Bain Cover Letter Sample
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Bain & Company is a world-renowned strategy consulting firm. They have been ranked the #1 best firm to work for by Consulting magazine for the past nine years. This leading firm works with large corporations and multinationals across industries throughout the world.
With such a prestigious reputation, it is not surprising that many aspiring consultants want to jump start their career at this organization. Because this job market is so competitive, failing to submit an eye-catching consulting cover letter would be a huge mistake. Recruiters at top-tier consulting firms, such as Bain, will not spend a lot of time reviewing your application, so a well-written and complete application is a must.
A complete consulting application includes more than an impressive resume; you also need an equally remarkable cover letter. In fact, the results from a recent survey revealed that 75% of employers indicated that a well presented cover letter can significantly improve the chances of a less eligible candidate landing an interview, and that 53% of employers favor applications with both a resume and cover letter.
A cover letter provides you with an opportunity to highlight your relevant skills and experiences as well as convey your enthusiasm for the consulting industry, so take advantage of it. You can look online for Bain cover letter samples to guide you in writing your application.
What Bain Looks For
Bain looks for candidates who can demonstrate they possess qualifications imperative to consulting such as sharp problem solving and strong leadership skills and a true passion for consulting.
Sharp problem solving skills are indispensable for any aspiring Bain employee. If you are not sure how to incorporate your problem solving skills in your cover letter, begin by providing short yet specific accomplishments from your previous roles that demonstrate this skill. Remember, you need to exhibit this capability in order to move on to the case interview. Although your problem solving skills and thought process will be further evaluated during the case interview, you must first give them a glimpse of your potential in order to get to the next stage.
Bain is also impressed with aspiring consultants who present a results-oriented track record. You do not need to list all of your previous successful projects in your cover letter, simply highlight the most impressive one.
Strong leadership qualities are essential if you really want to work at Bain. The firm explicitly states that they seek out candidates with proven leadership experience. Whether your experience in this area is school or work-related or even through your extracurricular activities, make sure your application displays this necessary trait.
Bain values applicants who show genuine passion for consulting and for life in general. Bain also appreciates enthusiastic candidates who want to make a change in the world. You can demonstrate your passion for consulting through the relevant experience or achievements you include in your application. You can also demonstrate your passion for change by citing your activities outside the office such as volunteer work.
When applying for a consulting position at Bain, you must be able to clearly demonstrate the characteristics listed above in your cover letter and resume.
Bain Cover Letter Structure
Your consulting cover letter should only contain three to five paragraphs, and the information needs to be presented in a concise yet comprehensive manner.
Bain Cover Letter Sample: Contact Information and Salutation
The most important thing you need to remember for this section is accuracy. As the recruiter will use the details you provide here to notify you, ensure that your email address and phone number are functional and accurate. Double check your contact information before you send your application.
Moreover, do not forget to address your letter to the correct person and list his or her title at the company. Many candidates overlook this simple detail when writing their cover letters. In fact, according to feedback from top employers listed in the book, The 100 Best Companies to Work For , 91% implied that addressing a cover letter to the appropriate individual improves an applicant’s chances of getting an interview. This is because it reflects the extra time you took to research and personalize your letter as well as your great attention to details. Failing to address these aspects in your cover letter may hurt your application.
Bain Cover Letter Sample: Introduction
The first paragraph is where you mention the purpose of your letter, which is applying for the consulting position. It needs to be interesting enough to encourage the screener to read the rest of your application. Basically, this section of your letter should address the question, “Why this job?” Explain how you came to know about the job opening and briefly state why you are interested in the position. Sound sincere and do not just repeat their publicity materials. A good Bain cover letter demonstrates that you have done your research and that your letter is targeted toward the organization and have not simply sent out the same cover letter to other employers.
To convey an original, targeted, and interesting voice, you can mention any of the following: networking, articles, or events. If you happen to have a conversation with a Bain employee, you may mention how that person has inspired you to pursue consulting. You may also refer to an event, such as an inspirational talk, wherein you learned the value of working at Bain. And you may state a particular case Bain handled that has inspired you to get into consulting.
Check Bain’s website for company information or ask colleagues who are associated with them, so you can add something original in your letter. You may also check out other consulting sites for good Bain cover letter samples.
“I am interested in the Associate Consultant position at Bain & Company. I have an avid interest in management consulting, and my conversation with Mr. X, one of your senior consultants, has further inspired me to seek this position. I believe this opportunity will provide me with unparalleled experience in business consulting.”
Bain Cover Letter Sample: Middle Paragraphs
The middle section of your consulting cover letter should answer the question, “Why me?” This section can be either one or two paragraphs and convey all your significant work experience and how it relates to the vacancy. Explain briefly and clearly why you are suited for the position without using the exact same words or phrases on your resume. Refer to your most relevant skills and accomplishments and match them to the requirements of the consulting position.
“My economics studies at Toronto University have provided me with analytical skills which I will apply to diverse business scenarios. My three years of experience as a marketing manager at Accelerator honed my ability to develop and implement marketing campaigns, as well as how to effectively collaborate with a team. I led a team which devised marketing initiatives for a global campaign for Z Brands, which resulted in a 25% increase in sales after three months.
I enjoy working with teams and hold several leadership positions within my various extracurricular activities. I am currently the Vice President for X Group, and I also participate in a non-profit organization that tutors local youth in math and reading. I believe that my strong work ethic, analytical skills, and initiative have given me the requisite skills and ability to contribute to the growth and success of your firm.”
Bain Cover Letter Sample: Conclusion
The closing paragraph of your Bain cover letter should reaffirm your suitability for the role. Demonstrate your enthusiasm about the possibility of working as a Bain consultant and state that you are looking forward to hearing from them. Statistics from the survey mentioned above revealed that 88% of employers agree that applicants should mention their interest in being interviewed in their cover letters.
Finally, do not forget to sign your letter. If you are submitting a paper application, you must place your handwritten signature above your name. This is a sign of proper business etiquette and professionalism. If you are sending an email application, a signature may not be necessary; however, you must not forget to write your name at the bottom of your letter.
“I look forward to the opportunity of being interviewed in order to share more about my experience and skills that I could bring to your company. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Common Mistakes to Avoid
A Bain cover letter needs to be perfectly written and presented. If you want to land a consulting job with this prestigious firm, avoid committing the following mistakes:
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A Consulting Cover Letter that Lands Interviews: Our Complete Guide
- Last Updated December, 2023
Former McKinsey Engagement Manager
The recruiting season is approaching fast, and there’s one thing you’ll need to get your foot in the door for an interview at a top-tier consulting firm: an impressive cover letter.
What should you talk about in your consulting cover letter?
How do you distinguish yourself from the tons of other candidates applying to Bain, BCG, McKinsey, and other top consulting firms this year?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, don’t worry!
In this complete guide to writing a consulting cover letter, we’ll tell you exactly what points you need to address in your cover letter to put your best foot forward and land that interview.
- What a cover letter is
- The RIGHT way to structure one
- The Red Flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them
- 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter
We’ll also share:
- 2 cover letter examples that landed candidates interviews at the top firms.
Let’s get started!
Consulting Cover Letter – Why It Matters
What is a consulting cover letter.
The consulting cover letter is a separate document from your resume; it puts the work experience you outline on your resume into context to show why you’re a great candidate.
The WRONG Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Most of the Internet articles on writing a cover letter talk about structuring them with the following sections:
- Why are you interested in consulting?
- Why are you interested in the firm you’re applying to?
- What makes you a good fit?
This is not the best way to approach writing your consulting cover letter. My Consulting Offer has helped hundreds of clients land interviews and get offers with top management consulting firms like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey.
We’ve even helped people who faced extra hurdles because they had low GPAs, majored in subjects other than economics or business, or attended non-core schools.
Our clients received interview invitations and job offers because our cover letter process works.
The RIGHT Way to Structure Your Management Consulting Cover Letter
Want to know the best way to structure a cover letter that has statistically been shown to get more interviews?
Watch this video before proceeding.
Now that you watched the video (Watch now if you haven’t yet because the impact of the rest of the article is only 10% of what it could be if you watch it).
As you found in the video, the best way to structure your cover letter is to Google the characteristics the consulting firm you want to work for seeks in consulting candidates and then show you have those characteristics .
Yes, you read that right. Go to the Bain Careers page and read about what they’re looking for in candidates. You’ll find it on this page .
Every consulting firm has values they take very seriously, and that drive the candidates they target, so you will want to know what they are for each firm you apply to.
As an example, Bain wants consultants with:
- Problem-solving skills
- The ability to lead
- Results delivered
You will use each of these to develop a paragraph or section of your consulting cover letter.
For each, choose a specific time from your professional or personal experiences that shows you possess that characteristic.
If you have more than one experience that shows you exemplifying a characteristic, pick the strongest example.
Then, create a story that briefly explains the context around your example, describes the action(s) you took, and shows concrete results.
Quantify the results of your actions whenever possible.
- Results delivered – When I took over as the leader of my sorority’s annual fundraising event for a local food bank, I wanted to make it even more successful than in prior years. Each year, we threw an event and asked people to bring packaged food products or a donation. I went beyond that by asking the college’s academic departments to collect donations from faculty and staff as well. Packaged goods contributions to the food bank increased by 50%, and financial donations increased by over 300%.
Join our FREE Webinar:
How 800+ candidates have landed consulting offers at mckinsey, bain, and bcg.
Proof the My Consulting Offer Cover Letter Structure Works
This strategy of showing how you’ve exemplified the characteristics the firm is looking for in applicants works particularly well if you are applying to management consulting firms from a non-traditional background.
If you’re a student with a liberal arts major, in a non-MBA master’s degree or doctorate, or attending a non-core school, you should definitely use our approach. It shows the reader that you’d be an asset to their team and have what it takes to be a successful consultant at their firm. This makes them focus less on your non-traditional background.
One of our early clients was an undergraduate who’d spent his summers interning in Michelin-star restaurants in New York City because he aspired to run a Michelin-star restaurant as a career.
He didn’t have high-level positions in these internships; he worked in the kitchens. He cut the tomatoes for the tomato soup and did similar food prep.
He wasn’t even in charge of making the tomato soup!
As graduation approached, he decided that while he knew all about the kitchen side of the restaurant business, he wanted to learn about running the front of the house. To do that, he looked into consulting jobs.
But he had no business experience.
In his cover letter, we developed stories about:
- Managing the kitchen effectively, even on hectic Saturday nights
- Managing chefs with many years more experience than he had himself
- Landing jobs at top-rated restaurants by showing up at the restaurants before they opened and networking his way in with perseverance
These stories showed he had the leadership experience, people skills, and drive needed in consulting, things that wouldn’t have been clear from his resume alone.
Why My Consulting Offer’s Approach to Writing Consulting Cover Letters Is So Effective
My Consulting Offer’s approach highlights the characteristics consulting firms value in applicants to develop your cover letter.
- You don’t need to explain “Why McKinsey/Bain/BCG?” because you’ve taken your bullet points from their firm career pages .
- Your stories explain why you’re a good fit.
- You can cover the question “Why consulting?” in just a sentence or 2 because you’ve demonstrated you understand what consulting firms look for in candidates through your stories. This question is especially important for applicants with non-traditional backgrounds or experienced hires.
Just add a short opening, 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” and a short conclusion to these paragraphs, and your cover letter will be ready to submit.
Mistakes People Make with Their Consulting Cover Letters that Lead to Rejection
There are red flags that can get applicants’ resumes placed in the “no” pile. These are:
- A gap in their work history.
A low GPA can be a problem because management consulting firms target people who can solve tough business problems. But if your GPA is low due to extenuating circumstances, such as a problem with your own or a family member’s health, or if you needed to work many hours each week to finance your education, firms will often overlook this.
Small offices at top consulting firms often have a problem. People choose them because they think they’ll have a better shot at getting an offer from the firm. But later, these same people want to move to a different office, leaving that office understaffed.
If you’re applying to an office because you genuinely want to live in that city, tell the recruiters why you want to live there (examples: near family, proximity to outdoor activities, etc.) They need to see that you are not planning to try to transfer to another office or they won’t want to invest in you.
If you have a gap in your work history, a consulting firm might think you were fired and had difficulty finding another job. If health or another issue was the cause of the gap in your work history, it’s important to explain that.
If you have any of these or other red flags in your consulting application, take the time to explain them in your cover letter so that they don’t derail you from getting an interview.
Writing Your Management Consulting Cover Letter – A Step-by-Step Guide
- Opening – keep it short and sweet. Just introduce yourself and express interest in working for the firm you’re applying to, mentioning the specific position you want. Include your 1-2 sentences on “Why consulting?” here.
- Central paragraph 1 – As explained above, find what the firm is looking for in consultants from their Careers page and dedicate one paragraph to each characteristic.
- Central paragraph 2 – Create a story from your experience that shows you have that characteristic. You should include 3-4 stories in your cover letter.
- Central paragraph 3 – Quantify results whenever possible.
- Central paragraph 4 – Order these stories in the way that works to your advantage, with the strongest story first, the second-strongest last, and weaker (but still good) stories in the middle.
- Address any red flags.
- Express your interest again and close the letter.
That’s it! You now have an impressive cover letter.
5 Tips for Writing a Cover Letter that Lands the Interview
- Tip #1 – Start with the characteristics valued by the consulting firm you’re most interested in. You should tailor the cover letter for each firm to the characteristics they list on their Career page. You’ll find, however, that you can re-use stories because all consulting firms value leadership, drive, teamwork, and creating impact.
- Tips #2 – Pick the most compelling stories from your experience. You probably have multiple stories you could use for some values. Choose just one story. If in doubt, the one where you solved the biggest problem or where you had the biggest impact is probably the best. Don’t worry if you have another great story, you’ll get to talk about it in your consulting interviews.
- Tips #3 – Quantify results wherever possible. Showing that you increased revenue/ attendance/ donations by x% quickly and effectively displays you can get things done. Same with cost reductions or reduced time/effort to get work done.
- Tip #4 – Tighten your language to show your point as efficiently as possible. Never say more than you need to in order to make your point. Recruiters screen thousands of applications, and they appreciate communications that get right to the point. Consulting partners will also appreciate this skill once you’re on their team and drafting PowerPoint slides for client meetings. Keep your cover letter to one page.
- Tip #5 -Use Fiverr or another service to ensure you have no grammatical or spelling mistakes. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don’t send out a letter with a big mistake, especially if you can prevent it with $5.
Consulting Cover Letter Examples
The best way to get a sense of what an effective management cover letter looks like is to read one.
We’ve got 2 examples of letters that helped My Consulting Offer clients land interviews: one from an undergraduate student’s application to McKinsey and one from an experienced-hire candidate’s application to Bain.
Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Example
MONTH DAY, YEAR
RECRUITER’S NAME RECRUITER’S TITLE McKinsey & Company OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear [RECRUITER] and members of the McKinsey recruiting team,
Thank you for considering my application for Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company. I am attracted to McKinsey because of the firm’s commitment to create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people by developing one another through apprenticeship, mentoring, and sustaining a caring meritocracy.
Given the opportunity to join McKinsey, I would bring to the firm my entrepreneurial drive, problem-solving skills, and collaborative approach.
- Entrepreneurial drive: I was a scholarship athlete on the [UNIVERSITY] football team and was expected to arrive on campus a month before classes started. This reduced summer availability left me at a disadvantage for traditional summer internships, so I founded my own landscaping business. It was grassroots, and I conducted business relationships built on trust and relied on word of mouth. To ensure superb deliverables, I taught myself Google Sketchup to model my projects before building them. I learned about drainage and construction techniques using YouTube videos and manufacturer websites so that I could build retaining walls and outdoor structures. Using self-taught skills, I netted $30,000 in profit over the course of 3 summers which was a major source of funding for my education.
- Problem-solving: To increase the competitiveness of our off-season testing, the [UNIVERSITY] strength staff started an event called the “Tricolour Draft.” As a captain in this draft, I was responsible for drafting a team of my peers. Rather than relying on my perception of players, I took a more empirical approach. After seeking out the previous year’s testing numbers, I entered them into Excel and added projections for players who were new to the team. I was then able to rank all my teammates based on their average performance across all the tests. I drafted my team strictly according to the unbiased rankings on this list and let the opposing teams draft based on their subjective feelings. My team ended up winning the competition and, using the exact same approach, I won the following year’s Tricolour Draft as well.
- Collaborative: When I was 4, my parents took roles as expats and moved our family to Khartoum, Sudan. I went to an international school but lived among the locals. This resulted in a unique environment to grow up in and one where I developed some great relationships. One such relationship was with a company-employed driver, for whom I was the best man at his wedding at the age of 7! I quickly realized that everyone, from my peers to the locals, brought something to the table. I learned that people from all walks of life possessed valuable perspectives and input worth considering. This recognition of diversity and drive to collaborate has given me the skills to produce results on teams and to form meaningful relationships with people of varied backgrounds.
I hope to bring these same attributes to McKinsey. Thank you for your consideration.
Why Is This Undergraduate Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
This consulting industry cover letter written by an undergraduate is effective because it addresses key characteristics that McKinsey looks for in their applicants, as you can see on their careers page :
- Personal impact
- Entrepreneurial drive
While it only calls out 2 of the 4 characteristics McKinsey is looking for, entrepreneurial drive and problems solving, these stories also showcase the candidate’s personal impact.
The 3rd characteristic the cover letter calls out, teamwork/ collaboration, is also highly valued by McKinsey and other consulting firms.
The entrepreneurial drive paragraph is effective because it shows this candidate works hard and overcomes obstacles that would stand in the way of other candidates.
The problem-solving paragraph is effective because it shows the candidate’s structured approach to solving a problem. It also shows this approach worked.
The collaborative story works because it shows that this candidate was able to make strong personal connections from a very young age and that they respect people from all walks of life.
The candidate makes clear with his/her stories that they understand what McKinsey is looking for and that they’ve demonstrated those characteristics.
Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Example
NAME OF RECRUITER TITLE OF RECRUITER Bain & Company FIRM OFFICE ADDRESS
Dear Ms. LAST NAME and members of the Bain recruiting team,
Thank you for considering me for the position of Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. If given the opportunity, I would bring to Bain my passion for results, drive and character, and ability to have a lasting impact, as the following outlines.
- Passion for Results: During a recent work-related project for COMPANY, I was placed in an innovative concept location for healthcare and lifestyle services that had previously accounted for a monthly loss of $60,000 per month. I arrived as a transitionary replacement for the managing director with little time to adjust. Knowing that I had to quickly turn around a loss-making business, I began examining the most relevant products, services, costs, and customers. After translating this analysis into a strategy, I convinced management through my presentation of recommendations to pursue a number of key steps in order to turn around the business. Three months later, we’d created a business that generated $20,000 per month. Through the use of a structured analysis, combined with consistent execution of plans, I came to understand the value of an external consultant in a challenging business situation. Indeed, this project has motivated me to continue this type of result-driven work as a consultant at Bain & Company.
- Lasting Impact: At NAME OF UNIVERSITY, I was elected president of NAME OF ORGANIZATION, a residential community of internationally minded members with over 1000 members worldwide. Heading a board of six representatives, I developed valuable teamwork and delegation skills throughout our meetings. One day, a member of the board abruptly stopped communication. I saw it as my responsibility to ask for clarification and how I could support him. However, upon learning that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, I immediately and discreetly took steps to delegate his workflow to other board members and myself so that he could focus on his family. As I led the other board members through a process of working overtime, we still managed to deliver results on time. This experience underlines my belief to always care for all members of a team and to be a leader by enabling them to perform.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
E-SIGNATURE PRINTED NAME
Why Is This Experienced Hire Consulting Cover Letter Sample Effective?
- Problem-solving skills (addressed in Passion for Results and Lasting Impact.)
- The ability to lead (addressed in all 3 stories.)
- Results delivered (addressed in Passion for Results with quantified impact.)
- Passion (addressed in Drive & Character)
Each of the 3 stories in this cover letter presents the applicant as someone who has the characteristics top management consulting firms look for.
Moreover, the 3 stories together demonstrate that he or she has “the whole package.” He or she isn’t smart but a poor team player or good at problem-solving but lacking the passion needed to get things done in a difficult, real-world environment.
The fact that the applicant could speak to all of the things Bain looks for helped them land interviews and then offers with multiple top firms.
What About Firms Like McKinsey, Which Don’t Require a Cover Letter?
Some management consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, have made submitting a cover letter optional.
Should you bother to spend the time to write one if they don’t seem to care?
If your resume clearly shows you are a good fit for the consulting firm, you don’t need to submit a cover letter. Things that would make you look like a good fit include:
- Attendance at or a degree from a core school where the firm recruits through on-campus interviews and hires consultants every year
- An undergraduate degree in business or economics or an MBA
- Leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills clearly demonstrated through work and volunteer experience on your resume
If your resume doesn’t clearly communicate that you’re a good fit for the management consulting industry and their firm, in particular, your application will be strengthened by including a cover letter.
You should also submit a cover letter if you have been previously rejected from that firm so that they know you have taken steps to improve your application since last applying.
You’ll want to think about stories to use in your behavioral interviews anyway, so if you’re unsure whether you need a cover letter, it’s safest to write one.
To see the power of an improved cover letter, watch this video on how My Consulting Offer helped Cynthia get invited for an interview at every consulting company she applied to.
Are you ready to write your management consulting cover letter?
We bet you are since you now know:
- What a consulting cover letter is
- The red flags that get candidates rejected and how to overcome them
- Our 5 Tips on writing an effective consulting cover letter
- Plus, you’ve seen 2 Consulting cover letter examples that worked
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about writing effective consulting cover letters, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s former MBB recruiters will answer them.
Other people who were writing their cover letter found the following pages helpful:
- Consulting Resumes
- BCG Cover Letter
- Consulting Networking
- Case Interview Prep : The Ultimate Guide
- Our List of Top Consulting Firms and their company values
- The Non-MBA Master’s Student’s Guide to Landing a Consulting Job
Do You Need Help Writing a Perfect Consulting Cover Letter?
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on writing your cover letter. We’ve helped over 700 people get offers in consulting and 89.6% of My Consulting Offer clients land interviews and offers with a consulting firm. Most land more than one. We want you to get that opportunity to interview with McKinsey, Bain, BCG and other top firms!
For example, here is how we helped Tao land interviews at Bain, BCG, and McKinsey.
How 800+ Candidates Have Landed Consulting Offers At McKinsey, Bain And BCG
2 thoughts on “everything you need to know about the consulting cover letter”.
Thank you Davis for this powerful tool you shared. Really, I havent thought of cover letters telling stories or narrating how you used the needed skills and the value you added using them in your past roles. No wonder I have been getting rejections based on my red flags – not having to work with the big 4s or having multinational experience. All these does not matter as long you can demonstrate the skill set you used to add value in your previous roles which must be inline with what the prospective role needs. I really aporeciate this exposure and I look forward to getting calls from recruiters going forward as I apply your strategy to my cover letters subsequently. Thanks a lot. Esther.
Hey, Esther, We’re so glad the tips we discussed about writing your consulting cover letter were helpful! Good luck in your job search!
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Consulting cover letter guide (for McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.)
Today we’re going to explain everything you need to know about writing consulting cover letters.
We’ll start by reviewing an example cover letter that got interview invitations from ALL the MBB firms (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain).
And then we’ll explain exactly how you should write your own cover letter to land consulting interviews. Here’s a full list of the topics in this guide:
- Example cover letter
How to write your consulting cover letter
Consulting cover letter tips.
- The skills consulting firms look for
Consulting cover letter screening process
- Get help with your cover letter
Let’s get to it!
Click here for a consulting letter/resume review with an ex-MBB consultant
Example cover letter (which got interviews at mckinsey, bcg, and bain).
Below is an anonymised cover letter from a candidate who got interviews at McKinsey, BCG and Bain. So you can trust that this template works.
The image here highlights the different sections of the cover letter, but we’ll dive deeper into the text later, and you can also get a downloadable copy below.
Free download of the consulting cover letter example, here.
In the next section, we’ll go step-by-step through each part of the cover letter and explain how to go about writing it. But before we dive in, please note the following points about the above template:
- A lot of people use this template. Get inspiration from it, but every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
- This cover letter might sound impressive. It's one of the best ones we’ve seen. But even if you have not achieved as much as this person, you can still get an interview.
With that said, let’s dig into the cover letter writing process!
As a starting point, this video provides a nice overview of the full writing process for a consulting cover letter.
Now let’s break things down further.
Example - Introduction
Mary Taylor - [email protected]
DD / MM / YYYY
Dear Sir / Madam,
I would like to apply for an Associate position at McKinsey in London.
This section is a formality. It should simply state the following information:
- Your name and email address. You can replace your email address with a postal address although those are not commonly used anymore.
- The date on which you are sending your letter
- The position, company, and office to which you are applying
Keep it short and sweet.
2. Why you?
Example - Why you?
I started working as an Analyst at Big Finance in New York in September 2020 and was quickly promoted to Associate in a year and a half instead of the average four years. While at Big Finance, I advised a broad range of clients who constantly gave me positive feedback and regularly asked to work with me again. Before joining Big Finance, I graduated as the top student of my MEng in Chemical Engineering at Prestigious University in the UK. While studying, I received two competitive scholarships and awards. In addition, I developed my leadership skills as the President of the Prestigious University Consulting Club. High energy was essential to lead a team of 5 managing the club and growing the number of members by 20%.
This is your "GOLD MEDALS" section. It is the first section of your cover letter and therefore the most important one.
It should state the TOP 3 achievements of your life to date that are relevant to consulting. These achievements should be as unique and as memorable as possible. When your reviewer reads them they should think "Wow, that's impressive. I want to know more about this person."
To write this section you need to step back and ask yourself "What are the most impressive things I've done with my life so far?" This is not an easy question to answer.
In our experience discussing this with a close friend can help. It's sometimes easier for them to quickly point out the impressive things you have done as they are an external observer.
In addition, notice how achievements are QUANTIFIED in the example above. Saying you have been promoted "in a year and a half instead of the average four years" is much more powerful than saying you have been promoted "quickly." You should quantify your achievements whenever possible.
This section is your chance to grab the reader's attention. If there's nothing impressive in it, they will stop reading and just scan the paragraphs. So don't miss your opportunity!
3. Why consulting?
Example - Why consulting?
There are several reasons why I want to pursue a consulting career. To start with, I know I will enjoy being a strategy consultant because I have already worked in a strategy team in the past. This was in summer 2019 when I was a Strategy Intern at Big Grocery Retailer in London. In addition, I think consulting is a unique opportunity to comprehensively learn about business management by working on a variety of company situations. Over the past two years, I have started building my business skills while advising clients on financial matters at Big Finance. I now look forward to learning more about companies’ management at McKinsey. Finally, I want to work in consulting because I truly enjoy interacting with clients. Throughout my work experiences I have built a successful track record of developing and maintaining relationships with clients including, for instance, the senior strategy team at Big Grocery Retailer.
Once you have convinced your reviewer that you have impressive achievements under your belt they'll be thinking: "Ok, this person is impressive. But do they REALLY want to be a consultant? Or are they just applying because they're not sure what to do with their career."
The third section of your letter should therefore answer the "Why consulting?" question . But here is the thing about this question: There are some reasons to go into consulting that you should tell your reviewer about. And some reasons that you should really keep to yourself.
For instance, one of the mistakes candidates commonly make in their cover letter is to write something along the lines of "I'd like to spend 2 or 3 years in consulting to learn more about business in general and then decide what I want to do." This is a HUGE mistake.
Consulting firms want to hire FUTURE PARTNERS. Not employees who will stay for a couple of years. You can watch the video below for more details about this.
The best approach for your "Why consulting?" section is to write about past experiences that really show you know what you are getting into. The perfect situation is if you have done an internship in consulting or in corporate strategy and have enjoyed it. If that's the case, this is the perfect section to write about it.
But even if you haven't done related internships, there are plenty of angles you can use to connect your past experiences to what you will do as a consultant. For instance:
- You might have enjoyed working with clients when you were in M&A or in Sales
- You might have enjoyed structuring and solving tough problems as an engineer
You should use these experiences to say that "working with clients" or "solving tough problems" is something you KNOW you enjoy doing; and you look forward to spending more time doing this as a consultant.
When they read this section, your reviewer should think: "Ok, this person is impressive AND they know what they are getting into."
4. Why McKinsey / BCG / Bain / Other?
Example - Why McKinsey?
McKinsey appeals to me for three reasons. To start with, the different people from the company I have met and worked with all told me they had truly enjoyed their time there. For the past two years, I have worked for Michael Smith, a former Engagement Manager from the London office, who now works for Big Finance. Additionally, I regularly read McKinsey’s reports on financial services and think the insights delivered by Sarah James and others in the Finance practice are truly superior to that of other consultancies. By joining McKinsey, I therefore think I would have an opportunity to work with and learn from the best consultants in the industry. Finally, the fact that McKinsey was selected by Finance Supercorp to shape its digital strategy also played an important role in my decision to apply. This was a first-of-its-kind contract in finance and it shows that while at McKinsey I could get the opportunity to work on truly unique projects.
If you have managed to convince your reviewer that you have an impressive background and that you really want to be a consultant, you have a VERY HIGH chance of getting an interview.
The only question that's left for you to answer is: " Why McKinsey / Why BCG? / Why Bain? "
Top consulting firms have a lot in common. In most regions, they cover the same industries and work for similar clients. They also pay similar salaries, and the career path is more or less the same from firm to firm. So what should you write about in this section?
In our experience, the most efficient way to set yourself apart in this section is to write about three specific elements:
When you write "I've met with Michael Smith," or "I've read report X," or "I've heard about project Y," you are making an argument that's SPECIFIC enough for your reviewer to think: "Ok they've done their homework."
If you stay too GENERIC, your argument will be much less credible. For instance, writing something like "While at McKinsey, I'll be exposed to a broad range of industries which I'm excited about" is a weak argument because you could swap McKinsey for BCG or Bain in that sentence.
In fact, this is the ultimate test. If you can swap McKinsey with another name in your "Why McKinsey?" section you are not being specific enough. You need to work on your paragraph again and mention SPECIFIC people, reports, or projects that you find interesting.
Example - Conclusion
For all these reasons, I am very enthusiastic about the chance to work at McKinsey. I am available for an interview at any time and look forward to hearing from you.
The last section of the cover letter is a formality again. It should include the following elements:
- A sentence or two saying that you are enthusiastic and available for interviews at any time
- Your final signature
So how do you make it easy for your reviewer to put your cover letter on the "Accept" pile? We have put together the 10 tips below to make sure you can achieve this and avoid common mistakes.
Tip #1 Don't use a template letter
Writing cover letters is painful. But trust us, reading hundreds of them can be at least as painful. That's why you should make every effort to make your letter interesting and genuine.
It's ok to get inspiration from templates such as the one we provide in this guide. But every sentence in your letter should be written from scratch.
Tip #2 Keep it to one page
One of the unwritten rules of consulting cover letters is that they should not be longer than one page. The trick to achieve this is to only select the MOST RELEVANT experiences from your resume and to summarise them.
The points you decide to highlight should clearly demonstrate that you would make a great consultant.
Tip #3 Standard format and font
It's tempting to use an eye-catching font and format. But that's actually a bad idea. You only risk your interviewer thinking: "I've never seen this font, it looks really weird. Who is this person?" Your cover letter should stand out because of its content, NOT because of its format.
Tip #4 Not the time to be shy
Your cover letter is not the time to be shy. If you went to Harvard and have three Olympic medals, now is the time to say it! Most of us don't, and that's fine. But the point is that you should really push yourself to bring your most impressive accomplishments forward.
Tip #5 Network, network, network
This might sound surprising, but a big part of the cover letter is how much networking you have done . Having networked with people from the firm you are applying for pays dividends for multiple reasons.
First, they might recommend you to the HR team. But most importantly, these people will give you insight into what makes their firm UNIQUE. Then you can quote what you've heard in your cover letter (and name drop the person you heard it from) to show that you really understand the firm you are applying for.
Tip #6 Read, read, read
Unfortunately, networking is not always easy or possible. In these cases, your second best option is to read as much as you can on the firms you are applying for. You should read about the firm's projects, reports, and partners and find pieces of information you are really interested in.
For instance, if you did your master thesis on electric vehicles, try to find who works in this area at the firm and what they have to say about it. And then mention what you have found in your cover letter.
Tip #7 One letter per firm
One question we often get is: "Should I write one letter per firm?" The answer is YES. But it's not as hard as it might sound.
Every cover letter needs to answer three questions: Why you? Why consulting? And why this firm? The only paragraph you will need to change in every letter is the one about "Why this firm?" For each firm, you will have to do the networking and reading mentioned above.
Tip #8 Start writing early
Writing an outstanding cover letter is VERY HARD. Most candidates underestimate how much time it takes and start this process too late. You'll need to take a step back and reflect on everything you have done to date to highlight your most relevant experiences.
This takes multiple iterations. Start early.
Tip #9 Get feedback
In our experience, great candidates all look for feedback and iterate on their cover letter until it's truly as good as it can get. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it.
It’s best to get feedback from peers or consultants. These people will be able to point out which parts of your letter they don't get or don't find impactful enough. If you’d like to have an expert review your cover letter, check out our team of ex-consultant coaches .
Tip #10 Proofread multiple times
Finally, you should check and double check your letter for typos and grammar mistakes - multiple times. A cover letter is (not so secretly) a writing test and you should really treat it like one.
What consulting firms look for
To get multiple interviews at top consulting firms , it’s extremely important to understand what those firms are actually looking for.
The good news is that most of the leading consultancies are looking for basically the same skills.
To illustrate this point, here’s what McKinsey and Bain say that they’re looking for in candidates, along with our own translation of what they mean:
There are also a few unofficial items that consulting firms will look for on your resume, and you can read about those in our consulting resume guide .
Next, let’s talk about the typical cover letter screening process.
Now let's talk about HOW your cover letter will be handled once you send it. Here's how it works.
Your application will be sent to a JUNIOR CONSULTANT who recently graduated from your University. They will score your documents based on a grid provided by the HR team.
Consultants usually have to score 200 to 400 applications in about 2 weeks. And this is sometimes on TOP of their normal project. It's not uncommon for them to leave the job to the last minute and to have to do it on a Friday night just before the deadline.
Why is this important? The point we are trying to make is your application is part of 100 other applications. And the person who will review it will be tired by the time they get to your cover letter. If they don't understand something, they won't Google it. It's your job to make their job easy.
Why consultancies ask for a cover letter
There are two main reasons why consulting firms ask for cover letters.
First, partners bill several thousand dollars per day to their clients. The opportunity cost of interviewing you is HUGE for the firm. Put yourself in the shoes of a consultancy for a second. What are the top 3 questions you want to answer before investing money in interviewing a candidate?
- Have they demonstrated the skills needed to be a consultant?
- Do they know what consulting is and what they are getting into?
- Are they genuinely interested in working for our firm?
If you don't answer these three questions in a structured and impactful way, your chances of getting past the screening process are very low. This is why every cover letter should be structured as follows:
- Why consulting?
- Why this firm?
The second reason consulting firms ask for a cover letter is to test your writing skills. Consultants write all the time: emails, PowerPoints, Word documents, etc. They spend about 50% of their day writing. And a lot of the time their job is to summarise very large quantities of information in a succinct way.
This is exactly what you have to do in your cover letter. You have to a) look back on all your past experiences, b) select the relevant experiences to convince the reviewer that you are the right person for the job and c) summarise all these experiences in a way that's easy to read and digest.
Cover letters are a disguised writing test. Candidates who end up getting invited for interviews recognise this early on. Making a good impression on paper is way harder than making a good impression in person.
Are many candidates ready to invest HOURS in writing the perfect cover letter? No. That's the whole point. That's how you can set yourself apart. If you spend enough time making sure that your letter is as impactful as it can be, you stand very high chances of getting invited for interviews.
Another reason that it can help to have a cover letter is to explain anything on your resume that may look unusual to a reviewer, such as a time gap or a non-traditional background for consulting.
Whatever your unique situation is, if you’re not confident in how your cover letter looks today, then we can help you.
Get an Ex-MBB consultant to review your cover letter
The guide above, in addition to our guide on consulting resumes , should go a long way in helping you craft documents that will get you interviews.
But if you still feel you need additional help, we have a team of ex-MBB recruiters and interviewers who would be happy to provide feedback on your cover letter.
You’ll get feedback on how to immediately improve your cover letter, including what experience to focus on, how to optimise your phrasing, formatting, etc.
Start by browsing profiles for available coaches.