The Graduates Guide to getting a job in Consulting – Part 3: The CV

The Graduates Guide to getting a job in Consulting – Part 3: The CV

  28 May 2018

You’ve finally whittled down your list of potential applications, done your research and found the consultancies you think would be a good fit for you. Now comes the difficult part, writing the best CV to represent your qualities. If you’re struggling to write a CV for your dream consulting job, read on to find out management consulting CV tips, to help you get that interview.


Keep it simple stupid! Standing out from the crowd on a CV should be about what you put on the page, avoid novelties. Unless you are specifically applying for a creative job stick to the basic formula and concentrate on the content. Write CV not Curriculum Vitae, Use a readable, black font and consistent layout.

It’s also advisable to use quality paper, but avoid thick card.

There are two types of “standing out” when a HR department are rifling through the stack of CVs. The first type is fitting the bill professionally, the second type is where it’s kept in the joke draw.


Don’t Stretch out your CV

Focus on what you have achieved over the past three to four years. You might have got an award back in secondary school, but recruiter are interested in the person you are now. Don’t try and make minor experiences look like they were more significant than in reality. Doing this can make your CV seem long winded and bloated, losing your audience’s attention.Think of yourself as the product in this situation and the HR team as a consumer. Think of your personal summary as the marketing slogan, your experience as your product testing and your qualifications as your features.

Do Respect the Process

Do your research into how a firm recruits, the process they use and the amount of time it takes for them to respond to applications. Yes, filling in a 13 page form might be incredibly boring, but what you don’t do, others will. A long and convoluted recruitment process does not always reflect the values of the company or how they want to be perceived. For additional advice, polite messages to current employees on LinkedIn  are generally acceptable. People are normally happy to share their experience, being asked is a mark of respect.

Large consultancies may also have dedicated employees who are there to answer questions on the process. Get in touch, understand the steps involved and plan out your application step by step.

Just because a company may have a strict policy on how a process should run, doesn’t mean you can’t optimize your chances.

Soft Referrals

A firm doesn’t interview via direct referral? Create a “soft referral” by networking and building up informal relationships with individuals at target firms. Ask meaningful questions via LinkedIn  and forums. People talk internally during the recruitment process. If you nurture relationships properly the fact that you are a “good egg” can make it to the hiring manager. That way you can reap a benefit and you won’t be directly violating the companies policy.

Paid referral

Some consultancies will have an internal policy to help attract talent. If an existing employees recommended candidate is successfully hired they receive a generous financial payment or bonus. This usually reflects the amount of money spent on advertising or recruitment fees and can be several thousand pounds.

It is rare that these schemes are put in place when recruiting graduates, it is usually reserved for experienced hires. However some firms do operate in this way. Others companies may implement this policy in times of growth, or when expanding into new market offerings.

Recruitment Agencies

Recruiters often get a bad rap. There is a lot of recruitment bashers online these days. This is often due to the low barrier to entry to the industry. Don’t let a few bad individuals put you off, many recruiters work extremely hard and provide a valuable economic service.

Many consultancies have long running relationships with recruitment agencies because they deliver quality candidates consistently. They may publicly state that they don’t accept approaches from agencies, but in reality they have relationships with preferred vendors. Use this to your advantage, a referral from a trusted partner can be a benefit. Recruiters make money off your success at interview, so they may also help coach you. Many offer free CV reviews and pointers on what to expect at interview you won’t find on a corporate website.

The Final Word on Referrals

Referrals build a certain expectation, and set a president that you are of a certain quality. Obviously nepotism is a bad thing, but this is not the same thing. You’re just using human nature to do a bit of self marketing.The fact that you care enough to reach out to make contacts can be perceived as a positive trait if done subtly and respectfully.

Don’t Leave Gaps in your timeline

This is an immediate red flag for a recruiting team. Even if there is a completely valid reason for a gap in your experience it’s best to explain upfront. It is more effort for the recruiter contact you to find out why there’s a gap than just to look at the 300+ other CVs that have done it right.

Do Make it Readable

Never try to squeeze in lots of information in tiny fonts. Recruiters scan through applications quickly so ensure clear readability. The first time someone looks at your CV they are probably rifling through a large stack, and omitting anything unappealing on first instinct. Making your CV simple and informative is essential to surviving the first cut.

writing cv

Don’t Rely on generic buzzwords

Motivated, creative or highly literate, all massively overused CV nonsense. Anything that can be assumed as a given does not need to be in your CV. Avoid unnecessary buzzwords at all costs.

Don’t tell your potential employer you’re motivated, tell them what motivates you. Show you are highly literate by making sure you grammar and spell check your CV with a fine toothed comb. It’s almost impossible to show an employer your soft skills until the interview stage.

Do Include Personal Projects

Have you ever setup your own business cleaning cars or gardening in the holidays to make extra money? Do you have your own safe for work website or professional blog? Were you involved in a society at university and had an impact on a project that involved managing change?

If your answer to any of these is yes, then make sure to include it on your CV. These sorts of individual activity show initiative. Unlike a traditional office job, consultants are expected to figure out how to get things done on their own a lot of the time. The people you need to ask question of may not be on the same client site, or not be immediately available to you. Consultants are does, they find a way to get a job done. Show your potential employer your ability to get things done autonomously.

Don’t Stress too much about the length

Yes, it’s advisable to keep your CV around two pages long. Yes, less than one page is probably too short and more than three is probably too long. Put yourself in the mindset of the recruiter. You want to make an impression on a 5 to 10 second scan. If you have good experience put it in there, but don’t add detail you wouldn’t find impressive if you were looking at someone else’s CV. Have a common sense approach to CV length. Remember your first three drafts will almost always contain fat you can trim away. Even after a few revisions if you hand your CV to your peers to review, they will almost always change different things. There is no such thing as a perfect CV or a perfect length. Just make sure to minimize red flags and leave the content to draw reviewers in on a quick scan.

Do Frame your experience from the view of the reader

It might be the case that you don’t have any relevant work experience outside of academia. This is a common problem a lot of highly intelligent, hardworking graduates face. With the mounting cost of education and increasingly competitive grad market focusing purely on getting a first is understandable. Not having experience and interests outside of education can leave a CV lacking depth.

Just because your work as a coffee shop manager doesn’t directly involve consulting work doesn’t mean that the people skills and values of hard work you gained from it are not applicable.

Did you organize a sports teams fixtures in university? You can directly relate that to your communication, ability to coordinate large groups of people and rephrase it to show how you might be a competent project manager.

Don’t forget to spend a few days learning easy, relevant skills to boost your CV

There are a plethora of opportunities online for individuals to learn new skills. Many of which can be picked up in a day or two.

Getting a basic understanding of project methodologies can make you appear informed. It shows employers you can hit the ground running and concentrate time on your tasks and less time figuring out the jargon. Get to grips with the basic concepts of Waterfall vs Agile, Sprint, Scrums, Burn down Charts and you’ll be on your way to sounding more well rounded in interviews.

There’s no need to say you’re proficient in Microsoft office anymore, it’s just expected. Instead consider trying to get your head around more specific technologies. Download a free trial copy of Visio if you think the job might include analyzing and mapping processes.

Do you think you’ll need to wrangle lots of data and analyse it? Why not get hands on and learn some Basic python. I recommend Anaconda for beginners. It wraps a lot of useful stuff up, so you don’t have to frustratingly download individual packages. It just lets you get on with learning python!

Online MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) are now a huge thing, and whilst they might not be anywhere near as impressive as a degree, completion shows a willingness to improve professionally.

If you are looking to go into systems/technical consulting companies such as SAP and ORACLE provide huge amounts of public resources online to learn new skills.

All of these things can be added to your CV in a few hours of additional study and can help you stand out. You don’t have to become an expert just show a basic level of proficiency.


CVs are nothing more than personal advertising. Be honest, be clear and do your homework around your intended market.

Best of luck with the Job Search, C.

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