally closing 12 deals using both email and telephone methods.
3) Keep it to a single page
There is much debate about whether a CV should be more than one page generally. Whilst your chances of being put forward for interview aren’t ruined by using two pages, in consulting the ability to be concise is highly valued so keeping your CV to a single page is a good way of showing this. It also prevents the possibility of the reviewer missing the second page which could be the difference between an interview or not.
4) Structure your CV correctly
Your CV should start with the most relevant information first. As a graduate, you have comparatively little work experience compared to an experienced hire and therefore your most relevant information, after your name, contact details and personal summary (optional), is your education. This is contradictory to usual CV advice as for most people the most relevant information is their most recent work experience.
5) Beat the computer
Due to the volume of competition, the initial filtering of candidates is usually automatic and done by a computer. Thus it is important to write your CV with this in mind. Your CV is then likely to be reviewed by a human once you have passed through the automatic filtering and subsequent online tests. When your CV is reviewed by a human it must be written specifically for a consulting audience but any computerised filtering will largely be based on generic criteria such as academic grades. In order to make sure the computer can read these easily.
CV reading software is accurate but to make sure you aren’t unfairly cut you should keep your formatting simple by avoiding unhelpful spacing or tables and always submit your CV in pdf format.
6) Feedback and proofread
It is easy to compromise on minor details or make mistakes when you work on a document for so long and especially when it involves blowing your own trumpet. Asking as many people as possible for feedback on your CV provides you with fresh eyes and opinions from people that know you and therefore can make a judgement as to how well it reflects your achievements. They are likely to provide feedback that will elevate your CV higher. Be careful not to make all feedback changes as it is likely to result in a mess, only implement what you consider to be positively impactful.
Multiple eyes will also multiply your proofreading efforts. Any mistakes will be viewed very negatively as attention to detail is important for consultants so you need to be absolutely sure there is no mistakes when you submit your CV.
Formatting your CV
There are split opinions on how to format your CV and this is increasingly influenced by sites promoting elaborate CV building services that allow you to add fancy infographics and icons. These can be tempting as they would allow your CV to stand out visually. However, by prioritising visual appearance on your CV you will compromise ease of reading and potentially content quality which will hinder your application more than it will help. That said, good formatting is still important and there are considerations beyond structure and the number of pages.
A decision that every applicant makes is the font they use for their CV and the font you choose can have a positive effect on the impression you make on the reviewer. Whilst Times New Roman is the most common, it is one of the worst due in part to its popularity but also because it suggests you have not considered the importance of the font you use, it has previously been compared to turning up to an interview in sweatpants.
We prefer sans serif fonts, they are clean, professional and easy to read. This family of fonts include:
Historically more common in CV’s for designers the use of colour has crept into professional services applications in recent years. Too much colour is definitely not recommended but if you are looking to give your CV an extra dimension then conservative colours to highlight particular elements such as your name or for dividers can be effective.
We prefer dark colours close to black as if they are printed in black and white no information will be lost:
All layouts should focus on readability, this means keeping all related information in close proximity. For example, when displaying a piece of work experience then the subsection should centre around the descriptive bullet points and surrounding them should be the name of the company, dates employed and a line describing the company. Keeping information clearly grouped allows a reviewer that is scanning your CV quickly to digest all the necessary information quickly.
We will work through the example below, breaking it down into its component parts. For the candidates privacy we have changed personal information where appropriate.
At the top of the CV is the basic personal information. This should include your name, phone number, email and you could add your LinkedIn profile or a 1-2 line summary of you and your achievements if you wish.
Do not include your date of birth or a photo and there is no need for you to include your address. Whilst your data is likely to be safe with the consulting firm you are applying for, these elements of your personal data are not necessary on your CV and it is better to not disclose them for privacy as well as to free up space on the page.
Make sure that your email address is as vanilla as possible, email@example.com is unlikely to make a good impression...
Due to your lack of working experience, as a graduate your grades are the most relevant section on your CV and should come first.
How far back you go with your education is dependant on the country in which you are applying. In the US it is only necessary to include your college/university grades whilst in the UK A-levels are taken into consideration.
For each degree you hold (Bachelors, Masters, PhD, MBA) include the name of the awarding institution, the dates you attended and the grade you achieved. If there are any particular highlights such as scholarships or a dissertation title that you think is relevant, list them below.
Whilst a stellar academic record is undoubtedly beneficial when applying for graduate consulting roles, the work experience section of your CV is where you have an opportunity to express what you bring to the working environment. However, don’t list all of the jobs you have held since you were 14; unfortunately your paper round isn’t relevant.
You don’t need to list your experience chronologically so start with your most relevant experience first. For example, if you undertook a consulting internship last summer and then worked part-time as a customer service agent during your final year of study then whilst both might be relevant the consulting internship should feature first.
Each experience should include the name of the employer, a one line overview of the company, the dates you were there, the office location and bullet points on what you achieved whilst you were there.
The additional section of your CV is your chance to really stand out. Have you ever undertaken an impressive challenge? Have you volunteered? Have you travelled? Are you an exceptional musician? Have you played sport to a high level?
There is no need to state your driving record, that you enjoy socialising with your friends or that references are available on request. These are not unique to you and take up precious real estate on the page, if the company requires them then they will request them directly from you.
Please feel free to download one of our two templates but keep in mind that these templates have been downloaded by others so we recommend making subtle adaptations in order to make your CV unique.
Template 1 is our standard format that is easy for both a computer and human to read.
Template 2 is our more visually striking if you would prefer your CV to stand out in the pile. Application reviewers have mixed views on the use of colour.