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Consultant cover letter
The consultant cover letter is an interesting topic in itself because it reveals a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions. As always, it’s good to go back to basics: here, for example, is a post that incorporates the basics of good HR practices concerning this document. The previous link is not dedicated to the consulting business, but it discusses a number of interesting topics.
Why Are Cover Letters so Important in Consulting?
Cover letters bring a personal touch to the recruiting process. Here, we share the key elements from the typical advice of HR experts. I’ve taken an article from my colleagues www.consultingcase101.com as it represents, in my opinion, a very good synthesis of classical HR advice that any candidate should know to start. These tips are necessary to achieve the required “level of competitiveness” to get the job. To reach a “competitive” level, just sign in for a private coaching session or for the online training Consulting Case Revolution J, I promise your presentation will reach a new level!
– CVs are “quantitative”– they have a descriptive role and simply list diplomas, skills, and experience.
– Cover letters are “qualitative”–they give you the following opportunities:
- To express your personality through your writing style
- To describe in more detail what appears in your resume (anecdotes, experiences, etc.)
How Are They Read?
Note: the following information differs from one company to another and even from one recruiter to another. It sometimes happens that some companies don’t even read cover letters. Why? Follow our training to understand the mechanism that hides behind a successful interview!
In general, a letter was read before the resume. And when I say read, it is rather flown through quickly – from what I’ve seen, some recruiters scan cover letters looking only for any keywords (company, position, experience, etc.). The first paragraph is the least important because everyone writes the same thing:
“Dear X, I am applying for the position of Y in your company Z. I have the profile you are looking for A, B and C …”
The following parts – the second and third paragraph – are those where recruiters will usually spend the most time. In reading your letter, recruiters look to see if you have something interesting and different to say that could give them clues about your personality. This helps you build a profile. I have known a few consultants who read the letter after having given a look at the CV. They first get a vision of your experience (where you have worked, what your skills are, what you studied at school) and then they read your cover letter to get a first impression of your personality.
How to Write a Cover Letter from Scratch
What to include in a cover letter is a source of debate. Nonetheless, here’s my list of things that a cover letter should have:
1) At least three paragraphs, at best four, but never more than five (this is important for HR experts; personally I am less strict, but consultants presenting more than five sections in an analysis may suggest a lack of ability to synthesize!).
2) A frame at the top of the letter containing the name and address of the company (if you do not know the exact address of the place where you apply, use the address of the corporate headquarters), please be careful in case of multiple candidacies to not entangle!
3) Mention the name of the position for which you are applying, even if in consulting it’s not mandatory (after all, recruiters can read hundreds of cover letters in a day, so it’s good to remind them of these things).
4) A paragraph that describes, in three to five sentences at least, one of your specific professional experiences and why it is relevant to a consultant position. This paragraph should be well-written and well-built, and you can add a second paragraph. However, if you really want to write a second, make sure the latter describes other professional experiences in another area of expertise or puts forward other skills. Then, don’t forget the paragraph on your motivation, which should be the fourth paragraph. Forty percent of candidates forget to mention their motivation or describe it too quickly: take the time to structure it accordingly.
5) A concluding paragraph including, “Thank you for your attention. Feel free to call me at [phone number] or email me at [email address] if you have any questions or if you would like to share my candidacy.”
6) Be careful that there are no spelling errors and no grammatical errors. This is very important! They will choose an unscrupulous candidate instead and such errors will seriously reduce your chances of success.
Other Key Points:
If you have names of big companies on your CV (companies in the Fortune 500, etc.), mention them skilfully in your cover letter (however, do not mention them several times). It is necessary that the letter remains brief. You can even add a small amount of humor (it is even recommended, if this fits perfectly within the letter) but at your own risk, in any case, be subtle here. It has to be short – no more than a page written in Arial 12 font with a small margin of 1 inch. In this case, it is not the size that counts.
Mention names of people you have met during your career in a subtle way, for example:
“My interest in non-profit structures fits with the work that Bain had done in this area. I had the opportunity to talk with XX of the Paris Office, which had just completed one project, and when he began to describe the impact of his contribution, I knew I was made for this position.”
However, do not write the following:
“At the business forum, I met XX of the Paris Office. We talked about the BCG for half an hour, and I learned a lot about the company. This confirmed my interest in this position.”
The key point is to be specific in your illustrations and rational, not just generic.
What Good Cover Letters Have in Common
1) Cover letters show how well you fit the position. You must, of course, emphasize your experience and the abilities of which you are most proud, but it should especially explain why you will be useful as a consultant and demonstrate that you are suitable to do the job. Do not hesitate to add one or two sentences that show how much you know the policy of the company and its history; it will be value added! Here again, be very specific.
2) They show your personal style. The goal here is to ensure that the recruiter has an idea of who you are, while being reassured with your abilities and your experience. Do not use a vocabulary that is too formulaic. Write as if you were talking but with a more formal style. The secret key here is to be natural, not playing a role. At the end of the day, you are speaking about yourself!
3) Cover letters are synthetics. The shorter ones are often the best. Recruiters spend, in general, not more than a minute on each CV, and the same can be said for cover letters. They can spend more time for the second reading, but the first is often faster. The less generic the words are on your page, the more they will focus their attention on your skills and your experience.
4) They arouse curiosity. After reading your letter, recruiters are supposed to want to know more about you. They should be so interested in how you built this hospital in India they want to interview you to find out more. They should be so speechless to read that you managed to prevent a merger that would have ruined your current business that they want to hear the story from your own mouth.
Mistakes to Avoid
1) Don’t quote the names of persons you have never encountered or if you have never spoken to them.
2) Your cover letter should not exceed one page.
3) However, do not go to a ridiculous lay-out to make everything fit on one page, like writing very small or reducing the margins.
4) Do not show too much enthusiasm, and be reasonable in the use of exclamation points.
5) Avoid spelling mistakes, typos, and grammatical errors.
6) Make no mistake in the name of the company or of the position! This can destroy your chances of success.
7) Do not just describe your resume. It would be a waste of time for you but also for the recruiter.
8) Do not be too direct. Avoid using the second person. For example: “You may think that I am not the right person for this position …” You have no idea what they really think.