Five skills top consulting firms want to see on your CV

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Brianne Turk
Brianne Turk
Team GradAustralia
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You’ve decided you want to give consulting a go. You’ve found a few firms you’re keen on. It’s time to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

When writing a CV, the greatest advice we can pass on is to put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter.

Recruiters sift through thousands of CV’s and cover letters year round. And if you haven’t noticed, they’re not the most riveting documents! So before you get carried away writing about all of your experiences regardless of their relevance (c’mon... we’ve all done it), it’s important to step back and consider these questions:

What do consultants do? What skills and qualities do they possess? (We’ve answered these questions in depth here and here.) And where in my life have I demonstrated these?

A generic CV in this industry simply won’t make the cut. It must be tailored to consulting and show examples of your capacity and experience.  

The essentials

Consultants are presented with problems which they assess, analyse and find solutions for. They use analytical skills, show initiative, teamwork and the ability to see the bigger picture. As a rule, consulting firms want to see CV’s that demonstrate:

Academic Achievement

Firms are after high achievers! The broad nature of consulting work means there are no pre-requisite disciplines of study, but academic achievement is always well regarded. Achievements in numerical subjects is particularly valuable, as it can signal a proficiency in analysis. It also gives partners confidence that you can handle numbers being fired at you in presentation meetings! But if maths isn’t your greatest asset, don’t sweat it. Just highlight what is. Intelligence and achievement across a variety of fields is more impressive than a proficiency in say… physics alone.

This is also the time to bring out those awards and accolades you’ve accumulated throughout the years. Firms are practically begging you to share your achievements. They serve as evidence to back up your academic claims. If you received an award for high performance in a subject, then jot it down. These accomplishments allows recruiters to see both your areas of strength, and how impressively you rank against peers.

Specialties and interests  

What sets you apart from other graduates?

The task of sifting through CV’s is tedious, so give recruiters something that will make them want to meet you. Side projects, hobbies and interests can signal that a candidate is more than just ‘book smart’. Offer something that could add value to the firm in a unique way. A perfect example of this is having another language up your sleeve.  Can you imagine how attractive this would be for a consulting firm with international reach? For the right firm, another example might be extensive involvement with the fashion industry, or even your 10 year horticulture hobby. Unique and varied interests can signal a depth of character that might just make the recruiter think ‘I have to meet this person’, and get you through to the crucial next interview phase.   

It’s important to not only tailor your CV to consulting, but to each individual firm. Jump on their website and check out what type of consultancy they provide and where they specialise. This will give you a better understanding of what specialties and interests of yours are relevant to the firm.

Teamwork

This is a key skill to demonstrate, as it’s crucial in all consulting projects. Without the capacity to work effectively with colleagues and clients, even the brightest budding consultant won’t get a look-in. Sharpen your CV by adding examples of where you have collaborated with others to achieve an outcome - whether this be in a university group assignment, volunteer work or in a sporting team. Touch on what role you played within the team and how this contributed to moving the team along.

Experience  

Obviously industry experience and placement or vacation work will attract great attention here. Elaborate on what tasks you completed and which skills you developed for sure. But as a graduate we’re guessing many of you won’t have a whole lot of hands-on experience. Or will you?

Think outside the box. Where in your life have you gained experience working on a problem and provided insight and possible new directions? Can you quantify these results or provide evidence of outcomes? Consulting on new directions for your family business and following through with these strategies could be an appropriate example. Be truthful in your scenarios, but think creatively about times in your life where you have used key consulting skills. Recruiters will note your ability to analyse your own experiences in such a way.     

Leadership   

Seeing leadership potential in graduate recruits is highly attractive for a firm. Ultimately they are searching for individuals to one day manage projects and make partner, and would prefer to spend resources building upon existing skills than teaching leadership qualities from scratch. So if you have leadership experience as college captain or retail manager at your weekend job, be sure to highlight this. Articulate the skills you used and how you handled responsibility. It will work in your favour.

Back to basics

Of course, even the most well thought-out and relevant CV can be undone by poor grammar, spelling and formatting! It’s such a waste when this occurs. Attention to detail is paramount in consulting so it’s important to demonstrate your proficiency in this area right from your CV. After all, this is your first interaction with the firm.  

One more time...

To recap, when you sit down to write your CV think about what skills consultants use, where these exist in your own life and how you can demonstrate these with examples. Pay particular attention to academic achievement, areas that set you apart from others, teamwork, leadership and relevant experience. Write specifically for the firm you are applying for and always check your spelling and grammar are accurate.

Here’s hoping these tips help you get one step closer to landing your dream job.