MBB firms (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) usually require a cover letter. They’ll read it immediately after reading your CV, provided your CV has captured the recruiter’s attention. Whether you are writing a BCG, Bain or McKinsey cover letter, these tips all apply!
One page, font 11 minimum, 3-5 paragraphes.
Cover letters require some work. The single question that they should answer is: What makes you a good candidate for management consulting? Your job is to link your experience, passions and drive with what consulting firms are looking for in a candidate.
Depending on your profile, they’ll be looking for slightly different things:
The fresh-out-of-school candidate (undergrad and grad)
If you just graduated and don’t have at least 6 months of work experience yet, you won’t have much business experience to share. Still, there are a few things you can do to make your cover letter stand out to management consulting HR:
Show that you’re a team player: talk about projects, especially those where you had a leadership role. Summarize context, challenges, actions and impact of the 1-2 most impressive projects.
Tip: It’s best to structure your answers in a STAR framework. Learn more about the STAR framework and other in-depth interview tips in the ZeroToMBB book.
Show that you’re passionate and driven: demonstrate your ability to start and see personal projects through. Talk about your motivations, the challenges you faced and how you have overcome them. Nobody wants to work with a boring teammate, so this is the place to really talk about what excites you!
Show that you’re a problem solver: take examples of technical or team-related challenges that you faced and describe the strategies you put in place to solve them.
Show that you’re willing to learn and be flexible: management consultants can work for very diverse industries and functional sectors. They work hard, and they are always on the road. If you’ve specialized in a technical topic, talk about your learning journey and mention any awards and recognitions. Give examples of your ability to handle a high workload.
Why you want to work in consulting: if you don’t come from business school, it might be less obvious why you want to switch to consulting. Typical reasons include: broadening your horizons, working with diverse people, or exploring the world of business. Offices in different locations serve different industries, so search online for the industries linked to the office you’re applying to, and see if you have relevant experience in it.
The 5-years-of-experience and/or MBA candidate
If you have some work experience and want to move to consulting, or are graduating from your MBA, the bar for the cover letter is high. Here are some of the topics to cover:
Show that you’re a leader: show a track record of leadership positions, with high impact projects and large teams.
Show your expertise in a business topic: management consulting firms are craving candidates with strong industry or functional knowledge. This is your time to tell what you know from your previous work and link it to how this will be useful as a consultant. Look at what industries your office is focused on, and if there’s no match, broaden your search to a regional level.
Show your business acumen: managing clients, working internationally, building financial models, managing budgets, having a track record of business impact, all these examples show that you are an experienced professional that could be put in front of a client with confidence.
Show that you’re passionate and driven: demonstrate your ability to start and see personal projects through. Talk about your motivations, the challenges you faced and how you have overcome them. Nobody wants to work with a boring person so this is the place to really talk about what excites you!
Looking for more details on what makes a great cover letter for MBB? Read more in the ZeroToMBB book, filled with end-to-end tips on how to ace the interview and land the offer.