Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Tips for McKinsey Resume (CV) Screens and Cover Letters

It's recruiting season so many first-year business school students are gearing up for their first consulting recruiting cycle.  So, I'll use the next few posts to discuss some pre-interview elements of the recruiting process.  In this post, I'll go over some 5 simple tips for improving your resume and increasing the likelihood that you'll pass the resume review process and be offered a first-round interview.

If you're not in business school but are applying to a job that requires an interview with and resume screen by a former McKinsey consultant, these tips should still be helpful.


WHY I WON'T JUST GIVE YOU THE ANSWERS

In my years at McKinsey, I reviewed and scored thousands of resumes - hundreds of resumes from multiple schools, two times per year.  I know enough about the resume screening process and criteria to help anyone rewrite their resume to pass the resume screen, but I won't do that for two reasons - (a) quality - I want the Firm to interview the best possible candidates and (b) fairness - I don't want someone to get a resume just because they read a blog post.

However, in this post I will share some resume tips that are either generally accepted knowledge, common sense, or freely shared by consultants with potential applicants.  You might also find this related post (on how the McKinsey resume screening process works) to be helpful

CAVEAT - YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE GOODS

It's important to note that these tips are intended to help candidates who are qualified to pass the resume screen.  My underlying assumption will be that you are good enough to get an interview, do well, and get a job offer, but that you might need some guidance to make sure that your resume sufficiently conveys your potential.  Please do not use these tips to manufacture content just to get past the resume screen - you'll eventually falter during the interview process and you'll be taking a valuable interview spot of someone who is actually qualified.

1.  DON'T GIVE US A REASON TO DING YOU

McKinsey consultants are incredibly busy and never have enough time.  Those who participate in recruiting do so on top of their usual 60+ hour work weeks and business travel so they are trying to get through your resume as quickly as possible.  It takes time to review hundreds of resumes per school - if you give a resume reviewer a reason to ding you, they'll gladly take it and move on to the next resume.  Misspellings, typos, poor grammar, and other errors reflect poorly on you and the fact that they made it to the resume screen will call your attention to detail and judgment into question.  Use spell check, proofread, and have others review your resume for you.

A note on cover letters

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way - they will not make or break you at McKinsey.  I'm not even sure if McKinsey even asks for cover letters.  I've gone through dozens of business school resume books and thousands of resumes, but I've never seen a candidate's cover letter during the resume screen process.

If you're asked for one, follow tip #1 and focus your efforts on your resume, case prep, and doing well on the personal experience interviews.

2.  UNDERSTAND THE FOUR TRAITS WE'RE LOOKING FOR

McKinsey makes it very clear what they're looking for:
  1. Problem-solving
  2. Achieving
  3. Ppersonal impact
  4. Leadership
You should check their careers website for:

If your interviewer is looking for these traits, it's a good bet that your resume reviewer is, too.  Read your resume again and ask yourself if your resume reflects these traits.  Better yet, ask a friend to read it with those four traits in mind.

3.  GIVE US EVIDENCE THAT YOU'RE DISTINCTIVE

Any management consulting firm is going to be recruiting for the best of the best.  So it's not just enough to show on your resume that you have these four traits - you have to come across as being distinctive in them.  This is not the time to be humble!

Your fellow applicants are all accomplished, impressive professionals.  Make sure your resume communicates why you stand out from the others and support with evidence.  For example, don't just tell us that you're a distinctive problem-solver - highlight examples from your career that show us that you are.  Don't just tell us what a great leader you are - list some examples of your distinctive leadership.

4.  ADDRESS POTENTIAL RED FLAGS

If you think there are aspects of your resume that will raise concerns and give us a reason to ding you, make sure you highlight evidence to the contrary.  For example, if you have no relevant work experience, include the consulting case competition you just won or your leadership position in the consulting club to reflect your commitment to your career change.  If your background is lacking in quantitative experience, you can include your exceptional GMAT scores.

5.  LEVERAGE YOUR RESOURCES

One reason I'm comfortable sharing resume screen advice is because McKinsey is already doing it.  Their Careers page has a section specifically for "Improving your resume" - read it and update your resume accordingly.  McKinsey will also make consultants available to you via forums like coffee chats and on-campus "office hours".  Your b-school's career office, consulting club, and former consultant classmates are also likely to have advice and resources that you will find helpful.

Good luck!



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