Your CV is likely to be the most important component of your consulting application. Former McKinsey consultant and creator of the YouTube channel Firm Learning, in this article, Heinrich Rusche shares his best tips and strategies to help you create a CV that meets the highest standards of the leading consulting firms.
Independent from your educational background, geography and experience, there is a consensus that your CV should not exceed 2 pages. You want to enable your reader to quickly grasp the key highlights of your experience and education. Even if you are a seasoned professional with many years of experience, make sure that your CV does not exceed 2 pages.
However, there are good reasons to cut it down even further. Especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, the one-pager CV format is widely in use and expected from many companies. This is
even more true for more conservative industries such as consulting. While in countries such as Germany, a one-pager CV will not be strictly expected from HR departments, I still recommend
you to create your CV in the one-pager format, independent of where you are based:
Easy to digest: The one-pager format is the easiest to digest for the reader. Everybody who screened CVs before knows how much easier it is to work with one-pager CVs. All relevant information is on one page without the need to go back and forth between multiple pages.
Corporate standards: By using the one-pager format, you show that you are familiar with the “rules of the game”. This is a signal that you know how an application on an international level looks like. To the reader, this gives confidence that you can handle other professional situations in the business context as well.
Focus: The one-pager format will help you to focus on the most important things in your application. As space is limited, it will help you to really bring out the “diamonds” of your profile and let these points shine as much as possible.
There are special circumstances in which it might be OK to use more than 2 pages for your CV. The most common ones are candidates with a background in academia. These candidates will often want to highlight their academic achievements by presenting their publication list. Of course, the more journal papers in highly ranked journals you have to show, the better. In cases like this, you can add an additional page to your CV as an appendix with your publication list.
Key CV sections
There are 6 key sections that should be present in every CV: Header, Work experience, Education, Extracurriculars, Honors and awards and Other qualifications.
While the exact labels can change, make sure that your CV contains these important elements.
- Header: In the header, you should share your most important personal information, as well as give the reader options to contact you. Your header should therefore contain your name (first name and surname), your contact information (address, e-mail, mobile) and your birthday (unless you are asked to not submit this due to anti age discrimination policies). Usually, you should be able to set up an effective header in the first 2-3 lines of your CV.
- Work experience: Your work experience should highlight all the key work experiences you have collected to date. This can include any full-time positions, internships, freelancer activities, entrepreneurial ventures and part-time jobs. However, make sure to focus on the experiences that are most relevant to the role you apply to, the CV does not need to show every single student job you had during university. A very long list of 5+ different positions
in the work experience section can indicate a lack of focus and clarity to the reader, as you were not able to focus your CV on the information most relevant to the position you apply
- Education: The education section should include your high school degree, your university degrees and exchange semesters. You should include grades for all your degrees (in most
countries also for your high school). For university degrees, include your minors or area of specialization. In case you wrote a thesis at the end of your degree and your thesis was graded significantly better than your overall GPA, you can include your thesis grade as well. For your exchange semesters, clearly state the name and location of the university, as well as the nature of the exchange.
- Extracurriculars: In Extracurriculars, you can talk about all the social activities and any other pro bono commitments of yours. This section should be especially about your leadership within these activities. What did you achieve and what was your impact? How were you able to achieve this together with other members of a group? Make sure to really showcase your leadership skills and commitment to give something back to your
- Honors and awards: In this section, you should list all your honors and other awards. For most people, these honors will be of academic nature, e.g., scholarships, Dean’s list placements, Thesis / Ph.D. awards and anything related. For these achievements, it is generally not required to state the exact dates on the CV, rather just put all these achievements in a list. Other achievements that highlight your motivation, skill and leadership can be mentioned as well, e.g., successes in professional sports, competitive placements in renowned youth / student competitions.
- Other qualifications: This section should include your language skills as well as IT skills. For these skills, make sure to accurately mention your skill level. Always be ready to have an interviewer in the middle of the interview switch to e.g., a language you claim to have “business proficiency” in.
For most professionals, the sections should be ordered exactly as shown above. The main exception are young graduates who do not yet have any significant work experience to show. For these profiles, it is common to show your “Education” section before your “Work experience” section.
Interested to learn more about how to create a successful consulting CV?
In one of the recent videos on my YouTube channel Firm Learning, I reviewed CVs that people from my audience sent me via Instagram (@firmlearning). Have a look to see my reviews: