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Who To Address Cover Letter To Mckinsey Report

What McKinsey wants to see in your CV

McKinsey & Company requires an excellent academic record and evidence of leadership, which may be from workplace roles or extracurricular activities. Successful applicants will demonstrate an aptitude for analytics, an interest in business, and an enjoyment of teamwork and problem-solving. McKinsey suggests that you include all meaningful work experience, such as full-time jobs, internships and military service, even if they are not in a related field.

CVs for McKinsey should communicate more about your work experience than just the day-to-day responsibilities you performed: McKinsey is interested in the ‘impact’ you had and the changes you brought about. The firm is looking for evidence of impact, leadership, entrepreneurship, problem solving and an overall orientation towards achievement. Draw attention to positions of responsibility, especially where they reveal initiative, entrepreneurship or extraordinary commitment, significant extracurricular involvement and participation in sports and societies, but do not simply describe them: make your achievements, and how they demonstrate your strengths, clear.

Always use language that is clear to any reader; for example, if you are describing your final year engineering project or your university air squadron activities then try to limit any specialist descriptions and technical jargon.

Optional but recommended: your cover letter for McKinsey and how to pitch it

Unlike the CV, you are not required to submit a cover letter; however, you may find it a way to strengthen your application.

The essential point to remember is to write a unique cover letter for every employer you apply to. McKinsey expects to receive a cover letter that has been constructed with them, and no other firm, in mind – recruiters will be able to tell. Starting from fresh ensures that you will not copy and paste in any other firm’s name, and that everything you include will be relevant, considered and carefully targeted towards McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey states that the cover letter is a good place to draw attention to

  • distinctive elements of your application – such as a role as president of a student society: were you elected in favour of other candidates? Has this given you experience of leadership? Of teamwork? Of delivering presentations? Of handling financial spreadsheets? Have you organised events, and on what scale?
  • details regarding a reapplication – such as why you are now a stronger candidate
  • an unusual situation – such as dates you will be unavailable for interview

You can use your cover letter to demonstrate an understanding of the role of the business analyst at McKinsey & Company, which will involve interviewing clients, delivering presentations, conducting desk research, analysing data and building financial models.

It’s a good idea to spend a paragraph detailing exactly why you want to work for McKinsey & Company in particular. You might like to focus on what differentiates it as an employer by mentioning, for instance, its mobility team who assist with a range of opportunities for moving abroad; this suggests McKinsey is committed to global opportunities – does this suit your ambitions? The firm also emphasises that it encourages entrepreneurial spirit in its employers: if relevant, you could pick up on this in your covering letter. It is important not to focus on the benefits the company offers and talk instead about the firm’s values and work.

The best cover letters explain not only why you want to work for that firm, but also why they want you to work for them. Link what you say about McKinsey and its business analyst role back to your own values, achievements, strengths and experiences. Recruiters read hundreds of cover letters: make it easy for them to see why you are different.

Mckinsey interviews

The first round comprises two hour-long interviews; both include a case study and personal experience question. See below for more detail on case and experience interview questions. Applicants successful at this stage are invited to a second and final round of interviews, which is a half-day assessment that features a case interview and may include an advanced Problem Solving Test - practice tests an be found on McKinsey's careers website. This is in addition to two hour-long case and experience interviews similar to the first round.

McKinsey experience interview

This is a discussion of the candidate's CV, particularly extracurricular activities or work experience that showcase soft skills required of a consultant. Ultimately the interviewer is looking for someone who is client-safe. It's a good idea to watch the video on the firm's website which talks through what candidates can expect from each type of interview, and gives advice on the the best way to approach the questions. It is important to remember that a lot of the interview should form a two-way conversation. The interviewers want to connect with you so it is important to engage with them, allowing them to get to know you. McKinsey relies on behavioural questions to assess candidate-fit. Previous McKinsey experience interview questions are reported to include:

  • Name a time you resolved a conflict.
  • Describe a situation when you had to deal with a difficult team member.
  • How would you fix the European economy?

McKinsey case interview

This discussion of a typical McKinsey business case doesn't require client knowledge. Instead it demands the application of logic, estimation and quantitative skills to identify and process relevant data and use it to solve a commercial problem – the sort of work a McKinsey business analyst does every day. You can try a few examples on the firm's website, which also provides examples of the best reponses for each question, and read our advice on case study interviews. Previous McKinsey case questions are reported to include:

  • What is the future value of an investment in building a hospital with 'x' capital and 'y' internal rate of return?
  • Should company 'x' grow the business or cut costs?

As a former McKinsey resume screener, I've read a lot of consulting cover letters for consulting roles of all types.

Most applicants severely under-estimate the importance of the cover letter and end up paying more attention to the consulting resume/CV than they do the cover letter. I would argue the effort allocation should be reversed -- much more time put into the cover letter than the resume or CV.

Here's why.

Without a good cover letter it is 1) hard to stand out, and 2) easy to get overlooked by accident.

When someone like me screens cover letters and resumes, we usually do so in batches -- dozens if not hundreds of applicants at the same time. When I was on the McKinsey Stanford recruiting team, I had to go through a stack of 400 resumes and consulting cover letters in a few hours.

Keep in mind these were 400 applicants ALL of whom were in the process of graduating from Stanford. So the applicant pool was already pretty strong.

From an resume screener's point of view, reviewing that many cover letters is a very painful experience. All the cover letters look and sound the same.

It is VERY obvious that most of them are mail merge letters that look like this:

---
Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to apply for the with .

My background as a XYZ Position, I feel I would be a good fit for the position.

Blah, blah, blah... BORING.
----

The reason boring is a problem is because it shows the reader that YOU DO NOT CARE about this role. It doesn't show that you've done any homework about this company or role.

In other words, from an interest standpoint you have not distinguished yourself in the slightest.

This is both a problem and an opportunity. No matter how qualified you may or may not be (which is too late to change at this point), you CAN control how much interest you show to the resume / cover letter reader.

In addition, a good cover letter should pinpoint the SPECIFIC items on the resume or CV that DIRECTLY RELATES to what the employer is looking for in that role.

As a resume screener, I did not READ every resume submitted. I SCAN them looking for recognizable keywords. These keywords are basically brand names (universities and employers), Test Scores, GPAs.

The problem for you is that when a resume screener (note: I didn't say resume "reader") scans your resume he/she is prone to overlooking things you might want to emphasize. This is especially the case if what you have done is impressive, but not encapsulated in a brand name that is easily recognizable.

For example, lets say you started a company and sold it for $50 million... BUT your company's name is not well known. If you simply put that on a resume, there's a reasonable chance this accomplishment will be overlooked in a quick resume scan. BUT, if you EXPLAIN your accomplishment in a cover letter, it definitely will not.

When I screened applicants, even those just applying for a McKinsey internship, I ALWAYS read the first few paragraphs of EVERY cover letter. I usually did not read the whole cover letter, unless I read something intriguing in the first few paragraphs.

If the cover letter was mediocre, I would typically just scan the resume really quickly just to confirm my inclination to put the application in the reject pile.

If the cover letter was either impressive or interesting, I would definitely read the entire cover letter and read the entire resume very carefully.

In other words, the cover letter is the FIRST thing the employer sees and determines whether or not they will bother to learn more about you.

So what's the big lesson here?

The perfect cover letter for a consulting job (or any job for that matter) is NOT A FORM LETTER!

Trust me on this one.

Every cover letter for each firm should be unique and different than the letters you write to other firms.

I've read thousands of cover letters in my career. It is torture to read them.

You must stand out.

There are a few things you can do to stand out, listed in no particular order:

1) Get your brand names into the first sentence or paragraph (You know... Harvard, your Olympic Medals, etc...:)

2) Show you did your homework about the firm (very important). Why do you want to work for that particular firm? What's your unique reason? How sure are you of your preferences? Why?

3) Talk to people at the firm (google: informational interviews) to see what the firm is about. Do your homework. Then in the cover letter, name names... mention the names of people in the firm you've spoken to, what they said about the firm, and why what they said got you interested in the firm.

4) Explain why you'd bit a good fit for the firm. It's not good enough to be qualified. There are lots of qualified people out there. Consulting firms and employers in general like to hire people who are both qualified and motivated by legitimate and sincere reasons.

A good phrase to use in your cover letter is something like this.

"Unlike other candidates you're seeing that probably have XYZ trait, I have ABC trait because of my experience at XYZ company."

Example:
Unlike other candidates you're seeing who probably seem enthusiastic about consulting, I am certain of my interest in consulting because of my recent internship at ABC consulting firm.

The purpose of this kind of language is to make it EASY for the resume screener to figure out HOW YOU ARE DIFFERENT than the other applicants.

Don't assume the person will figure it out by reading your resume. POINT OUT the difference and make it EASY for the person to tell.

This is especially true if you come from a non-traditional or non-business background. If going to consulting would be a big career shift for you, you'd better do a darn good job explaining why the shift makes sense.

Otherwise the assumption is a little bit, "he/she's applying just for the heck of it." And if your background is amazing, it's possible you'll get an interview with a lousy cover letter.

Personally, I had networked like crazy to meet people in consulting before I ever applied for real. I knew them. They knew me. I knew I wanted to do consulting... and I think it came across.

My resume wasn't amazing. It was a B+.

Every cover letter I wrote was different from the other ones I wrote. I regularly quoted memorable things from specific people I spoke to from those firms and explained why I was impressed by them.

Even to this day, I still remember what impressed me about certain people at each firm... and what I thought it showed about the firm.

In short, I most definitely had my reasons for why I was applying and I was very deliberate in sharing those reasons. And, most importantly, my cover letters didn't look like any of the other ones.

After consulting, for every job I got after consulting, I probably averaged applying to only two or three companies for each job offer I received. I was very selective in who I wanted to work for. I did my homework. I explained my reasons in a good cover letter and more often than not got a meeting with the CEO.

Is this a lot of work?

YES!

Do most people take this much effort?

Heck no!

Why does it work?

Precisely because most people aren't willing to do the extra work to stand out.

If you found this post useful, you'll find access to literally hundreds of posts like it in the members-only section of this website.

Membership is free and registered members get access to a 6 hour video workshop I gave to Harvard Business School students on how to pass the case interview -- unique interview format that you will encounter after your cover letter and resume is accepted by the prospective employer.

Keep in mind when you get invited for an interview, you typically only have about a week's notice. If you have never encountered a case interview before, it takes a LOT of preparation to do well.

Since the consulting field is so competitive, many of the applicants who end up being most successful end up preparing for the case interview MONTHS in advance of their actual interview with an employer.

To learn more about the case interview preparation process and how to best prepare, you should look at the extensive case interview video tutorials available for registered members-only. (Membership is free).

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Jan 8, 2016

Tagged as:case interview, consulting case interview, consulting jobs, cover letter, cover letter consulting, cover letter for consulting, cv, mckinsey cover letter, resume

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