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How to write the perfect consulting cover letter
The most comprehensive guide to the perfect consulting cover letter. All the tips and examples you need to get invited for an interview in consulting. Write yours today!
General cover letter information
There are two important documents you need to create for your consulting application. One is the resume or also called curriculum vitae (CV), and the second one is the cover letter. We have covered how to write a good consulting resume in another guide. The resume probably is the more important part of your application, but the two need to work hand in hand. Therefore we recommend reading both guides before you start your applications.
Length and style
Our recommendation is to keep the cover letter short and crisp, ideally only consisting of one page, with three to four paragraphs. There should be no need to go over one page. Application screeners need to review hundreds of applications per day, so they do not want to have to read more than a page.
Never go above one page with your consulting cover letter. You want to be short and crisp to also show, that you can summarize your motivation in a concise way.
There are lots of different templates out there, which you can use. For instance, some colorful, some simple, some a little over the top. You can also create your own. If you want to save some time and make sure you have the right format, we recommend to start with our template.
If you create your own template, make sure you don’t use any crazy colors or fonts. The cover letter should be in black font and without any style elements. Imagine a letter you would write to any official.
Cover letter sections and their order
The cover letters we wrote for our consulting applications were usually structured in the following way:
We will cover each section of the cover letter in detail below, starting with the header.
Cover letter header information
If you have followed all our guides and created a resume already, you can copy the header from the resume/ CV document. On the other hand, if you are just writing a cover letter or starting out, you should add the following information.
The header should contain your up-to-date contact information. For instance, we usually add our primary postal address, telephone number and email address, below our name. Here is an example from Paul:
The phone number should include the country code (e.g. +1 for the USA or +49 for Germany). When inserting your email, make sure it is not turning blue and underlined like a hyperlink. It should be the same color as all the other text.
The second element adds the address and contact information of the company you are applying to. We suggest finding out who the responsible recruiting contact is and including his or her name here as well. Oftentimes you can find this information on the company’s website. If you are unable to find the responsible contact on the website, we recommend to reach out to someone in the company who can help you.
First paragraph (THEY)
Once you have all the formalities out of the way and your cover letter structure set up, we can start actually writing the letter. The first paragraph of the letter highlights the so called “THEY”. It should answer the question, why they (the company) are interesting for you. To help you get some inspiration answer the following questions before your start:
- Why do you want to work in this exact consultancy?
- What is better there than at any competitors?
- What are their company values?
- What company characteristics made you apply?
- Who do you know in the company and what did they tell you?
The last question is actually a very strong one. You can always just apply to any firm without knowing anyone there. However, what makes the cover letter 10 times stronger is if you can reference to an employee who you have talked to, right in the first paragraph. We usually write something like: “Speaking to Mr. ABC at XYZ further motivated me to apply”. This shows that you know how the company works, and that you have a soft recommendation from someone. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to a couple of consultants on LinkedIn and ask them for a short introduction call.
Second paragraph (ME)
The second paragraph of the letter highlights the “ME”. It should answer the question, why you are the right person for the job. To get some inspiration, we have included the following questions to ask yourself:
- Why are you the right candidate?
- What are your skills and experiences?
- What makes you stand out?
- Why are you better than other candidates?
You should highlight your qualifications for the job you are applying for.
Top-tier consultancies such as McKinsey or BCG, usually hire only the best of the best. Whether or not you are among the top 5-10% of your class, we highly recommend to sign up for our course, to increase your chances of getting an offer.
Third paragraph (US)
The third paragraph highlights the “US”. You should highlight in this paragraph how the first section (THEY the company) and the second section (YOU the candidate) fit together. You can link your skills with the job requirements and your way of working with their company values.
Here are a couple of questions to think about, before crafting this last main paragraph of the cover letter:
- How do you and the company you are applying to fit together?
- How do your previous experiences and acquired skills link to the job?
- How do you fit into the company?
- What are your goals and how can the company help you achieve them?
- What are the companies goals and how can you help achieve them?
Now you should have highlighted all the information the recruiter needs to know. If you consider the cover letter to be some sort of sales document for yourself, the end should be the sales pitch. So let’s create a great closing next.
Closing the cover letter & Signature
The closing sentence is the last section of the letter. We recommend closing with a positive action-oriented statement, which leaves the reader with a positive feeling when finishing reading your cover letter and triggers action. You can ask for an invitation to an interview in person, or a timely answer. Either way the recruiter should be prompted to do something after reading your letter.
We usually wrote something along the lines of:
I would appreciate the opportunity to contribute with my skills, positive attitude and motivation to learn. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
You should finish the cover letter with your signature. Even though you are sending your cover letter digitally in most cases, you should sign it. We suggest you scan your signature written in blue pen and add it below the letter as an image. This creates the perception of receiving a real letter. Once you are done writing your cover letter, you should check it for mistakes.
Perform a sanity check
To make proof-reading your cover letter as easy as possible, we have included a checklist for you to go through.
Now go ahead and save the file as a PDF. Rename the file with a speaking file name including the current date, cover letter, and your last name. Congratulations! You have now successfully created a kick-ass cover letter, which is ready for sending.