CV Rationalization

How to write a CV for Consulting

There’s a ton of stuff out there on how to write a strong cv, so you don’t need me to regurgitate it – what a waste of time that would be.

However, I would like to provide you with some words of advice when it comes to preparing your cv for a graduate position within consulting. Just some suggestions and ways of approaching the task, which are very subjective and based entirely on my own personal experience. [How’s that for a disclaimer]

  1. Understand who the audience is and identify what they want to see
  2. Think in terms of competencies and skills in order to best present your experience and achievements
  3. Be concise and direct, yet don’t leave the reader having to presume or assume anything relating to a key competency
  4. Don’t try and be clever

1. The Audience

Most companies will have a graduate recruitment team or HR function. Therefore, your cv is not going to a consultant, a manager, a director or a partner from the business side of things. HR is a service function, like finance or IT. Get this distinction clear, as it will also guide you in formulating appropriate questions at potential interviews depending on who is conducting the meeting (ie. don’t ask HR about business strategy, and don’t ask the business about HR related issues – you can of course, but you may not get terribly strong answers).

The difference between HR and the business is…HR are looking for evidence of competencies relevant to the organisation and role. They screen cvs by applying a standardised, systematic and efficient process of assessment. The business are not necessarily trained to apply this approach and therefore may be perhaps more liberal and dynamic; furthermore, because they are specialists in their field, they are more likely to infer and understand business specific information regarding your cv. This informs points 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

2. Language – Showcase the Competencies

Look at the consultancy’s list of competencies and values. Try and tick as many boxes as possible in the way you present your experience, extra-curricula activities and skills. Try and use the same kind of language to describe your background as it will reinforce the material and vice versa. For example, looking at client focus as a competency, talk about providing excellent customer service, understanding customer/ client needs, building relationships and delivering results. This is all semiotics; you’re telegraphing an impression with the language you use, which is the language HR are looking for. Make it easy for them to find these competencies.

Here are a few popular keywords:

  • Achievement keywords: achieved, completed, increased, improved, accomplished, performed, expanded;
  • Problem solving keywords: reduced, corrected, evaluated, utilized, simplified, analyzed, investigated;
  • Leadership keywords: developed, managed, inspired, organized, guided, directed, revitalized;
  • Initiative keywords: designed, launched, created, established, initiated, started, formulated;

(Source: Tatiana Varenik Article)

3. Concision + Detail

Be concise, but don’t skimp on important details, like the size of teams you’ve led or worked in and the titles of people you’ve dealt with. Break your positions down into all the various tasks and activities that exhibit a competency. For example, if you’ve worked in a bar, consider what activities were involved: serving customers/ the public in a courteous/ professional manner, dealing with conflict and rowdy behaviour professionally, managing 3-4 bar staff delegating responsibilities throughout shifts, documenting stock levels etc.

If you have retail experience, consider how you engaged with customers and whether you ever handled complaints.

If you were a committee member of a society, what exactly did you do? Did you have meetings and contribute to the society? Did you organise events etc. Numbers are always helpful and attractive amidst the prose.

Don’t just list your work experience and achievements, and don’t just splurge it all out in blocks of descriptive prose either. Bullet point activities that demonstrate a competency, something about your character, professionalism and skills.

4. Don’t be funny or clever

Chances are it won’t be funny or clever and even if it is, I doubt HR will appreciate it. Humour is not a recognised competency; neither is wit. Save it for the cover letter.

And there you have it.

Oh, I almost forgot, don’t bother with a picture – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good one, just some that aren’t awful
[Please feel free to add any additional points you think would help in writing a strong cv or if indeed you disagree with anything I’ve said. I’m as keen to learn as you are. Questions also welcome.]

Useful Links:

  • Prospects.ac.uk – you can find info on the basics and a selection of sample cvs for inspiration
  • Monster.co.uk – excellent piece on ‘awesome words to use on your cv’ (MUST READ) [not quite sure about ‘exploded’, ‘zipped’ and ‘kindled’ but the other 24 chestnuts are pure verbal consulting gold.]
  • CV4.biz: A great article with a fantastic way to stress-test your cv (MUST READ)

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2 responses to “CV Rationalization

  1. Pingback: The Ultimate 10-point Strategy « Consultinggrad

  2. Pingback: The Ultimate 10-point Strategy

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